Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Noah Feldman, Intermarriage and the Eternal Mission

Orthodox Paradox , Noah Feldman's whiny New York Times piece is getting a lot of attention. Orthodox Paradox is at its root several pages of repetitive whining in which Noah Feldman dishonestly bashes Judaism and the Bible while endlessly displaying his childish frustration because his school failed to include his accomplishments in school bulletins and his girlfriend in reunion photos.

In an age where everyone is the victim, Noah Feldman creates a narrative of being victimized, excluded and shunned. Like most secularists who reject the absolute beliefs of a religion, he has no clue that those beliefs are more than a multiplication of values that can be infinitely recombined in any combination. Rather than understanding that he has made the choice to reject Judaism, he instead complains about being rejected.

"For me, having exercised my choices differently, there is no such risk. With no danger of feeling owned, I haven’t lost the wish to be treated like any other old member. From the standpoint of the religious community, of course, the preservation of collective mores requires sanctioning someone who chooses a different way of living."

What Noah Feldman simply fails to grasp that by sanitizing his departure from the Jewish people under the guise of "choices" and "lifestyles" he is ignoring the facts of the matter. By intermarrying Noah Feldman made a decision. A decision to leave the Jewish people. It is the consequences of that decision that have isolated him and set him apart. From a functional standpoint he is no longer Jewish. His children will not be Jewish. He may have an emotional wish to be treated like any old member but that is the same egotistical self-centered need for emotional realization that prevents him from understanding and accepting the meaning of his own choices.

By his own testimony, people at his old school have been more than cordial to him. But at the same time if you give up United States citizenship for French citizenship and then pay a visit to the United States, you will find that things have changed. Like most self-indulgent egotists, Noah Feldman feels the right to demand that he be allowed to make his own choices while demanding that he not have to deal with any of the consequences of those choices.

I have tried in my own imperfect way to live up to values that the school taught me, expressing my respect and love for the wisdom of the tradition while trying to reconcile Jewish faith with scholarship and engagement in the public sphere. As a result, I have not felt myself to have rejected my upbringing, even when some others imagine me to have done so by virtue of my marriage.

Noah Feldman's deliberate clueless is rooted in refusing to understand that Judaism is more than just a set of values, it is an absolute system of beliefs of divine origin. If you do not believe that, you do not believe in Judaism. Vague and nebulous statements about respecting and loving 'the wisdom of the tradition' are meaningless. A Jewish upbringing is not merely a means of passing on some general traditions. It is a devoted commitment to G-d and a people. Without those it has no meaning. By "virtue of his marriage", Noah Feldman had departed from G-d and his people. That forms his utter rejection of both G-d and the Jewish people.

Some like Shmuley Boteach, who is forever willing to serve as the enabler to people who have made bad choices in life, are happy to blame Judaism for "driving him away" by not accepting him, but you cannot drive away someone who has chosen to leave.

Although Jews of many denominations are uncomfortable with marriage between Jews and people of other religions, modern Orthodox condemnation is especially definitive.The reason for the resistance to such marriages derives from Jewish law but also from the challenge of defining the borders of the modern Orthodox community in the liberal modern state.

Again Noah Feldman seems determined to continue the same clueless refusal to recognize what is at stake. All Jews who believe in biblical literalism, that the Torah is the actual word of G-d reject intermarriage. Not because it defines some social borders or because it's some detail of Jewish law. The Jewish mission is not an individual lifestyle as the modern self-indulgent brats like Noah Feldman tend to see it as. It is a generational journey beginning with Jacob and on down to the latest baby born today. The resistance to intermarriage is not some antiquated Jewish prejudice. It is the definition of being Jewish, the passing of the legacy of one generation to the next, the binding chain of thousands of years. When you sever that chain, nothing is left.

The Jewish rejection of intermarriage is not a rejection of others, it is an acceptance of our mission. A mission that has continued on for much of the history of the world. Noah Feldman chose self-indulgence and his indignation at his community's refusal to accept him despite his departure from the Jewish people is hollow and self-serving as are his irrelevant excursions into sliming Judaism with ramblings about Baruch Goldstein and Yigal Amir which serve only to vent his spite and lay claim to his moral superiority. It is only fitting that Noah Feldman has ended up in the Council on Foreign Relations. Morally that is exactly where he belongs.


