Monday, February 26, 2007

How mighty are the righteous....

I was raised in an observant Jewish home, in a small town in Pennsylvania. The Jews of my town all had to "play nice" because there were so few of us. The day school, (there was only one) was an orthodox institution, with children mainly from non-observant homes. When you reached the end of elementary school, you either went to public school, or went out of town to a yeshiva. I did both. I spent eight grade in public school, which for me, was a terrible experience, then went on to a very "right wing" yeshiva in upstate Pennsylvania, which was an even worse experience. Maybe one day I will write about those, but this is not the focus of today's rantings.
I grew up in a religious "no man's land." Not really relating to what I was learnng in yeshiva, but also pressured, (mostly internally) to adopt a "frum" lifestyle. Even more than the Lifestyle, was the religious philosophy. I went to yeshiva with boys from Boro Park and Williamsburg, with whom I had little in common. The trouble was, that in order to fit in, at the least, I had to listen to them, and at worst, maybe even agree with them. This was to become a source of frustration to me for many years to come.
As I moved out into the world, and got married, i slowly began to observe the Jewish World around me. For the first ten years or so, i remained pretty steadfast to all that I absorbed in yeshiva. As Jewish life disappointed me, (a much, much longer post) and I began to experience diversity in Judaism, my views moderated a bit. As time went on, and the people I have experienced and my own life experience have moderated my views, i was very distressed by the post I read recently on Yeshiva World News (
There was a reference to an article in Yated Ne'eman,
( about how Yeshivat Chovevei Torah is not an Orthodox institution, but in fact, a threat to Halachic Judaism. It turns out, that over the last few years, for one reason or another, I have had reason to be involved with Chovevei. It is a wonderful place, producing, get ready for this..... Orthodox Rabbis who think!!! Imagine that. Instead of toeing the party line, here we have individuals who might actually have some original thoughts and try to make observant Judaism dynamic and responsive, the very nature of the objections raised in the Yated article.
Several years ago, I evolved a position of "It might not be for me, but that does not mean it is not valid." Which is to say that there is a world of opinion and diversity in Judaism, and while I might not be comfortable doing something, it does not mean it is WRONG or bad. All we need do is go back in our history a few hundred years, and we find the very Rabbis whom we point to as infallible, were roundly rejected by their peers and the organized Jewish community. We need look no further than Rambam or the Ba'al Shem Tov.
I say we need Chovevei. We need Rabbis who care about the women who are agunot, not the husbands who happen to have money and prestige. We need Rabbis who understand that there are problems in society that call for new options, just like the Rambam did with those "forced converts" and stuck to his guns in the face of might protest from those around him.
And in the end, it doesn't have to fit for us all, in each and every situation, but there is reason to have the opinions, and they deserve, rather, demand a voice.

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