Monday, January 16, 2006

Dear DovBear

DovBear, I’ve been reading your blog for some time, but this is (I think) the first time that I’ve posted a comment. If I may switch tracks for a moment – I found Lazer Brody’s messages to you quite disturbing. He asserts that, “Many lightweights use 'Machlokess' …among the orthodox as an excuse for not observing the Torah.”

Yes, many of us who are not frum do use that as part of our rationale, and I think that it’s valid. It’s simply incorrect that, in the Orthodox world, “we have no argument about Shabbos, kashrus, tefillin, and family purity.” The abundance of divergent opinions within the Jewish blogosphere alone would tend to invalidate his claims that “We have no disagreement as to all 613 mitzvas of Torah.” and “Orthodox Jewish unity is for real.” However, I think that an equally significant (if not greater) reason that so many of us eschew Orthodoxy is that people like Brody simply make us feel unwelcome. When I read “the enemies of the Jewish people in general, and the enemies of Orthodox Judaism in particular”, I come away with the distinct impression that he means me.

Of course, I realize that he doesn’t speak for you. I just wanted to say something about it in a venue in which some frum people would be paying attention. I didn’t want to comment on his site or email him about it, because I don’t think that he’d listen.

01.16.06 - 11:57 am

Thanks for the note. If you're reading "The DovBear Dialoges," a series currently running on Lazer's blog, you know that I've been doing my part to make it clear that a multiplicity of legitimate opinions exist within Judaism:
"The only answer is that the way we preform our rituals are not inevitable, but contingent. The rituals, like most everything else, evolved - sometimes according to the rules set forth by halacha, sometimes not. The trouble with "simple faith" by my lights is, that in this case at least, it obscures the fact that ideas develop and change over time. And I am not sure why that fact needs to be hidden."
Lazer has been perfectly accepting of my points, which, I must say, surprised me: Like you, I assumed that he was someone who denied that Judaism has a history, someone who imagines that our rituals and thinking did not evolve over time. To his credit, he acknowledges that Judaism has developed, and though he objects to my use of the word "change," I think this is semantics. His history is still imperfect, and he has much too much faith in the efficacy of the written word as a vehicle of human communication over long periods of time, but he knows that men in 2006 can't possibly think about the world in the same way that men in 106 did, and he accepts the implications.

I also think you're wrong to presume that Lazer's thinks you're his enemy. If you're a non-Orthodox Jews, he may consider you misled or mistaken, but you are still his brother. He decries the forces of assimilation (and he's careful to single out the forces of right-wing assimilation) but I believe he has no animosity for its victims. Orthodox unity is real, not because we all practice and think about our religion in the same way, but because we recognize that we have more in common than not. And, not incidently, Jewish unity is real for the same reason. I pound other Jews more than anyone should but that is "open rebuke, and hidden love." I may express disgust that Jews often fall short of our own creed; I may chafe at displays of conformity at the expense of the rest of our tradition; and I may accept arguments from the outside about our politics, history and practice; but I roundly reject the contention that politics, history and practice are all that Judaism has. There is something distinctive about being a Jew, and it belongs to every Jew who wishes to share in it.