Tuesday, September 30, 2014

An Arbitrary Patchwork

Originally Posted on Sept. 1, '09:

Please do not point, in reply, to the current efforts to reform Judaism. There indeed, everything that does not harmonize with today's concepts of the destiny of man or the needs of the time is being pared away little by little. But its this not itself a step outside Judaism? Would it not be better, then, to adopt and implement these current concepts consistently, on their own, instead of tying them to ideas that are at variance with them which can only produce an arbitrary patchwork.("Benjamin", The Nineteen Letters, letter 1)

While Reform has become a distinct movement, the reform which Rav Hirsch zt"l dismisses still shows its head in our own communities.

While Orthopraxy is hard enough for me to understand, I find it even harder to understand the mindset of those who identify as believers yet seem un-deterred from rejecting any traditional belief which they find too hard to swallow. As long as the denial doesn't lead to the rejection of one of the principles of faith (or even if it does for many people) then it's fair game. Little thought is given as to whether one is left with a coherent religious philosophy when one is done.

In truth though, while the logic of this approach is dubious, it can serve as a powerful answer to the yetzer hara. One's evil inclination will try to attack one's resolve for learning Torah and doing mitzvos by asking "what if"? What if it's not true, what if you're wrong, etc? One should simply remind oneself of all those yidden who frequent Orthodox blogs which primarily discuss halachic and hashkafic topics yet when the topic comes up they don't really believe the Torah is from Sinai etc. Those people don't believe it is true, yet they still lehrn! Why shouldn't I, who only has fleeting doubts provoked by my yetzer hara, do likewise?

This illustrates the attraction of a Yid's neshamah to Torah. A Yid may have succumbed to heretical or erroneous beliefs c'v, but in the end he is happier at least maintaining an arbitrary patchwork than entirely abandoning Yiddishkeit.

*The Nineteen Letters translated by R. Joseph Elias, page 6.

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