Monday, June 27, 2005

Judaism and Hockey - The difference

First of all, don't think I am going to leave Orthodoxy free and clean. I just need to build up to the point where there is no alternative from my point of view before I start my rant on the institutionalization of it.

A couple of my readers pointed out some serious flaws in my analogy between hockey and religion. They are 100% correct in the framework of the analogy I gave. This is true, because it actually makes no difference at all, in the grand scheme of things, how you play hockey or any other sport. Any change is ok because this is something invented by humans and whose changes, while they may sadden die hard fans of the original game, do not have any real effects.

If we feel that our religion is not rooted in divine instruction, then the analogy rings true about Judaism as well. Make changes that will make it easier and more popular. The die hard religionists will obviously be opposed in the same way that I was when I bought a tee-shirt opposing the destruction of Tiger Stadium and that friends of mine protested against putting up lights in Wrigley Field.

However, once you add God to the picture and see the Torah as a divine instruction book, then changing any detail causes you not to do what God asked you to. This brings us to what Judaism is and why God cares about what we do and why he created the world to begin with. To tell you the truth, I don't really know the answer to that. Everything that I have learned in this regard ends up be circular logic. That being said, we are here and I, at least, can't see it being a mistake. We have a tradition that says that God cares about what we do and gave us an instruction book detailing the way to live our lives. Why? The only answer that I can live with is that I am not on the level of understanding that God is at and therefore it is possible that I don't understand his motives. There are certain things that I can hear people disagreeing about because it seems more rabbinical then God sent. For example, someone can say, "I don't believe God cares whether we drive our car on shabbos. There were no cars then, an engine is not like lighting a fire and it doesn't violate any other prohibitions." I would disagree with them because the rabbis who have spent their lives studying and trying to understand what God wants from us say that is incorrect. But I can accept that the individual saying this is not purposefully violating the Torah commandment. However, if it says in the Torah, "Do Not Eat Pork" and someone says the Torah is not relevant that is a completely different story.

If you take God out of the picture, then what is Judaism? If God does not care whether or not we eat pork, then who does? Why light a menora on Chanuka? What is Jewish identity and culture? Do you see Jewish people as being special? What is the connection between the State of Israel and the Jewish people? There are so many questions and contradictions if you remove God from the Torah.

But if God said don't eat that pork and you do anyways, then you are in a lot of trouble.


Robyn said...

Mordechai Kaplan when he started the Reconstructionist movement actually wanted to continue halachah without the concept of divine mandate simply because he saw Judaism as a good functional system. It didn't work so well. On the reverse side, there are many, many nice masorti israelis who will wish you a shabbat shalom with a cigar in hand and simply not feel like dealing with shabbat right now because its a pain even if its right... just a thought...

rockofgalilee said...

It is a good functional system until you get to parts that don't make a lot of sense to people. Such as why can you eat only certain animals and not others? And when there is a small extra nick in the animal, why can't you eat it?

I was very surprised my first yom kippur in Israel, when a couple of scantilly clad teenagers wished me a gmar chatima tova on my way to shul.
These people are non-practicing orthodox Jews. They accept Judaism, including halacha, and don't practice it. That works for one maybe two generations.