Monday, March 20, 2006

"In the House of History There are Many Mansions*"

Attempting to link Yeshivas Chovevai Torah with the Conservative movement Rabbi Yitzchak Alderstan asks a silly question:

Is Jewish thought a huge intellectual smorgasbord, at which one dines to his or her pleasure?

Of course it is. How else do you explain the wide variety of thought that exists within the parameters of traditional Orthodox Judaism? Lubovitch, Satmar, YU, Mafdal, Chardal (among others) are all legitimately Orthodox, yet all think about the world in different ways.
Why shouldn't an Orthodox Jew be able to pick and choose among them? To do otherwise is to deny reality, to pretend that Judaism is monolithic, when it most certainly is not. Shiv'im Panim laTorah / The Torah has 70 faces and all that.

It's staggering, really, that Alderstan could even ask such a question. It speaks of such a simple view of both men and Judaism. Does he anticipate a Jewish ayatollah will decide between the Kooknicks and Satmar? Must Torah im Derech one day be reconciled with Torah Only? Does he believe, as I have long suspected, that there is but One Right Way in Orthodox Judaism? Such a restrictive view of Orthodox Judaism is wrong, and must be corrected at every opportunity.

But then, perhaps, I should expect nothing less from a blog that continues to confuse pluralism with relatavism. Properly understood, Jewish pluralism embraces not every idea under the sun, but the reality that there are within Judaism, a plurality of legitimate values that men can and do seek. These values don’t align, and sometimes they conflict, but what they have in common is that you can pursue them and still remain an Orthodox Jew.

Please: Someone go tell Yitzchak Alderstan.

*"Mansion," in this quote from Issiah Berlin, is used in the archaic sense of a seperate dwelling within a large house.