Describing Or Labeling?
Wed, 07/24/2013

 I noted in the July 19 issue the use of the term “fervently Orthodox” not only in Joshua Mitnick’s article “For Haredi Soldiers, War On The Home Front,” but also in the letter to the editor by Janine Muller Sherr (the latter quite possibly added in brackets by the editorial staff after submission).

The use of that term in such a manner not only serves to perpetuate The Big Lie that those who wear the black hats and live in insular communities are somehow more religious than the rest of us who strive no less fervently to keep the mitzvot, but, even more disturbingly, constitutes the negative labeling of Jews by other Jews.

I, for one, do not consider the rabbi who evades his taxes, swindles charities and cheats on his wife to be more religious than myself.

Of late, too many Jews, from diverse sections of the political, social and religious spectrum, have crossed the blurry line that separates describing other Jews from labeling them, which is the first step towards demonization.

A modest proposal to stop the use of demonizing labels: The Torah has 613 mitzvot for Jews to do. Perhaps it would be more constructively descriptive to designate Jews by the number of mitzvot they keep (e.g., a 427 Jew or a 502 Jew, etc.).

Yes, there would be some practical problems. Not all of the 613 apply to all Jews at all times (e.g., some apply only in the Land of Israel, some apply only to women, some apply only during a particular time or day of the year, etc.). And any given individual’s “mitzvah number” would necessarily fluctuate over the course of time (though the world of business and investment has come to terms in dealing with analogous fluctuations in the values of stocks and bonds).

Nevertheless, such a system would be a significant improvement over the pejorative labeling that The Jewish Week now seems to have adopted as an editorial practice.

East Northport, L.I.
 

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