First: After Shabbos, with all of its various strains and drains, I really need to read something like this: Top ten reasons to get punched in the face.
Tzipporah the Midianite has an interesting analysis here of a perceived difference between liberal and conservative approaches to Judaism and its mitzvot. She observes that liberal Judaism tends to emphasize extra מצוות עשה (active commandments) and traditional Judaism tends to emphasize and expand מצוות לא תעשה (prohibitions). Tzipporah contends (if I understand her correctly) that the more traditional approaches take a יראה approach of awe and respect, and the more liberal approach emphasis אהבה, love of Gd.
I would agree that Orthodoxy emphasizes מצוות לא תעשה - although we don’t see it as creating anything. Rather, we are fulfilling the biblical mandate of ושמרו את משמרתי, guarding HaShem’s “preserve,” the Torah, with a no-fly zone around its prohibitions.
I would also agree that Orthodoxy does not encourage creation of מצוות עשה - we don’t generally create blessings, let alone rituals - but I’m not sure I’d agree with her reasoning. Off-hand (and it’s motzaei shabbat, when you won’t get anything other than “off-hand” from me), I see three reasons why Orthodoxy has trouble with the idea of creative Torah:
• On a technical level, Orthodoxy will have to oppose ritual-creation because of בל תוסיף, the prohibition against adding to the Torah.
• On a historical level, Orthodoxy must oppose ritual-creation because we believe that Torah is Divine in origin; how, then, could we add new rituals (other than through the classic, Torah-sanctioned methods)?
• On a philosophical level, Orthodoxy finds ritual-creation problematic because Torah in itself is supposed to offer relevant ritual for all of us, through the generations. If I can’t find meaning in the Torah’s mitzvot, I view that as a lacking in me, not in the Torah.
I am not bothered by this lack of creativity; we have plenty of creativity in other ways, such as in our minhagim. But I am troubled by the way this often impacts our children’s education. In my opinion, too many parents spend time inculcating children in the negatives, which are relatively easy to implement and enforce, and miss out on teaching them the more challenging positives.
Example: Parents who teach their young children all about muktzeh prohibitions, but don’t sit down to learn the meaning and significance of kiddush and havdalah with them.
Example: Parents who teach their children the prohibitions of kashrut, but don’t review with them the more complex positives of eating, such as the meaning and message of berachot.
This is understandable, but troublesome. Our children need to see the positives and understand the “Do” aspects of Judaism, from a very young age. Without the positives, Judaism is a very restraining, constraining religion. The positives will help them grow as Jews, and find themselves in the Torah.