It is unnecessary to insist that God revealed the entire Torah word-for-word. Good enough if we accept the divine origin of the commandments and agree that priests considerably adapted the law to changing circumstances, just like the Talmudic rabbis did a thousand years later. We cannot stop working on the Sabbath: power stations, police, air traffic controllers, and water suppliers must keep working. The clear prohibition that no one should work “in your town” can only be read as a ban on m’lacha, the exhausting work. Realistically, we cannot go on stoning the deviants who have sex with menstruating women.

Instead of appealing to the absence of Sanhedrin—which fact did not stop medieval rabbis from executing Jewish criminals—we can concede that priests made harsh laws to enforce morality, and it was hardly ever practiced for the impossibility of proving the crime. Instead of reading the caret punishment as some afterlife deprivation—despite the clear reference to temporal execution in Lev20:17—we should honestly ask ourselves whether the corpus delicti is of divine or priestly origin. This approach doesn’t come close to reformism, a nihilist teaching which reduces Judaism to gentile ethics. I just want to be honest about religion. Whatever is clearly impossible no matter how hard we try just cannot be of divine origin.

The Samson birth narrative confirms that out-of-the-Temple sacrifices were common, as Manoah had no qualms about sacrificing on the suggestion of a stranger who he didn’t know was an angel. Mesha stele speaks of looting “vessels of YHWH” at Nebo, and thus also confirms the operation of non-Temple shrines. Centralized Temple worship could not be a reality: Jews from Israel and Galilee could not travel to Jerusalem for routine purification and festivals. Already the First Temple lacks the Arc, urim and tummim, and the Second Temple lacks sacred objects altogether. The Temple is foremost a political institution of the Jewish nation. We should not wait for the ideal Temple to descend from the skies, but build up the Temple Mount.

Haredim are the nicest people around, and nowhere in Israel do I feel as much at home as in a Mea Shearim neighborhood. The spiritual depth, ethics, and morality of many rabbis are unparalleled. Their devotion to the Torah, which they study in poverty with the utmost dedication, is mind-boggling. But the hard question is whether their Judaism is true. Should Jews be nice? Torah scholars? Or should we live a full-bodied national life with secular studies, secular jobs, and wars? The Bible offers no indication that God wants Jews to live monastic lives. We’re repeatedly commanded to settle the land, work it, and fight.

Indeed, there is no choice: religious Jews launched massive settlement of the Land decades before Zionists, and Arabs repeatedly targeted the religious Jewish communities, which had no Zionist presence or aspirations to statehood. Subservience to nations is a disgrace of God’s name, and negotiations with enemies who claim the land promised to us testify to our rejection of God’s promises. He did his miracles in 1947 and 1967, but Jews refuse to follow through with our part of the job.

real militant Judaism