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December 29, 2014 / 7 Tevet, 5775
 
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Of Truth and Belief

Of truth and belief

Photo Credit: Noam Moskowitz/Flash90

http://haemtza.blogspot.co.il/2012/08/of-faith-and-belief.html

One of the most perplexing things for me to understand is the concept of Orthopraxy. As currently defined, an Orthoprax Jew tends to follow Halacha, but may question the existence of God or whether the Torah was given to us at Sinai . And yet such people do exist. My first encounter with such an individual was when I initiated this blog. He called himself “Misnagid”. And he guarded his anonymity “religiously”.

That came as a shock to me at the time. I could not understand why anyone would bother keeping the Mitzvos if he didn’t believe in God. If I recall correctly, his answer was that he was raised as an Orthodox Jew, married Orthodox, and lived in an Orthodox environment. It would have radically changed his life to “come out of the closet” so to speak. So he plays along, going through the motions for appearances sake. This even includes sending his children to an Orthodox Jewish day school.  Interestingly, he admitted that Shabbos still meant a lot to him… that this weekly day of rest was rejuvenating to his spirit – as it were.

I actually understand that.

Although not all Orthoprax Jews are atheists (some are just skeptics and simply doubt God’s existence – not going so far as to deny it) Misnagid is an atheist. How he became one is irrelevant to this post. The point is that he is one of many such people. They exist in all segments of Orthodoxy. I recall an interview in Mishpacha Magazine with a Charedi Posek who was one such individual! (Since his exposure he is no longer a Posek.)

I think few people are aware how many people are Orthoprax. How could they be? These closet skeptics and atheists must remain there if they want continue their lives without the major upheaval that often goes along with going OTD. They want to remain in the environment they are used to. They want the continued acceptance by their family and friends they have always had. So they remain Frum on the outside, and atheists on the inside.

The appeal of an Orthodox lifestyle can be seen among Baalei Teshuva. They will often choose to be observant for non-theological reasons. They believe that living their lives according to the Torah and its moral teachings makes them better human beings. And they are meticulous in their observances.

This appeal is apparently the case with some Jewish atheists. Like Zeke Emanuel, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanual’s brother. In a Washington Post article he describes himself as a Kosher atheist:

Judaism isn’t about what people think, he seems to be saying. It’s about what they do. It follows, according to that argument, that it’s more Jewish to keep kosher than it is to believe unthinkingly in God.

In what has to be an amazing statement for an Orthodox Rabbi, especially one who claims to be a practitioner of the Chabad Chasidus and follower of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe – Rabbi Shmuley Boteach seems to agree:

“Judaism,” he told me in a phone call, “is not a religion primarily of faith. It is a religion primarily of practice…”

How any Orthodox Rabbi can make an unqualified statement like that and still call himself Orthodox is beyond me. The most fundamental tenet of Judaism is the belief in one God. The first 3 of the 10 Commandments deal with matters of faith!

While it is true that Judaism is a religion based on acts, those acts presuppose a belief in God. All the Mitzvos in the world are spiritually meaningless if one does not believe in the ultimate Spiritual Being, God.

I understand that there is a practical side to observance that may even be its main selling point to those considering Orthodoxy. I know people who have told me that they became observant because the lifestyle appealed to them. They saw the community of religious Jews and found it much more rewarding than the hedonistic ways of their friends or even siblings.

I recall at least 2 weddings where the all the siblings and friends of two Baalei Teshuva getting married had lifestyles that were very self-centered and hedonistic. Lifestyles that included a great deal of non-marital sex and even drug use. None of them were interested in getting married and having a family.

Years later these young Baalei Teshuva have several children – all attending day schools. They lead their lives in the most ethical of ways and their actions are motivated by the values of the Torah. Their siblings continued to live their lives in the most self-centered of ways.

Their still secular parents who at first were apprehensive about their Baal Teshuva children having “rebelled” against the secular values they tried to instill are now enjoying being grandparents fully involved with their children and grandchildren. But they do not have that much of a connection to their secular children.

I think the appeal for many Baalei Teshuva is more along the lines of the structure and steadiness of an Observant lifestyle. Not so much on the faith aspect of Judaism. This is not to say that they aren’t believers in God. Of course they are. But that was not what precipitated their choice to become observant.

