Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart
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Monday, 27 September 2010

Which Way The Rubber Band Snaps

The difficulty with any religious or political system is that it can be very difficult to determine the far ends of those system, never mind the centre.  However, there is an urgency within Torah Judaism in defining those edges so as to know who is "within the camp", as it were.
The problem is that there is an asymmetry within Torah Judaism which leads to tremendous difficulties.  In short, while there is a defined left side of the rubber band, there is no similar situation on the right side.   While it is relatively simple to determine what the minimum standards for being considered Orthodox from the LWMO perspective are - acceptance of Torah MiSinai, the inseparable nature of the Oral and Written law, the authority of Chazal and the subsequent decisors, etc. - there is no similar set of criteria on the right.  We all know what makes a Jew not frum enough, but what makes one too frum?  What behaviour puts one beyond the pale as opposed to not yet within it?
Why this matters is because of the public image that Torah Judaism has in the eyes of the rest of our brethren as well as the world.  Let's face it: if I say "Orthodox Jew" the image of Rabbi Avi Weiss does not pop up in most people's head.  Some guy with a oddly shaped black hat, long side curls and glasses that make Buddy Holly's look modern does.  When people see Esther Petrack flouncing around in slutty clothes on Shabbos for the cameras, it matters not whit whether she calls herself Modern Orthodox.  She isn't and no one sensible will take her claim seriously.  However, when people see the Neturei Karta playing footsies with Mahmood Ahmawhateverhesays, people do think: Wow, they're Orthodox and they're making nice with him?
The time is fast approaching when such barriers on the right have to be established and enforced as much as they are on the left.  What's more, there is probably a greater priority to establishing such regulations on the right since there are greater religious issues at stake.  The person who drives to shul on Shabbos isn't a threat to Torah Judaism.  He is simply not educated enough to know the importance of Shabbos.  His behaviour doesn't reflect on the larger Torah community, nor does it threaten to redefine its behaviour.  This is not the case of those to the right of Torah Judaism who continue to insist that they, and only they, are the authentic bearers of the mesorah and that anything less machmir than them is failing short of the ideal.  In short, they threaten Torah Judaism itself by demanding the replacement of the authentic with a Talibanistic invention.
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5 comments:

JRS said...

good point[s]! It's very true: most frummies may criticize, even condemn, but rarely will they exclude from the orthodox community a 'frum' guy who does despicable, fanatic things. It's actually similar (I stress: purely in the sense of an analogy) to the way the 'vast majority' of peace-loving Muslims condemn fanatical Islamist actions, which is to say: very weakly.

SJ said...

>> The time is fast approaching when such barriers on the right have to be established and enforced as much as they are on the left.

It seems to me when it comes to guy/girl issues, ordinary orthodox are already almost as far right as Satmar.

RAM said...

"While it is relatively simple to determine what the minimum standards for being considered Orthodox from the LWMO perspective are - acceptance of Torah MiSinai, the inseparable nature of the Oral and Written law, the authority of Chazal and the subsequent decisors, etc...."

That perspective sometimes has a hidden and a revealed aspect. The revealed in what is said for public consumption and the hidden (maybe not so hidden) in what is believed and done. LWMO occupies a spectrum from sincerity to consumer fraud.

Garnel Ironheart said...

One could argue the other way from the extreme right. Public statements of piety are often betrayed by public acts of chilul HaShem. It corresponds to your observation.

RAM said...

Garnel,

You're correct, but you opened with a clearly unbalanced position. You can't only dish it out!