Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Tough choices

The Brooklyn Wolf has a number of posts that are quite interesting regarding attitudes towards other Jews, and winds up with a question: If you had to choose one path for your children, would you want them to be good nice people, but not religious, or outwardly religious, but despiciable human beings? In essence, would you rather they be great at mitzvot bein adam l'chavero(between people) or those that are exclusively bein adam lamakom(between man and God)?

If you go back to the prophets, you see them railing against those that ignore the poor, the widow, the downtrodden, and ask things like "lama lee rov zivcheichem.." what do I need all these sacrifices, the implication being that they are not accompanied by good deeds. However, the mitzvot between man and God in the time of prophetic and sacrificial Judaism were somewhat different than they are now in the time of Rabbinic Judaism. It would be interesting however to scan Nevi'im and see which thought stream predominates, my guess is that there is more outrage about the absence of charity and justice than the failure to keep Shabbat and other mitzvot between man and God.

It seems to me that the evidence from Nach(the Prophets and Writings) indicates that good deeds between people are preferable to good deeds between man and God, if you have to choose one. However, in our day and age, there is another concern, that may not have been operational in the distant past. How will the Torah be passed on to future generations? If you compare a non-practicing Jew(or even reform) who is a wonderful person, and raises his/her kids to be nice, kind people, what is the chance that any of them will turn out to be Jews that practice mitzvot between man and God? What is the chance that they will pass on any Jewish traditions besides those of lovingkindness, and even then, will that tradition of lovingkindess be identified as Jewish tradition? or a humanistic one? or something else? On the other hand, a despicable human being who keeps Shabbat and Yom Tov and identifies as a Jew is more likely to pass on Jewish traditions and observances. And, somewhere down the line, I think it is more likely that one of the kids will turn out not only outwardly observant, but a good person as well.

Obviously we should strive for ourselves and for our kids towards excellence in both interpersonal and person-Divine commandments. And on a personal level, if I absolutely had to choose, I would rather my kid be a good non-religious person than a despicable outwardly frum person. But the edge for long term survival of the religion might reside with the second choice. Is it worth the price?

Comments-[ comments.]


Blogger Mirty said...

When I read Brooklyn Wolf's post, I was upset. I think if you can't manage "Ve'ahavta l'reacha k'mocha" then why bother with measuring hemlines and covering women's hair? It's an empty religion then with no heart.

11:51 PM  

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