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Who Needs Organized Religion?

by Ms. Tamar Frankiel

  

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Surely we don’t. After all, we’re the descendants of Abraham, the man who sought G-d on his own, who listened to the personal call of G-d to leave his home and birthplace. He left behind the “organized religion” of Mesopotamia and never founded one of his own. Don’t the prophets rail at the dulling effects of organized religion?

Judaism has always been among the least organized religions, and one could argue that it’s for the best. We can follow most of the mitzvahs as individuals or families in the privacy of our own homes. To have a full prayer service, we only need a quorum of ten. And if we want to learn, we can simply sit down with someone more learned than ourselves. This is barely organized religion. Why do we need big synagogues with their committees and lecture series? The best argument for organization is probably to educate the children, but even that could be handled on a small scale.

In the covenantal community, we reveal ourselves to one another in our deepest essence; we see each other’s unique truth
When we complain about organized religion, it’s because we recognize that it can easily become empty. The great Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik wrote of this tendency in his famous book, The Lonely Man of Faith. Our religious communities often become what he calls the “majestic community,” projects of humanity in the creative aspect of mastering the world. Religion becomes a way of creating pleasure and satisfaction, rising above mere animal survival by providing comfort and happiness.

But there is often something missing—a sense of meeting heart to heart in what Rabbi Soloveitchik called the “covenantal community.” In the covenantal community, we reveal ourselves to one another in our deepest essence; we see each other’s unique truth. This can be hard to find in many of our religious organizations, where we readily become preoccupied with mastering disorder and maintaining the organization itself. Then, when our synagogues are missing that special quality, we’re tempted to bail out and search for true and deep relationships elsewhere, often just in the friendships life brings us.

This doesn’t solve the problem, however, because there is another answer to the question, “Who needs organized religion?”

G-d does. G-d is in need of man. G-d asks us to change the world. If we want personal religion, we can have it in our own homes. But we are also called to transform the world at large. We may personally prefer to travel the more intimate road of Abraham and his companions. But G-d also wants us to remember King David and his son Solomon, who built a Temple whose light shone out into the world.


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Organized Religion

Posted by: RLG on Jul 20, 2005

A lovely article...really lovely!
Kabbalah
Jewish mysticism. The word Kaballah means "reception," for we cannot physically perceive the Divine, we merely study the mystical truths which were transmitted to us by G-d Himself through His righteous servants.
Abraham
First Jew, and first of our three Patriarchs. Born into a pagan society in Mesepotamia in 1812 BCE, he discovered monethieism on his own. He was told by G-d to journey to the Land of Canaan where he and his wife Sarah would give birth to the Jewish People.
Joseph
Firstborn son of Rachel and Jacob. Because he was Jacob's favorite son, his brothers conspired against him and sold him into slavery He ended up in Egypt where he became viceroy of the land, and eventually brought his entire family to Egypt. Died in 1451 BCE.
David
King of Israel who succeeded Saul, becoming king of Israel in 876 BCE. Originally a shepherd, he became popular after he killed the Philistine strongman, Goliath. He is the progenitor of the Davidic royal dynasty -- which will return to the throne with the arrival of King Messiah.
Solomon
Son of King David, and succeeded him on the throne of Israel in the year 836 BCE. he was the wisest man to ever live. He built the first Holy Temple and authored several books of the Bible.
Temple
1. Usually a reference to the Holy Temple which was/will be situated in Jerusalem. 1st Temple was built in 825 BCE and was destroyed in 423 BCE. The 2nd Temple was built in 350 BCE and was destroyed in 70 CE. The 3rd Temple will be built by the Messiah. 2. A synagogue.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.