Getting Back To Basics – Rabbi Barry Gelman

Getting Back To Basics – Rabbi Barry Gelman

Sometimes I wonder if the term Modern Orthodox serves as a hurdle for greater and more inspired religious growth. I am not questioning the philosophy of Modern Orthodoxy, I am concerned that the term Modern Orthodoxy is used to support a standard of living that is less than optimal.

Part of the issue is that many Modern Orthodox Jews have chosen a few key definition points on which they stake their entire identity.  Examples of this include: saying hallel on Yom Ha’atzmaut (with a bracha, w/o a bracha), wearing a knitted kippah, academic scholarship, relationships with the non orthodox and the non orthodox movements, attaining acceptance to the best universities, and women’s issues.

Do not get me wrong, all of the above mentioned issues are very important and deserve attention, but by focusing so much energy on these issues, and by making them the points by which Modern Orthodoxy defines itself, we often lose sight on the nuts and bolts of Judaism.

In order for Modern Orthodoxy to thrive, to be taken seriously and to survive with integrity, we must be focused on our commitments to Torah study, teffila and adherence to halacha, including the precise details of Halacha.

We often talk about not being defensive and not “looking over our right shoulder” when justifying our philosophy. It seems to me that people get defensive when they are hiding something  or are not particularly sure of themselves.

Perhaps instead of telling each other not to be defensive, we need to take a good look at ourselves and put in place the tools, communal expectations and ideals that would give us the confidence to declare that we are  Modern Orthodox and proud of it.



One Response to Getting Back To Basics – Rabbi Barry Gelman

  1. David A. says:

    Rabbi Gelman,

    Thank you for your post. I have two separate comments:

    1) I don’t think MO people “define” themselves on these issues but rather “distinguish” themselves on these issues. After all, it’s what makes our movement different from other normative movements that should be attractive to others. I think we hear less about “halakhic observance” in the MO community not because it is less cherished but less distinguishing.

    2) On the issue of halakhic observance—let’s take a critical look at this blog. Week after week, I yearn for a Morethodoxy contributor to contribute something more than mere feelings. When sources are introduced into posts, the post usually relates to the Parasha. Rabbi Lopatin sometimes posts halakhic issues, but even he rarely delves into sources. This is the second time a post of this sort has appeared on this blog–the first time was Rabbi Lopatin’s similar post from earlier this summer. Perhaps, however, when our leaders begin to emphasize the “precise details of halacha,” we will be able to not only define ourselves by our observance of halakha but distinguish ourselves by our halakhic scholarship.

    -David A.

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