Thursday, July 21, 2005

On the Unorthodoxy of Orthodoxy

It's often amazed me how we've come to be known as "Orthodox" Jews, despite how inappropriate the title is.

Orthodox, of course, comes from the roots "ortho" meaning "correct" and "dox" from the Greek for opinion, or thought. In other words, an Orthodox opinion is one that everyone subscribes to.

However, as we are all aware, there is precious little that all "Orthodox" Jews agree upon. Between our differences on Zionism, Hashkafa, Chassidus, and a host of other issues, I find the fact that we are termed as "Orthodox" rather amusing.

But, nonetheless, there is something that binds us all. There are a few beliefs that we all (barring some radicals, of course) do subscribe to. We all believe that God created the universe (arguements as to the time/method notwithstanding). We all believe that we are bound by the Torah (arguments as to what parts of TSBP are binding and authoritative notwithstanding), and we all believe in the binding nature of the Mitzvos. I suppose one could simply boil it down to a set of core beliefs -- oh, wait, someone already did that.

But aside from those and few other matters (I suppose the unacceptability of Jews for Jesus is something we all agree on), there really is precious little that we agree upon. And yet we're called "Orthodox" as if we are all a part of some big group mind.

I always had my own pet theory regarding the messiah. To me, it's not so important that he come riding a white donkey. It's not so important that he be preceeded by Elijah. How do I know who the messiah will be? Pretty simple. If someone can come along, and unite the vast majority of "Orthodox" Jews out there that he is the messiah -- if he can convince Chassidim that he is the messiah even though he's not a member of their particular sect, if he can convince "modern orthodox" Jews that he's it despite the fact that he may be opposed to some of their beliefs; if he can convince "Orthodox" Jews to put aside their petty factionalism and unite toward a grand cause across a broad spectrum, *that* person has to be the messiah - because to do all that, IMHO, requires Divine intervention or inspiration.

The Wolf


Oleh Yahshan said...

Very nicely put... I like the Idea.. Although I think that the Idea should apply to All jews not just the "orthodox".. Considering we are all wrong and all correct at the same time (each by his/her own belief) it should make no difference if the person is Reform, Conservitive, or totally "Non-Religious" (also an interesting term.. How do you Not keep any mitzvah!! you have to really try hard.. ).. having said that.. the Mashiach has an Even Harder Job making you Idea Even Better!!

Anonymous said...

Or maybe a better word would be "Behavior Preserving Jews". That allows for an accurate presentation of the social reality of ORthodox Judaism today.

It is not about living according to values - it is about ensuring enshrined behaviour is not changed.

It preserves the idea that Orthodox Judaism seeks to keep what was, but notes that they have focused on the wrong bit.

ADDeRabbi said...

there's an old saying that the messiah will be a 'misnagid'. Because if he's a chassid, the misnagdim won't accept him. and the chassidim want mashiach so bad that they'll even take a misnagid.

and the sfardim?

also - it always amuses me that the Conservative movement has a committee for laws and standards that they take seriously, that they have official positions on matters of belief, etc. I love pointing out to frum Conservatives that they're much more Orthodox than the Orthodox. For some reason, they don't like it when I say that...