Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Yoram Hazony and Open Orthodoxy

I just read Yoram Hazony's piece on Open Orthodoxy.

On the one hand, despite excellent writing, the article harps on the same issue that people over-focus on: what is Orthodoxy? Why not let Open Orthodoxy be? It's all semantics. If they called it "Open Traditional Judaism", no one would are. It's only the inclusion of the word "Orthodox" that makes people upset. Then again, a good part of that is the fault of the Open Orthodox themselves, by vociferously claiming that they are Orthodox.

On the other hand, as others have pointed out, it's a substantive article, and is mostly respectful, not engaging in any name calling or targeting specific individuals. And he has a point about the stifling of dissent. Those of us who believe that academic biblical criticism has a place in traditional thought have to make sure that we don't become what we claim our detractors to be; close minded and intolerant of opposing viewpoints.
In response to the article on Facebook, Elli Fischer makes a good point. He says that the fault line doesn't run between Modern Orthodoxy and Open Orthodoxy, but through OO itself. He may be right.

One thing that is notable about Open Orthodoxy, is that philosophically and socially, they are, in many ways, better classified as being in that growing space between Orthodoxy and Conservative, the space that contains the independant minyan movement and Mechon Hadar. The divide, therefore, is between those who loosely classify themselves as "Open Orthodox", for convenience sake, but are comfortable dropping in to daven at an egalitarian minyan sometimes (full disclosure - I'm one of them), and those who are firmly clinging to the "Orthodox" part of "Open Orthodoxy" and are determined that the Orthodox world legitimize their status. I think the YCT hanhalah and most of the students and musmachim there fall into the latter camp.

One minor point about Hazony's article: He writes "...the launch of the egregiously named www.thetorah.com website, whose purpose, as far as I have been able to understand it from conversation with Farber, is to popularize views of this kind among young Orthodox Jews...". Zev Farber did not found TheTorah.com, though he has contributed greatly to its growing popularity. Hazony should have spoken to the founders, David Steinberg and Mark Zvi Brettler.

1 comment:

  1. "those who loosely classify themselves as "Open Orthodox", for convenience sake, but are comfortable dropping in to daven at an egalitarian minyan sometimes (full disclosure - I'm one of them)"

    I too find this camp very familiar territory, let's call it "Egalidox." But I don't get why more Egalidox Jews aren't bothered, as Hazony is, by the claim -- traceable to Biblical Criticism -- that much of the Torah was not intentionally authored by the metaphysical Being that designed the universe.

    I'm not saying this claim is entailed by BibCrit, or that there is no way to reconcile traditional Judaism with it. I'm just pointing out that it IS a challenge, given the commitment -- professed even by Egalidox Jews -- to Torah Mishamayim, to the idea that the Torah's dictates are intentionally prescribed by God. This commitment makes BibCrit at least a source of tension, something to lose sleep over.

    And yet, oddly, Egalidox Jews don't lose sleep over it. Really, almost none of them! I suspect I know why: their (our?) theology has "evolved" far more progressively than their practice. Deep down, they don't seriously believe or feel attached to the idea that the Torah's dictates are the product of the mind of a supernaturel being. They just find themselves most comfortable, practice-wise, in traditional settings.

    That's fine, but then their alleged "openness" on behalf of even traditional Judaism is a bit of a ruse... Either way, Hazony is right to raise an issue, whatever its resolution.