“... to the Nations”
To the Editor:
Permit me to congratulate Commentary on the learned and thoughtful article “The Jewish Mission to the Nations” (October 1955) by Rabbi Jakob J. Petuchowski. This is the sort of article that stimulates thought. If it should do no more than help some Jews take cognizance of their spiritual and religious heritage, it is well worth while.
The fact is, however, that the positive, tangible values of the Jewish religion rest on a much firmer foundation and have a broader appeal than its ideological concepts and dogmas. It is regrettable, therefore, that Rabbi Petuchowski almost forgets the former and stresses mainly the latter. The Jewish religion has 613 commandments which a Jew is obligated to observe. It is the practice of the commandments rather than the philosophical concepts that make the Jew.
We must admit that, in practice, there really is hardly any difference between Reform Judaism and Unitarian Christianity. How then can Reform Judaism convert a Liberal Christian? On the other hand, Orthodox Judaism has a great deal to offer to thinking men of all denominations. To name but three commandments: Circumcision, Kashruth, and the sanctity of marital relationships. What these mean in terms of health and clean living! To be sure, the founder of Reform Judaism in America, Rabbi Isaac M. Wise, stood firmly for the observance of the dinim, but his followers have given up the Shulchan Aruch.
It is paradoxical that Orthodox Judaism, which could offer so much to converts, does not believe in proselytism, whereas Reform Judaism, which has hardly anything tangible to offer, is for conversion. Is it because Orthodoxy is strong and self-sufficient whereas Reform Judaism is deeply conscious of its inherent weakness?
New York City