Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Ideal Jew

Essay One: Ideal Jew
In the ideal situation, every Jew should follow the customs (Minhagim) of his family. However, when a penitent (Ba'al T'shuva) returns to the True Torah faith (i.e. Orthodox Judaism) after generations of having been astray, there are no traditions for them to follow. His parents -- and possibly even their parents --were either non-observant or were minimally observant. In such a situation, the penitent traditionally adopts the Minhagim of those who brought him or her back to religion. This can refer to a movement, organization or specific individual who influenced the penitent's theodology. The problem arises when a person finds religion by himself through such means as research. If this person does not consult with Rabbis on a regular basis or even just affiliate himself with an official faction of Judaism then this person would be exposed to all kinds of fallacious ideas. He would just accept these falsehoods as truth. (This is because of an interesting phenomenon in the academic world whereby the more left wing a school is, the more prestige it carries.) The left-leaning academia tries to defame various forms of right (correct and conservative) Judaism. Therefore, when this person decides to follow the path of Orthodox Judaism, to steer clear from the groups which learned are evil (see the multitude of books which bash "Hareidi", "Ultra-Orthodox" Judaism); he resolves to belong to "Normative Orthodoxy". However, the reality is that such a movement is nonexistent. In the end, either this penitent will adopt the routine of one group over another, but will label that group the real Orthodoxy, or he will "pick and choose" from various groups until he finds a lifestyle that is more convenient for him. Both of these conclusions are unacceptable.

A true Chareidi (lit. trembler, i.e. one who trembles before the existence of HaShem) fears G-d in his own way. By definition, follow Halacha to the utmost detail and are scrupulous in their decisions, traditionally paskening to the greater "chumra," or stringent opinion. (This is in contrast to "modern" movements who attempt to views that are more lenient. Not to say that such views are less legitimate.) Discouraging secular education, assuming grown children will get married and learn for the rest of their lives without getting a job is not the definition of Chareidism. There are Chareidi colleges or Yeshivas that approbate college; there are even Chareidi professors and Ivy-league educated Rabbonim. Not all Chareidim outright prohibit movies or the internet; it is a matter of opinion. However, most of them do follow the opinions that such worldly activities are forbidden. Dress is also not a defining factor as to who is a Chareidi; some wear a shtreimel on Shabbos, some a spudnik, some a fedora ("black hat"), yet others bear their heads of a hat and wear merely a yarmulka.

True Torah Judaism is made up various factions, and one is not superior to another. As postulated above, the correct path in Judaism is to follow the tradition of one's ancestors. Therefore, descendants of one nationality differ from the descendants of another in terms of customs. The Yekkis from Germany, Litvoks from Lithuania, and Ungarians from Hungary each have different customs. Nonetheless, each one is doing what is halachakly required of them. The "Black Hatters" differ from the Sephardim, yet they are both correct in their fashion of Avodas HaShem (serving G-d). There is no faction within Torah Judaism that is "more correct" than another. When a penitent decides to brand one type of Judaism the authentic brand, he effectively tries to invalidate the other varieties, and thus he is violating the cardinal rule of unity. A person's only mission is to remain observant.

A frum person (colloquially, "religious") is, by literal definition, "tied up." He is "bound" by Halakha; he is in servitude to his creator and the Rabbis who decide the parameters of this responsibility. A frei person is "free" from his G-d given obligations because he refuses to acknowledge Rabbinical authority and the Holy One--blessed is He--'s supremacy in his world. Such a person is in actuality a slave to his own tayvos (i.e. his temptations and pursuit of physical pleasure). In contrast, a frum person is free from his bodily enticements and consequently has the liberty to serve G-d properly, and thus he can fulfill the purpose of his existence.

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