We Must Stop the Orthodox Rabbi From Writing That People Are Basically Good!
The Algemeiner, a Jewish publication I highly respect, published a column about Judaism that is not merely wrong; it actually advances a thesis that is the opposite of what Judaism teaches.
That fact alone would not have prompted me to write a rebuttal. What prompts me is that the column was written by an Orthodox rabbi. It is sad enough that many non-Orthodox rabbis have been influenced more by their secular/Left educations than by the Torah. But when a rabbi identified as "centrist Orthodox" distorts one of the most important and normative ideas in Judaism, and is published in a major Jewish journal, we might be in trouble. Of course, he might be an outlier. But I don't think he is unique. Though certainly not yet dominant, secular values have entered parts of modern Orthodox life just as they have traditional Catholic and Protestant Christian life.
With regard to mainstream Christianity -- both Catholicism and Protestantism -- and non-Orthodox Judaism, we are indeed in trouble. The secular and leftist influence on these denominations has been disastrous.
I should note that I am not mentioning the rabbi's name as I have no desire to make this issue personal, let alone engage in an ad hominem attack. I know that the curious can identify the rabbi by searching the internet, but I cannot control that. I can only control what I write. And since I assume that this rabbi is a sincere individual, I want to restrict my response to what he wrote.
The rabbi wrote that Judaism posits that people are basically good, that human nature is good.
This is one of the most foolish and dangerous ideas of the secular world. No Abrahamic religion -- not Judaism, not Christianity, not Islam -- asserts that people are basically good. This notion is a product of the secular age and a major reason for the moral confusion that characterizes our era.
With regard to Judaism, the Torah completely rejects the notion that man is basically good. God Himself states that "the will of man's heart is evil from his youth" (Genesis 8:21) and that "every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time" (Genesis 6:5).
For a rabbi to assert that man is basically good is to assert that God was wrong. I am used to secular people saying that, not Orthodox rabbis.
In addition, the Torah -- and the rest of the Bible -- repeatedly warns us not to follow our hearts. In fact, Orthodox Jews cite this admonition from the Torah three times every day: "Do not follow your hearts and your eyes after which you prostitute yourselves" (Numbers 15:39).
If the human heart is basically good, why does the Bible repeatedly warn us not to follow it?