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Ask a Jew: If the Jewish people believe the Savior is yet to come, why have most Jews forgone the written law in the Hebrew Scriptures?

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By Neal Schindler

If the Jewish people believe the Savior is yet to come, why have most Jews forgone the written law in the Hebrew Scriptures?

I recently wrote about Judaism and its long tradition of legalism. You seem to be asking why the majority of Jews — i.e., most Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist Jews, along with plenty of other progressive and/or secular Jews — aren’t obeying all or even most of the laws found in the Torah. I would refer you, first of all, to a previous column of mine, titled “Are there any biblical texts that you clearly understand to be not for our time?” Personally, the answer is a definite yes.

And just for the record: “The Jewish people” aren’t a monolith. Some Jews and some communities of Jews hold certain beliefs. But when you come down to it, every human has a unique faith (or lack thereof). I don’t believe a savior is yet to come. If I did, then I probably would do my best to obey Jewish law as I understood it, as many religious Jews do.

As I explained in my article on legalism, this would mean not only consulting the Torah but also observing laws developed by rabbis over the centuries and abiding by customs that may or may not have the full weight of Jewish law. As for why a Jew who believes the Messiah is coming would forgo “the written law in the Hebrew Scriptures” — well, perhaps simply because human beings are imperfect and often maddeningly contradictory, and also because obeying millennia-old laws to the letter can be really, really hard in modern times.

Neal Schindler
Neal Schindler
A native of Detroit, Neal Schindler has lived in the Pacific Northwest since 2002. He has held staff positions at Seattle Weekly and The Seattle Times and was a freelance writer for Jew-ish.com from 2007 to 2011. Schindler was raised in a Reconstructionist Jewish congregation and is now a member of Spokane's Reform congregation, Emanu-El. He is the director of Spokane Area Jewish Family Services. His interests include movies, Scrabble, and indie rock. He lives with his wife, son, and two cats in West Central Spokane.

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