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September 1, 2013 / conservadox

Dvar Torah- Haazinu

“Ask your father, he will inform you; Your elders, they will tell you.” (Deut. 32:7).

Tigay writes: “If the audience has any doubt about the truth of what is said, it can turn to its elders- the historian of historical tradition in a predominantly oral culture- for confirmation.”

All very well and good in traditional society, especially in medieval or premedieval culture where there was no printing press and (I would guess) only one sefer Torah for a town or congregation.  But I’ve heard this argument used today; I still remember the rabbi who told an audience about ten years ago “Bubbe wouldn’t lie.”

I don’t find this a particularly useful argument for much of anything, for the simple reason that one of my bubbes died 20 yrs before I was born, and the other never raised the issue (in fact, her English was pretty limited and I was pretty young so we never had a particularly deep conversation).   My grandparents died before I was born, and my parents are pretty secular people (despite the yearly Passover seder and High Holy Days attendance at a Reform Temple).  Realistically, I didn’t have the kind of family traditions that frum from birth (FFB) families have- and neither do most American Jews.  So the whole notion of following your parents’ customs or ideas or whatever is just completely irrelevant to my life.

So how then shall we live?  One can continue to drift away from Judaism.  Or one can basically pretend to have a tradition, adopting some rabbi’s idea of the customs of 19th-century Poland.  Or one can split the difference in some way.   Modernity is not easy.

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One Comment

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  1. Shira Salamone / Sep 4 2013 1:00 pm

    Been there, done that–I’ve been picking my own minhagim/customs for years. My parents were shul-goers and always held or attended Sedarim on Pesach, but there were quite a few details missing from their observance (and my, as well–I still consider myself a semi-practicing Conservative Jew), so I’ve had to learn and also to choose a lot on my own. Good luck.

    Shanah Tovah.

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