Sunday, October 25, 2009

Framing the discussion: Point & counterpoint

Ben Dreyfus*, in an essay posted here (hat-tip--Larry Lennhoff, in the comments to this related post), said: "For liberal Judaism to thrive, it must develop frames to see itself as authentic on its own terms. Orthodox Jews aren't doing anything wrong by viewing Judaism through Orthodox frames, but we as liberal Jews are missing an opportunity by failing to see Judaism through our own liberal Jewish values.

This framing problem manifests itself in subtle ways. When we refer to Jews of other denominations as "more religious" or "more observant," we undermine our own standards of religious observance, and judge ourselves on a scale external to our own Judaism.

Consider this phrase: "I'm not shomer Shabbat: Every week I light candles after sundown and then drive to synagogue." The speaker obviously observes Shabbat but is allowing someone else to define what Shabbat observance means.

Furthermore, one version of this frame (problematic even for Orthodox Jews) equates "religious observance" solely with ritual observance. "

Katrina is not happy about this essay, as you can see:

" . . . he doesn't offer any solutions, aside from the vague imperative that the movements reframe. . . . "

. . .

"--What about history? The idea of what Shabbat observance is has been influenced, to a large degree, by what it meant in the past. Of course, you may say, but Katrina, what about all of these crazy Orthodox people who pile chumrah upon chumrah in their Shabbat observance? They
don't care about history either. But that's precisely what offends Shomer Shabbos people such as I and half the J-Blogosphere about the crazy Orthos. The Jewish people do have a sense of what "Sabbath observance" means. If the liberal movements want to change the way that they talk about Shabbat, they will likely have more, rather than less, success, if they don't trample on concepts that people understand and may even be attached to."

. . .

"Regular people who come to synagogue don't want to talk about how they frame their Judaism. They want to talk about how to live it."

This could make for a very interesting discussion. The floor is open.

*My Sh'nat haSh'mittah/"Sabbatical Year" teacher.

. . . and furthermore, grumbles Shira with Katrina


Anonymous Anonymous said...

crazy Orthodox people who pile chumrah upon chumrah in their Shabbat observance

As a crazy Ortho who left the Conservative movement I am curious as to what chumrahs I observe when it comes to Shabbat observance? Perhaps fromt the Conservative point of view, not driving on Shabbat is a chumrah, but from my point of view, every way in which I observe Shabbat is mandated by halchah and is not an optional chumrah that goes beyond the letter of the law. Perhaps from the point of view of some, those that drive only to shul and back have added a chumrah compared to those who drive everywhere. One person's chumrah could be another person's halachah.
In terms of this "reframing" as a former right-wing traditional Conservative, I don't feel that it would work that (small) elemenet of the movement.) Although traditional Conservative might differ in certain interpretations or applications of halacha from Orthdoxy, they both agree that halacha (whatever that might mean at the end of the day) is binding and not optional. It is total Orwellian double-speak to say that someone who lights candles after sunset on Friday is Shomer Shabbat. It is fair to say that they observe Shabbat as clearly this day is important to them and clearly this person is Jewishly involved and cares about Judaism a lot more than most, but they are still breaking Shabbat according to halacha. This is not the "Orthodox" foisting "their" interpretation on anyone. These notions of of what is and isn't permissable on Shabbat existed long before there was any such thing as Orthodoxy. The Torah forbids kindling flame on Shabbat; the Torah is not "Orthodox." The Talmud in tracatate Shabbat elaborates on the 39 forbidden melachot on Shabbat. The Talmud is not "Orthodox." They are Jewish and fundemental cornerstones of Judaism.

Mon Oct 26, 09:32:00 AM 2009  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Anon, Katrina may have been referring not to standard mainstream Halachic practices, but rather, to practices such as these. As Katrina said, "The Jewish people do have a sense of what "Sabbath observance" means."

Mon Oct 26, 10:30:00 AM 2009  
Blogger katrina said...

