Thursday, April 14, 2011


R' Eliyahu Fink has an article up about Ami Magazine's recent piece, "The Impostors Among Us". (As I was writing this, Chana penned a piece as well which is quite good.)

In essence, the Ami piece is about Orthoprax individuals within the Orthodox Jewish community - people who don't believe in various integral aspects of Orthodox belief, but essentially go through the motions to stay within the community for various reasons. Orthopraxy (which seems important to differentiate from people merely struggling with aspects of frumkeit) is according to the article a growing phenomenon, boosted to a large extent by information, questions, and discussion which are available on the internet.

The most troubling aspect of Orthopraxy which is touched on in the article is the dishonesty involved. Regardless of one's own feelings about Judaism, is it fair to subject one's family and friends to one's own lying life? One Orthoprax individual in the article, "Eli", wishes to marry an Orthodox girl despite his beliefs, because that's all he can relate to; another serves as a posek despite not believing in his own judgments. This dishonest approach to life seems incredibly wrong, and unfair to all those whom it impacts.

But on the other side, the article is absolutely horrendous. It falsely portrays issues people have as idiotic and "so-called scientific questions"; proclaims itself as intellectual while presuming that those who fall off are not intellectual and instead are justifying "chasing after taavos"; describes those who have these struggles as having a "sickness" or emotional problems; and is otherwise absurd in its approach and how people could/used to avoid the issue, which is essentially never come across any questions via lack of access to them, especially via the internet. On top of everything else, the smug interviewer caps the article with a note that "steps have been taken to protect the public" from the posek mentioned above. This is a real sticky move, depending a lot on what actions were taken; obviously it's important to remove someone from a position where they are obviously not fit, but it's a real lack of journalistic integrity to act on a source like that.

If people truly wish to combat Orthopraxy in Judaism, then it will come not from sticking our head in the sand but by truly confronting the questions which we face and understanding both the questions and reasonable, logical approaches to them. If we believe in what we say, then we should have no issue saying what we believe and why. To dismiss those who question and struggle with a wave of the hand or by denouncing them as heretical, declaring them ill, or claiming they are simply out for taava is foolish at best, and most likely incredibly destructive. In fact, it would be reasonable to say that it is 'journalism' such as this which contributes heavily to people turning away from the fold through its disdain for those who dare think about their beliefs.