Daniel Greenberg is a senior government lawyer, a staunchly Orthodox Jew, and the writer of the Sceptic Blog, a witty and frank religious take on communal and current affairs. His book is a collection of his blogs and nice to have in hard copy not least because it enables Orthodox readers to consider them on Shabbat.
He says he writes blogs to spare his wife from his opinions, but they are eloquent, thought-provoking and aim at making us better. Daniel, however, can also be controversial. In 2011, he objected to Chief Rabbi Sacks’s call for Europe to “recover its faith”. Organised religion, he wrote, “seems to be doing as much as any other force… to sow the seeds of dissension and violence”, rousing words from a committed Jew and an indication of his sincerity.
On the other hand, in 2013 he explains why he stays away from Limmud. He says Judaism requires him to be theologically “bigoted and intolerant” (a view with which I strongly disagree). 2013 was the year that Chief Rabbi Mirvis attended, which the author says did not “require particular courage” and would make no difference to the Charedi attitude towards him.
On halachah, Daniel is unswerving. He objects to justifications of circumcision on scientific grounds. We should simply “admit the apparent cruelty” and rely on revelation. The homosexual act is a sin, but he sides with Rabbi Dweck, in encouraging a humane approach to homosexuals.
In the blog after which the book is named, he promotes as a guiding principle that we do nothing that we might “come to be ashamed of after death” if it turns out that our religious views are wrong. This is a lovely idea, but where do we draw the line, especially if we are admitting bigotry, intolerance and the apparent cruelty of ritual?