Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Differentiating Between the Ideal and the Unavoidable

The traditional nuclear family has been under attack for decades. The strategy to destroy its importance and value has reaped great dividends in the Western world. Today the world "family" can apply to almost any unit of people as can be imagined. Far from mom, pop and the kids, one can even find unrelated people cohabitating under a single roof describing themselves as a family. Then there's "alternative" lifestyles and even polygamists who still exist in North America.

Standing against this change has been the traditional Jewish definition of family which, despite endless social pressure, does not change. The ideal Jewish family remains what it has always been: a loving mother and father, along with their beloved children. This model remains the ideal, despite the attempts of social engineers to change that.

That doesn't mean the efforts cease. This recent article in Ynet seems to believe that change in the religious world means a necessity to change the definition of the ideal family:

With a delay customary for the religious world, slowly but surely the religious family is also turning into a new, different, and alternative family. We can show our displeasure, make a face at the synagogue, or turn a cold shoulder at school, but they are here: The new religious families, and particularly the special-different-alternative families; the debate over their legitimacy or definition has been irrelevant for a while now.

Really? According to who? Pretty much only those people in these alternative situations who crave the legitimacy the traditional nuclear family offers in Judaism. The article also betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of how Jewish law evolves:

Just like in the legal-secular world, and as opposed to common perception, social norms are not created by Jewish law, but rather, the opposite is true (or at the very least, two trends coexist simultaneously while constantly affecting each other.) The history of Jewish law is replete with developments and changes forced upon it by the world in which it exists. And just like in any other walk of life, the same will happen in the area of family life as well. Reality will change, and Jewish law will change – you should have no doubt about that.

Social norms may differ from Jewish law but Jewish law does not change to accomodate them. People may talk in shul but I don't know of a single posek who says that it's okay. People may want to have premarital sex but again, other than a professor at Bar Ilan and some horny admirers, one is hard pressed to find legal support for such a fundamental change in Jewish law. The history of Jewish law is, in fact, replete with examples of the resistance of Jews to changing morals and norms around them. As the world has intermittently slipped into barbarism, the Torah and its laws are the one thing that has remained as a bulmark against our joining the Gentile world in their tragedies and farces. Reality does not change Jewish law. Rather, for the believing Jew, the opposite happens.

Many would like to think that what is natural is also what’s right, and that it is the only way to manage proper family life (not to mention family life based on Jewish law) yet reality proves that this is not always the case. For example, those who give birth should naturally be raising their children…yet we have become accustomed to viewing adoption as an acceptable way for creating a family.

A Torah observant Jew does not think that what is natural is also what's right. He knows that what God wants, through the laws of His Torah, is what's right. End of story. Yes, reality deal us odd or tragic circumstances. No one should look down at single mothers or adoptive parents but to accept them as equivalent to the ideal Jewish family model is absurd. Let's not even mention the possibility of accepting "alternative lifestyle" families as acceptable in Jewish law.

It is catering to the common denominator instead of encouraging striving to the highest possible ideal. It is, in short, the mediocrity of Western secular liberalism vs the demand for excellence that is Torah philosophy.


SJ said...

I wonder how manny families that the Shabbat has destroyed because kids were unwilling to follow such insane rules.

Dr Mike said...

And I wonder how many families are brought together because after a long, busy week when no one has time to talk or sit and eat together Shabbos arrives and the family finally sits around a table and gets to enjoy each other's company and catch up on what's been happening.

Now, that might not be such a good thing for some families, I'll grant you that. Is that what happened to you?

SJ said...

That is not what happened to me dr dork.

The fact of the matter is that I do not think that we will ever see honest statistics from the orthodox establishment on how many families that the Shabbat helped ruin because family members did not want to become religious.

The point is that the way that the orthodox markets the Shabbat as the ultimate savior of the nuclear family does not come without its disingenuity and certainly falls under the category of maerketing-a-product-without-full-disclosure.

Dr. Mike said...

Yeah, I can see the scene now. It's Friday night, and SJ's folks once again insist he come out of the basement and spend a few minutes at the table with them. SJ grumpily slouches in his chair. Then his brother, the well-adjusted one, asks him to pass the potatoes.
"Screw off, jerk," comes the witty reply. "I'm busy being resentful because I'm missing my favourite TV show for this and you want the potatoes?"

SJ said...

Dr. Dork is making a rather bigoted assumption that because I am secular, I do not have a normal family.

My family is a perfectly functioning nuclear falimy, asshole.

It is actually the orthodox who are resentful to any jew who actually decides that his Saturdays should actually be FUN instead of BORING- a fact that Dr. Dork has just epitomized.

I would also like to add that one can have family values without subscribing to insane rules called "halachot" that breaks up families if there is a family member who des not want to be religious.

As a joke, perhaps the United States should have a federal law that says all kiruv literature must come with a label that says "Warning ... The Shabbat will break your family if someone does not want to be religious." XD

Dr Mike said...

Temper, temper. Clearly your falimy... family is a well-functioning unit that enjoys British literature, Masterpiece theatre and fine use of the English language on a regular basis. I would never suggest your family doesn't function normally. Just not you, apparently.

However, you clearly were never taught the principle: If you can't take it, don't dish it out.

I'm not resentful if you have fun on Shabbos. You can't seem to understand that I'm not bored observing it, that's all. If you don't want to be judged, don't judge others just because of a stereotype.

SJ said...

Dr. Dork, whatever you are a doctor of, it sure aint logic. I am talking about truth in advertising and you are taking about "I'm not bored on Shabbat so its ay okay in my book!"

