Monday, March 12, 2007

On Orthodoxy

The blogopshere is buzzing about the frum bonafides of one Lawrence Shiffman.

Following his participation in an article in which four prominent scholars spoke about how their faith was affected by their work, everyone (by which I mean GH, Mis-nagid, and the sanctimonious commentators at Hirhurim) is lining up to speculate about Shiffman's Orthodoxy. Regrettably, I joined the parlor game, too. [Note: GH must be suffering from regrets as well. His post is gone]

I say regrettably, because I now realize that the definition of an "Orthodox Jew" is fluid. You can call yourself whatever you want, so long as you understand how you define it for yourself. It's when you use other people's definitions that you get into trouble. I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who would say I'm not Orthodox, but I no longer give a hoot; we obviously define it differently. By my definition, they may not be Orthodox either.

Here's a brief primer according to DovBear:

- If Orthodoxy means you believe in revelation then I am Orthodox.
- If it means you find rabbinic halacha to be binding and in some way divine, then I am Orthodox.
- It it means you understand every one of the Rambam's ikkarim in the way that many othes do I suppose I'm not, but guess what? Neither are most of Teaneck and Williamsburg. And nor were the legions of Tannaim, Amoraim, Geonim and Rishononim who themselves were in opposition to some of what the Rambam wrote.

I can live with that.

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