Monday, 20 August 2012

Orthodox or Conservative?

 I invite you to look at this Jerusalem Post article in which the author, Rabbi Adam Frank, the rabbi at Congregation Moreshet Yisrael, the Masorti/Conservative synagogue in downtown Jerusalem, attempts to explain some of the differences between Conservative Judaism and Orthodoxy.

Part of his contention is that Conservative Judaism stresses action over belief system as he puts it " it does not matter how one finds meaning in the Torah, but that one finds the Torah meaningful." In other words, it does not matter what one believes to be the origin of the Torah as long as one is observant of the practice which is so instructed through the Torah process. But does not this understanding of the origin not impact on how one will undertake the process of Torah and halachic discovery? Belief necessarily impacts on action and the reality is that that it does matter how one finds meaning in the Torah. It is not just how one personally finds the Torah meaningful. It is, rather, how one responds to the directed meaning of the Torah -- and that can only emerge from a recognition of its origins.

What always hits me about such arguments is that thereby, an attempt to bridge the gap between right-wing Conservative Judaism and Orthodoxy is offered. We agree to a large extent in behaviour -- why can't we connect even further. The very challenge is that it is not solely about behaviour but very much so also about belief. It is with the person with whom I share a recognition of the Torah's origins that I can connect for we both agree on the fundamental principle of how we are to find meaning in the Torah.

Rabbi Ben Hecht 



Rabbi Rich Wolpoe said...

There are "zvei dinnim" in Traditional Conservative Judaism

1. Those that don't know if they accept the 13 Ikkarim as true or not, but accept Halachah anyway. They harbour doubts and see no proofs. They're analogous to agnostics.

2. Those who reject the Ikkarim. They KNOW that they're not true. They are analogous to Atheists

IMHO we CAN bridge the gap with type 1's but we CANNOT readily do so with type 2's. They have a belief system in conflict with even minimalistic Orthodoxy

Shanah Tovah,
Best Wishes for 5773!


Rabbi Ben Hecht said...

The further problem, though, is in how this agnosticism or atheism affects the halachic process. Perhaps one who is not sure of the origin of Halacha will have more restraint in regard to any effect on Halacha and that, as such, will obviously necessarily allow for the greater possibility of interaction. However, even the agnostic, when faced with certain moral dilemmas, could make decisions that not only question but also negate the concept of Torah MiSinai and this could also make the gap unbridgeable.


MIghty Garnel Ironheart said...

He is essentially defining Chrisianity. Hold the Bible holy, read it every day and decide for yourself what it means and how to be a good person.

Adam Zur said...

There is a specific Torah point of view, a world view. To the Torah this world view is important. But it is not very well represented in any stream of Judaism I have ever heard of. It seemed to be more inherent in Jews from Europe that were not a part of any of the three main movements.
I think it is best represented by Maimonides.