Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Dating Question

by Luke Skyhopper

Ever since I dropped the standard Orthodox approach to living, I've been in a funky dating quandary. I can certainly date anyone I wish, but I don't care to waste time, effort and money on incompatible broads.

My first premise is that Shiksas are for practice. The guilt never allowed me to get beyond the first few rounds, and for now my hopes of finding a Swedish Blonde Orthoprax chick are quite ridiculously small.

Although I don't wish to rant, dating your average Modox chick is somewhat pointless for me. Most of the time they have the standard seminary induced approach and know little to nothing about modern scholarship or skepticism in general. Nor do they find this to be remotely appealing. Perhaps an educated Stern girl exists, but I have yet to find them. On the positive side, at least they have the same background and thus have that connection which only Ortho Jews can relate to.

Secular/Traditional Jew-girls don't seem to get it. Judaism to them was never anything more than a bunch of holidays, foods and maybe a few rituals here and there. Jewish learning is cute, but not something they can spew in their sleep like any graduate of "the system". Thus the connection is somewhat tenuous and skin deep.

Of course in an ideal world, I would just clone a female version of myself and create further in-bred Ashkenazim, but then whats the fun?

I have never dated any right wing Conservative Jew girls aka Conservadox, and theoretically that is where my el Dorado of Jew-ass lies. But by the same token, I am not Conservative, nor have any affiliation with the movement.

Of course I realize that I'm stereotyping a bit, and that ultimately I am seeking an individual, not a brand. However placing myself in the proper situation would likely expedite this process.

I am quite curious as to what other Orthoprax Jews do with this dicey situation.

Is there an NYC Orthoprax single scene that I have yet to find?

Happy 2010 Yidden, non-Yidden and Muppets

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Why I Blog Now (Part 1)

by JG

I hear reports on other blogs of communities in which 50% of the community is more or less orthoprax. Where I live now, though, this is not the case; I certainly don't feel comfortable being forthcoming about my beliefs (or lack thereof). So in shul, I nod my head along with ideas I think are foolish--and wonder how I will ever find any other orthopraxers out there doing the same. (Well, actually, I don't literally nod my head in shul; that's more at the Shabbos table. In shul, I usually end up rolling my eyes a fair amount. But you get the picture.)

Consider, after all, the social life of the still-closeted orthopraxnik: On the one hand, you cannot fully enter the social circles of non-religious Jews/non-Jews. You can't go out on Friday nights or Saturdays, and you can't always do the things they do (non-kosher restaurants, clubs, etc). Besides which, you are committed to Orthodox lifestyle, which involves close-knit Orthodox communities. But, on the other hand, how do you make a home in a community where your conversations are filled with references to things you believe to be most likely false or misunderstood, and you don't feel comfortable speaking your mind about them? And you certainly can't have discussions about all your positive ideas about what could be true, what should be accepted, or where to go next. (But I have ideas about philosophy, about theology, about what's right! Can't I have friends in shul with whom to discuss those ideas?) Sure, you share values, and history, and culture, and everything nice with them. But how do you feel comfortable in a community in which you feel isolated and stifled?

The hardest day of the year for me was not Yom Kippur this past year. I fasted, and spent all day davening, and tried my very hardest to make it mean something in whatever way I could. No, the hardest day by far was Simchat Torah: watching the crowd dance with sheer excitement and joy around a document I looked at so differently than they did, and being fully expected to do the same; wanting to just "get into it," but feeling unable to do so with that distance between me and them; taking lots of breaks from dancing to get away from it all, feeling alone despite painful attempts at blending in.

The ironic thing is that if I had been in an orthoprax community, I probably could have danced. If I had known that the people around me understood where the Torah most likely comes from, but wanted to dance to show appreciation of what it means to them and their lifestyle; if I could have danced for the complexities, contradictions, and comforts of religious life; if I hadn't been bombarded all day with divrei Torah about a naive vision of Torah study from chasidic books; if I hadn't felt out of place, in short, I could have danced for whatever aspects of my lifestyle I willingly embrace.

But I couldn't dance on that Simchat Torah. I faked it as much as I could, but I couldn't really dance. So? So I blog.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Ideological Mapping

by Luke Skyhopper

Orthopraxy has been established as an already existing, but not completely defined entity.
Numerous Jews with different relationship's towards "The Derech" might identify with the term Orthoprax, but what does this term really mean?

The standard definition, as briefly touched upon above, is Orthodoxy in practice. Many of us Jews keep the practices (to varying extant), but yet do not maintain all of the required assortment of beliefs.

