Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Discussing Jewish Orthodoxy

Hi All,

I'm currently writing a book about Jewish Orthodoxy, the theme of which is that Orthodoxy in particular  and Judaism in general should be broad and deep, not narrow and shallow ( a phrase I've pinched from someone else- Hi David!).

Here are some of my potted thoughts, which I'll probably make into chapters, that I want to include (along with other stuff) in the book: 

Sephardi Orthodoxy?

We never went through a 'reformation' in the same sense as our Aszkenazi brothers and sisters, which makes us by default 'Orthodox', but in a broader sense. What does this mean?

The Torah and Hebrew Bible as divine truth

You see for me, my truth is the Hebrew Bible, especially the first 5 books, the Torah as well as the Oral Torah and documented in the Mishna & later the Talmud. So I would have no problem in echoing our Rabbis in saying "This, The Torah of Moses, shall not be abrogated, nor shall there be any other Torah from G-d save it". In other words I believe that the Torah was divine and given by G-d (although this does not mean one is turned into a fundamentalist fanatic, nor does it mean that one has to take everything in the Torah as literal).

I am aware of the Biblical criticism called the 'documentary hypothesis', but I cannot accept this, because it would be a denial of the divine origins of my Bible. I also know that I cannot possibly prove that my religion and her deity is objective fact, despite what I believe in my own head about it. But this does not bother me, because I make that leap of faith. It is not necessarily to show faith as a fact, because that is what faith is all about & more importantly IMHO is about how to live well, by attempting to follow the Mitzvot. 

The Spirit, not the letter of the law 

I guess where I differ from the more Ultra Orthodox or Haredi position is that I don't see Judaism as a set of overtly legalistic or dogmatic set of rules which have to be followed to the letter. I believe that whilst the Oral and Written Torah is divine, along with the rest of the Hebrew Bible, it does not stop us from being able to interpret Halakha via lenient rulings and interpretations. To me the spirit, not the letter of the law, is most important .I see in my [Sephardi] tradition, this is about being tolerant of various levels of observance, which places an emphasis on community spirit and family ties, over fanatical dogmatism.

Besides which, I'd be a big hypocrite if I said I kept all of the Mitzvot, as tradition interprets, because there is one (being gay) that I am unable to fulfill (“oness rahmana patrei”), so I don't believe that people should turn the Torah into a hammer to beat people down about their lack of observance, but rather to see we are all Jews, who stumble and fall, so we should be encouraging each other to follow the Torah & therefore live a good and ethical life, a Jewish life, whatever tradition we come from, as best we are able .

Competing truths and spreading 'the word' (Christian Evangelism) 

I don't have a problem with Evangelism. We now live in a free society of competing opinions, beliefs, religions and ideologies. I understand the Christian impulse to Evangelise - Matthew 28, vs 16 to 20, however, this also means that there will be a counterpoise to the Evangelism, be it from the old school Evangelicals, the Messianic Jews, Jews for Jesus or the Mormons (these being the groups who seem to do the most Evangelism). The funny thing is that, whenever these groups undertake such activities, it seems to backfire, e.g. my niece at university has had fierce debates with the Christian Union, after one of their missionary weeks and it only strengthened her belief.

Being an 'Ortho-Dyke'

Evangelical /or Haredi (take ur pick) : You're gay, how can you be Orthodox without twisting the word of God's truth? 
Me :Yeah, I'm gay. So what? 
Evangelical/or Haredi (take ur pick) : What about Leviticus and all that ?
Me : OK, well you see...

Israel & Zionism

I am a staunch support of Israel and a Zionist. I also want to see peace with Israel's  neighbours and a just settlement for the Palestinian people. How to achieve this and what does Torah & Halakha tell us about how to achieve this?

 [more thoughts to follow]


  1. Hi, Hannah….do you have a "follow" option for this blog and I'm not seeing it?

  2. Duane,

    Hannah's brother hear . I've put up a 'follow via e-mail link' up on the right hand corner. I guess this is what you wanted to know?

    Got to go, as I've got a date (well a chance for me and Mrs K to have some one to one downtime).


  3. Thanks! And enjoy your date night!!!!

  4. Hannah,

    This will be an interesting project to complete. Is it going to be autobiographical or factual? Is it your polemic about arguing for Judaism or a series of themes that you want to tackle ? Have you thought about this ? The themes you've indicated are interesting, but there is a danger that the book will end up being all over the place and be a complete sprawling mess.

  5. documentary hypothesis would undermine the claims that we received the Torah on Siani. Although Rabbi Louis Jacobs didn't see this as a problem as such either & he was an outstanding Orthodox scholar, he was thrown out of the Hebrew Congregations for holding this view. I don't think it is heresy as such, Jacobs was not treated in a Jewish way, I think that there is room for this within Orthodoxy (just about).

  6. I agree with all of this, except you didn't really clarify the part on homosexuality. I guess that is intentional as we'd just get bogged down in another thread of what a 'sin' it is/ ?

  7. Hi Esther,

    It was a way of introducing the themes of my book. I didn't want to drag this thread into a discussion on my sexuality. Not because I don't want to, but there is a time and a place. Too many people are obsessed with gay people as it is, but as far as a book on Orthodoxy is concerned, I can't exactly ignore it. That'd make me very hypocritical. It is something to confront and talk about honestly and openly, though.

  8. Hi Sam,

    I mentioned Christian Evangelism because it has been a feature of my spiritual journey. Also it is a vehicle to discuss something else - whether or not or to what extent Judaism is a relativistic faith or set of beliefs.

  9. Hi David,

    It'll be polemical, so you'd have to read it with a pinch of salt. The writing style will be different to the post above, as I am simply setting out thoughts. It is like jotting them down on a bit of paper, but on the internet.

  10. Surely it is heresy, in that it denies the idea that the Torah was given to all of us at Siani. I think the difference between Documentary Hypothesis and Rabbi Jacobs, is that the Rav simply argued that not all of the Torah was given at Siani. Whereas DH actually says not of it was and was written by various people, much later and during the exile in Babylon. Or that is how I see things Am I wrong?

  11. Hi Sam,

    Thanks for the feedback. I've party answered you via my reply to Esther below. 'Sweeping BS arguments'. LOL! U are on top form today bro!

  12. Glad U had a good time! Going anywhere nice this weekend?

  13. Hi Duane,

    Welcome. I hope you enjoy reading the various posts. Looks like David put a follow option up yesterday.


  14. Thought that'd be the case. Glad to see you are on top form at present. Keep up the good work.

  15. Yes! Thanks for looking after things for us at home,including helping out with our younger children & the house .Very good of you to do all this for me and Mrs K (:


  16. "Must be her girlfriend "

    *Blushes* :)

  17. Hey Hannah,

    Got ya. Be gentle on them! (:

    I don't think Judaism is relativistic. In fact I think relativism doesn't exist. Not sure how I'd defend that line of thought, but that's what I think!

  18. Nah, you're great Sarah, so you can take credit where it is due! (:

  19. Dude, I can echo the sentiments of that 100%!

  20. It's true. See Sam's remarks below as well!

  21. Why thankyou Sam, much appreciated

  22. "I don't think relativism exits". Interesting one. You'll have to tell me how that one works.


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