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Jewish Journal

Defining Morethodoxy (a repost of an earlier Morethodoxy essay)

by Rabbi Hyim Shafner

November 20, 2009 | 1:16 am

Morethodoxy.  One more label to add to an already thinly divided Jewish world?

In subtitling our blog “Exploring the Breadth, Depth and Passion of Orthodox Judaism,” I think we aim to overcome the limitations that labels impose.  To see Jewish life not as it often is seen today as a linear spectrum from insular to open, tolerant to judgmental, committed to uncaring; but with the complexity and subtlety that “divarim sh’omdim b’rumo shel olam,” things upon which the world hangs, require.

Moving away from labels and defined Jewish groupings can help us be open to the treasures within each Jewish community that can help us serve God, while identifying the weaknesses of each community or theology and setting those aside.

For instance, the strength of more insular “Charedi” Orthodox communities is their passion.  One learns a lot of Torah when it is undiluted by time studying about the world in a university; one is little influenced by the beckoning of secular society’s evil inclination if one is wholly separate from it.  Payer in Charedi circles, especially Hassidic ones, is often passionate, focused and fervent.  We must learn from these strengths and adopt them.

On the other hand there are the weaknesses of more insular Orthodox communities.  They can not benefit fully from the wonders of Gods universe since they do not study about them in depth (which Maimonides says brings us to love God).  They can not fully welcome the Jewish people into Judaism since their welcoming is only on their own terms.  They can not fully be a light unto the nations since their interaction with “the nations” is minimal and often rejecting. 

Modern Orthodoxy’s strength lies in its openness to the things listed in the paragraph above and its attempt to synthesis that openness with Torah.  But its weaknesses are many.  There is a widespread lack of passion in prayer.  To be present in a Modern Orthodox synagogue during prayer is sometimes to wonder who people are conversing with, God or their neighbors.  The Kiddush club, a phenomenon which afflicts some modern orthodox synagogues on Sabbath morning in which members leave the service to drink alcohol and eat a meal instead of listening to the full Torah service. 

I would propose that Morethodoxy be a philosophy of taking the ochel (the edible) and leaving the p’solet (the shell).  Of integrating both, breadth and depth, openness and passion.

Let us be passionate in Torah study, and open to all tools possible in pluming its depths, from biblical criticism to kabbalah. 

Let us be passionate in prayer, and open to studying the works of Rabbi Nachaman on utilizing meditation and nature to find God, perhaps even open to learning from non-Jewish instruction about kavanah, and a thousand years of eastern meditative practice. 

Let us be passionate about protecting our children and ourselves from the materialism and superficial values so prominent in the wider culture, and open in the extreme to all our brethren the Jewish people and to our cousins the non-Jewish world.  Let us be so passionate about welcoming and loving others that the homeless person who wanders into our house of worship feels like one of us. 

Let us be passionate about connecting to God so that there is no idle chatter in our shuls, and open, even in the middle of prayer as Abraham was, to any new person that walks into shul.

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