This article in my inbox this morning from Aeon Magazine gave me pause. It was disturbing on many fronts, and I doubt you’ll be able to read it non-judgementally. The concept of Orthopraxy is not unique to Judaism – it occurs in any, and I daresay every religion – and seems to be a universal challenge to fundamentalism. Rabbi Pruzansky addressed the rising trend of Orthopraxy in Judaism in his thought-provoking blog in 2010.
My Uncle-in-law Teddy (may he rest in peace) addressed this in his own thought-provoking way through a joke many years ago. The punchline was, “Haseedem too, but who ah dey?” Orthopraxis presents a dilemma in self-identity, and my purpose is not to propose any solution, but to support wider discussion of the problem. I’ve always maintained that it is worse to make believe vexing problems don’t exist than it is to address them head-on.
The first hint I had of the extent of the problem was in reading Nathan Englander’s amazing literary debut, “For the Relief of Unbearable Urges”, sixteen years ago. A number of books have since emerged since then, mostly addressing the issue in terms of people who have broken away from their communities, but more recently by those who continue living a double life of sorts.
Last month in Barnes & Noble the sight of this observant gentleman covertly ogling an attractive woman in a less than noble way (transparently picking up a book now and then but following her path at every turn as she browsed) was both embarrassing and disturbing. Was she aware of his stalking? If so, did she handle it best by not saying anything? Should I have ignored the incident altogether? Given that it captured my attention, did I do the right thing by remaining silent?
This was a microcosm of moral and ethical questions that seem to grow more profound in contemporary society, and that the Aeon article addresses in a very deep way. I doubt that we can derive appropriate answers to the questions until we entertain more open discussion. Yet there is a school of thought that says our lips should remain as sealed as the lid on Pandora’s Box.