Religious people are usually hypocrites
by Daniel Neumann
It often seems to me as if the established religion, which is set in fixed forms, is being met with more and more rejection in our day and age. And it is not uncommon for the allegedly widespread religious hypocrisy to be cited as the reason for this.
Then it is explained that some ideas and values that should be conveyed through religion are actually not that bad, if only there weren't the many hypocrites who preach one thing and do the other.
But is that really the case? And: what do we actually mean when we talk about hypocrites?
What we Jews do not mean in any case is that synonym that found its way into our vocabulary around 1900 years ago and that is based on a widespread prejudice: that of the Pharisee.
The term Pharisee is used to this day as a prime example of the insincere and devious hypocrite. As a classic term for a complacent and arrogant hypocrite.
Historically, however, this is completely wrong and the cause can be traced back to a denigration of the Pharisees by the New Testament and above all by the Gospel of Matthew.
In fact, the founders of another religion, split off from Judaism, then and through the centuries had one thing in mind above all: to stigmatize and slander Judaism and its representatives in order to cement their own claim to truth and to close proximity to Judaism as the cradle and origin of Christianity deny.
In reality, the Pharisees were the scribes of the Second Temple period. They distinguished themselves in particular from the Sädducees, who as the temple aristocracy were increasingly corrupted by money and power over time and found the support of the common people. And while the Sadducees strictly oriented themselves to the wording of the Torah and placed the temple and sacrificial service at the center of their faith, the Pharisees insisted on recognizing the oral Torah as well as the oral Torah and the traditions handed down with it as binding. They were not satisfied with the mere wording of the law, but researched, interpreted and discussed it in the light of oral traditions. It was they who kept the Jewish law alive even after the destruction of the Second Temple by transforming and evolving it and making it valid beyond the central shrine in Jerusalem. They were the founding fathers of rabbinic Judaism, whose followers eventually wrote the oral Torah and summarized the rabbinical discourses, debates and discussions in the Magnus Opus of Judaism, the Talmud.
But back to the original question: what do we mean by a hypocrite? Wikipedia, the Internet encyclopedia, describes the term as follows: Essential characteristics of hypocrisy are the pretending of non-existent feelings or states of mind and the demand for forms of behavior that are not adhered to. This is often illustrated with the pictorial saying: "Publicly preach water and secretly drink wine." Hypocrisy in this sense is also called Hypocrisy or Double standards designated.
Now this description offers a relatively clear picture - at least in theory - but in practice the question of whether someone is a hypocrite is sometimes much more difficult to answer.
Ultimately, the judgment as to whether someone is a hypocrite or not depends on a number of different factors: What does religious law ask of us? What and who preaches observance of the law? Are you already considered hypocritical if you cannot meet the high demands of faith with ultimate consistency and in all cases? And finally, does that mean that if you are unable to obey all of them at all times and in every situation, you'd better forego compliance altogether?
Law-abiding Judaism is in any case aware of the danger and the sometimes fatal external effects that result from Jews, who are outwardly recognizable as orthodox and who in individual cases, for whatever reasons, do not meet the requirements of Jewish legislation.
Precisely for this reason and in the knowledge that humans are not perfect, Orthodox Judaism provides a system of rules that, based on the 613 do's and don'ts, detail a person's entire life, from getting up to going to bed regulates.
For a person who insists on his individualism, this may often seem strange and a pure restriction, but in fact a system was created in this way that reduces the deviation from law and implementation, from ideal and reality, from claim and reality to the lowest conceivable value reduce addiction. It is a system that is based on the knowledge that human instinct, the animalistic, the egoistic, the personal need dominate, unless they are consistently reminded of their destiny in this world and of their obligation to Gd and to their fellow human beings .
A person's character is not formed in the few great moments in life, but rather through the countless processes and challenges we are confronted with every day. It is in these situations that our identity is formed, our character is refined, and it is important to demonstrate integrity. And that is the reason why the many everyday processes in Judaism are so meticulously regulated. Be it the question of which shoe is put on first or what and how can be eaten. Be it questions of business ethics or interpersonal relationships. Be it questions of dress style or sexual intercourse. Be it questions of an ethical lifestyle or the relationship to G “d.
And if you are not in a position to meet all the legal requirements, although you can be identified as a Jew, i.e. for everyone to identify yourself visibly with the Jewish religion and its rules, ideals and values. Do you then become a hypocrite?
Certainly not, because Judaism sets extremely high standards. We know we are fallible. We know we are not perfect. We also know that life is not all made up of extremes. Not just black or white. There is no “all or nothing principle” here.
A Jew is always on the way. Some are still at the beginning and some are already well advanced, but we will never get there. From a Jewish point of view, life is a constant development. We are constantly asked to bring our actions in line with our ideals; to document our integrity through outwardly visible actions. To train and perfect our character and to achieve a positive change in the outside world and our fellow human beings through our actions.
Furthermore, as far as I know, there is no one today who, in the interests of other religions, constantly and constantly urges us to keep our commandments. In the past, this task was taken over by the prophets who tried to bring the people of Israel back to the Torah and demanded that the commandments be observed. But I do not know of an equivalent that would have continued this tradition to the same extent after the end of the era of the prophets.
Nevertheless, there are cases in which Jewish people are perceived as hypocrites or hypocrites. In which their appearance, their style of clothing, their demands cannot be reconciled with their behavior. Is that now to be condemned per se? And wouldn't we want Judaism free from hypocrites? Yes and no.
It would certainly be a noble idea if everyone could and would behave in accordance with the law in every life situation. But that is unrealistic in view of human imperfection. But at least Judaism makes it unmistakably clear through its laws, its ideals and its norms of behavior what it demands of its followers.
And what would the alternative be?
Certainly there are social systems whose moral and ethical standards and behavioral requirements are so low or do not even exist that hypocrisy practically no longer occurs. In which one is no longer able to judge the behavior of people based on certain guidelines because these binding guidelines no longer exist. But is that really an alternative worth striving for? Do we really want to live in a system whose demands on its members are so low that hypocrisy no longer seems possible? At least I don't.
Then I'd rather take Judaism - with its extremely high standards.
Standards that, if strictly followed, lead to a just and responsible society. To a world in which equality, humanity and peace prevail.
Am I now a hypocrite because I am unable to keep all the commandments that Judaism holds in store, even though I write about them regularly?
Others have to decide. In any case, I see myself on the right track.
And that is also known to be the goal.
The author is the managing director of the State Association of Jewish Congregations in Hesse, K.d.ö.R.
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