Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Different Rabbi's Perspective on Orthopraxy

A Guest Post By E. Fink

Rabbi Steven Pruzansky is making headlines with his front page Jewish Press article in which he thoroughly disposes of Orthopraxy and ousts the Orthoprax from Modern Orthodoxy.

For a thorough fisking of the main parts of the article go to XGH's blog, this is his area of expertise.

What Rabbi Pruzansky's article made me ponder is the relevance of Orthopraxy to the average Frum Jew. In my opinion there are two kinds of Orthoprax Jews. There are Orthoprax theologians and Orthoprax by Default. The theologians are those that "believe" in Orthopraxy. XGH and others are the most vocal of this group. This is the group Rabbi Pruzansky heaps his disdain upon. He blames them for all of the problems he sees in his community and seems to think that if you sin, it must be because really you are Orthoprax. You must be the "non-believer in our midst". It is unseemly, and I do not wish to address his comments. (It's ironic because the Orthoprax, by dint of their theology value the acts of Judaism MORE than the beliefs of Judaism. While the Orthodox need to balance the two and one could be Orthodox and still sin all the time. That is why we have Yom Kippur and the mitzva of Teshuva. In other words, I would expect an Orthodox Jew to sin at least as often as an Orthoprax. But I digress.)

I think that within the Frum spectrum, from LWMO all the way through RW Yeshivish and Chasidish, there are many "closet" Orthoprax by Default Jews. I don't mean to say, they are Orthoprax on purpose. I mean that they practice Judaism purely out of habit or social pressure, or conditioning. These are the Frum people you see all the time that are simply uneducated or uninformed on the basic tenets of their beliefs. Sure, they may have memorized the 13 Ikkarim, or other formulae for their beliefs, but their actions speak way louder than their thoughts. They can't articulate why they do what they do. For many people, the issues of hashkafa and emunah are not part of their lives. They do all the mitzvos they can, they follow halacha, but it is void of any "theology". It is just their "lifestyle". That is also Orthoprax. And that is something that is common, prevalent and ubiquitous throughout any sect of Orthodox Judaism.

This is not ideal. But it is reality. Rabbi Pruzansky seems to assume that all Frum Jews who practice halachic Judaism are familiar with their "dox". But they are not. And sadly, these Jews do not even want to be Orthoprax, but they are by default. Instead of worrying about the people that have defined their beliefs as separate from traditional Frum Judaism, we would be better served helping the closet Orthoprax who WANT to be Orthodox become Orthodox in the truest sense of the word.

Our system has become great at creating robots. I call them Orthoprax by Default. We can do better...

Search for more information about Orthoprax by Default at

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