Sunday, December 26, 2010

Just What We Needed

A Guest Post by Avromie

The OU, in the latest Jewish Action, has convened what they term a 'symposium' to defend the idea of Mesorah. I can only assume it's as a response to the krumbagel video. The website Vos Iz Neias was banned a few days ago for a litany of speech offenses. I don't want to reopen the discussion of the video or VIN now. But I do want to talk about the vital place of blogging and anonymous videos in modern-day frum Judaism.

On the one hand, establishing Mesorah is very important in order to keep Judaism authentic. With no central establishment, allowing change can rapidly spiral off into incorporating foreign ideas into Judaism. Just look at the various mutations parading under the banner of Yiddishkeit, from Reform to Howard Berg, to outright Christianity. The original message is easily lost with no-one to delineate between the 'Ikar' and the 'Taful'.

On the other hand, designating one group as the Delineators, and handing over all the keys to power, invites corruption of another sort. The lives of the congregation outside of the select few in power is not considered, and they are forced to follow the dictates of the few regardless of how incompatible it is to their life. Aside from the practical problems with this situation, it is against our true Mesorah.

Judaism has always been unique in it's requirement of everyone to learn the Torah. There is no secret book that a few privileged characters have to dictate laws for the true believers. It is our Torah, everyone participates. If anyone, respected Rabbi or otherwise, says something, they are required to let you know the reason (see Ohr Hachaim, Devarim 17:9). This ensures that Toras Emes is not corrupted to benefit the few. It is also probably one of the main reasons why Judaism has survived, basically intact, till today.

Today, we see Yiddishkeit being rapidly transformed into an antiquated, frozen set of rules that doesn't match up with reality. The Torah is seen as something that must be protected from the real world, because it won't survive exposure. Harsh measures are taken towards dissenters. But God, as we know, prepares a refuah to the makah. And in this case, it appears to be the internet. Here, in this anonymous universe, Judaism is a part of life. And it can, and is, being explored, questioned, and learned thoroughly- without fear, as it was meant to. In this open marketplace of ideas, bloggers have taken up the sacred role that the Prophet, and the court jester, took in ancient times. To challenge authority, not for the purpose of overthrowing it, but as a counter-balance, to set it on the straight path.

DovBear is obviously aware of this when he says “Contraria contrariis curantur” (you can Google the translation, like I did). Here is a Jewish scholar challenging the status quo, and challenging all of us, to think.

I want to end off by mentioning the story of Amos and Amatziah, Kohen of Beis-El (Amos 7:10-17) because it strikes me as an awesome parallel to our frum world today. In a time of corruption, Amos, a well-off, common man, was chosen by God to prophesy. The story told in these few pesukim is singularly poignant and although it would be too long to quote in a blog post, I urge you to look at it.

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