Yogi Berra’s rueful observation, “We’re lost, but we’re making good time,” comes to mind when one surveys aspects of the modern American Orthodox Jewish community.
In We’re Missing the Point: What’s Wrong with the Orthodox Jewish Community and How to Fix It, the newest publication of the OU Press | Jewish Educational Publications, Rabbi Gidon Rothstein argues vigorously and convincingly that the Orthodox Jewish community is “missing the point” in many aspects of its Torah observance and mindset. Too often, the Orthodox community’s educational system and cultural institutions place excessive emphasis on the technical aspects of religious observance while ignoring the profound transcendent truths and principles that should animate a rich, authentic religious life. From a thorough study of the classical sources, Rabbi Rothstein identifies those transcendent truths and demonstrates their conspicuous absence in contemporary Orthodox Jewish life.
Rabbi Rothstein is not an advocate for a more demanding or onerous Judaism. Rather, in the spirit of the old business adage admonishing us “not to work harder, but to work smarter,” he proposes a reorientation in approach and attitude that will endow the rituals in which the contemporary Jew already engages with new meaning and power. The act of reclaiming the authentic intent and flavor of Torah observance will be liberating and empowering, not burdensome or restrictive.
The author reminds us that, in addition to the highly structured formal framework of religious observance which has precise halachic guidelines, there is another, equally important dimension to observance that requires a human being -- Jew or non-Jew -- to use personal autonomy, good judgment, and creativity in the service of the Creator. This aspect of religious observance, which cannot be codified in formal fashion, is almost entirely lacking in contemporary Orthodox Jewish life and observance.
The book concludes with a prescription of far-reaching remedies and presents practical, compelling ways in which synagogues, schools, and individuals can start on the road to a Judaism closer to the way God meant for it to impact and ennoble its adherents.
We’re Missing the Point: What’s Wrong with the Orthodox Jewish Community and How to Fix It is the latest publication from the OU Press, the publishing house of the Orthodox Union. The OU Press publishes books by innovative traditional thinkers that challenge us to engage in the complex processes of introspection and growth. Upcoming publications include Majesty and Humility: The Thought of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, a cogent, comprehensive, systematic introduction to the philosophy of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, the foremost rabbinic leader of Modern Orthodoxy during the 20th Century, published in conjunction with Urim Publications and Maimonides School.
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