Thursday, December 10, 2009

It's All Greek To Me - Purim Repost L'Chvod Chanuka

The following post is a repost from last March 9th. I originally wrote it in response to the referenced article which was current at that time. Though I titled it and laced it with a Purim motif, it is as much if not more relevant to Chanuka. So I am reposting it now in honor of Chanuka. I changed nothing from the original post except for the closing line in Hebrew.

A freilichin Chanuka to all:

Original Title: Yefes in the Tents of "Shame"

יונים נקבצו עלי אזי בימי חשמנים, ופרצו חומות מגדלי וטמאו כל השמנים

There is an interesting discussion going on over at Emes Ve-Emunah. The discussion revolves around an entity that I had never heard about until I tuned into blogs: the Orthoprax.

If you are not sure what that is, you are not alone. Last I checked there were 76 comments posted to the initial piece many of which are debating the proper usage of the term. So after reading the post and perusing the comments, I for one, am still plenty confused. But the confusion does not start here.

We Jews are so-o-o creative! We always like making up new discriptive terms (see my post about chareidim and wings). Reform, Conservative, Traditional. Those are pretty easy to understand because they are in plain English. But here's a really hard one one: Orthodox.
Where did this term come from?

The Greeks, for Heaven's sake. It came from the GREEKS! (As does the term Hypocrite).

So what does it mean? Well, it's Greek to me.

Our sages were not very fond of the Greeks. The first step of Hellenization was when we translated the Torah into Greek. This is one reason why we fast on the 10th of Teves. The next step is when we refer to our hashkafas in Greek terms. First there is Orthodox. Then there is Heterodox and Conservadox. (These last 2 are just one plain pair-a-dox) and now there is Orthoprax.

But getting back to the term Orthodox, I think I have finally figured out what it means. It means: keeping the Torah like a Greek. How so? Consider the following about an "Orthodox" Jewish female NCAA basketball player at the University of Toledo. This comes from a recent Jerusalem Post article entitled Holy Toledo:


Shafir is not only a leader on the team, but she has become a role model in the Jewish community as the first female Orthodox Jewish athlete in the NCAA Division I competition, the top level of American collegiate athletics.

"One thing that we figured was to get in touch with a rabbi in town to find out what was most important. We then spoke to her uncle and father, who gave us a list of what Shafir would need. This included access to kosher food, a T-shirt under her jersey, not riding in a motorized vehicle on Shabbat and not practicing on Saturdays," says Cullop. "The list was not long, and we knew she would observe the holidays. Luckily the calendar works out in our favor. They were more concerned with school and appreciative of everyone finding solutions."

The Rockets have postponed all of their Saturday afternoon practices to Saturday evenings after sunset. However, Rabbi Chaim Bogonski and Shafir worked out a deal four years ago allowing her to play games on Shabbat. When Shafir was on the Israeli National Junior Team, she was the only Orthodox player. Bogonski ruled that since practice was work and games were fun, it was acceptable to take part in games that fell on Shabbat. This was important, since a majority of the games for Toledo are on Saturday afternoons.

So this is Orthodox? An Israeli girl coming to Chu"l to play basketball in public on Shabbos!? Oh yes, she is acting under complete Daas Torah a la Rabbi Chaim Bogonski. And, certainly, she wears a tee-shirt under her tank top and from the waste down she wears gym shorts just like the Kohen in the Bais HaMikdash! And she is a role model because she is an "Orthodox" Jewish athlete?

This may be Orthodox but it is Greek Orthodox. Antiochus would be proud. But I have my doubts about Mattisyahu (NOT the rapper!!!).

This is kneeling and bowing!

In a book entitled Where Heaven Touches Earth by Rabbi Dovid Rosoff, in the Glossary on page 611 he has the following entry: Chareidi: Orthodox.

I don't think so.

If this is Orthodox, then please do not call me Orthodox. In any case, I don't speak Greek.

What's a better term? Well, Yeshaya didn't speak Greek either. Not to us, at least. And he has a term for the Jews who do the right thing. You know what he calls them?

Chareidim.

He actually coined the term. He certainly must have been referring to somebody. He had a term for Orthoprax, too. But not in Greek. You know what he calls them? He calls them מִצְוַת אֲנָשִׁים מְלֻמָּדָה (Yeshaya 29:13) - those who perform mitzvos by rote.

So the Orthoprax are actually nothing new. They've been around for quite some time. Just like the chareidim.

G-d fearing Jews don't need to act like Greeks. And we do not need Greek terms to describe ourselves. We do not need to bring Yefes into the tents of "Shame". And we are forbidden to kneel and bow.

For us, there are many old Biblical or Talmudic terms in Hebrew. Terms like tzaddikim, yesharim, anavim, yereyim, chassidim, kedoshim, perushim, chaveirim, chareidim or...just plain Yehudim. Like Mordechai HaYehudi (or Yehuda HaMaccabee). I'll take any one of them.

The bearers of any of these terms have one thing in common. They will not kneel and they will not bow. They will not send their daughters from Eretz Yisrael to Eretz HaAmim to play basketball on Shabbos in front of men wearing shorts and T-shirts.

כי ארכה לנו השעה ואין קץ לימי הרעה. דחה אדמון בצל צלמון הקם לנו רועים שבעה

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