Sunday, November 27, 2005

A Fulfilling Lifestyle

Blogger ate my last attempt at this, so here goes.

BTA has posted (I, II) a series of letters written by Rabbi Sampson Raphael Hirsch in the voice of an off-the-derech Jew. Needless to say, I will have to buy the book to read RSRH's answer, but the comments got me thinking. Is there anything redeeming in the Orthodox lifestyle, assuming that the theology is nonsense?

GH (who refuses to retire and that is a good thing) recently wrote why he has no problem with observing halakha:
If I am comfortable with Halachah and the Orthodox Lifestyle, what difference if all the claims of Orthodoxy are 100% true or not? They might well all be true, so it certainly makes no sense for me to drop any Halachic observance, especially when I am so comfortable with it.
But what happens when it is the liefestyle that contributes to the mental angst. Living your life from vapid practice to vapid practice is maddening. At some point, the intellect must control our actions.

I wear teffilin without feeling anything. I keep shabbos without feeling anything. I keep kosher without feeling anything. When I go to shul, I pray without feeling anything. A turning point came this succos when I witnessed grown men hollering on the top of their lungs whilst waving a palm frond and a lemon. Whatever supreme religious ecstasy they were feeling was definitely lost on me. A testifying Baptist congregation has ruakh too and I fail to see the difference between these two moments of religious ecstasy.

That the lifestyle is costless does not convince me. It is maddening to engage in practices you know are pointless. What does a lifestyle riddled with paradox have to offer, when an alternative system exists with a minimum of questions? Let me know.