My neighbor and good friend, EA, is a lawyer and a magid shiur. Years ago he learned in Merkaz HaRav and attended law school at the same time. At first, when people in the yeshiva heard he was spending time in law school, they were quite upset with him. So he began introducing himself as a law student who wished to spend all his available free time in yeshiva. Then they were very impressed with him.
There is a lesson in that story. Many of us are very critical of various heterodox institutions. They bastardize the mesorah, they're wishy-washy or syncretistic, blah blah blah. But let us stop and think for a moment how we might respond to someone who says the following:
I don't believe any of the central "myths" of yiddishkeit. It's not that I'm arrogant enough to claim that they are false but, forced as I am to make an imperfect decision, I simply can't work up any reasonable level of conviction about them. Nevertheless, I greatly love and respect my ancestors and identify with my received culture and traditions and wish to maintain them as well as I can. But, since ultimately it really is not much more than folklore for me, I'm not prepared to sacrifice everything else that is dear to me to maintain those traditions. I emphasize that this is not laziness; it is simply that respect for my people's traditions is only one value among many for me and I am trying as best I can to balance them all. I appreciate that you believe that yiddishkeit is either everything or it is nothing and that my watered-down version of yiddishkeit seems absurd to you. I understand that you think that these other values of which I speak are nothing more than the residue of western meshugas to which you believe I'm an unreflecting slave. So what would you have me do? Should I try to maintain my heterodox traditions in the fellowship of like-minded people? Or do you prefer that I simply become a total sheygitz so as not to threaten the pristine version of yiddishkeit that you'd prefer have the stage to itself?
How would you respond?