Every law is arbitrary to an extent, and the divine law is no exception. It doesn’t really matter whether the speed limit is 65 or 67 miles per hour. Laws of kosher food are likewise based on a sound principle, but are arbitrary to a degree: the murder of all humans and animals is prohibited, but exception is made for several animals: mostly cows, sheep, and goats.
We can conclude that the exact law is less important than the soundness of its principle and the strength of belief. This approach offers a basis for legislative evolution. Indeed, the Torah itself offers examples of the evolving laws. “An eye for an eye” punishment initially applied only to the harm done to pregnant women (Exodus 21:23), but was later extended onto every crime (Leviticus 24:19) and then reinterpreted as just compensation. Sexual relations with menstruating women, originally a source of a weeklong ritual impurity (Leviticus 15:24) became punishable by execution or banishment (20:18). The reasoning is clear: in practical terms, ritual impurity did not create any problem for the offender; it merely disqualified him from visiting the Temple. The impurity of individuals, however, polluted the Land of Israel, and so the offenders were threatened with severe punishment, which was unenforceable for the lack of witnesses, to be sure.
Rabbis were the biggest reformers of their time: they replaced the Temple-centered Judaism, first with the religion of personal holiness, then the religion of morality, and eventually the religion of mundane, paganized rites. Who knows whether they benefited Jews or not. On the surface, the rabbis saved Jews who did not know how to survive without a Temple. But even before the Italians destroyed the Second Temple, many Jews used to live without it in the Diaspora. They had no attachment to the Temple besides their annual half-shekel contributions to it. Arguably, the existence of the rabbinical Temple-less Judaism made Jews reluctant to press for the rebuilding of the Temple.
Rabbis reinterpreted many laws of the Torah, circumvented some (for example, the seventh-year debt release), abrogated the others (punishment of a disrespectful son), and invented many more (halacha). With the rabbinical practice in mind, the premise of reformism seems less outrageous: rewriting the Torah to apply the principles behind every commandment to the modern age. The attitude made all the difference: the rabbis were devout and God-fearing; the reformists developed a religion to suit their atheism.
In an average reformist temple, how many people believe that God exists? None, including their “rabbi.” They can venture fanciful concepts of an acceptable God: a power, a universal mind, a field, but not the God who listens to our prayers, who dispenses punishments and rewards. Now, the reformists might be—theoretically—correct in their understanding of God, but that understanding has nothing in common with the Torah or Judaism.
Unlike the rabbis, the reformists did not attempt to honestly understand or even reinterpret the law, but rejected it in sweeping passes. There is not a single commandment that the reformists accept as a core of their religion. A person can violate every commandment and still be a reform Jew. At most, they accept the commandments that coincide with their ethical norms; an opposition to murder or robbery, however, does not constitute a religion. Their reformism includes no Shabbat or kashrut, no moral or ritual purity, and nothing of Judaism. So it’s not an attempt to reinterpret Jewish law, but an attempt to dress atheism in religious garb. That sophistic approach is typical of leftists; they change the meaning of terms to suit their theories. Thus, compassion became a welfare state.
When an orthodox Jew speaks about Judaism, the meaning is clear: he refers to the laws of the Torah as adapted in rabbinical writing. Arguably, reformism is still too young to have developed a similar body of legal interpretation. So far, however, reformism shows no intention of codifying its theological position because it’s not interested in theology. The reformism lacks theology because it doesn’t need one. Any theology would be too much for its atheist adherents.
On the other hand, many orthodox Jews are also atheists. They confined their God to synagogues, and pay him homage through mundane rites, such as the Shabbat elevator, but bar him from real life. Religious considerations don’t influence their political, business, or moral behavior. They mumble prayers without pausing to shiver at the immense sanctity of a man talking to God. What was a rare occasion for prophets became an unthinking rite, a cheap imitation for orthodox Jews. They celebrate Hanukkah, the holiday of victory in the civil war between Jewish fundamentalists and liberals, and do nothing about the Israeli government, which is much worse than the Maccabee-era liberals. In pagan fashion, many orthodox Jews replaced religion with symbolism; their Judaism is no longer their way of life, but the lockstep of mundane symbolic actions long bereft of meaning.
They blow kisses to the Torah scrolls and mezuzot, but ignore the weightier matter of law: fighting to establish a Jewish state—a really Jewish one.