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Thought for the Day: Chess -- Orthodox, Egalitarian, and Reform

Please bear with me, this really is a d'var torah kind of thought. We all know how to play chess, at least the basic rules. Moreover, we have seen different size boards, different colors, different shape pieces. I have even seen a Star Wars chess game with wookies and darth vader and whatnot. It's all still chess; as odd as the pieces and board may look: every version has all the same types of pieces recognizable by how they move and they have the same goal.

Let's invent a couple of new games. First game: same board, pieces, and moves, but lets remove the inequality between the king and the queen. The game ends whenever either the king or queen is captured, the king can move the same as the queen. Oh, and we don't let pawns become queens (or anything else) when they reach the other side of the board. We'll call this Egalitarian Chess.

Second game: this time we feel that it is very unfair that pawns cannot move backward. We also don't like that pieces can only move certain ways; how is that creative and expressive? We are going to make suggestions for the pieces, but the players should feel free to move any piece however they feel this time. In fact, we are not even going to restrict player to use only the traditional pieces; use checker, monopoly tokens, parcheesi tokens... whatever you like. One more thing; the whole idea of capturing pieces and territory is totally not politically correct. The goal in this new game is to make cool patterns with all the pieces from both teams. That way everyone can express themselves and be unconstrained by someone else's idea of what is "right" and "wrong". There is no right and no wrong in this game; just self-expression. We'll call this Reform Chess.

Neither one of these games is chess, of course, we've changed the goal and the rules; but we want people to notice that it uses at least some of the same pieces and game board. After all, we want to attract new customers to buy our game. Moreover, we believe that these new games are, in fact, better to play than chess. Our games are more politically correct and fit better into American society. So we have one more marketing scheme: we'll start calling chess a new name, Orthodox Chess. Sounds nice and stodgy, doesn't it? We Reform and Egalitarian Chess players even have a joint club to discuss how to share ideas and promote our games. Those Orthodox Chess players won't even discuss the idea of change! They act like they play the only chess game!

The point should be obvious: for 3,000 years there has been a religion (more than that, actually, but at least that) called Judaism. In the last century or so people have made up a couple of new religions, Reform Judaism, Conservative Judaism, Egalitarian Judsiasm, etc, etc are new religions with less relation to Judaism than my two imaginary games have to chess. In order to make this point as clear and objective as possible, please consider the Rambam's 13 Principle's of Faith. The Rambam was not making anything up, just writing down in an organized, pedagogical fashion what he learned Judaism meant and believed from his Rabbaim. (Yes, I know the list referred to be that link is not the Rambam's wording; that is irrelevant to the point.)

Orthodox/Torah/Original accepts all 13 of them. Reform (and Conservative; its all the same thing), accepts seven of them. I am giving them 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 9, and 10. I am being very (and perhaps overly) generous by giving them #9. Xtianity goes for nine of them: 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13. I didn't give them #5 because praying to that man is not praying to G-d, and I took out #3 for the same basic reason.By this objective measure, xtianity is closer in its theology to Orthodox Judaism than Reform. Reform/Conservative/Egalitarian are new religions, with different rules and different goals than the religion we received at Mt. Sinai and has been carefully preserved and transmitted generation after generation down to us today. No one is going to confuse xtianity with Judaism. No one should confuse those modern religions with Judaism either.


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