Saturday, September 17, 2011

Only Standardized Torah Judaism Can Survive, DIY Judaism Has No Future

I love these amazing G-d must have timed them coincidences.  Just a couple of days after I wrote about how the establishment of formalized Jewish Prayer predated the Exile and subsequently kept us one People one Religion, I saw an article in the Forward praising "Do It Yourself--Don't Call the Rabbi, Make Your Own Rituals Judaism by Jay Michaelson."

Don't get me wrong.  I have nothing against creativity when it comes to cooking, dressing, art, design etc.  And I certainly give my very unique opinions when I attend shiurim, Torah or Bible classes.  I enjoy hearing the prayers sung to different tunes.  But there are some "red lines."  I certainly use my own words when thanking G-d in "personal prayer," but I don't make up my own brachot blessings before eating various foods or re-write the Siddur (prayerbook,)Torah or Bible. 

There are certain standard Laws and Rituals that keep us a people.

Not long ago, because of a cancelled flight, I found myself in the same cab to and from JFK with a young Israeli who is studying in the states.  He told me that he's not from a religious family, but he does know basic prayers like Kiddush and the Passover Seder.  As an Israeli student on a special scholarship, he can't get back home for Jewish Holidays, so he has tried attending events at the local Hillel.  He found them terribly confusing.  Kiddish wasn't the Kiddush he knows from home.  The Seder wasn't the same Seder, and Prayers were even more confusing.

Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist and other DIY-Do It Yourself always changing versions of Judaism remove the aspect that kept us one united Jewish People.

Our small neighborhood synagogue here in Shiloh has members from Jewish communities all over the world, the Americas-north and south, France, Majorca, Morocco, Syria, FSU,  New Zealand, native Israelis and more.  Everyone can take out their old family siddur and use it to pray together, because other than a few minor linguistic differences the prayers, including the order to be said, are the same.

  • For thousands of years, Jews all over the world have been praying the same prayers to G-d.
  • For thousands of years, Jews all over the world have had the same basic wedding ceremony.
  • For thousands of years, Jews all over the world have done the same Brit Milah circumcision on 8* day old baby boys.  (*that's when it's medically permitted; sometimes the baby must be circumcised later)
  • For thousands of years, Jews all over the world have followed the laws of kashrut, not mixing milk and meat, only eating from certain animals, fish and birds and slaughtering them according to Jewish Law.

Jewish demographics prove that the more Torah observant the family the more Jewish descendants in subsequent generations.  It's much harder to perpetuate the family's Judaism when the keeping of Mitzvot, commandments is "optional" or non-standard.

Judaism isn't "broken;" there's no need to "fix it."


Unknown said...

The presence of G-d was not in the second temple. They were as alone as we are now, and yet they continued with the silly rituals. I'm not saying this was why the temple was destroyed, but if I were G-d and I saw Jews performing what I asked them to do for the ark on a silly room with a lot of gold all over the place, I would want to destroy the 2nd temple as well.

Batya said...

NDS, you make no sense.

Anonymous said...

Noah, you're in your own self-made world, where you imagine Judaism is what YOU want it to be.

I read the comments dialog between you and JIDF. He's mostly responded to you but if you're really interested in testing your claims out, you should visit a serious Jewish halachic and philosophic authority to argue and counter-argue.


Batya said...

thanks, Shy, always appreciate your input

MAOZ said...

I was acquainted with an individual from Massachusetts who served in the China-India-Burma theater during World War II. He told me that, while stationed in Burma, he managed to find the local Jewish community. And, while he could not converse with them in their every-day language, he was able to go to their beit knesset and participate fully in the prayers. They were Burmese-speakers [I suppose], and he was a Bostonian, but they all prayed in Hebrew from essentially the same siddur.

Batya said...

Maoz, thanks, perfect proof.

Anonymous said...

That's the shul I DON'T go to!


Batya said...

all the "same"

Shira said...

I'm all for new interpretations of certain aspects of Judaism, and I'm far from "normal", but having the same prayers and rituals is so important for that sense of belonging we have as Jews when we're in unfamiliar places; when my family made aliyah when I was 11, I couldn't talk to the kids in my class very well, and I couldn't participate in lessons, but I had no problem when it was my turn to lead the morning prayers because they were the same ones I'd been saying daily from the age of four. Now at 31, and trying to increase my levels of observance and faith as I prepare for aliyah again, it's the familiarity and structure of the prayers in my siddur that makes davening such a comfort to me, and if I am ever blessed with the child I've been trying for since I was 20, I hope to make those same words a source of happiness and belonging for him or her, too. Knowing that it's possible to go into any shul and join in with the words no matter how much of a stranger you are to that particular community is vital, to my mind.

Hadassa said...

We shouldn't forget that every family, or almost every family, has their own customs that are compatible with Jewish law, even though they may be unique to a particular family. Some people confuse that with the "forget about the rabbi and make your own rituals" mindset.

Batya said...

Shira, yes, traditional prayer unifies. Hadassa, customs don't include rewriting prayers.