For over 30 years, Anthony Lewis was a columnist for the
New York Times. A consistent advocate of liberal
positions, he always defended the leftist views.
In summing up the last three decades, he repeatedly referred
to a challenge to reason that modern society faces. "No one
can miss the reality of that challenge after Sept. 11," he
writes. "Islamic fundamentalism, rejecting the rational
processes of modernity, menaces the peace and security of
Extremist Islam represented by Osama bin Laden but also
embracing his extreme Shiite Wahabe supporters such as the
Taliban and millions more in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and
elsewhere are convinced that they already know all they need
to know in order to go out and murder as many Westerners as
they possibly can. Palestinian terrorists of Hamas and
Islamic Jihad think that they know what their purpose is in
life: to destroy as many Jews as possible.
These are all people who truly are against reason, as much as
against certain people. They are ready to go out to kill and
maim, and are not interested or willing to debate the
alternatives. All they want to hear about is when they are to
go on their murderous missions and what are the
There are people who truly and thoroughly reject reason. They
are not interested in negotiations and certainly not in any
compromise that is the expected goal of any serious attempt
to bring together two warring sides. These extremists are
truly "impervious to reason."
Mr. Lewis thinks that there are more who challenge these
basic principles of the West. "But the phenomenon of
religious fundamentalism is not to be found in Islam alone."
Among others, he cites "fundamentalist Judaism" as being part
of the same problem.
This is a common oversimplification that is often repeated by
those who know very little about fundamentalist Judaism such
as we represent. The ignorant range from Reform leader Uri
Regev who tried to raise money in Cleveland to fight
religious Judaism using the trauma Americans experienced on
September 11, to Israeli author Mati Golan who recently wrote
a virulently anti-religious play based on the ridiculous
premise that what Jewish fundamentalists "really" want is to
bring on a big war.
Chareidi Judaism has the highest respect for human reason and
a deep commitment to civilized discourse. It is common
knowledge that we prefer to spend our time studying Torah,
but it does not seem to be appreciated that this study
consists of absorbing, understanding and learning to emulate
the reasoning of the Talmud. Our study is not some mind-
numbing exercise like memorizing verses, but rather a
continuing and intensive effort at mind-building.
We do have deeply-held principles but they apply to our
personal lives. They do not even bid us to spread our beliefs
(beyond the rational imperative to share goodness and
knowledge that all men of good will share), and certainly not
by coercion or chas vesholom by physical power.
Broadly, our goal is to serve Hashem by studying and
perfecting ourselves morally and by supporting our families
and raising our children to do the same. Our belief in Hashem
as the creator of the world and the conductor of history is
the source of our confidence in reason and discourse as the
basis for social harmony.
Although we are convinced that people like Anthony Lewis are
ignorant of some very important parts of reality, we have no
doubt that even they would be very happy with a society set
up according to the Divine insights of the Torah.