Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Opposite of Right is...


A quick check in at Emes V’Emunah and he is back at the Jewish-cliques-jockeying-for-position game.

I think he’s on to something. Rabbi David S. Farkas has written a thoughtful essay in Cross-Currents that echos some of my own thoughts. In a recent essay, Professor Marc Shapiro had warned that Modern Orthodoxy (MO) and their flagship institution, Yeshiva University (YU) might become the next target of the right (Agudah) after it finishes off Open Orthodoxy (OO). Rabbi Farkas disagreed and came up with his own assessment about where MO stands with the right. The relationship has improved. Significantly.


I don’t know about you, but this looks to me like a bunch of bookmakers making out the odds for a numbers racket. A bunch of grown men wearing suits and yarmulkas speculating on who is going to be the winner at the Hashkafa Sweepstakes.

Okay we got Agudah as the clear favorite. MO comes in second at 3 to 1. Open Orthodox limping in at 10 to 1. Conservative just behind OO. Reform doesn’t place but we’ll give her 30-1. Atheism pulled from the race and Gut in Himmel the wild longshot at 60 to 1.

Or is it stock speculation?

AGDI: 52.16  +1.35…MDOX: 34.22  no change…OPOX:12.54  -2.38...CNSV:  4.27 -0.03… ATHS:  96.23 +4.83… RFRM: 73.65 +2.96…

I suppose they mean that after AGDI forces OPOX into bankruptcy they will then swallow up MDOX in a hostile takeover. All this to counter the merger between ATHS and RFRM.

As such, everybody’s market predictions are different (though the races can be fixed).

Can everybody stop bickering and grow up? Cut the labels and look at the substance? (Wake up and smell the kefira?)

What caught my attention about this is the accolade chosen by Rabbi Maryles for “our team” (or is it “our horse”?) – the favorite. Here he calls us the “right”. This is not the term that Rabbi Farkas used in his Cross Currents piece. My assumption is Rabbi Maryles used it for brevity sake. It’s a short term. But I read more into it than he probably intended.

You see, all of these philosophical figures try to identify the diversity in Judaism using a lateral spectrum. Left to Right. So at the extreme left is Atheism and not as left is Reform and then comes Conservative and now a new player, Open Orthodox,  then there’s Modern Orthodox to the right of that with "Centrist" in there somewhere and then Chareidi (or Agudah) or Ultra Orthodox to the extreme right with Neturei Karta off the deep end.

As such, the opposite of right is left.

But these guys all missed the boat because it’s not a lateral spectrum. It’s a vertical one. It doesn’t go from left to right. It goes from up to down. And it doesn’t use any of the terminology that these guys insist on using. It uses the terminology that the Torah and chazal use. And if we look at it properly, there is no need to speculate or worry who the “right” is going after. We are not going after anybody. We will not destroy anybody. There will be no need to. It will happen by itself.

Imagine a stack of acrobats (think Yertle the Turtle) standing in a deep empty swimming pool quickly filling up with water. As the water level rises, those at the top of the stack will stay above the tide, but those at the bottom…bd"e

So, let’s look at the stack. Incidentally, I have written this numerous times over 10 years and very recently in my posts about Open Orthodoxy and the Great Gap Year but the wise men at EE and CC who darshan OO vs MO vs UO never seem to get it so I will continue to repeat it as many times as necessary.

Here goes - top to bottom:

1.   Torasam Umnassam – Life dedicated to learning - The best -  Shitas Rabi Shimon Bar Yochai in Brachos 35b

2.   Torascha Keva u’ Melachtecha Arai – Life dedicated to support learning  - The next best - Shitas Rabi Yishmael ibid

3.   Melachtecha Keva v’Torascha Arai – Learning takes a back seat - Rejected shita (זו וזו לא נתקיימו בידן) ibid

4.   Lo Lamad – Mitzvos Anashim Melumada – Doesn’t learn even though he does mitzvos -  No good – Rashi Vayikra 26:15

5.   Lo Oseh – Doesn’t even do mitzvos - Even worse - ibid

6.   Moes B’Acherim HaOsim – Can’t stand those who do learn and do mitzvos – very bad - ibid

7.   Soneh es Hachachamim – Can’t stand Rabbis – terrible - ibid

8.   Moneah es hacherim – Actively prevents others from study and mitzvos – horrible - ibid

9.   Kofer B’Mitzvos - Denies the Obligation to Study and do Mitzvos – devastatingly bad - ibid

10.        Kofer B’Ikar - Denies the existence of G-d – ghastly - ibid

So, there we have it. Ten levels from floor to ceiling. Thus, we don’t need any of these English/Greek terms at all. Not Reform not Conservative, not any flavor of Orthodox and not even Atheist. Instead of Atheist we can say Kofer B’Ikar just like Rashi does. And instead of Reform we can say Kofer B’Mitzvos.

Now, it’s not my job or my place to assign levels to people but, just follow definitions and the assignments come all by themselves. Hence, those that call themselves Open Orthodox are those that hang around from 4 down to 8 with some even getting as low as level 9. Take whatever label fits. Those that call themselves Modern Orthodox today (and Centrists) are usually hovering between levels 3 and 4. Not because I say so, because this is how they live. There are some who call themselves MO who reach level 2 and they stand a chance (though I would not call them Modern Orthodox). Orthoprax are at level 5.

The Chareidim who are for real are at levels 1 and 2 and if they are just going through the motions they are at level 3 to 5.

I don’t need to be called chareidi. My lifestyle is at level 2 so I am happy to be called whatever label applies to level 2. Call me a "Torascha Keva".

It’s as simple as that. It’s not up to me to decide who you are, it’s up to you. And with these definitions, there is no fudging.

So when people speculate whether the “right” is trying to finish off the MO or the OO or the AO or BO or CO and who comes next, etc., this is total naarishkeit.

The mabul is coming and it is going to finish off everybody who is lower than level 2. The “right” isn’t going to do it because there is no lateral “right”.  But there are vertical levels and only levels 1 and 2 are Im Bechukosai Teleichu. Everything else is V’im Bchukosai Timaasu. 1 and 2 are Bracha and Chaim. Everything else is Kellala and Maves. Level 3 may be kind of sitting on the fence but when the water level really rises they will need to choose between Chaim and Maves. I expect most to make the “right” choice.

HKBH will do all the starting and finishing off, not the “right”. But it’s a good idea to start climbing the totem pole. Still and all, it feels good to be labeled on the "right". Because, for a vertical spectrum, the opposite of “right” is not “left”.

The opposite of right is wrong.

אל-תירא כי עמך-אני אל-תשתע כי-אני אלהיך אמצתיך אף-עזרתיך אף-תמכתיך בימין צדקי

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