As has been debated endlessly and established by bloggers with the likes of Dov Bear, XGH and countless others, the Torah was probably not wholly written by Moshe and presented in its entirety at Sinai, much of the history contained therein is likely skewed etc etc. On the whole Orthodox Judaism as a remotely rational system of beliefs, crumbles under the weight of modern scientific scrutiny.

With that said, many of us who acknowledge these issues will still continue to remain part of the established Orthodox Community (running the gamut from Chassidishe to LWMO). We will, for various reasons, maintain practices rooted in our Orthodox upbringing. That is not to say that we continue to be 100% halachic. Far from it, but then again, do all openly Orthodox Jews follow the Torah to its fullest extent?

Let me make an example of myself. I personally will eat anything as long as I can reasonably ascertain that it contains no significant non-Kosher animal product. I am certainly not Shomer Negia, read banned books, sometimes violate Shabbat in private.

By the same token I refuse to eat non-Kosher meat, and will not violate the Shabbos in public. I acknowledge that my spiritual roots stem from Orthodox Judaism. I have no desire to become secular, nor live an inside-outside paradox, what does that make me?

Orthoprax Judaism is less about practice or belief, which conceivably it could hold an endless variety, but rather it is about allegiance and origins. We are not Conservadox because we do not find our roots stemming from Conservative Jewish culture, nor are we Conservative simply because we do not come from that background.

Orthoprax Jews find their origins in the Heimishe atmosphere of their Orthodox experiences, (not that I wish for it to become unwelcoming to anyone else) and as such derieve the flavor from there. My own vision of Orthopraxy is parallel to Chulent in that we seek to preserve the great smell and taste of the food, without it's unpopular side effects.

I guess to a certain degree this would be Anarcho-Judaism. No rules would be etched in stone, and everyone is free to practice what they please free of social pressures. In essence, a gathering of INDIVIDUALS held together by a common ancestry and sweet tooth.

Do I know for certain that it is completely viable? No, but what the heck.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

In the beginning....

by Luke Skyhopper, with some JG

In the beginning, something created someone, and the rest was history.

After a while, a bunch of people decided that this something may or may not have created someone, by which I mean us. All the ways and means, which may or may not have been derived from something's creation of someone, were brought into question. Existence alone was all that could be taken for granted.

A Crisis set in.

Our heroes had broken with the established community, and the norms which were previously established. They were on their own, free to wreak havoc as they saw fit. Cast adrift in an ocean of ideas, or rather a hypothetical strip mall of such aforementioned concept, these gallant creatures realized that it was not a complete severance they sought. Rather they wanted to retain a connection to the past life and a semblance of community, if it could be salvaged.

While being free of previously assumed guidelines and rules, there was something holding them back. The norms, practices and routines of the culture which they had deconstructed in all essence remained, albeit in a relatively altered state of approach.

These individuals, held together by the banner of "Orthopraxy", live both within and outside that world which they previously called home. Their quest is to find the proper happy medium of practice and belief.

The world of Orthodox Judaism, from which we claim our origins, with all its strains and factions, was for many a relatively warm and cozy place to live. Like all things held dearly, some of us do not wish to, nor can we bear the burden, of casting off this community in its entirety. For others, Orthodoxy was not warm and cozy at all, but still holds some grasp on them, whether social, familial, or other.

However, half-assing such an all-inclusive life style carries its own burdens and often leaves us suffering from a large degree of isolation and loneliness. What would life be like with an openly Orthoprax community? A group of relatively like-minded individuals who enjoy a good pot of chulent, a vort and some zmiros, but frankly have a tough time believing in the various unfounded claims of our tradition. Is there room for an intellectual group with a sweet tooth for the flavor of Frumkeit?

IT IS THE GOAL OF THIS EXPERIMENT aka BLOG, to work through the issues of estrangement which arise from casting off many of the fundemental beliefs of Orthodox Judaism, while yet living a more or less Orthodox lifestyle. While certainly not the first to tackle orthopraxy in some way, we would like to discuss these issues in depth, and see to it that a community of sorts can possibly be created, examining:

Philosophy: Is there room for spirituality in life when you have already deconstructed spirituality?
Community: How do you live in an Orthodox community, or create an Orthoprax one? How do Orthopraxers raise kids, or date and marry?
Inner Lives: How do we deal with the ups and downs, manage the tradeoffs, handle the benefits and burdens?

It is not the goal as of this posting to immediately create a Orthoprax Synagogue or community within our geographic locale. However such an idea is indeed a hope of ours.

And now, without further ado, 21st Century Apikorsis presents to you THE PRAXY PROJECT (trumpets, kazoos and fireworks)