Sunday, December 26, 2004

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?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some Yahadut is better than no Yahadut. That's my opinion. At least in general.

-Steg (dos iz nit der šteg)

6:50 PM  
Blogger Mis-nagid said...

I'm arrogant enough to claim that some of them are false (contradict evidence) and the rest haven't met their burden of proof.

Not that that has anything to do with your central point, which is a good one. I'd generalize your question. How do you deal with people who have discovered the truth about frumkeit? Most frum people will never question the coincidence of their birth into one tiny religious sect, but of those that do, many discover that central dogmas of frumkeit (creationism, immaculate divinity of the Torah, Exodus, Noah's flood, etc.) are false.

Unfortunately, however you or I answer it will have no effect on how the frum community deals with it. They'll respond as they always have, by pushing the dissent outside of the reality distortion bubble, safely out of sight and mind.


9:45 PM  
Blogger mnuez said...

Hey, whatever ya like, but why exactly all of the respect? I mean, to your parents, sure, but to any ole' frummie who challenges your way of life or beliefs? Why play the weak guy? He's sure as hell sure enough of himself and arrogant enough to tell you how you should live and to chastise you, why be fearful? why grovel? Tell him that you think he believes in a few idiocies, tell him why you think so, wish him a gezunte leibin and walk along your own merry, proud path. Being on the defensive is no way for a yid to live. ^whistling^ "Gaon, V'Nadiv, V'Achzar..."

11:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

anyone who feels a need to broadcast his hashkafah issues to the world via a dedicated weblog obviously has more emunah than all of us combined.

i wouldn't worry about mis-nagid for a minute. I just hope he doesn't cause himself permanent damage in the process.

now, we would have less of these problems if people like ben chorin would stop being "mezalzel" our davening and our shuls....

lev bar nattan

6:14 PM  
Blogger back row said...

I would have you make your own decisions. If anyone has any problems with your decisions, keep two words in mind: "Bugger off."

11:47 AM  
Blogger Ben said...

Um, to clarify, my point in this post was not to give that indented speech. My point was that those of us (including me) who have little patience for women-in-tefillin folklore yiddishkeit actually end up advocating it when confronted with people who give that speech. (And by the way, pretty much anybody could give that speech (with some modifications) to somebody on their "right".)

4:35 PM  

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