Keli Ata said...

Once again you hit the nail on the head.

Yikes. Noah Feldman really distances himself. He respects and loves the wisdom of the traditions. He can't even say that he loves the traditions outright.

There is no wisdom in any of the tradition absent a biblical understanding of them, which of course requires faith and and love for Hashem.

He was born Jewish and will always be a Jew. And if he were raised in even a minimally observant home he probably does enjoy whatever holidays he observes say Pesach or Chanukah.

Most converts did not have Jewish childhoods and observing the traditions in an of themselves doesn't (for many, I think) bring fond memories of family gatherings, culture etc.

So with the convert the depth of the traditions come from knowing we're doing things for Hashem out of obediance and love.

Then you grow to love the traditions and develop very warm memories.

So as I see it, Feldman (like far too many people) lacks a real, genuine belief in a real G-d or he just doesn't care enough to think about Him every waking moment.

Just my opinion. I always feel weird passing judgment on someone who was born Jewish. I feel inferior. LOL. I have my own whiny issues.

Sultan Knish said...

you are becoming jewish, he's jewish now only in the technical passing sense but for all intents and purposes he has left

he really doesn't care about Judaism or being Jewish, you do... to him they have elements of nostalgia but no meaning or real attachment beyond a few smells or memories

Lemon said...

Why should you feel inferior?
You are called by G-d to be a Jew. You have a specific calling right from him!
You arent born a Jew unless you are from the tribe of Yehuda frankly.
The name "jew" is only for those who keep torah and mitzvot.
Hence Mordechai of the tribe of Binyamin is given the name "Yehudi" because he stood out.
Read my post on this on my blog.

Lemon said...

had to look lol, its called
What will Shake up Jews.

Keli Ata said...

It's a wonderful post, Lemon :)

Your post should be included with every certificate of ger.

You have hearts of gold.

Anonymous said...

Shalom, to my brothers and sisters.

I am in agreement with all of you, because it agrees with Torah. Devarim 29 is amazing if all will look at it tonight.

The covenant was offered (and is still being offered) to all. To us, as yehudim, and to the woodchopper and waterdrawer (formerly goyim) and to those not with them that day. Completely egalitarian.

But with a standard. Those who would turn from the Torah of the Living G-D and continue without teshuvah are blotted out.

Pray that this man realizes emet: the standard was made, and for all men (Luzzatto, Derech HaShem), but not to be compromised. By any of us. Pray he returns.

As long as I draw breath, I love all of you and weep for the ones who have lost their way...until they find it.

Yesha Galluzzo

Keli Ata said...

I think the feeling of inferiority will always be there. People have all sorts of biases towards Jews. Most of them negative.

Since I didn't know any Jews growing up I didn't know any to form the balance of negative/positive attitudes people naturally have towards other people. The 'I like this person because he's nice,but I don't like that person because he's a real jerk' type thing.

So all of my biases towards Jews were positive. I couldn't compare one to another to distinguish. And my natural inclination was positive anyways...all Jews were sort of like celebrities, dignitaries, and held in high regard.

And the majority of Jewish people do have something I will never have--a Jewish childhood. So even a Torah Tot is elevated in my eyes.

Even this prison inmate I write to through the Aleph Institute. She was raised as a Jew up until the age of 7. So I can look up to her in a way too. She had what I can't have.

Now I come across Jews who have converted to Catholicism/Christianity/Messianics. They say they're "completed" and more enlighted then.

The one thing I can say that I have that they don't is truth faith and love of Hashem.

Keli Ata said...

Yesha!!! Such beautiful and comforting words!! Toda and amen to everything you wrote.

Anonymous said...

Keli ata, layla tov

It is such: you have given your heart to klal yisrael, and you are one of us. Even before the covenant was finalized before the mountain of G-D, it was offered in Shemot 12 (to those who would offer to G-D: males to be circumcised beforehand) and then? He or she would be as a klal yisrael. One needs not see certificate of ger.
The Living G-D sees all. Ruth was accepted first by Naomi and then "certificate," but the people knew her did the Living G-D. Dovid HaMelech was of her line. And what of Rahab? And of Uriah? And the wife of Yusef? And Zipporah and Yitro?
Read Yeshayahu 56. You are accepted: you are one of us.
You have given your heart to Yisrael and pledged yourself to the Living G-D. Your life before such offering is just that: before.

