A Guest Post by E. Fink
Originally posted on Finkorswim.com.
In a fascinating religious and social experiment, a young Jewish woman named Emily Langowitz, who was raised as a committed reform Jew lived as an orthodox Jew for one week.
The reform Judaism she grew up with granted her much leeway and autonomy in her observance. She wanted to be able to make an educated choice about which things she wanted to observe and which things she did not want to observe. Her solution was to have a “frum week”.
For one week, Ms. Langowitz practiced orthodox Judaism as best she could. She kept the strict rules of kosher, she went to a minyan and prayed from the siddur three times daily, she made a blessing before and after she ate anything, she followed the laws of tznius and she dressed modestly.
Her experience gave her a profound appreciation for the orthodox Jewish lifestyle. Previously held criticisms were disproved by her experience. She found beauty in the minutia of halachic observance. She learned to appreciate the rhythm and music of orthodox Jewish prayer. She found that forcing herself to be conscious of God at all times gave her a greater appreciation for life and life’s gifts.
The one negative experience of frum week was her status as a woman in the minyan. Ms. Langowitz felt uncomfortable that she did not “count” and this would make it hard to continue praying in that atmosphere no matter how wonderful and warm the community was towards her.
The short of it is that for an outsider, orthodox Judaism can seem daunting, dated and difficult. But Ms. Langowitz found out how beautiful, relevant and inspiring it can be as well.
She was able to pick up on so many of the social, psychological and religious benefits to the halachic lifestyle in just one week. I think it is just as important for orthodox Jews to recognize those same benefits. Sometimes it takes an outsider to point them out to us. Luckily for us, Ms. Langowitz has done so. Thank you.
There is another thing. The intellectual honesty of Ms. Langowitz is to be complimented. I know a lot of unaffiliated Jews. Many of them are religious. Many of them are partially observant. Or selectively observant. But most of them have never explored the depth and vast richness of orthodox Judaism. They, like most people do what they do because that is what they do. They have not learned to appreciate what they do and certainly have not become educated on what they do not do. Frum week is a way of bucking this trend.
It is so important to understand our own personal choices and not just let them be default choices. This is something we can all learn from Ms. Langowitz.
Finally, the entire premise of Ms. Langowitz’s experiment is to observe orthodox Judaism without studying the rationale and reasoning behind. Nor has she studied the theological underpinnings of the halachic lifestyle. She didn’t profess to believe in the 13 Fundamentals of Faith. She has not accepted “Torah M’Sinai”. And yet, it has worked. She has enjoyed it. She has learned from it. It has changed her life.
I think this will be surprising to many orthodox Jews. Particularly with the vicious attacks against orthopraxy that we have seen in the last few years. Here is a prime example of successful orthopraxy. Ms. Langowitz practiced without believing. She was able to appreciate and experience the beauty of Judaism without professing any beliefs.
I have nothing more to say on this particular point right now. But it was certainly thought provoking.
Link: Reform Judaism Magazine
HT: Yossi Klavan
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