I had an interesting conversation one night of my Israel trip with our Israeli guard that came with our group to "protect" us. Let's call him Sam. Sam was recently released from the army and was potently disgusted by religious intrusions into his life. He mentioned that while he was in the army the rules were strict in terms of keeping the soldiers eating only kosher food. Soldiers could get punished, he said, for going out and eating a cheeseburger.
We also discussed the Gaza withdrawal. He was definitely for it. Did you know that about a quarter of the standing Israeli army was stationed in the Gaza area? He was clearly a political leftist as he was very much sympathetic with the Palestinians as he said that the majority just wanted peace (though recent election results would appear to undermine that statement). He also described the extremists on either side of the conflict in equal terms, though he acknowledged that there were more of them on the Palestinian side.
The part of the discussion that I found most interesting was however on the subject of the place of tradition in Jewish life and the future of the Jewish people. He had said that living your life in a certain way just because that's how people have lived in the past is a form of slavery. That we should each find our own path in life and live it.
Well, alright, I said, but what about the future of Jewish life and the Jewish people? How can we hope to survive as a cohesive body if we don't respect tradition and keep it alive? His response to this was very telling. "I don't care," he said. "I don't care."
Wow. Well then. It would appear that being so anti-tradition is not so much a factor of being against "slavery" but actually a simple instance of selfishness.
The question then is, can we fault such an individual for that kind of viewpoint? Does being a "good Jew" require working for (or at least caring about) the future of the Jewish people? Or does his virtue as an individual overrule any consideration on a Jewish value scale?
Are those who have a different vision for the future of Jewish life, which others may see as subversive, being good Jews?