I am talking about "the Shabbat is a major factor in breaking up families when there is a member who don't want to be religious ... and we will never see honest statistics from the orthodox on to what extent this happens." You, Dr. Dork, are talking about "naaaaaaaaaaaaaarf I am not bored on Shabbat singing the same songs praying the same prayers listening to 5 hour haftorot week after week so its ok in my book."

Dr. Dork, you should drop the religion act and just attempt to get laid, if you can. Your stupid gemorah which was supposed to be top notch logic training has failed you, idiot.

Dr Mike said...

Um, SJ, did you ever think the reason you have so much time to blog is your scintillating personality?

>I am talking about "the Shabbat is a major factor in breaking up families when there is a member who don't want to be religious ...

Huh? Where did that come from? Who ever said Shabbos saves families in trouble? And which haftarah is 5 hours long? All I'm saying is that Shabbos is a really pleasant thing that lots of people can enjoy. End.

As for getting laid, you don't sound like you've had much success at it lately either.

SJ said...

Shabbat post XD

Dr. Dork... you are still off the mark. I'm talking about one issue and you are answering about another issue. Learn to read.

Dr Mike said...

> >I am talking about "the Shabbat is a major factor in breaking up families when there is a member who don't want to be religious ...

This is your issue? Maybe I'm ignoring it because it's so absurd. Kashrus, maybe. After all, it can be quite disurptive when one family member suddenly starts to refuse to eat what everyone else is chowing down on. But Shabbos? Listen, if there's one family member who doesn't want to observe Shabbos, that's a shame but for him to then turn the TV on when others are around or do other things that aren't Shabbos-dik in the presence of the rest of the family, I'm sorry but that's just selfish. If he doesn't want to do the Shabbos things, he can ignore the day wihtout imposing his lack of belief on others. Or it is only believers who are guilty of imposing?

SJ said...

Dr. Dork - congradulations on using the same argument that terrorists from a certain other religion use when they blow up buildings in part because western women do not meet their insane standards in modesty. It is the western women who are being "selfish" and are infact the ones being "imposing" on these nice and innocent terrorists.

Dr. Mike - do orthodox judaism a favor. stay away from arguing on behalf of it.

Garnel Ironheart said...

SJ, go to sleep. It's late.

Secondly, you're stretching your argument too thin again. There are rights and then there are responsibilities. A woman can dress how she wants but should have the sensitivity not to flaunt it in front of people who might be offended. It's not a law, just common decency. You get?

SJ said...

So, if I so not want to see girls who wear skirts, religious girls are morally responsible to be sensitive and wear pants?

Garnel Ironheart said...

This is an old, and flawed, argument. There are Reformers I've met who won't enter Orthodox synagogues because they oppose separate seating. They justify their position by pointing out that Torah observant Jews won't pray in Reform temples.

However, the difference is that there is no Reform law forbidding separate seating. Al pi hadin, l'havdil, they should have no problem with any kind of seating. It's just their personal secular values that lead them to oppose separate seating. On the other hand, Orthodox Jews have a general rule against mixed seating. Personal views are not relevant in this case.

So in sj's case, the same can be applied. In the Torah observant world, there are outfits that are considered either appropriate or inappropriate for women to wear in public. In the secular world there are no rules. Why would you be offended by a woman wearing a long skirt? There's no logical reason. Therefore, you do do not want to see girls who wear skirts, that's your own personal hang up. Now you are imposing your ethics on others, the very crime you accuse Torah observant Jews of doing.

Shame on you! Turns out deep down there is something Orthodox in you after all.

SJ said...

Garnel herein we come to our conclusion- it is absurd for someone to worry about one the other person is doing as long as that person is not bothering him/her.

If a woman wants to wear pants or a skirt, its between her and God not her and an angry orthodox rabbi or even her and a secularist who thinks hes hot shit XD and if someone does not want to be shomer shabbat its between him/her and God, not him/her and anyone else.

Garnel Ironheart said...

>Garnel herein we come to our conclusion- it is absurd for someone to worry about one the other person is doing as long as that person is not bothering him/her

Yes, that's what I've been saying all along. You're the one who has this obsessive thought that the Orthodox are out to get out. Live your life, do what you want, live and let live. What's offensive about that?

SJ said...

That the orthodox are trying to take over what it means to be Jewish.

Dr Mike said...

I don't think we're trying to take over. There is a very old definition of what being Jewish means, and in the last couple of centuries certain non-observant groups have taken upon themselves to revise the definition. We simply remain insistent on the brand.

It's like this: There are many types of cola but only one Coke. Fine, you don't have to drink Coke, you can choose what you want. But let's say you start a cola company and want big sales fast so you call your new cola Coke-lite or something like that. That's a patent infringement.

Same thing here.

BTW, there's this rock band in the States that does something very similar with great effect. First they called themselves Def Leppard and the day before the real band served them notice, they changed their name... to Metallica.

SJ said...

Dr. Dork, your comparision is invalid because jews have the right to approach judaism in our own way and companies have the right to make coke in their own way.

Garnel Ironheart said...

What do you base this statement on? The main difference between Chrisianity and Judaism is that the in the former the religion is highly individualized while in the latter, the religion is external to the person.
In other words, a Chrisian can make a personal decision as to what constitutes his religious observance. A Jew, on the other hand, has the mitzvos presented to him and it is his free will choice to observe them or not but his choice in no way affects the authority of those mitzvos.

By the way SJ, cool it with the name calling. I don't want that on my blog.