Woah, anonymous, this is Katrina here, and I was not saying that driving on Shabbat is a chumrah. Quite the opposite: I am Shomeret Shabbat and do not ride on Shabbat, kindle fires on Shabbat, or anything like that. My concern is with interpretations of Shabbat observance that are modern (or even contemporary--let's say within the last 10 years) additions. For example, an Orthodox rabbi once told me that I should not use Shabbat timers, even though technically I am not using electricity when I use them, because they are against the spirit of Shabbat based on his interpretations of obscure Talmudic sugiahs. The fact that this idea has not caught on in the Ortho community at large makes me very suspicious. And don't get me started on the Shabbos elevator teshuvah. The Torah is not Orthodox, but I very much doubt that this is Torah.

Tue Oct 27, 04:52:00 PM 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There have to be halachic opinions related to Shabbat observance that are contemporary because there are new technologies that didn't exist before. Did this Rabbi who forbade the use of timers ALWAYS feel that way or did he come to a new conclusion? Did he just volunteer this opinion or did you ask him a shaila?
I am Orthodox (centrist) and I use timers have never heard this opinion from any Orthodox rabbi. The closest I have heard is that some Rabbis have said they are against using timers for anything other than lights. I have heard some say not using it for things other than lights is preferable, but not required. That being said, what is it you expected the rabbi in question to do? Say something different from what is his understanding of halacha? If that is the conclusion he came to then that is what it is. Do you expect rabbis to just tell you what you want to hear?
Which is worse, a Rabbi who goes a little overboard and might forbid something out of doubt, or a Conservative Rabbi who says that things that are 100% assur are actually OK? One of the reasons I left the Conservative movement was becuase of the laundry list of things that are clearly against the Torah (things specifically mentioned in the Torah) are actually OK. For example: carrying on Shabbat without an eruv, a Kohen marrying a convert or a divorcee, and anyone marrying a mamzer. I'm not saying that all Conservative rabbis feel this way, but by the same token, not all Orthodox rabbis are as right-wing as the example you gave. So again, which is the lesser of two evils, the Rabbi who goes a little overboard in his defense of the spritit of Shabbat, or the Rabbi who tells you to break Shabbat?
PS, if my rabbi told me to not use timers I would find a new rabbi!:)

Wed Oct 28, 09:03:00 AM 2009  
Blogger katrina said...

I should have clarified, Anonymous. He said it was best not to use timers for anything other than lights and especially not for cooking. But this was in a Torah/Talmud study session; I did not ask a shailah. He is not my rabbi, although he is a good guy.

In terms of your larger point about the Conservative movement, I don't consider myself Conservative (hence my blog name, "Conservadox and Single," although I am now married). But why does it have to be either Conservative or Centrist Orthodox? What about Modern Orthodox? Or, for that matter, Conservadox? What about those Conservative rabbis who know it's not okay to carry on Shabbat without an eruv? Do any of them have shuls near you? Did you try them? I am not criticizing your choices. I am more interested in your path from Conservative to C.O.

Tue Nov 03, 07:38:00 AM 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would not go to a shul like that because I long ago came to the conclusion that from my point of view egalitarianism and davening without a mechitzah is against halacha. Even when I was Conservative, I always prefered no-egal minyanim if I could find them (an increasing rarity.) I always felt that the C movement's decisions regarding egalitarianism were decision in which they knew ahead of time what conclusion they were going to come to and then forced quasi-halachic arguments to back them up. It isn't just me thinging this, I know of a great many Conservative rabbis who think this way. They either kept their mouth's shut about their opinion, switched to UTJ, or took early retirment and now go to Modern Orthodox shuls in Boca Raton, FL.
There is an old joke in Russia about how the communists wanted to make everyone equal so now everyone is equally poor. So too, with C, movement. Except for a few ivory tower right wing traditional congregations in greater New York, Boston and few other places, everyone is equally poor in mitzvah observance. They wanted men and women to be equal and both to daven and both put on tefilin? Great, now NO ONE does.
Instead of having 70 year old women put on pink talitot and play reform how about encouraging lighting Shabbat candles, seperating challah and making the brachah, Taharat mishpacah? How about encouraging women to observe mitzvos that apply equally to men and women like Keeping Shabbat. When is the last time a Conservative rabbi took a stand and told his congregation that such and such a thing is forbidden on Shabbat?

Tue Nov 03, 04:17:00 PM 2009  

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