Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Posted by Daniel Greenfield 14 Comments
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.