Best Of The Web
“Most Jews are ignorant of some of the most basic beliefs that define Judaism. This indictment applies to Jews of all sects from the most liberal to the most Orthodox.
An over emphasis of Halacha has led our people to think that Jewish belief is unimportant. This in turn filters into almost every aspect of Jewish life, and therefore is of course going to be reflected in our school curriculum. After all, we are told time and again that we are a religion of deed, not creed. Even the haredi world seems to have neglected its study. As Marc B. Shapiro writes: “Jewish theology is not taken seriously in contemporary Orthodoxy. Unlike earlier generations, which had their ‘professional’ theologians or, at the very least, scholars who devoted a great deal of time to this field, today we have talmudists, who at best merely dabble in it.”
Yesheyahu Leibowitz, for example, is famous for his belief that Judaism was to be defined by adherence to the mitzvot alone. In his conception, the attachment of any other rhyme or reason for the mitzvot other than fulfillment of the divine will is to make avodah zarah (idolatry) of the mitzvah. While Leibowitz himself is not mainstream Orthodox, this idea of his is reflected in the concentration in Yeshiva curriculum on Halacha. The oft-repeated mantra heard in yeshivas is that “a good Jew is one who keeps Shulchan Aruch” completely neuters the role of belief and faith in the life of Orthodox Jews. Yet, from my experience teaching Judaism for over two decades, this is a mistake. As Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote, “to reduce Judaism to law, to Halacha, is to dim its light, to pervert its essence and to kill its spirit.”
As Modern Orthodox educators, the retention of our youth in the Jewish fold should be our first and primary goal. We cannot encourage them to find their place in the modern world by taking positions in law, medicine and business without equipping them to successfully “hold their own” in those spaces. While educating them in areas of Halacha and textual proficiency should remain our focus, there clearly needs to be other areas of Jewish knowledge that need to be imparted to our students before they leave our yeshivot and seminaries and make their way to the university.”
JJ Editor's Picks
"Congratulations, Mr. President. It took an extraordinary effort, but you finally managed to spark a serious global crisis. I know you don’t like to share credit, but don’t worry. The current mess in the Middle East centered around Iran is all..."
"We’re approaching the anniversary of one of the nastiest political battles it has been my misfortune to witness—the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court despite credible accusations of sexual harassment and assault and his..."
"There are few one-offs in life on Earth—rarely can a single species boast a trait or ability that no other possesses. But human language is one such oddity. Our ability to use subtle combinations of sounds produced by our vocal cords to create..."
"He walked through the coffee shop door and scanned the crowd. A familiar smile bloomed as he recognized me, despite how my appearance had changed over the years. I’m bald and bearded now, and heavier. I wear an extra decade on my face, and I’m..."
"The poverty rate in the United States fell to 11.8 percent in 2018, according to data released last week by the Census Bureau — the lowest it’s been since 2001. But this estimate significantly understates the extent of economic deprivation in..."
"Streaming is the future of TV. But for now a big part of the streaming business revolves around old TV shows. Latest case in point: Netflix is paying a lot of money for the rights to show Seinfeld to its 150 million subscribers around the world..."
"On the eve of the second Israeli election of 2019, there is no shortage of apocalyptic rhetoric about the potential consequences of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s re-election. From the New York Times' editorial column to The Forward’s..."
"Is there a backlash toward the technology industry in the culture? I tend to think so, having written about its various twists and turns most weekdays for the past couple years now. But sometimes an obsession with a beat can lead to myopia, and..."