I was reading a very interesting post on Fink’s blog about Rabbi Louis Jacobs and his bible criticism that placed him out of mainstream Orthodoxy at the time, one of the comments on that post struck a cord with me:
but never have i been asked what i believe before davening from the amud, getting an aliya, joining a shul, saying a vort, marrying my wife, sending my daughter out on a shidduch, voting in the local yeshiva board meetings, donating money to the local mosdos (especially that one – they’ll take money from ANYONE)
In yeshiva, no one ever spoke about belief, it was assumed that everyone believed in everything 100% and the only reason we didn’t keep everything was because the yetzer harah was strong willed and we were weak. Come to think of it, throughout my yeshiva existence, the rabbis always assumed that we were such believers that they would make fun of other religions and their “crazy” beliefs. Never did we think in terms of “well rabbi, tefillin is just as crazy as taking communion”, we just went along with it because we were never taught to challenge our faith. Then when many of us grew up, we started asking these questions and I’m fairly certian that everyone in the frum community has varying levels of faith and belief.
The comment above is almost all of the proof we need that the orthodoxy of today is based solely on the external rather than the internal. I’m not sure that davening for the amud or making a bracha on the Torah requires a certian belief, but one would think that marriage and shidduchim would work into that belief sort of thing. Never once did a girl I was dating ask about my core beliefs, they asked about hashkafa and what I did or didn’t do. In general I find that frum Jews don’t even talk about this stuff because they are probably afraid to admit their doubts, everyone has doubts right?
Well until I was in my mid 20’s I had no doubts, I didn’t have the hava minah to think about doubts until I met other Jews who were religious but spoke about faith and belief and that could get one thinking. I assume that one of the reasons the Rabbis didn’t discuss what we believed in, was because they didn’t want us to start questioning things. The classic way of dealing with questioning is to bring up the revelation at Sinai, but that’s the oldest trick in the book and it’s hard to fall for that.
Does faith or belief even matter to most frum Jews? I feel that keeping up externals is so much work that at the end of the day people don’t even have time for the faith stuff anyway. Imagine if instead of asking folks if they had internet in the home when trying to get their kids into yeshiva, they asked if they believed in everything without any doubts. Is that even possible? If you don’t have doubts, you probably never questioned and if you never questioned, you never really did self introspection and therefore your faith is blind and worthless anyway.
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