Monday, March 19, 2007

Am I corrupting frumkeit?

Every now and again, I get an email or a comment from an intelligent critics who thinks I'm corrupting frumkeit.

Unlike the know-nothing complaints I get from morons like Ed, the intelligent critic meets me half way. He concedes that everything I say about religion is true, but objects anyway. Why? Because (and this is verbatim, with permission, from the most recent message of this kind) "...the masses won't stay religious if you eliminate the magic and the mystery. Once you show them that large and important parts of Judaism developed via the historical process, they'll drop out. The average guy just isn't able to stay passionate about an observance after he knows its true origin. He can't get excited about Torah learning if you show him that much of what's considered the classic commentary was rejected by rishonim and achronim..."

In other words, the Judaism my correspondent values is built on lies, noble lies perhaps, but lies all the same.

I understand the objection. Really, I do. But the other side of the story is, well, people like me. We're only part of the Orthodox community because we've been shown that the mystery and magic others treasure can, largely, be ignored. Had I not encountered Samson Raphael Hirsch, and the Ibn Ezra when I was a teenager, I'd have probably dropped out a long time ago. As far as I'm concerned, one of the great, untaught lessons is that there is a source in the tradition for ignoring the tradition's own shortcomings.

My correspondent holds people should be left alone to their lies, but she forgets that there are other equally good, equally effective, and yes, equally authentic paths. The way I see it, what she calls "corrupting people's frumkeit," is like letting people know there's a man behind the curtain. The discovery was frightening at first for Dorothy and her friends, but you know what? The Wizard's well-intentioned lies were actually preventing Dorothy from finding her way home. Only after the noble fraud was unmasked could she get where she needed to be.

Relevant comments:
Ex post doc: A rabbi that I respect greatly quoted Bismark on this: "the law is like sausage - if you want to enjoy the results, you don't want to see it being made"

Chaim G: YES! ...creates a lot of vegans

Me: I accept your analogy. I agree that seeing how the sausage of Judaism is made may turn some people into vegans, but so what?A vegan isn't analogous to an irreligious atheist. A vegan is still at the table, and still eating. (and probably more healthfully, besides)

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