The Nov. 7 letter “No middle ground in Orthodoxy” was a true eye-opener and I have to thank you for publishing it. It offers those of us to have kept our Orthodox-observant lifestyle throughout our lives a chance to express the beauty of a tradition that the writer claims “accepts no divergence in any degree” and advocates “cutting out the cancer of deviance rather than tolerating any flexibility.” He laments that “I knew I could not turn on lights in my home on Shabbat and still be considered an observant Jew. I knew I was out.”
Speaking of being called out, I wonder if the writer ever played baseball. If he did, did he expect four strikes and five balls while everyone else complied with the required, time-honored observed rules of three strikes and four balls? Did he ever bat out of turn in his team’s lineup because he just felt like he wanted to hit, or did he follow the tradition of everyone getting an orderly turn?
I wonder if he has ever used a GPS. When instructed to turn right by another higher authority (that would be a GPS, as opposed to God, our JewPS) would he purposely turn left? When told to turn left at the next intersection, would he have dared to turn right into oncoming traffic on a one-way street? I hope not – otherwise, he’d be breaking the law, and would be subject to appropriate fines.
The only punishment Mr. Wadler received in this case seems completely self-inflicted. With behavior comes consequences, and if he chose to turn on the light on Shabbat, he did so of free will. Of course, we all make mistakes, and he could have easily been forgiven with some sincere teshuva on Yom Kippur.
That being said, I am truly happy for him that he is enjoying being a member of the Conservative movement, where he can lead his own “observant, vibrant, and active Jewish life.” From my perspective, a Jew who has finally found himself in such as a setting can now turn his attention to extolling the beautiful virtues of Judaism – and for that, we all are better off.