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Despite what many people assume, Judaism is a very diverse system of tradition, ethics, legal rulings, religion, philosophy, culture and more. We do not so much focus on what one believes as on what one does with what one believes. The emphasis is more on being an objective blessing to the world than on embracing an established philosophical construct of pre-defined beliefs and creeds (although they also exist!). Personally, I would favor doing away with the movements altogether as they tend to divide the people of HaShem into rival factions. HaShem is One and Judaism best reflects this oneness when it too is One.
The Orthodox Movement has a LOT of sacred knowledge and tradition to share. It best reflects the Path of our ancestors. Orthodox devotion to Torah and Talmud is impressive and should always be respected and considered regardless of ones movement or sect. Within Orthodoxy there exists a great deal of diversity including the Chassidim (the Breslovers, Chabad, Satmar etc), Modern Orthodoxy, the Misnagdim (i.e. opponents of Chassidim who eschew mysticism), the Dati Leumi or Tziyonut Datit (i.e. the "National Religious living in Israel: These Jews stand on three pillars: the Land of Israel, the People of Israel and the Torah of Israel), and so on. While Orthodoxy generally maintains that it is the only acceptable form of Judaism, it must be understood that Judaism is a living entity that has never been static nor easily hemmed in. Today the opinions and options are more diverse and the issues more complex.
The non-Orthodox movements bring a lot to the Jewish table as well! The Conservative and Reform Movements, the Reconstructionists, Jewish Renewal, the diverse non-Orthodox neo-Hasidic groups, the independent synagogues, etc.) remind us that the heart of Torah is love, faith, social justice, inclusiveness, personal freedom and active spirituality in the world as it is. Their approaches are not without merit.
The seemingly endless disputes between the various Jewish groups is as simple as what it means to observe Torah, and as complex as what it means to observe Torah: There are no easy answers. As Rav Kook noted: "Since there are enough people practicing rejection, I prefer to fill the role of one who embraces." This is my desire as well.
Judaism encompasses a broad spectrum of Divine Light.
Jewish history and experience teach us well that balance and discernment are required if we are to continue into the future and eventually welcome HaMashiach (the Messiah), may he come soon! We need to be strong, united, and flexible to achieve this goal. May HaShem grant Israel leaders of deep emunah and wisdom.
There's an old story about Reb Zusya that we can all learn from in this regard:
Lying on his death bed, Reb Zusya was very upset and crying, tears streaming down his face.And we have this from Rebbe Nachman of Breslov:
His students asked with great concern, "Reb Zusya, why are you upset? Why are you crying? Are you afraid that when you die you will be asked why you were not more like Moshe?"
Reb Zusya replied, "I am not afraid that the Holy One will ask me "Zusya, why were you not more like Moshe?" Rather, I fear that the Holy One will say, "Zusya, why were you not more like Zusya?"
The essence of Judaism is to conduct oneself in pure innocence and simplicity, with no sophistication whatever. Make sure that whatever you do, God is there. Don't heed your own honor. If it enhances God's glory, do it. If not, then don't. This way, you can be certain you will never stumble. Be careful to act with true innocence and simplicity but not foolishly. Sophistication, however, is quite unnecessary. Simplicity, innocence and faith can bring you to the highest level of joy (Likutey Moharan II, 12).There is no single "correct" way to live a Jewish life:
Either one is Jewish or one is not (this is determined in traditional ways: either ones mother is Jewish or one halachically converts through a recognized beit din). Some Jews like labels and defined categories while others do not. Some want the security of strictly defined rules while others prefer to explore the limits of personal expression, spirituality, and self discovery. Like most Jews I reside somewhere in between these extremes. Within this great diversity exists an ancient extended family and civilization: Israel.
I sincerely hope you will (continue to) enjoy your time here at AllFaith.com. I invite your questions, comments and corrections on the website and anything else that may be of interest to you.
Peace, Love and Light,
~ Shlomo Phillips
Don't let the perfect defeat the good