Frummer than thou?

There is currently a petition circulating the internet which implores the RCA (Rabbinical Council of America) to support women’s religious and communal leadership in the Orthodox Community.  According to the RCA’s website, “membership in the RCA is held by close to 1000 ordained rabbis, spread throughout 14 countries. These include congregational rabbis, teachers and academicians, military chaplains, health-care chaplains, organizational professionals, and others. A special RCA region with a central office in Jerusalem is located in Israel. It publishes important Torah and intellectual journals, holds annual conventions and conferences, and issues occasional position papers and statements on the issues of the day.”  The RCA also came out recently stating that “reaffirms its commitment to women’s Torah education and scholarship at the highest levels, and to the assumption of appropriate leadership roles within the Jewish community.”  However, their actions are not consistent with this statement – hence the petition.  (For the full petition, click here.)

As you would expect, the petition has generated a lot of information in the Jewish blogosphere.  One of the more common reactions has been that if Rabba Sara Hurwitz (though, she is never given her proper title, nor even her prior one of Maharat) was “more frum” it would somehow help the cause.

Seriously?  She covers her head and dresses modestly (skirts too!), and lives an observant life on par with her male colleagues from Yeshivat Chovevi Torah.  She is frum enough for Rabbi Avi Weiss, but not enough for you Mr/s Blogger? What do you want from her? What would make her “frum enough”?

Therein is my question dear readers: What do you consider to be frum? Is frum definied differently by different people?

It reminds me of a questionnaire where the options were “Frum” or “Non-Orthodox” – but that is a separate post all together…


17 thoughts on “Frummer than thou?

  1. ugh I hate the word FRUM even though I do use it myself. I think each community has its own definition.

    to me, someone FRUM is someone who is shomer shabbat, kashrut, Taharat haMishpacha, dresses and behaves in a modest manner and lives a life to serve Hashem.

    • Hadassah, your standards are based too much on Torah and mitzvot and Talmud and Shulhan Arukh. Aren’t you aware of how passe such standards are? Thanks to the Haredim, Judaism has ceased to be a religion, and is more of a political party anymore.

      To quote myself, from what was supposed to be the conclusion to my article on qol isha, “A New Hearing on Kol Ishah:

      (I had to abridge that article due to space limitations, and excise this following planned-conclusion, but the excised excerpt from which I will now quote is found here):

      Perhaps the Prisha and Rama never envisioned where their words [as cited earlier in my article] would be taken, but their words are nevertheless there in print, for all to see. If anyone objects to the [lenient and permissive] interpretation offered in this essay, it is hard to envision that objection being based on halakhic principles. It is far more likely that any objection will be either a slippery-slope argument (as Rabbi Horowitz gave to Rabbi Weinberg [discussed earlier in my article]), or will be a fearful and terrified reactionary argument that “hadash assur min ha-torah.” As Professor Haym Soloveitchik shows in “Rupture and Reconstruction”,The smooth incorporation of religious practice into a middle class lifestyle, meant that observance now differentiated less. … It would be strange, indeed, if this diminution of otherness did not evoke some response in the religious world. They were “a nation apart,” and had lived and died for that apartness. Their deepest instincts called for difference, and those instincts were not to be denied. … [A]s large spheres of human activity were emptied of religious meaning and difference, an intensification of that difference in the remaining ones was only natural. Moreover, the more pervasive the influence of the milieu, the more natural the need of a chosen people to reassert its distinctiveness and to mark ever more sharply its identity borders. As the inner differences erode, the outer ones must be increased and intensified, for, progressively, they provide more and more of the crucial otherness. In addition, the more stable and comprehensive the code of conduct, the less psychologically threatening are the subtler inroads of the environment.In other words, as observance becomes easier and less burdensome, the Orthodox become alarmed. Observance itself is not enough; it is not enough to do what the Torah and Talmud declare G-d’s will to be. If the Torah does not distinguish the Jewish people from the outside world, then we the Jews must ourselves establish artificial means of distinguishing ourselves. Humrot are established not to please G-d, but to please ourselves: to salve our own consciences, to satisfy our own psychological desires; it is narcissism in the guise of piety. Perhaps qol isha can be easily permitted according to the halakhah [as my essay shows], but if we do this, what is left to mark ourselves off from the goyim and the heretical non-observant Jews? Our concern is not with the Torah and Talmud per se, but rather, with our self-image, our own bloated sense of self-righteous religiosity. As Rabbi Shammah said [cited earlier in my essay], “halakha is being used as a religious marker…and the words of the prophets are brimming” with criticism. The reader may decide for him- or herself how he or she will respond to this article.”

