Social Orthodoxy

Jay Lefkowitz’s piece  in Commentary has garnered a good deal of attention. It has significant implications for the educational decisions made at Modern Orthodox yeshivot.

Thoughtful responses include:

Marriane Novak’s in the Times of Israel

Joshua Fattal’s in Tablet

Although Lefkowitz appeals to Mordechai Kaplan he may have been better off appealing to a different heterodox Jewish leader- Rabbi Dr. Louis Jacobs. Jacobs termed his theology liberal supernaturalism. (See Jon Levenson’s review of his book– Beyond Reasonable Doubt.)  Jacobs at least brings God into the picture.  Jacobs sees the role of God’s command in the details of mitzvot to be less than it is in the traditional view. Remarkably though he admits that if one sees God as being more removed, observance will diminish:

“psychologically, it is undeniable that a clear recognition of the human development of Jewish practice and observance is bound to produce a somewhat weaker sense of allegiance to the minutiae of Jewish law.”

That is the inevitable fatal flaw in Lefkowitz’s own brand of Orthoprax. His social Orthodoxy needs shared practice to survive but that shared practice is really only developed seriously with the belief in a divine command.

Social Orthodoxy is an unsurprising reality but not one we should be resigned to and certainly not one to celebrate.

What’s the response? More education about theology. More talking about God. And more talking about the importance, truth and nobility of living the life of a Divinely commanded Jew.


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