“The” Principled Life

I have to admit that I respect people who live lives according to their principles.  Obviously, I feel more of a connection to them if I share these principles, but regardless, I feel that I can relate to people who live ideologically driven and reflective lives.  At the least, you know where you stand with these people. As an Orthodox Jew, it follows that I have an affinity for people striving to live lives committed to the structure of Halakha, Jewish law.  But, I am often put off when I confront people in my community who make claims that we alone keep the entirety of the Torah.  Implicit to this claim about the identity of Orthodox Jews is that any other Jewish lifestyle is inherently corrupt because it is less then complete.  We live our lives doing every Mitzvah, commandment, while they “pick and choose” their Judaism.

I believe that this identity of “Orthodox supremacy” is called into question within this week’s Torah portion Ki Teitzei. For example, no one would claim that in a effort to live a life committed to doing the 613 commandments that s/he should perform the commandment to divorce his/her spouse (Deuteronomy 24:1). Throughout the portion we see examples of the right way to deal with a non-ideal situation. One example is if you go out to war, then the Torah proscribes the procedure for taking an enemy bride. While I might portray myself as a follower of the law, I cannot abdicate responsibility for putting myself in certain situations, like going to war. Necessarily the religious life is inundated with having to makes choices. Evidently, we all “pick and choose”.

In a world plagued by a barrage of options, we can appreciate the allure of living in a closed community that will shelter us from many of these choices. Living with this structure might help foster a religious lifestyle, but it might miss the reality of how “choice-full” our lives truly are. On the other side, assuming that I am the lone arbiter of what is right and wrong seems to lead me down a path devoid of any lasting meaning. How do we make choices? Is living a principled life one choice or a choice that needs to be rehearsed many times a daily? May we all be blessed to realize our highest ideals. Shabbat Shalom.

– For more check out Peter Berger‘s Heretical Imperative: Contemporary Possibilities of Religious Affirmation


1 Response to ““The” Principled Life”

  1. 1 Alvaro October 7, 2010 at 9:35 pm

    It is a great essay However I noticed in it that evokes a certain tendency of superiority by obeying the law and also seems to me that your entire life as a Jewish is reduced to 613 commandments? is it not to short? do you think we come to this planet to be told that if we obey certain numbers of law and live with them we will be granted right and privilege through them?

    I am scare that natural selection and evolution might no be taking place here? Let us go to the holy mountain and ask more details.



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