Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: The Chasm Between Orthodox/Torah Judaism and Its Derivatives

Disclaimer: I am utterly and without reservation opposed to the idea of thinking there are "branches" of Judaism.  Nonetheless, I am also keenly aware that the surrounding culture does think of Reform/Conservative/Reconstructionist/FlavorOfTheWeek that way.  I was (again) made aware of that distressing fact when my boss asked me to explain the "Jewish" view regarding abortion.  I said I could give him the Orthodox view, which I did.  His response came in two parts; first to what I said, second to the implications for other branches.  To what I described his response was, "So every case has to be considered independently with all of its unique factors and a competent rabbinic authority consulted."  Yes and yes!  Precisely the message I wanted to convey.

Regarding the implications for other branches of Judaism, though, his response was most distressing.  "So the Jewish view is basically a spectrum from there."  Yikes!  No, I said; those other philosophies are not really any more Jewish that Christianity or ethical humanism.  He rolled his eyes; "So you are saying that if I went into their temple, I wouldn't find a torah scroll?"  I completely understood his reaction as an outsider looking at me, an ultra orthodox fanatic.  So I thought and thought about it.  I finally arrived at a way to present the case for what separates Orthodox Judaism from all other philosophies.  I even came up with a better word to describe them: derivatives of Orthodox Judaism.

First and foremost, Orthodox Judaism is defined by one overarching concept: the Torah -- both the written form and what it all meant -- was received by the Jewish nation at Mount Sinai with 100% clarity and without error.  More than that, the Torah is not a book of rules and stories; rather it is the blueprint of Creation.  Or, if you prefer, it is the genes and chromosomes of Reality.  That being the case, by definition there can be no situation that is not already addressed by the Torah.  Furthermore, those who originally received the Torah also understood and appreciated all of the principles by which reality operates -- and that knowledge had been accurately transmitted generation after generation down till today.

With that introduction, I can now state the differences clearly.  Anyone who identifies himself as an Orthodox Jew, when asked for an opinion on some topic, will answer, "I may have my own feelings about the matter, but at the end of the day I know that the HaShem's opinion (so to speak) -- as revealed by the Torah -- is the only one that really matters."  Those from one of the derivative religions will say, "The Torah is an important document that expresses real wisdom.  However, there are other documents that also express wisdom.  At the end of the day, I take some input from the Torah, some import from other sources, and then I form my own opinion."  I said that closer derivatives may give 90% weight to the Torah, while more distant derivatives may give only 10% weight to the Torah.

My boss (a somewhat observant Christian) was totally on board with this description.  He also now appreciated when I said that both Reform Judaism and Christianity are both derivatives of Orthodox Judaism.  Christianity, in fact, was basically the first derivative religion from Orthodox Judaism.  As I have noted many times, Christianity is in some ways a closer derivative than Reform Judaism, and in other ways more distant.

My final point was simply to note, without making a value judgment, that once a philosophy takes even the smallest stop away from looking at the Torah as the blueprint of Creation, then its distance from Orthodox Judaism is only going to increase over time.  Like the drop of water on the edge of a cloud.  No matter how close to the edge, it's still in the cloud.  Once it leaves -- no matter how close it is right now -- it is on it's way out.  It is no longer in the clouds, it is rain plummeting to earth.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

Thought for the Day: Sometimes a Food Loses Its Identity When It Loses Its Bracha; Sometimes It Doesn't

Let's start with a question: Why are We Allowed to Drink Coffee and Whiskey Made by Non-Jews?  Before you ask,"Why would I think that I shouldn't be able to drink whiskey and coffee made by non-Jews?", I'll tell you. Simple, we all know that Chazal made a decree -- known as בישול עכו''ם/bishul akim -- that particular foods cooked by non-Jews are forbidden.  There are basically two criteria that determines if a dish falls into this category:
Is not consumed raw.Fit for a royal banquet. Cooked carrots, therefore, are not a problem since they can be eaten raw (I actually prefer them that way).  Baked beans are find because the are not prestigious enough.  (For great synopsis of the laws, see the article on the Star-K site, FOOD FIT FOR A KING, by Rabbi Moshe Heinemann, shlita.)  There are lots of cool questions and details (baked potatoes are prestigious, does that make even potato chips and issue?) which are for another time.  Clearly, though, both coffee an…

Thought for the Day: Coming Into This World for Torah, Avodah, and Acts of Loving Kindness

This TftD is so self-serving that I should be embarrassed.  But I am not... talking about grandchildren is always off budget.  I have, bli ayin hara, a beautiful new grandson; born at 6:11 PM CDT last Friday night.  The secular (aka -- by me, anyway -- slave) date is October 20, 2017 CE.  The Hebrew (aka Real) date is certainly Rosh Chodesh חשון/Cheshvan and certainly in the year 5778 since Creation.  The date, you ask... good question!

Sundown on Friday night was 6:01 PM CDT, which means he was born either at the end of the last day of תשרי or the beginning of the first day of Cheshvan; a period know as בין השמשות/twilight.  What's the big deal, you ask... I am so glad you asked.  We all deal quite handily with בין השמשות every week and every holiday; we're just stringent.  We start Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov before בין השמשות; that is, before sundown.  Likewise, we end Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov after בין השמשות; some 42, 50, 60, or 72 minutes after sundo…