And when the world turns upon us and gathers its armies,I will fight to defend you, bat yisrael, and if need be die for you.

Shabbat shalom, and my love to all, kol tuv.
Yesha Galluzzo

Celal Birader said...

Hi there Sultan

You write -

"But at the same time if you give up United States citizenship for French citizenship and then pay a visit to the United States, you will find that things have changed. Like most self-indulgent egotists, Noah Feldman feels the right to demand that he be allowed to make his own choices while demanding that he not have to deal with any of the consequences of those choices."

I notice the slogan on your mast starts with the phrase "from NY to Israel".

I don't know if you're domiciled in the former or latter place or if in the latter whether you expect to be treated like an American again when in NY .

Or would that just make you a "self-indulgent egotist"?

Do you see where we're going with this ?

Maybe you shouldn't judge Noah Feldman so harshly.

It does also raise the wider and more fundamental question of whether a Jew can be a Jew outside of Israel. A B Yehoshua put his finger on this very point some time ago, didn't he ? And he sure did touch a raw nerve.

The whole issue of marying out is just the tip of a bigger iceberg.

Sultan Knish said...

celal, to put it in terms you can understand, a church recently decided to terminate their organist who had a side business selling sex toys

quite a few christian charities and organizations have regulations about believers on the staff

if a former member of your church decided to leave the church and marry a Buddhist and then wrote an angry article complaining that he now felt excluded by the church while whacking around your doctrines, the reaction of some members of your church i dare say might be not so far afield from mine

quoting a.b. yehoshua on being Jewish is a lot like quoting Bertrand Russell on christianity

do you see where we are going with this?

Lemon said...

Celal for a Jew to marry out is sin. End of story.. no other answer is possible. It is a huge sin.
In Ezra we find G-d making the men divorce their foreign idol worshipping wives.
You do not plow with a horse and an ox.. Do you know why? It is against the law of G-d , you can find it in your 'bible" but this also spills over into humanity.
You cannot be yoked unequally. Doesnt your own Christian book tell you this? Yes it sures does.
YOur NT tells you 'you should not be unequally yoked with an unbeliever".
Why? for the same reason you dont harness an ox with a horse.
They are unequal.
In just common sense the ox is far stronger and the horse will get hurt.
But G-d has also other meaning in this.
Israel is NOT to mix with the nations, no matter what.
Then again, as a Christian your own Jesus told you that he had not come to change the law or the prophets and that they are to be observed scrupulously.
DId he not say to you "If you love me, keep my commandments?" And do you as a Christian not believe him to have been the one to give those on Sinai? well if you are one you beleive exactly that or your religious training is deficient.
If this is the case then you yourself cannot marry outside your own religion either.

Way back in the time of Noah we are told by G-d that the nations are not to mix. now this carries it far beyond religion. This is how strict G-d is in this concern.

I would also ask you why you think that an Israeli also has to have American citizenship. You make many assumptions.

Keli Ata said...

Celal perhaps this phrase is familiar to you: "You should not be unequally yoked." Look it up. It is also something most Christian denominations believe.

And the last that I knew, if a Catholic marries a non-Catholic the marriage ceremony cannot be held in a Catholic Church. The non-Catholic spouse would have to convert. And if both parents do not agree to raise any children as Catholics they cannot baptize their children in the Catholic church.

Nor would a non-Catholic who wants to be a child's G-d parent receive a letter stating they are a member in good standing with the church if they are not Catholic and do not attend mass regularly.

You need two G-d parents. That is because if something happened to the parents or if the parents failed in their obligation to see that the child is raised Catholic it is the G-d parents that must stand in and do it.

Intermarriage is just plan wrong and most faiths condemn it because in marriage and families there needs to be unity.

So it's not as though Jews are rejecting a non-Jewish spouse as less of a person. It's about unity and the continuity of the community.

Anonymous said...

Great analysis. Kol Hakavod

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