Justice, Politics, Religion

Upside Down Judaism

My latest piece, Upside Down Judaism: Why Are Progressives Studying Talmud?, was just posted over on Religion Dispatches.

It used to be commonly held that Orthodox Jews were more interested in ritual observances—the obligations between people and God—while Reform Jews were interested in charity and justice, or the obligations among people. (No one really knew where the Conservative movement stood…)
The last decade has changed all this.

(KFJ talked about a related topic in a recent post here.)

6 thoughts on “Upside Down Judaism

  1. No, but seriously:”This is a certain fulfillment and correction of the process of post-Enlightenment Judaism, when the large arena of justice issues was abandoned to the discourse of the secular political process.”Not only that – I would argue that this is a return to the classical mode of Maimonides, where religion was not only successfully integrated into daily life, but also with a humanist ideology.

  2. The Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association resolution on workers rights
    which just passed on Tuesday at their convention (Yeah Reconstructionist Rabbis!)
    quotes this from the Tosefta: “Wool workers and dyers have the right to say, ‘We will all be partners in any business that comes to the city.’ Bakers have the right to arrange their shifts.” (Tosefta Bava Metzia 11:24)
    Clearly, there is something similar in the outlook of modern day trade unionists and the Jewish workers at the time of the Tosefta, as the Tosefta indicates there was something analogous to collective bargaining that was going on then. Perhaps unionists who are reading the Tosefta and other texts dealing with labor will bring insight to these texts for everybody.

  3. I think the phenomenon, of progressive Jews doing text study, is fascinating, but r’s post about the RRA’s use of Talmud demonstrates really well the problematic assumptions involved. Whatever Talmud is, I don’t think it should be simply a tool for affirming our ethical/political positions.
    And more to the point, I don’t think it could be – for every “nice” thing we find in the Talmud, I guarantee you I can find something that most people would think repellent. So on what grounds do we quote the Talmud for some things, while ignoring what it says in other things?

  4. When I wrote Yeah Reconstructionist Rabbis! I meant it like “Go Cubs!” not “Even the Reconstructionsts,” since I think the Reconstructionists are as good at text study as anybody.
    The quote from the Tosefeta challenges what we have been taught to think of as the norm for labor relations. Why should it be that the default for workers is not to act collectively and you have to risk being fired in order for the privilege of acting collectively? Perhaps there was a time when it was the norm to agree to wages and terms of work through a collective process.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.