Sunday, July 31, 2005

The new Qumran community

In case you can’t guess by looking at the dates of these posts, I’ve been thinking about this for quite a while. (Please note that many of these quotes are excerpts, shortened in the interest of keeping my readers from falling asleep.) I must admit, though, that all this was brought to a head recently by two things. One was this discussion,, concerning, among other things, "feel-good Judaism" and the belief in the "commandedness" of the commandments , on Golda Leah's blog, "Go West, Young Jew." This probably tracks back not only to a post concerning the authorship of the Zohar on DovBear's blog, but, also, to his Monday, June 20, 2005 post, "How was the kiddush?"( about Miriam Shaviv's Sunday, June 19, 2005 post, "In which I get hagba," (at a Women's Tefillah/prayer group) (, and all the responses to both her post and his. (What goes around comes around. :) ) One of the many questions raised was not only whether one must "believe" in order to "do" (perform mitzvot/commandments), but whether doing a mitzvah because it's commanded necessarily precludes doing a mitzvah because one gets enjoyment or meaning from doing it. The other thing was my current dispute with my Conservative synagogue's Orthodox rabbi. I recently told him that I thought that his approach to Judaism could be summarized in five words: "They're out to get us." "Can't you ever talk about the beauty of Judaism? Can't you ever talk about anything Jewish that's fun?"

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

One down, five to go

My oldest son moved out of the house last week.

Although I didn't realize it until after he was gone.

He moved into Yeshiva. People living in New York or Chicago don't really understand what it's like to live someplace like Milwaukee. We have only one Orthodox (or Jewish, for that matter) High School, and it's a Chofetz Chaim dorming school. If your kid doesn't get in, or if you don't feel comfortable with the school, you have a choice of sending him to Public School or out of town. We were fortunate enough to have him accepted here. But he still has to dorm, and he's allowed out (?Furlough) once every 3 weeks.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Trip Up

Traveling for Yomtov to the Rebbe is another one of those Chassid things I just don’t understand. Did the old tzaddikim never envisage what the effect would be on a girl growing up in a family where the father is never home Yomtov?

Not every chassidus (Chassidic sect) is equally notorious for being family Yomtov poopers it has to be said. Some chassidi no longer encourage the very long Yomtov trips, invariably undertaken by young heralds on their own. The damsels are left at home to fend for the hearth- and that should be read literally, with the hearth holding a fair few toddlers too. Only one notable exception still has young men coming for three even four weeks to immerse themselves totally in the loving embrace of the group, yet I believe most still encourage their adherents at least to prove it over Rosh Hashana or Yom Kippur.

I have to steel myself not to cringe when I see some of those Rebbe-widows forlornly standing there outside shul after davening, waiting for a nebbich of a thirteen-year-old boy whose job it is to be the Man in the house for Yomtov. As a thirteen-year-old girl once told me “We never have a Yomtov meal except when we are invited out. My mother does not bother when my father is not there ¶ 9/7/2004

Tuesday, September 21, 2004
Yom Kippur is a Family Holiday

I remember days gone by when the family was the crown jewel of Judaism…

Here in Israel the educational dogma of the religious education establishment is that a son's (not a daughter's of course) religious experiences are too important to be left of the parents. This is most clear during the Yamim Noraim (High Holidays) where boys in yeshivot are forced to stay in their yeshivot for Yom Kippur and often for Rosh Hashanah, too.

Yom Kippur is too important to a boys' life, the thinking goes, to be left to his father and his community – he must experience the true Judaism, the one of the Beit Midrash. The Judaism of the kehilla and the families that make it up, well, that Judaism it seems is not genuine, not authentic enough.

[Note: It's important that those of you who are not acquainted with the Out of Step Jew from K'far Saba, quoted above, be aware that he's a Modern Orthodox Jew who's in favor of Women's Tefilla (prayer) Groups and has complained bitterly about how difficult it is to get his daughter a Jewish education equal to the one being provided by the school system to her twin brother. So, when he said, "not a daughter's of course," he was both being sarcastic and making a statement against sexist attitudes in the Orthodox community.]

Sunday, October 17, 2004
Ai du

The Torah is all for the marriage unit. The classical English translation of one of the first mentions of man reads; “…therefore a man shall leave his mother and father and cleave to his wife and they shall be as one flesh”. Apart from the fact that ‘cleave’ is hardly the word I would have chosen as the translation for ‘Vedubak’, there is no word in Hebrew for spouse so the question as to whether that works both ways remains open.

What interests me more is the cleaving part. It seems that the Torah expects the couple to love and cherish each other in a way that is hardly possible within the rules and regulations we put out as law. The male of the species typically sits in kollel or goes to work for most of the day while the other half either works or looks after the king-size brood. In the evenings, most males will go back to shul after supper for Mincha Maariv (evening services) and are encouraged to learn some Torah then. When you remember that maariv in the summer can be as late as 11pm. it is clear that there is not much time left for cleaving.With Yomtovs at the Rebbe taking a further bite out of any quality time and the separation of the sexes at weddings and functions now starting at the car park I sometimes wonder whether some of these couples would recognize their ‘other’ in a crowd.. . .

