Monday, February 21, 2005

Time for more sects?

We have had "sects" in Judaism: Karaites, Sadduccees, Essenes, Dead Sea Sectarians and more. Even now we have divisions into Orthodox Conservative, Reform, etc. Orthodoxy in particular has tried to define itself in relation to the left, thus lack of adherence to the strict tenets of Halacha as defined generally by the Shulchan Aruch, and/or lack of believe in the commanding power of mitzvot/Torah seperates the Conservative from the Orthodox. Can there be a line to the right of the orthodox? Where those to the right are not considered by the orthodox to be the true carriers of the Mesorah? How would we view the Essenes if they were still among us? Would we accept everything they advocated? would we adopt their views, practices and philosophy?

Imagine a sect that denies the validity of opinions of a respected group of our sages. Imagine this sect also has claimed that each and every word of a particular book, not the Bible, is the sacrsanct word of G-d, unchanging and unchangable. What if this sect had codified its views vis a vis women and society in the 16th century, and this view continued to this day. Let us grant that this group insists that its way is the true and right way, and that those who deviate are heretics. Also, they study Shas and Poskim with an intensity that is admired, and held in awe. However, they seem to violate values of Judaism, insisting that risk to human life is not as important as obeying each and every dictum of a group of sages who lived 150 years ago.

Who carries the true mesorah? What is the true and authentic Judaism? Is there an area to the right of orthodoxy, where the beliefs and practices are not true to the Judaism that we(or I) believe in? A line similar the one that divides Orthodoxy from Conservative, a line that means that those on the other side are not considered sages and saints, but misguided individuals who have distorted our sacred Torah and Mesorah into something that it isn't and shouldn't be?

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