Sunday, July 31, 2005

Morality v. Spirituality

Now that I have had some time to think about it, I am returning to Godol Hador's views on spirituality. In this post he said:
I think its obvious that the majority opinion in Orthodoxy has always been that one of the goals of the Halachik framework is to instill spirituality. Just read one of the many mussar books or Chovos Halvovos, or even Moreh Nevuchim. Likewise, there is a long standing tradition that one can be ‘Naval Birshut Hatorah’, i.e. keep all the Halachot but still be a low life. So the question is whether Halachah is successful in its goal, and also whether Reform and Conservative Jews have found equally or even more effective ways at achieving spirituality.
As I am not quite the theological expert GH is (although I am the proud owner of the Dover edition Guide for the Perplexed), I can not speak for the Chovos Halvovos or the Rambam, but it seems that GH is confusing morality with spirituality. One could observe all of halakha and still be a lowlife. However, I am not sure that Naval Birshut HaTorah refers to people who would rather wear shoes and rely on rational thought. It is true that the UO education system does not emphasize morals, since they cloak all imperatives in the formalism of halakha. I am not aware of any black hat Yeshiva that emphasizes community service (God forbid you would help out a homeless gentile- it's bitul torah!). As a result, Yeshiva youth are left with no feeling of moral imperative, since the source of their behavior is a legal, not moral code. The Yeshica bochur who does not understand why defrauding the federal government is wrong, or why it is incompatible with any sort of morality to hold any other person in lesser regard simply because they are of the wrong religion, is simply immoral. UO pedagogy resists any other moral code other than halakha since any extra-judaic source is treated as heresy. The problem here is morality, not spirituality.