Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Some Things I Value in OJ


Here is a non-exclusive list of some values and practices I love in Judaism, or at least ones for which Judaism offers a strong support structure:

-Family ties, kibud av v'em, kibud zekenim:
There is a strong sense of community built out of family structure. I do believe that in the modern world, there can often be a lack of respect for parents, or a lack of cohesion in a family. Judaism tries to provide structures by which all of the above are supported. Families are brought together through the structure of chagim, Shabbat, smachot, etc; children are taught about familial responsibility, and obligations towards parents; we are taught laws about how to honor the elderly.

No, not the prude sense of it, nor the idea that women need to be forced to hide themselves in silly ways. But I certainly appreciate the value that more attention should be paid to a person's interior; that there is value and dignity to living with some sense of modesty; that some things should be kept special between a married couple. (Say what you will about hair coverings, but isn't it important and valuable that some things between a married couple be kept only for each other?)

-Community bond:
Yes, I believe Orthodox Jews are, at least in a lot of circles, too insular--but that seems like the price paid for the benefits of a tight-knit community. And I do love being able to walk in a Jewish neighborhood on Shabbat and say "Shabbat Shalom" to strangers, and have a sort of instant bond.

There is something unparalleled about having a forced day off from mundane matters, when one must spend time with family and/or rest from the everyday rush (even if there can at times be frustrating sides that come along with it).

-Tikkun olam
The notion that we live in an imperfect world, and it is our duty to fix it. When utilized correctly, what more inspiring mission could we have than that?


Luke Skyhopper said...

tikkun olam, at least in the social justice sense is a very modern concept espoused mostly by the more liberal denominations.

Of course tzedek and chesed have always been stressed, but only for the needs of the immediate community.

JewishGadfly said...

That's a very fair point. I guess I see tikkun olam arising out of the impetus of looking out for more than yourself, fostered by the things you mention. Besides, there is the notion of "letaken olam b'malchut shadai"--though is that more of a point about theological uniformity?

Either way, orthopraxy involves sticking around the orthodoxy you were raised with for one reason or another. Tikkun olam is part of the orthodoxy I was raised with, whatever its origins, and it's part of what I value as an orthopraxnik now...

dp said...

I suppose a less modern version of tikkun olam (not exact, but close) could be the first half of Pirkei Avos. Where it says things like, "it's a boosha for you if you have to respond to someone else's greeting because you should always greet others first" and "the third pillar holding up the world is gemilas chasadim" and some of the commentators say that starts with bikur cholim, one adding "because chessed can be done for everyone but charity can only be done for the poor."

I liked this post. It's interesting to me because all of those are sort of trickle downs from the majors: Shabbos (you say that outright), teharat mishpacha (you include that in modesty), and kosher (a bit of a stretch but the whole closeness with other jews is related to having special dietary requirements). I think that makes sense.