Originally published 2/18/08, 12:54 PM, Eastern Daylight Time.
So many people like to express their tolerance of Orthodox Jews. They will go out of their way to ensure that kosher food is available for them or to ensure that they are able to observe Shabbat -- and on a certain level that has to to appreciated -- but I am always somewhat surprised by where the line is drawn on that tolerance. In ritual matters, or what is often referred to as ritual matters such as Kashrut and Shabbat, tolerance does indeed seem to be the order of the day -- but what about other issues. I find it interesting how people who would never expect an Orthodox Jew to eat non-kosher and, as such, will do everything to respect this aspect of Orthodoxy, will simply expect Orthodox Jews to violate other aspects of Halacha that, for some reason, these people do not define as essential.
Another example seems to have surfaced in the Israel military as presented in
http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3508063,00.html. I don't get it. The Israeli military will ensure that Orthodox Jews have kosher food, so why can't they ensure that these soldiers will not have female instructors? Is it because some Orthodox Jews would not insist on an absence of female instructors? Does tolerance only exist with a monolithic vision of others? There are differences within Orthodoxy, doesn't each vision, with their distinctions, deserve tolerance? For these individuals, regardless of the opinion of others within Halacha, have a right to follow their view. Is it because the military is concerned with poskim having more authority than military commanders, the concern that existed at Gush Katif? That is a most complex issue and when entering a communal structure there is a problem of differing views of Halacha circumventing the action and goal of the collective -- but that should only concern us when the actions of the collective are indeed challenged. In this case, what could be the problem with meeting the religious perspective of these individuals and ensure that their company only has male instructors?
In the end, I think that problem is in how people see Orthodoxy. As long as we are keeping kosher or privately observing Shabbat, there is tolerance. But bringing Orthodoxy to the world, voicing opinions that touch upon the general issues and ways of the world, as tolerance seems to be a forgotten value.