Monday, November 20, 2006

Defining Liberalism

The folks over at Dov Bear have been attempting to align Judaism (Orthodoxy, that is) with contemporary political camps, called broadly "conservatism" and "liberalism." The problem is, these labels do not accurately fit any current political divides, since each has borrowed principles from the other. Oh, and they also don't fit Judaism, Orthodox or liberal.

Trying to puzzle this out has brought me back to the same question that's been buggin me since my conversion - namely, on what bases do Liberal Judaisms lay claim to authority/ownership of the tradition? What portions of torah (as a larger concept) do we consider authoritative, and what is flexible/discardable/irrelevant? And on what basis do we make those distinctions?

Here's my own attempt at describing my current relationship to torah, in general. Note that this may change over time, that I do not have reasoned, well-founded arguments for why I hold this - yet:

1) The written Torah, in the form of the Tanakh, is authoritative and non-negotiable. Even though I (gulp) don't believe in "G-d" as most traditional Jews do.

2) Just because the written Torah is binding, it isn't necessarily meant to be taken literally. Some parts of it have always been metaphorical, or contained hidden meanings.

3) As we move through time and around the world, from one form of society and culture to another, we require further translations and interpretations to remain true to Torah. Each generation reveals another aspect of this truth.

4) Not all interpretations of Torah are equally valid. Some people and generations will use Torah as a means for enforcing their own individual view, or advancing their own material purposes - and we must constantly be on the watch for such bias in interpretation.

5) Torah interpretations which make us struggle - consciences twinging, or rationales questioned - are probably more true than those which feel "comfortable." Not because G-d wants our observances to be difficult, but because these struggles are what help us transform ourselves into tzaddikim.


Blogger Maggid Sarah said...


This is excellent-- I'd like to link it from my site, if that's okay. I can't say it better than you have.
coming home end of Decmeber week or so, hope to see the family then!

Blessings to you, Maggid

12/10/2006 11:16 PM  
Blogger Tzipporah said...

yeah, sure, link - makes me feel popular (blush).

Yes, please come see us then, we'll be here!

12/12/2006 1:22 PM  
Blogger The back of the hill said...

Ah, I see that as I have been told I am indeed so "last season".

Very belated welcome to the bloggosphere (I would say welcome to the J-blogs, but as you have undoubtedly realized by now, I'm still wandering the wilds of Moab myself, and have not entered the klal - so it is not my place to speak for the j-bloggim).

1/22/2007 10:01 PM  
Blogger BJ said...

I'm a little late here, but I love your number 5; in my experience, it is very true that we grow most from the ideas we struggle with.

2/06/2007 4:17 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home