6/30/2010

The Orthoprax Rabbi

This new blog seems promising, though I do not envy its author. I have very mixed feelings about his situation; even if I believe that it is wrong to remain in such a position, I do not claim that I would be able to withstand the pressures associated with the loss of financial stability (even though I went through that these past few years, as I transitioned from rabbi to writer).
Most of us presume to "believe in God" as a sort of catechism. These are the things you must profess - or at least not disavow - if you wish to remain in the fold. Whether or not we really believe is a totally separate question, and I would imagine that many people simply do not wish to see how deep the rabbit hole really goes. The Orthodox rabbinate has very little to do with theology, so ultimately the blogger is right, it is quite possible to do an adequate job as rabbi without believing in God. It is even possible to experience a calling to the pastoral aspects of the vocation. And if the congregation is happy with the rabbi, why not keep him? (It would be incredibly ironic, though, if he's the rabbi of a Young Israel: atheist rabbi - fine; woman president - chas ve-shalom)
In truth, the dilemmas that he poses crop up on a small scale all the time. Orthodox synagogues have plenty of atheist members. When one such member says a brakha it is null and void according to halakha. One may not be yotzei with such a person's kiddush. Yet it does not really hinder people at all.
Additionally, are rabbis not entitled to the occasional crisis of faith? Must the rabbi always have the answer, believe with complete and perfect faith? Why must we expect more of the rabbi than we do of the balabus on this matter - their obligations are equal. Rabbi is ultimately a job description.
If there's something that bugs me it's that he professes to not keep much halakha at all. Now we enter into Acher territory, the famous scenario where R. Elisha b. Avuya tells R. Meir that he is about to pass the techum Shabbat as he himself rides his horse right on past. Or, to use a more contemporary but crude example, it reminds us of Bertrand Russell.On some level, "do as I say and not as I do" fails.
In any case, I look forward to reading more of what he has to say.
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