I am also not saying that this is always the case. There are plenty of secular Jews who live very wholesome lives. But I think there are a lot of Baalei Teshuva that can relate to situation I described including their motivation to become observant.

I believe that this kind of thinking also motivates Orthoprax atheists like Zeke Emanuel. They see the Taful (fringe benefits) and consider it the Ikkar (essesnce). What they fail to realize is that belief in God is the most important element of Judaism. Practicing the rituals of Judaism may help one keep his identity as a Jew. But the essence of Judaism is to do the will of God, and not to just lead the moral and ethical lifestyle of a Jew.

Nonetheless, I consider it a plus that they are observant. That means that at some level they identify as Jews. In the event that they at some point realize that there is a God in the world, their identification as Jews will make all the Mitzvos they do now count. And they will not have to make any great changes in their lifestyles.

Chazal tells us that when one does sincere Teshuva for sins that have been committed, all of those sins turn into Mitzvos. Perhaps that is true for those who were observant when they were atheists. Perhaps they will then get full credit in the eyes of God for being observant even when they didn’t believe in Him.

About the Author: Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at hmaryles@yahoo.com.


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3 Responses to “Of Truth and Belief”

  1. Comment on Jewish Press.
    Hilarious, isn’t it? My initial reaction. 2nd thought – many of them are hedging their bets. They believe that doing mitzvoh will get them into heaven since that is what rabbinic judaism teaches, erroneously, so they think, just in case there IS a god, I’ll be observant. The mathematician Pascal, in his famous Pascal’s wager, said “if I believe in God, heaven & hell & it doesn’t exist, I lose nothing, but if it DOES exist & I don’t believe, I lose everything.” Hence he logically decided to believe and act as if he did. Good logic, I say. True wisdom. But the next question is , well, What IS the correct path to heaven? In truth, it is NOT doing mitzvoth, but faith, as you say. But ALSO faith in the Yeshua, the savior (whose name means salvation). God sent HIM as an atonement for our sins (& the whole gentile world as well) which WAS God’s provision for salvation.
    This is why God ALLOWED the temple to be destroyed in 70 AD: it was no longer necessary to sacrifice animals for sins since that covenant was over; Jesus had done it once for all mankind. The animals were a foreshadowing of this; so was the binding of Isaac – where God told Abraham to sacrifice his son & stopped him at the last moment. God did this to see if Abraham was willing to do what God had already decided HE would do for US- sacrifice HIS son as a substitute for the sins of the world. What did Abraham say to Isaac? God himself will provide a lamb. A lamb showed up, as a substitute for Isaac. So was Jesus, and this is why he is called the lamb of God in the New Testament.
    The Passover seder is also symbolic of the savior: the lamb shank represents Jesus. The 3 matzohs are the father, son & holy spirit, the 3 parts of God (trinity). The afikomon, the middle matzoh, represents Jesus. It translates as “I am coming, I have come” in Greek. It is broken in 2 pieces, 1 is taken away, and returns; the 2 comings of jesus; first as the atonement, then as the glorious judge. The rabbis talk about 2 messiahs; Messiah ben joseph & messiah bend David. They are the same person.
    Jeremiah 31:31 talks about a NEW COVENANT that God makes with the Jews, to replace the Mosaic covenant, which he says THEY BRAKE, and he will FORGIVE THEIR SINS. It also says “I will put my law in their inward parts & write it on their hearts”.
    This is referring to being born again, filled with the HOLY SPIRIT.
    Jesus said “except a man be born again, he can not see the kingdom of God..except a man be born of the water & born of the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” John 3:3-5.
    “I am the way, the truth & the life; no man cometh to the father but by me.” John 14:6.
    Jer 31:31 came to me in a dream when I asked God if it is true that Jesus IS the savior. The bible says God speaks to us in dreams, as l method (Job 33:15, Joel 2:28).
    God also speaks to us in our thoughts, by the Holy Spirit, which has been on earth for 2000 years since Jesus sent it from Heaven. Our conscience is God. Our intuition is usually God leading us.
    The other scripture that clearly describes Jesus as the savior is Isaiah 53.
    “for the transgressions of my people he was stricken; my righteous servant shall justify many, for he shall bear their sins.”.
    Hosea said “my people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” Hosea 4:11.
    Jesus healed people as a testimony that he was the savior, and God heals today when we pray in Jesus name, for the same reason.
    Diseases are all caused by spirits, and Jesus rebuked them & gave his followers authority to do it. I have done it. I have rebuked canc-, asthma-, depress-.
    See articles, free books, at http://www.1prophetspeaks.com.
    How to be Healed, Saved & Born Again, Jesus Heals.
    How to Reconcile the Trinity & the Schma.
    Do You Believe God Speaks to You? He Does in your thoughts.
    Intuition is God Leading Us.
    A Foolproof Test that Proves God Exists.
    How God Guides Us into Relationship with Him.
    There is no backdoor into heaven through the kitchen.
    Vision of Jesus & Passover.
    Urgent Prophetic Message to American Jews.

