Looking in the Rebel's dictionary, parts of which we will publish here, IYH, Orthopraxy is a condition where the practitioner conducts himself or herself with Orthodox Jewish practices, like Shabbos, kashrus, and yoga classes, but does not believe in theological Judaism. Many of the past and present bloggers fall into this category, perhaps even began blogging because they fall in this category. (As an aside, you can only "fall" into a category. It rarely raises anyone up, to label them.) Nonetheless, I have tremendous sympathy for these folks, and the forces of modern Judaism that have driven them to this dark place, where appearances count for all, your heart is not your own, and in many cases, the threat of being "outed" constantly hangs overhead. Why would someone choose such a life? Because they had no choice.
Charedishkeit, a condition which you can read about in mishna Mesichta Sotah 22, and the attending Gemora, and in the introduction to Moreh Nevuchim, is peaking today in the frum world. This statement, borrowed from benchorin.blogspot.com (1/20/05) sums it up.
One solution, offered up by HaRav HaGaon (HRHG) Uren Reich shlit"a (henceforth: HRHG), an up-and-coming star of the yeshiva velt who sounds like my kind of guy, deserves to be quoted verbatim:
If the gemara tells us a metziyus, it's emes veyatziv. There's nothing to think about. Anything we see with our eyes is less of a reality than something we see in the gemara. That's the emunah that a yid has to have.
Besides the theology, fundamentalism run amok, its practice seems to be every aphorism of Jewish exclusivity. Shlomo HaMelech instituted eruv, according to tradition, so that Jews could be together on Shabbos. Charedishkeit is increasingly about pride in who will not associate with, what we will not eat, what we must not read, what we may not think, who we would never marry, what our last name is, what our wife's maiden name is, and above all, about ahavas and achdus yisroel. It seeks to impose itself in every aspect of Jewish life, especially in education. By reading this, you have violated basic tenets of Charedishkeit, questioning authority, browsing the Internet and reading unauthorized materials.
The modern Jew is more educated than in the past. Education is more educated than in the past. In the Rambam's time, few people learned fundamentals of science, mathematics, philosophy, history or even basic things about their local culture. Today, an elementary school education rounds us well enough to ask some blaring questions. The Charedi offers only that such questions are bad, that the person asking them is troubled, that such questions are the result of bad external influences, that the Moreh Nevuchim was written for "Nevuchim", which is a bad thing to be. What is left for a modern Jew is a choice of paths in Orthopraxy:
1) Becoming more Charedi and pretending that there are no questions (secret Orthopraxy).
2) Orthopraxy, dodging the questions and getting on with "real" life.
3) Modern Orthodox, commiserating with others in the same boat (wannabe Orthopraxy) (not all MO are Orthoprax, but Orthopraxes that become MO as a solution to their predicament, fall into this category).
4) Conservative, the less guarded stage of Orthopraxy.
5) Frei out, but thanks for stopping by (true to oneself Orthopraxy).
But there is another way. It involves alot of research, unlearning, soul searching, extreme care, but most of all it involves the will to understand that you are under your own care, not the care of some celebrity that you may never have even met. Not under the care of a student of said celebrity that happened to befriend you. Sure, a mashpia can give you a third party assessment of your path, but ultimately, only you can determine what you will do, what you are comfortable with, and what your values are.
The 6th way is the way that every true soul search will conclude, the way of the rationalist approach. By relearning the mesora properly, as mesora, we refocus on what Judaism is truly all about. By not confusing the examples, the mada, with the lesson, the mesora, we can reclaim the sanity that once prevailed in Orthodox Judaism. By not trying to build outdated mada into some deep mystical mystery, we can reclaim our heritage, without going through the crazy hoops that drive what may be our best people up the 5 paths of Orthopraxy. This is the heresy of the Rambam. This is the heart of the rebellion.
Orthodox Judaism should not be about ceding your common sense to a misunderstood philosophy, one which you must uncomfortably rationalize to promote. It has become so, as we have built a strange culture, based on magic supermen, odd superstitions and scientific facts that are "not understood". In truth, they are understood. That is the problem. They are understood as they were 1000 or 2000 or 3000 years ago. They are understood as hashkafa, rather than as symbols, and parts of the real mesora are relegated to the dustbin. When we are young children, we get a reason befitting a young child. That reason is not intended to satisfy us throughout our life. It is only meant to get us to the next step of understanding, the next question. To try and cling to that childish teaching as a life-preserver assueres that we will never grow in our knowledge, our faith or our frumkeit. Clinging to that life-preserver is the heart and soul of "mystical approach" charedishkeit. I venture that most people, even very religious people, would like to sweep this under the carpet. It bothered the Rambam immensely, and it is clear to see why. It is driving us to a situation where we must either be Orthoprax or untrue to our own driving common sense. The only solution is to struggle to return Judaism, or at least a corner of it, to the rational approach of our sages.