Orthodox Week Here at TRR: Rabbi Michael Unterberg

Next up is Rabbi Michael Unterberg, who just left his teaching post at Fuchs Mizrachi School here in CLE to make aliyah at some point this summer.  He will be missed, not just at FMS, but in our community as a master teacher and all-around mensch.  Mazal Tov on your aliyah R’ Unterberg and family!

[I will remind everyone: I expect nothing less than respectful, productive discourse.  No sarcasm, slamming, bashing, snark, or “They don’t like me anyway *snif*” comments or you’re outta here.  Have a question about or take issue with what they’ve written?  Ask or say so!  Tell us how you feel!  Share your opinions!  Feel strongly!  Write firmly!  But don’t be nasty and no personal attacks.

Remember, this is “5 Things I’d Like You to Know,”  NOT  “5 Things I Think You Should Believe/Do.”  Just their 2 cents, and stuff they want you to know about the life they live.  And stuff I think you should know about the life they live.  Gotta make an effort to understand each other in my opinion.  Unity and Understanding start with “U”.  As in YOU.]

1. We are obsessed with the future: Really! Our desire to have a rich Jewish future inspires us to diligently maintain the practices of the past. We feel bound to use the methods of our forefathers which bestowed upon us the rich legacy of Judaism. The assumption we make is that these methods have proven the test of time in maintaining Jewish continuity. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

2. Change is the only constant: Of course Judaism has changed and adapted. It had to, to avoid the failure of irrelevance through fossilization. But how it changed was carefully monitored and processed. Or, in other words, we support change, but not changing how we change. In this way, halachah (Jewish law) is not so different than any other functional legal system. Change should occur, but it must follow that the system lays out for the method of change.

3. Creative tension: We hear criticism of Orthodoxy holding onto outdated thinking and values. We take these very seriously and find them troubling. They help us take stock of ourselves. But we also weight those criticisms against three thousand years of received wisdom and literature. Sometimes we resolve one way, sticking to the old ways as preferable. Sometimes we find roots for the new in the tradition, and decide that we can find even better ways to fulfill God’s will. And sometimes we are left in an unresolvable tension between the old and the new. We are the better for this kind of vigilant weighing, judging and deciding.

4. Those three little words: We believe that all humanity was created by God in His image, and therefore love and care for humanity. But, man, we really love Jews. It may seem paradoxical, but we believe that the tribal approach is universally important. By helping the Jewish nation fulfill its potential of righteousness and justice, we hope to usher in a better era of history through example. It is the words of a Jewish prophet on the wall of the UN building, expressing its goal of universal brotherhood. We want to keep up that good work. A handy metaphor might raising a great family as a way of contributing to the community. You know, think globally act locally. This love is really helpful, and we hope that all Jews perceive it. We are also embarrassed when we see Orthodox Jews acting in ways that are inconsistent with this love. (i.e. being rude or judgemental)

5. It’s not about you: While individuals certainly benefit from being religious, we think of religion as a mission. Mitzvot translates into the english word “commandments”. We can compare God to a king, parent, general or doctor giving the orders. But the bottom line is that those orders are deeply binding. Again, this may be to our benefit. But what is more important is that it forges and expresses our relationship to our Creator, and implements his will on Earth. So that’s pretty cool.

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