In the past, I have had occasion to mention the fact that I grew up in a Conservative home, and to acknowledge (with thanks) the education that I received, as a result. That is, perhaps, why I feel a tinge of outrage at the abysmal ignorance (ignorant arrogance, and arrogant ignorance) that characterizes Conservative rabbis and (a fortiori) laypersons.
I recently came upon a poignant case in point, on the website of my former haunt, Temple Emanuel in Newton Centre (Ma.). The current rabbi, a very nice fellow who I once met at the Kotel on Shavuoth morning, has posted his position on Gay 'commitment ceremonies.' Truth to tell, I was not surprised that he supports these, and is willing to perform them. Nor was I bowled over to read that the performance of such 'ceremonies' in the synagogue will be put to a congregational vote. (After all, as the late Marshall Sklare once pointed out, Conservative Judaism is the Jewish version of American Congregationalism.)
What upset and angered me, as it always does, was the shallowness of the argument presented. In addition, I never cease to be amazed at the incredible moxy of Conservative apologists, who distort, distend and disembody elements of Jewish tradition in order to achieve their ends. (Here, indeed, I place the onus on the appointed spokesmen and scholars of the movement. The rabbis they train mere repeat their words.)
Enough has already been written about the illegitimate use of the word 'halakhic' (sic!) to describe the violent removal of a verse from the Bible. There's no novelty in that either. The Conservative movement has been doing that for sixty years. (In fact, I must add that while I was well on my way out of the movement when I read it, the so-called 'responsum' on driving to synagogue on Shabbos gave me an added push. Rarely, before or since, have I encountered a more intellectually dishonest presentation. Even if it was written 'from a good place.') Shabbos, Gilui Arayos...What's the difference?
What really got my lather up was the appeal to 'Human Dignity' or Kavod ha-Beriyot. Quoting, Rabbi Elliott Dorff, the rabbi writes:
He then brought in another crucial halakhic concept called k’vod habriot, human dignity, which itself flows from one of the Torah’s most powerful teachings: that all human beings are created in God’s image. And if they are created in God’s image, they deserve dignity.
This is not some fuzzy funkadelic 21st century concept. The Talmud itself makes a big deal about human dignity as being a halakhic imperative which can override rabbinic and even biblical precepts.
So, now: Human Dignity trumps submission to God. Human Dignity allows one to sin (and commit Giluy Arayot, at that). Human Dignity is, in effect, the highest value known to Man, er... Judaism. Truth to tell, that has been the case with the Conservative Movement, ever since it was hijacked by Mordechai Kaplan. It is a narcissistic religion that worships man. God, as a result, must bend His Will to fit Man's ever-changing perception of Life. As Chernihovsky put it, they put Tefillin on the Statue of Apollo. I wish they would simply be intellectually honest and admit (as Reform Judaism did over a century ago) that they reject anything Jewish that does not fit their dynamic weltanschauung.
On the other hand, Kavod ha-Beriyot certainly is a powerful and central feature and value of Judaism. It overrides a number of De-Rabbanans (which are based on De-Oraysas). Many,many people who view themselves as observant Jews could well use a refresher course in the Laws of Human Dignity. (See the Introduction of the Netziv to his commentary on Bereshis.)
Nevertheless, it has its limits, however. Human convenience, even human need, never overrides God's Will. Does that raise moral issues? Certainly. Do we need to grapple and address those issues within the parameters afforded us? No Question. Does it require of us both sensitivity and respect? Absolutely!!! Does it justify doing violence to the Torah, or intellectual and spiritual dishonesty. Under no circumstance!!!
Food for thought, as we go to dispense of our spiritual חמץ