Wednesday, 22 February 2012
God didn't write my Bible, but James Kugel did
I'm kidding. He didn't. But How to Read the Bible was a great book. I will (have to reread it) and blog about it one day, but today I wanted to ask you what you think it means to be "frum" or "Orthodox", and whether you think the two are interchangeable. (Someone commented recently that 'frum' is the insider term, but 'Orthodox' is the outsider term).
In the Q and A part of his web-site, someone asked James Kugel to discuss Orthodoxy versus Orthopraxy. Kugel answers: "I don't really buy into the distinction between 'Orthodoxy' and 'Orthopraxy' . . . you wouldn't call someone 'Orthodox' who sincerely believes that the Torah was given by God . .. but who does not keep Shabbat or the rules of kosher food." In other words, being religious is more about practice than belief. I think Kugel would argue that you have to have both . . . But, for me, in the context of Judaism, since it is so practice based, I would say that practice trumps belief in defining who is Orthodox.
On a related note, I recently had a conversation with someone from Sweden - ah the internet is a beautiful thing! - and he made the following observation: "In Sweden, people in the Orthodox shul are not Orthodox. They keep kosher, but not shabbes. [They] get nervous when someone really starts to keep things. [They think] 'Oh my God! he's a fundamentalist!' [But] they talk a lot behind the back if someone eats pork, for example. According to them, that is too secular". I could easily replace Sweden with South Africa. As soon as he said it, I could picture people who fit the description to a tee. I have always thought of them as Conservadox. I was a bit surprised recently when one of my South African Jewish acquaintances who matches the description above quite well* referred to herself as Orthodox. I guess for me (and James Kugel!), keeping shabbes (or the semblance thereof) would be one of the criteria of being Orthodox . . . Am I missing something? Is Swedish/South African Orthodox that different from North American versions of Orthodox? If being defined as Orthodox is about practice, what proportion of the practice should be maintained to meet criteria?
*Minus the talking behind one's back about the pork thing, since I eat pork, so that particular lashon haro would be saved for someone else.
Coming up this week . . .
I have lots of Questions! For those who have been kind/patient with me enough to take the time to comment/respond - thank you!!! I have lots of things that I want to ask, and so this week will be full of questions.
Also, I'm very excited, because one of the bloggers who inspired me to start this one - Shilton Hasechel - agreed to answer some of my questions re: Orthopraxy/Orthodoxy, and I will post the interview soon.