web analytics
August 30, 2014 / 4 Elul, 5774
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat (L) visits the JewishPress.com booth at The Event. And the Winners of the JewishPress.com Raffle Are…

Congratulations to all the winners of the JewishPress.com raffle at The Event



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Losing Rational Orthodoxy


There is a growing crisis in the international Jewish community that I believe must be acknowledged if we are to survive intact and preserve our children’s future. The crisis is related to, but goes well beyond, the fact that we are in general too indulgent and tolerant as parents; it goes beyond the fact that we have acquired a level of wealth and comfort that we take too much for granted – even if we are not all wealthy nor all that comfortable; and it goes beyond any individual’s intensity ascribed to religious custom and tradition.

It is more about our willingness to abandon the balance of faith and reality that has helped us endure for centuries. This is not a crisis of abiding religious faith or observant practice per se, but rather a calamity of application and interpretation. And it has the potential to be a disaster of significant proportion.

In a lecture addressing the ability of science to progress, the late Carl Sagan pointed out that there needs to be “an exquisite balance between two conflicting needs…if you are open to the point of gullibility and have not an ounce of skeptical sense in you, then you cannot distinguish the useful ideas from the worthless ones.”

This point applies to all human belief systems. If you do not question yourself or ask of others, you cannot grow. In contradistinction to the exquisite balance we have attempted to achieve between the insularity of inflexible orthodoxy and necessary engagement with the world at large, our children are increasingly encouraged to disengage. There is a growing rejection of the Talmudic dictum “yesh chochmah bagoyim.”

Perhaps the most obvious aspect of Orthodox Jewish life where disengagement occurs, and the best portal by which to enter this discussion, is the matter of shidduchim.

The process of finding a spouse has undergone such a major overhaul in the past two decades that it is virtually indistinguishable from anything that occurred before that. True, there have always been shadchanim (matchmakers) whose job was to find proper matches between families of reasonably equal social or intellectual status. But the current focus on irrelevant externals that are supposed to act as a surrogate for truly knowing someone – size of hat brim, style of dress, type of shoe, color of tablecloth – tells us nothing about personality, compatibility or mutual interests.

Some would argue that these questions are not part of the normal matchmaking process. Both clinical and personal experience prove otherwise. And to question why these superficial externals have become a major component of the dating process is to be immediately labeled a member of the B-List – someone not worthy of a better marriage mate.

This increasingly ubiquitous approach to finding a spouse is meaningless unless one seeks only to disengage from the world and find a mate who will comply with that desire. It is little more than lashon hora (speaking evil of others), and it sends the message to individuals of marriageable age that they are unable to form opinions of their own. Are they old enough to get married but not to select whom to marry or even to end a dating arrangement with someone they may not be compatible with? Someone else seems to always be making the decision for the dating partners.

This is not to say parents should have no interest in their children’s dating, only that their interest should take the form of being a teacher, coach and supporter – not, except in the most extreme cases – the ultimate decision maker. And the shadchan, an outsider, surely should not be the final intercessor.

There is significant fallout from the shidduch scene that trickles down to other aspects of Jewish life and causes some of us to question where rationality has gone.

Most young women are seeking “learners” or perhaps “learner earners.” They are instructed to seek men who will spend their lives either fully or primarily involved in learning. Similarly, young men are instructed to believe that if they seek a professional career instead of learning they will be seen as second class, lower status and less likely to attract the “finer” A-list women as spouses. This mindset is mentally, socially and financially incapacitating to the entire Jewish community.

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Losing Rational Orthodoxy”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
ISIS in Quneitra
Updates from Kuneitra, Syria [video]
Latest Indepth Stories
IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz reviewing maps on the Golan Heights.

The bad news is that ISIS and Al Qaeda are on the Syrian Golan. The good news is that every terrorist in Syria is killing each other.

TorahScroll AoT17

The congregants, Ethiopians spanning generations, were beaming with joy and pride.

Troodler-082914

The withdrawal from the Gaza Strip nine years ago did not enhance Israel’s security.

Eisenstock-082914

How does a soldier from a religious home fall in love with a soldier from a non- religious kibbutz?

In 19th century entire ancient Jewish communities fled Palestine to escape brutal Muslim authorities

Responsibility lies with both the UN and Hamas, and better commitments should have been demanded from both parties in the ceasefire.

But the world is forever challenging our Jewish principle and our practices.

If this is how we play the game, we will lose. By that I mean we will lose everything.

Reportedly, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates have formed a bloc that seeks to counter Islamist influence in the Middle East.

One wonders how the IDF could be expected to so quickly determine the facts.

While there is no formula that will work for everyone, there are some strategies that if followed carefully and consistently can help our children – and us – gain the most from the upcoming school year.

We risk our lives to help those who do what they can to kill to our people .

Twain grasped amazingly well the pulse of the Jewish people.

The entertainment industry appears divided about the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

More Articles from Dr. Michael J. Salamon

The recent conviction of an unlicensed therapist in one of our communities has led to serious soul searching on the part of some and confusion for many others. The most strident argument of his supporters is that he was convicted without proof; that the accuser made up the story to get back at her community and directed her anger at this amateur counselor.

Salamon-053112-Taxonomy

Mental health specialists tend to speak about their patients according to a classification referred to as the DSM, which stands for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. This classification system was first published in 1952 by the American Psychiatric Association as a method to classify mental disorders and develop a statistical baseline through which disorders can be understood, studied and treated. It is not the only classification system available.

The New York Times got it right. In an editorial published on Thursday May 19, the Times castigated the Vatican for issuing “flimsy guidelines” for combating the sexual abuse of children by the clerical hierarchy.

We may not want to accept it, but abuse occurs everywhere, even in our own communities. The effects of abuse are devastating and long lasting – not only on those individuals who are abused but on their families as well. Even one act of abuse against a person, regardless of age, can have a significantly negative impact that may last a lifetime.

Did you hear the speech President Obama delivered in Cairo week before last? I don’t mean just the words but the sound, the tone, the delivery – the way he actually articulated his sentences, the cadences, the pauses and the breaks for applause.

My Feb. 22 Jewish Press op-ed article “Losing Rational Orthodoxy” seems to have struck a nerve. Much of the feedback was positive, some was negative, and even more was intensely ambivalent.

There is a growing crisis in the international Jewish community that I believe must be acknowledged if we are to survive intact and preserve our children’s future. The crisis is related to, but goes well beyond, the fact that we are in general too indulgent and tolerant as parents; it goes beyond the fact that we have acquired a level of wealth and comfort that we take too much for granted – even if we are not all wealthy nor all that comfortable; and it goes beyond any individual’s intensity ascribed to religious custom and tradition.
It is more about our willingness to abandon the balance of faith and reality that has helped us endure for centuries. This is not a crisis of abiding religious faith or observant practice per se, but rather a calamity of application and interpretation. And it has the potential to be a disaster of significant proportion.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/losing-rational-orthodoxy/2008/02/20/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: