Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart
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Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Orthodoxy vs. Orthopraxy

One of the major problems facing Modern Orthodoxy today is the invisible split within the movement. This division is hampering Modern Orthodoxy's development and causing it damage in its on-going PR troubles with the Chareidi world.

Roughly speaking, the Modern Orthodox world is divided into two groups - those who are intellectually Modern Orthodox and those whose attachment to Orthodoxy only extends as far as ritual behaviours. The former, called the behavioural group in papers on the subject, are what I like to call the Orthodox part of Modern Orthodoxy. The latter group are the Orthoprax: they practice but without much deep thought into the matter.

Why is this distinction important? Well, consider the corresponding groups in the Chareidi world. Without a doubt, a huge part of that community is just as Orthoprax as their counterparts in the Modern Orthodox world. The rest are intellectually and spiritually wrapped up in their version of Torah Judaism.

But the difference comes when one steps back and looks at them from a distance. From the outside, one sees the Orthodox component almost exclusively. Do they have teens at risk? Drug problems? Spousal abuse? People who don't hold the party line or a just going through the motions without any sense of deeper belief? Absolutely but because of the external badges of memebership (the hat, suit, etc.) and a dedicated public relations job, we have become convinced that the dissidents are a silent minority within the Chareidi world and not the average representatives of it.

Cast your glance over to the Modern Orthodox world and a different picture emerges. Now it's the dissidents who are front and centre. The guys who wear the micro-kippahs and no tzitzis, the ladies with uncovered hair and shorts, the rationalizers who will eat in vegetarian restaurants, they all seem to take the centre stage so that the Orthoprax become considered typical of the movement.

In other words, we generally believe that dissident Chareidim and intellectually observant Modern Orthodox are atypical for their respective movements.

This is one of the first things that Modern Orthodoxy, if it is to remain a competitive destination for Jews looking for an authentic Torah lifestyle, must acknowledge. Many of its members are barely towing the party line and more interested in freedoms than responsibilities. This attitude must be changed so that the movement can become stronger.

1 comment:

Ahavah B. said...

Do a google search on frum skeptic and see for yourself - this problem is widespread in the Cheredi world. They are not atypical. According to UOJ some 40% of generation y-ers are leaving yiddishkeit, and I hazard a guess that's because more than 50% of their parents (the x-ers) are orthoprax or only strictly observant in public - not at home. These kids don't grow up in a vacuum. They are only doing what their parents were not brave enough to do - start over elsewhere and embrace religious freedom.