Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Authentic Judaism, in many different flavors

That is the message in a recent post at ThanBook, in a post titled 12X Authentic Judaism, with an idea he relates from Rabbi Sokol.

I heard a similar if not identical idea from Rav Schachter. Namely, that why the 12 sifrei Torah, one for each shevet? Because "variety is the spice of life"! And each shevet would have its own Sanhedrin, and might pasken slightly differently. And all of these flavors are beloved to Hashem, and what Hashem wants. And, he continued, nowadays, Hashem wants Sefardim and Ashkenazim, chassidic, yeshivish, etc.

Of course, this has its limitations. As much as we profess to be open to different "flavors" of Orthodox Judaism, I would guess that every religion sets limits on what they not only disagree with, but puts one entirely outside the pale of the religion. For example, as "pluralistic" as we are in condemning that certain blogger for considering only his narrow band to be authentic Judaism, do most Orthodox Jews consider Reform Judaism to be "authentic Judaism"? What do we maintain about Conservative Judaism? Reconstructionist? Frankists? Sabbateans? Karaites? And this is OK, and this is normal, though it makes the distinction between one fellow declaring his narrow version of Judaism to be authentic, and us doing the same.

Even as there were different tribes with different approaches, we see at the end of sefer Yehoshua that it was a big deal when this happened:

י וַיָּבֹאוּ אֶל-גְּלִילוֹת הַיַּרְדֵּן, אֲשֶׁר בְּאֶרֶץ כְּנָעַן; וַיִּבְנוּ בְנֵי-רְאוּבֵן וּבְנֵי-גָד וַחֲצִי שֵׁבֶט הַמְנַשֶּׁה שָׁם מִזְבֵּחַ, עַל-הַיַּרְדֵּן--מִזְבֵּחַ גָּדוֹל, לְמַרְאֶה.10 And when they came unto the region about the Jordan, that is in the land of Canaan, the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh built there an altar by the Jordan, a great altar to look upon.
יא וַיִּשְׁמְעוּ בְנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל, לֵאמֹר: הִנֵּה בָנוּ בְנֵי-רְאוּבֵן וּבְנֵי-גָד וַחֲצִי שֵׁבֶט הַמְנַשֶּׁה אֶת-הַמִּזְבֵּחַ, אֶל-מוּל אֶרֶץ כְּנַעַן--אֶל-גְּלִילוֹת הַיַּרְדֵּן, אֶל-עֵבֶר בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל.11 And the children of Israel heard say: 'Behold, the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh have built an altar in the forefront of the land of Canaan, in the region about the Jordan, on the side that pertaineth to the children of Israel.'

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