Monday, March 08, 2021

a chasm that cannot be bridged?

David Bernstein asks in his blog on The Times of Israel, "Is non-Orthodox American Judaism doomed?"  Bernstein writes, "...What animates many non-Orthodox Jewish families is not Judaism, but “social justice.”  ...For that matter, there are quite a few people who conflate Judaism with progressive social justice ideology, which is itself a problem."

I don't think this argument is a chiddush.  In the past it was humanism, liberalism, other -isms that served as the substitute for G-d, now it's social justice.  Nothing new.  

Non-Orthodox religion is like decaf coffee -- no matter how much you drink in the morning, it's just not going to give you what you need.  Everyone would be better off just taking off the coffee label and enjoying it for what it is without trying to pretend it's the real thing.  Have you ever heard a non-Orthodox person say "I can't do X" not because it's not right, not ethical, not just (all of which are important), but simply because my religion does not allow it?  The concept does not exist.

Anyway, I was not reading TIE when I came across Bernstein's article, but rather got the link from a secular site.  The comments there interested me more than the article.  One of the more amusing ones (I assume this had to come from a fellow member of the tribe) just said two words and linked to a video:

The two words: "The future:"

The video:

Obviously there are many degrees between non-Orthodoxy and R' Melech Biderman's tisch, but I think there is more than a little truth to the point being made.  The Orthodox Judaism of the future does look like it will be a more parochial, isolated, insular Judaism.  It also looks like a more uplifting, spiritual, emotion driven Judaism.  As the non-Orthodox move to jettison more and more of those values traditionally associated with religion because they do not square with progressivism, Orthodoxy will head further and further in the opposite direction and be forced to reject progressivism for exactly the same reason.  Caught in the middle is modern Orthodoxy, which for all intents and purposes has already ceased to exist as an intellectual movement (people like R' Aharon Lichtenstein were exceptions and exceptional and I doubt YU will produce any similar personalities any time soon to fill the void ) and is basically RW Judaism lite.  Those on the left end of the MO world will keep trying to square the circle and explain away their support for BLM and the like as consistent with Jewish values, but at some point even they will succumb to the incompatibility of the two systems.  

The exception seems to be in Eretz Yisrael, where the dati leuni/chardal world has managed to retain some vibrancy and dynamism, but I am hesitant to say any more on that without better information.  

I would be very happy if everything I just wrote proves to be wrong, but it's hard to find much cause for optimism.  


  1. ceased to exist as an intellectual movement
    I think this statement could be made about the amcha of all streams within judaism - where have all the theologians gone, long time a passing
    Meir Soloveichik and Shai Held - Debates in Jewish Theology


  2. There are lots of future of judaism that in my opinion are more popular than r meilach. R tzvi Meir in ey, and r Moshe weinberger in ny. Rmw has a massive vibrant following.

    1. R' Meilech is just an example. RMW and RZM are in that same mold : emotion driven, parochial, inward focused. Show me someone outside that mold.

      (With the exception, as I mentioned, of chardal/dati-leumi in Israel, which is a different ball game.)