Posted on | June 20, 2006 | By Rabbi Alter Klein | 102 Comments
The subject of tolerance is a tricky one. What does it mean? The standard dictionary definition is as follows: “The capacity for or the practice of recognizing and respecting the beliefs or practices of others”.
We need to ask ourselves if we are “tolerant” enough of other types of Orthodoxy. I am not going to deal with other types of Judaism in this essay. That is a topic by itself. The problem with the standard definition of tolerance is how can I respect something that is against Halacha. There are 70 faces to Torah. Not everyone needs to wear a black hat, knitted kippa, etc… As long as they are keeping halacha, then they have a legitimate orthodox expression of Judaism.
With that said, what happens when a group keeps halacha in their eyes, but not in the eyes of others? That opens up a can of worms. I think the standard has to be that as long as someone is following an accepted halachic opinion then that is valid. That doesn’t mean I have to accept their view, but I must consider them “dati”. What is considered an accepted halachic opinion is a whole discussion by itself.
However what often happens is that a group will do things that are “prohibited”, they won’t ask a shaila if it is permitted and then their whole movement gets a bad rap. The movement’s leaders needs to ask themselves whether or not they have instilled in their members enough “fear of heaven”/ spirituality to ask questions and to make Torah a part of their life 365 days a year and not just on shabbos and holidays. If they feel they have and that there are always going to be people who won’t ask and don’t care then the movement’s leaders are innocent.
Am Yisrael needs direction and encouragement and we need it from our leaders. However we also need to be willing to accept it and to let it have an impact on our lives. Do we need to be more tolerant of other forms of Orthodox Judaism? Yes, if tolerant means accepting other halachically valid forms of Orthodoxy. No if it means accepting orthodox groups that don’t follow halacha. In fact then that group wouldn’t be considered Orthodox in the first place.