  2. Shmuley is also alluding to the fact that rabbinic judaism seems to be more about ritual than belief. it is for many. It seemed that way to me, since childhood. I was more interested in the meaning behind the rituals. True spiritual seekers are; many of those people end up in new age directions, whichi did, until I became a christian. god led me to the truth that jesus IS the messiah, and the rituals in Judaism all lead to this symbolically as well.
    The sacrificing of animals was a ritual that symbolized God’s sending his son Jesus as the final atonement for sin for everyone. When this was fulfilled, it was no longer necessary to continue the ritual; that is why God allowed the temple to be destroyed in 70AD.
    Jesus said “I come not to replace the law, but to FULFILL”.
    Jer 31:31 describes this new covenant to replace the mosaic covenant, where God will forgive our sins.
    “Behold the days are coming that I will make a NEW COVENANT with the house of Israel..and I will forgive their sins.”.
    Many people seek experiences of God that are deeper than ritual, thru meditation, worship. I did Tm for 10 years while reading new age books. Being a lifelong musician, I always knew music was my channel to God. Worship music is powerful in invoking god's spirit, especially when we pray & sing in truth, in the name of Yeshua/Jesus. Then God pours out his spirit with power. I told a chassidic rabbi I was "drinking God" when worshipping – he said "Really? Come talk to me". God said to worship in spirit and TRUTH, When we sing & pray in TRUTH that Jesus is the messiah, the son of God, God pours out his spirit with power. Pours out his love upon us. See my free book "What kind of Musician are You Going to Be? God's Call to Musicians. Musicians are called to be prophets, intercessors & healers.

    Also see article/book Letter to a new ager on spiritual deception.
    I left the new age when the intuition came to me one day "if this is from God, it sholuld be free". This was God speaking to me. I Saw that Jesus told his followers "heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out devils; freely yes are given, freely give" Matt 10:8.

    See article
    vision of jesus & passover at http://www.1prophetspeaks.com.

  3. Jer 31:31 describes this new covenant to replace the mosaic covenant, where God will forgive our sins.
    “Behold the days are coming that I will make a NEW COVENANT with the house of Israel..and I will forgive their sins.”.
    Many people seek experiences of God that are deeper than ritual, thru meditation, worship. I did Tm for 10 years while reading new age books. Being a lifelong musician, I always knew music was my channel to God. Worship music is powerful in invoking god's spirit, especially when we pray & sing in truth, in the name of Yeshua/Jesus. Then God pours out his spirit with power. I told a chassidic rabbi I was "drinking God" when worshipping – he said "Really? Come talk to me". God said to worship in spirit and TRUTH, When we sing & pray in TRUTH that Jesus is the messiah, the son of God, God pours out his spirit with power. Pours out his love upon us. See my free book "What kind of Musician are You Going to Be? God's Call to Musicians. Musicians are called to be prophets, intercessors & healers.

    Also see article/book Letter to a new ager on spiritual deception.
    I left the new age when the intuition came to me one day "if this is from God, it sholuld be free". This was God speaking to me. I Saw that Jesus told his followers "heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out devils; freely yes are given, freely give" Matt 10:8.
    http://www.1prophetspeaks.com
    See article
    vision of jesus & passover at http://www.1prophetspeaks.com.

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