by Rabbi Berel Wein
Often times, if not even always, telling the truth is a painful experience both for the teller and for the listener.
Our entire life is wrapped up in avoiding painful truths. And even if we are aware of them, not communicating them to others because that will make us very unpopular is also stressful.
The rabbis of the Talmud called this world “a world of falsehood.” This is so ingrained within us that we expect that our leaders, political and otherwise, are never telling us the truth. Our political campaigns are based on slogans and promises that we all know to be false but since these are apparently the rules of the game, we accept them even though we know they contain little truth.
No politician runs on the truth that taxes have to be raised, deficits have to be closed and that there is no guarantee for an easy life for anyone else. Instead we are surrounded by promises of rose gardens, unending prosperity and a chicken in every pot. However, when one of our government leaders or ministers steps out of line and actually tells us the truth, the reaction from his or her colleagues, the media and all of the professional experts is one of shock and horror.
Apologies must be made for telling the truth so that we can continue to flow along the river of falsehoods that eventually will endanger our survival and success. In the “world of falsehood” we really cannot expect a different result in such situations.
Recently a government official here in Israel dared to say that the Emperor known as American Jewry has no clothes.
There can be no denying the fact that for the vast majority of American Jews, Judaism, the state of Israel and traditional observance of the Jewish way of life no longer exists. The birth rate and American Jewry, if one factors out the Orthodox population, is insufficient to maintain the weak numbers that already exist.
The intermarriage rate, again factoring out the Orthodox, encompasses 2/3 to 3/4 of American Jewish youth.
The alienation of most Jewish youth in the United States towards any Jewish causes, philanthropic, religious or communal is a true and tragic fact.
So, when an Israeli political leader and government minister noted this publicly and warned about the deterioration of Jewish values and especially of support for the state of Israel financially and politically, she was immediately castigated by the powers that be for having spoken the truth.
It was not politically correct for her to do so and she was forced to apologize in order to restore the fake picture of American Jewry that our leadership continues to assert. The crisis of faith and identity that has beset American Jewry is in my opinion the greatest challenge and potential tragedy of our time.
American Jews in the main may know that somehow they are the people of the book but they don't know what book is being referred to. Under these circumstances there is little hope for their eventual survival as a vital part of the Jewish people. It is good that someone had the nerve to say so. It is tragic that instead of supporting that message of truth, all of the sycophants deny it and force unnecessary and very false apologies.
In my opinion this is very telling regarding the Conservative and Reform movements here in Israel and in the United States. They are witness to their decline in numbers and in Jewish loyalty. Many of their congregations are no longer populated by Jews, no matter what standard of conversion may be applied to them.
They have been unable to inspire generations of Jewish children to remain loyal to the Jewish people no matter what type of rules of observance exist. There are very few great-grandchildren or even grandchildren that exist within these groups. Their struggle here in Israel against the traditions of the Jewish people that most Israelis, secular or observant, hold dear is really one of the shameful chapters in our current story.
Instead of fighting about location at the Western Wall, should not the battle be against intermarriage, against remaining single, against a declining birthrate, against an abandonment of all moral tenets in the face of popular current political correctness?
The truth hurts both the teller and listener as I have mentioned above. But at least once in a while it should be publicly stated so that we will realize the true problems that face us and in what direction we should turn.