In my opinion it is some of the elders’ obsession with visual temptation that is stifling the cleaving of many young families. I do not believe that the generations before us, where couples walked home from shul together, went together to sheva brachot and barmitzvas, that were celebrated at home and in rooms with no mechitza (partition wall between men and women), were more likely to cleave with the wrong mate than we who are so well insulated from any potential pitfalls. Nor do I believe that the reason five year old girls are no longer allowed to enter the men’s shul even on Simchat Torah is because there is a real problem of anyone being led astray by their good looks. I have never noticed any risk of cleavage with a five-year-old girl and if the strict segregation we practice leads to impure thoughts about kids then it might be high time we abolished either the rules or the kids ¶ 10/17/2004

So let me summarize:

In some Orthodox circles—both Yeshivish and Chassidic—being home with your family for the Yamim Yoraim (High Holidays) is considered not to be a good thing (assuming that you're male, as OOSJ was saying).

In some locations, teenage Orthodox boys who live within easy commuting distance of a boarding-school yeshiva are, nevertheless, not only not allowed to live at home, they’re also actually forbidden to spend Shabbos (Sabbath) with their families, except for once every three weeks. (Mark, please correct me if I’ve misunderstood.) In my head, I can hear the Yeshivah Diapora Band singing "Shabbat Shalom, it's nice to be at home." Are those days gone forever?

In some Orthodox circles, it’s a wonder that husbands and wives even have enough time alone together to, well, act like husbands and wives.

Over approximately the past year and a half, I’ve read, mostly on other Jewish blogs, that the following items have been declared either treif (not kosher, forbidden to eat or drink) or in need of much closer inspection for bugs: broccoli, New York City tap water, onions, strawberries, asparagus, and corn on the cob.

Is Orthodox Judaism turning into a religion of semi-monastic asceticism? Are Orthodox parents fulfilling the commandment to be fruitful and multiply only to have their children taken away from them at the most important points of the Jewish calendar, namely, Shabbatot (Sabbaths) and holidays? Are Orthodox married couples who obey all the strictures against illicit contact between the sexes being placed in such a position that even permissible contact is, shall we say, hard to come by? In ten years, will the Chareidi community be living on bread and (bottled) water?

Recently heard: An Orthodox college student, on hearing the opening guitar segment of a Jewish rock song, stated categorically, “That’s not kosher” without even waiting to hear the lyrics.

“How can it not be kosher? He’s singing from Yishayah (Isaiah)!

Isn't there a midrash (rabbinical interpretative story) saying that HaShem's going to ask whether a new arrival in Olam Habah (the World to Come) took advantage of all permissible pleasures? For heaven's sake—literally—Psalm 100, verse 2, says "Ivdu et HaShem b'simcha, serve G-d in gladness!!!" Are the words of David HaMelech (King David) himself not good enough for us anymore?


Blogger PsychoToddler said...

I'm not in a position to speak for the Yeshiva, but I think it's less of an issue of keeping him away from his parents, and more of an issue of there being something they can teach him on Shabbos as well, and he can't get that if he's not there.

As to your other comments, yes, I worry that Orthodoxy is becoming "Taliban Judaism," as one of my favorite Rabbis tends to say.

Mon Aug 01, 11:45:00 AM 2005  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Well, I certainly hope you're right. I will admit that it sounds to me (and the Punster, as well) as if the kid's being let out every 3 weeks for good behavior.

You've used the word "Talibanization" before. Truth to tell, I avoided it for fear of being inflammatory or offensive. On the other hand, I will admit that I wonder whether it wouldn't be a bit uncomfortably closer to the truth to describe this as "Satmarization." As I once said to the Out of Step Jew from K'far Saba on the subject of what appears to be the "endangered species" status of Modern Orthodoxy Jewry, "Hungarians 1, Yekkes 0."

Mon Aug 01, 09:35:00 PM 2005  
Blogger PsychoToddler said...

I didn't come up with the term, but it fits. And BTW my friend is an orthodox black hat rabbi, but he's cool and i wish there were more like him. I use the term for people who think Judaism should be "All Torah All the Time" and anything else is evil, including books, tv, internet, games, music...pretty much anything that you might "enjoy" outside of the bais medresh.

That's not what I signed up for.

Tue Aug 02, 08:23:00 PM 2005  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

It's distressing to me that some people seem to think that it's assur/forbidden to enjoy life. Judging by the complaints I've read about this on other blogs, you're certainly not the only one who feels that this attitude is "not what s/he signed up for."

Tue Aug 02, 10:15:00 PM 2005  

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