Friday, November 25, 2005

Contra Mr. Professor

By the way, those who say that Judaism and general Halachic observance cannot survive a realization that following it cannot be justified through divine command actually devalue their religion and Halacha. They are essentially saying that the laws make no good sense in themselves and the only reason Jews will continue to do them is if they are convinced God commands it of them. They are saying that there is no internal value in the Law.

For other people who recognize value inherent to the Law, at least in a general sense, they don't need a divine source and it is through them that traditional observant Judaism will continue even after dogma falls.

Take that Mr. Professor.

10 comments:

rebelmo said...

Interesting story with the professor. Once you take away the divine, who says Judaism is any better than any other religon or system. If it is man made, it has defects and can change thru man.
If it fits nicely with your lifestyle and values, or you postiviely choose that way.

But how do you deal with the irrational halachot which do not ostensibly further man or mankind are only followed b/c of a percieved divine source. You have to accept the whole 9 yards, once you pick and choose you are no longer orthodox. But once you divorce the divine source, why perform irrational acts when the only basis is rabinic tradition, which is fallible.

Mis-nagid said...

There are two questions raised by Mr. Professor's "devastation" at realizing Orthodoxy is on a flimsy foundation.

The first is the one you're answering: is it possible to follow all the traditional rules despite not believing in the divine origin of those rules? You answer it well, and even point out that holding the opposite position necessarily means holding the rules in a bad light.

The second is an empirical one: are people likely to follow all the traditional rules despite not believing in the divine origin of those rules? You don't address it at all, except to say that you will/do. But you're rare, if not unique. This is a question about people, not theology, and most people are not like you. When you move from what's possible to what's likely, you see why you Professor is devastated by his realization.

B. Spinoza said...

I agree with Mis-nagid. You a strange bird, and I mean that in the best way :)

If your theory somehow got wide expectance in the orthodox community, then that would probably mean the end of orthodoxy as we know it. It would most likely morph into Conservative Judaism. Of course, the chances of that happening any time soon, are not likely.

B. Spinoza said...

That should read acceptance not expectance

Orthoprax said...

rebelmo,

"Once you take away the divine, who says Judaism is any better than any other religon or system. If it is man made, it has defects and can change thru man."

You're right, you lose that guarantee of "bestness" but that also gives one an appreciation for other cultures and other traditions and leaves a solid ground for tolerance in a pluralistic society.

"You have to accept the whole 9 yards, once you pick and choose you are no longer orthodox. But once you divorce the divine source, why perform irrational acts when the only basis is rabinic tradition, which is fallible."

This is a good question. And that may be a real challenge in making apparently nonsensical rules relevant to today. As I see it, many of the rules, even if they are nonsense in themselves, lend a degree of tradition and identification among Jews and create a stronger bond. For example, as far as I know there is very little rational reason in itself not to eat pork, but it serves to involve the Jewish identity and create a sense of unity among Jews if pig meat holds this kind of disallowed status.

Does it make sense by itself? Not really, but in context it becomes a part of what Jews do and is a segment of that identity.

Orthoprax said...

Mis-nagid,

"The second is an empirical one: are people likely to follow all the traditional rules despite not believing in the divine origin of those rules?"

You are right, of course. I am an unusual type. But my point was that if dogma can no longer be relied on then traditional-style Judaism can only survive in our modern age through those who recognize value within the laws and who need no outside justifications.

Whether _that_ is cause enough for tradition to remain relevant is up for debate. I suspect large swaths will remain relevant for a long time to come.

Orthoprax said...

Spinoza,

"If your theory somehow got wide expectance in the orthodox community, then that would probably mean the end of orthodoxy as we know it. It would most likely morph into Conservative Judaism."

I don't know if it would be Conservative, but it would surely be more open to inquiry while staying respectful to tradition. If that would mean the end to Orthodoxy as we know it, I'm not sure that would be a bad thing.

Hayim said...

I read your post and see that Mis-Nagid said everything I wanted to add much better than I could have.

> Whether _that_ is cause enough for tradition to remain relevant is up for debate. I suspect large swaths will remain relevant for a long time to come.

Those which address the "human condition", yes. But the legal aspects ? I doubt it. What is more, "relevance" is itself a very subjective concept. What is relevant for you, having grown up in a fully orthodox home (I understand), will not be relevant to your kids, who will come from a more unusually hashkafic background. Except some erosion from one generation to the next.

Orthoprax said...

hayim,

"[Expect] some erosion from one generation to the next."

I am under no illusions here. This is one of my primary concerns. A major effort of mine lately has been trying to construct an attractive surviving philosophy which simultaneously gives a person cause to act in traditional ways (not necessarily Halachic as per the Shulchan Aruch) while not relying on any dogmas and allowing free range of thought.

So in a way I feel like a big important load is on my shoulders. It could be up to me if Judaism can survive the contemporary onslaught. But then I step back and realize that I'm just one guy who can't even work his own personal philosophy and Judaism has survivied for millenia without my help.

Maybe all I really want is to create an umbrella zone for people who have lost faith but who still want a connection to their people and good justifications to stay comfortably traditional. I feel a real demand for that kind of product in the air.

B. Spinoza said...

>Maybe all I really want is to create an umbrella zone for people who have lost faith but who still want a connection to their people and good justifications to stay comfortably traditional. I feel a real demand for that kind of product in the air.

I think that's a noble gesture