    • have to agree with your definition – shomer shabbat, shomer kashrut, and taharat hamishpacha. that’s blu greenberg’s definition of an orthodox jew, too.

      now frum means anything from modern orthodox to someone who has 1,000 chumras, so i rarely use the word at all.

  2. I agree with Hadassah. Though it’s hard because of late it has become are you Frum or BT. Well that doesn’t make sense. Can’t you be BT AND frum?

    While we are on this rant, I hate when people ask you if you are “religious.” Of course I am. Aren’t you asking if I am observant?

    • Oh great, so now “frum” means “FFB”? I guess if you aren’t born frum, you can never become truly frum? I guess every convert and BT is forever doomed to a game of catch-up, and like the conversos in Spain for which the Inquisition was begun, they’ll never succeed in convincing their detractors of their authenticity. Fantastic.

  3. You know, I don’t even like using the word “frum” because it is such a qualitative term these days. I think that if she is shomer shabbat, shomer kashrut, etc. (same as HSM) that that is “frum” enough. I find it hysterical when I am with “frummies” who criticize one person’s frumkeit while allowing it for someone else. People can ever be happy if they aren’t doing their superior dance I suppose. As for me, I worry about ME and my “frumness” – and that’s all I need to worry about…me and my fam. Everyone else is on their own and answers for themselves. I think it’s destructive to nitpick the minutiae like this when someone is CLEARLY qualified and on par with her peers.

  4. Frum to me is anyone who is generally shomer mitzvot, and concerned with being shomer mitzvot. It doesn’t mean orthodox and it doesn’t mean perfect. I refer to my mix of Modern Orthodox and Conservative friends with whom I spend most shabbatot as “liberal frum Jews.” Someone is more “Frum” than another person, in my mind, if they are more mindfully observant than another, regardless of whether they follow a machmir halachic opinion or a makil one, so long as their informed approach is intended as halachic. That is how *I* use the term.

  5. Admittedly, I’m no expert on this entire debate. But, for what it is worth, the little that I’ve heard from rabbanim debating the issue(s), no one is focused on her ‘frumkeit’. To their credit, the rabbanim debating the positions regarding her are focused on principles. The bloggers aren’t going to determine the important positions yay or nay on this one.

    By the way, how many people realize that it was once a pejorative to be called ‘frum’? Similar to how German reformers used the notion ‘Orthodox’.

    • While that might not be the issue from the Rabbanim, it has been posted by bloggers which was my point. Who are we to determine those things? I would be less concerned if the Rabbanim had a legitimate qualm with her practices, than with Mr/s Blogger saying that Rabba Hurwitz is not frum enough to be taken seriously.

  6. Can one be frum if one is an egalitarian Jew? If a person is shomer Shabbat, shomer kashruth, taharat mishpachat, and keeps every other mitzvah, but prays in a Conservative (or traditional egalitarian) shul/minyan because he/she believes in egalitarianism, is that person still frum? I don’t think any of my frum friends would consider that person frum.

    P.S. The real question: how do you pronounce “frum”? I always learned to pronounce it so it rhymes with “broom”, but a lot of my friends laugh at me and insist it rhymes with “drum” ;).

  7. Frum is like driving. When you’re driving, no matter how fast you’re going, you think anyone going slower than you is an idiot who needs to go faster; but anyone going faster than you is clearly insane. No matter how observant you are, anyone who seems less so isn’t doing enough and really needs to do more (showing up for minyan, hair covering, avoiding trayf, whatever), but anyone who does more (or follows more chumrot, etc), is clearly a crazy fanatic.

    Personally, I am kind of tired by the emphasis on external signs of frumkeit–the “you don’t cover your hair, so I don’t trust your kashrus” thing. Gets old very quickly.

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