Tuesday, March 25, 2014

It's Broken Record Time: Western Values and Sensibilities do not Equal Jewish Values and Sensibilities

כ"ג לחודש השנים עשר ב' תשע"ד

A respondant to a string on Facebook warning of the dangers of assimilation, particularly outside of Israel:
The solution lays in adjusting halacha (Jewish Law) to make it more attractive for the people, less oppressive towards woman, less misogynistic, ethnocentric and sexist. We can deny all we want, but why would anyone want to be a part of a religion that makes them feel bad? Assimilation happens as a result of something, maybe instead of locking up the girls of Israel, make them apart of the leadership, halachic bodies and allow them to take an active roll in who they can be in this religion. Marriage is the point where woman clearly have a disadvantage, look at the get situation among many woman who actively choose to remain religious. Arabs aren't the issue and neither are the "none-Jews" it's close minded Jews who want to stay in the Galut/holocaust mentality that drive assimilation.
Esser Agaroth (2¢) Response:
We are not here on this earth do whatever we want (ie. adjust halakhah), nor are we here on this earth to do whatever we want, and delude ourselves into thinking that it is, in fact, what HaShem wants, too.

We are here on this earth to do what HaShem wants. How do we know what that is? His Holy Torah, which includes the Oral Torah.

When we attempt to "adjust" halakhah, based on nothing but how we feel and what we want, then we are doing nothing less than disregarding it, if not cancelling its proper place in our lives.

I would like to suggest that you (and many others) arrived at this idea as a result of 1,700 to 2,000 years in galuth (exile). Such an experience can, and has, most certainly distort the authenticity of a people's traditions, not to mention their beliefs.

That being said, I am just as critical of all of the humroth (stringencies) which also came out of galuth, as I am of those with perspectives such as yours. These humroth may have had their purpose in galuth, to keep us together, whole, and on track. However, I do not see that they have much purpose here in Eretz Yisra'el. 

In support of you, I believe that you are right about people not being attracted to Judaism, but I disagree with your solution. The solution, I believe, is two-fold:
1. Seek out the learning of authentic halakhah. One possible resource for this is Machon Shilo and its companion YouTube Channel, which is updated weekly.

2. Learn to differentiate between Western values and sensibilities (eg. feminism, egalitarianism, state-ism, Christianity, haskalah) and Jewish values and sensibilities. In time, we can all learn which is the wisdom of the goyim (non-Jews) that we may embrace, and which is the failed attempts of "Torah" by the goyim, that which we must discard, if not speak out against them.
Here is an example: When Passover Became a Holiday Again.

Most Jews forget that Passover is a holiday, a happy time, but rather see, and inaccurately so, as a time of suffering, if not during Passover itself, then certainly beforehand, scrub brush in hand.

Who wants to spend six to eight hours in schul on Rosh HaShannah? I sure don't! Although there are some out there who find this meaningful and gratifying, I, personally, am not one of them. And I challenge anyone to show me how this is the halakhah.

I am happy to report that every year, I spend 3:20 hours in a minyan on Rosh HaShannah morning. That's right only 3:20 hours, and I can even set my watch by it.

But this is not about "less" being "more." Otherwise, the so-called Jewish "movements" would be the bearers of the solution, which they most certainly are not.

This is about stepping up to challenge of accepting an authentic Jewish identity, and investigating what that means, and perhaps more importantly, what that doesn't mean.


Billy said...

Those who have a more conservative (for lack of a better term) always put themselves on the defensive by adopting the western framework. Even when a haredi is debating a chiloni about halacha they will say something like, "oh no, Judaism does not regard women as inferior...".

Uh, yes it does. Certainly a male soul and female soul have equal worth but on this world, halacha clearly grants men a superior status. Now maybe it will be different in the world to come (although I hope not) but for now there are certain rights and priviledges that halacha gives men that it does not afford to women.

What we need to do is proudly embrace that our faith is not egalitarian instead of apologizing for what we are and trying to pretend that halacha is actually Mary Wollstonecraft.

Esser Agaroth said...

Hmmm... Maybe.

I certainly agree that we need to embrace that "It is what it is" (ie. not egalitarian, and not apologizing).

However, that women are inferior to men, I believe, can only be concluded by using the very Western standards I am arguing against.

The Torah sees women and men as different, and with different roles.

I mention a true story of a rabbi who explains to a woman how she can put on tefillin in Rashi's Daughters. I don't think it's apologetic, but rather a strategic way of dealing with the low spiritual state that we seem to be in at this time.

Billy said...

However, that women are inferior to men, I believe, can only be concluded by using the very Western standards I am arguing against

Fair enough, but when people argue that Judaism discriminates against women or gives them an inferior status, they are basing that argument on a western point of reference. And from a western point of view, they are absolutely correct. It is much more productive to just concede their point and say that it doesn't matter because their entire framework is garbage than to shout that Judaism actually is egalitarian in it's own way.

Also, I would argue that even holding "equality" as a value is itself western and alien to Judaism. I don't see equality as an inherent Jewish value at all.

Esser Agaroth said...


I can see this as a reasonable perspective.

I think that you and I might use a few words which are different, and are viewing the issue in not exactly the same way.

But, yeah, "framework is garbage" really sums it up well.

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