Thursday, September 04, 2008

Ruttenberg's "Surprised by God": Book review on 1 foot

Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg's Surprised by God: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Religion is a memoir of her voyage of self-discovery from atheist to ordained Conservative rabbi. She speaks often of spiritual practice, to which my own wry reaction is that my personal observance is much heavier on the practice than on the spiritual--I'm not prepared to do the kind of soul-searching that she's put herself through to come out a better person. (It probably doesn't help that I'm a bit of an agnostic, which makes dealing with the G-d idea a bit tricky.) I suppose that that's why my own person favorite quote from her book is, of all things, "There's a sort of machismo that permeates many religious communites that depicts religious practice as sort of an extreme sport." (Page 195) This reminds me of one of the favorite lines of a former rabbi of mine: "No matter how kosher you are, there's always someone who's more kosher than you."

Ruttenberg is now not only ordained, but also married to ". . . a secular Israeli, of all things." (Page 220) I mention this only because, as I said to my husband, "And you think we have a tough time with the 'non-interference clause'!" The two of us have had literally decades of practice in learning to live peaceably with different levels of observance under one roof. which we manage by allowing each other to be as observant or non-observant as we choose, provided that the non-observance of one of us doesn't interfere with the observance of the other. (For example, the one who eats non-kosher meat can do so in the presence of the other, provided that non-kosher meat is never brought into our home.) I would think that maintaining a 'non-interference clause' would be a lot trickier if one of us were a rabbi.

Related: "Too Jewish," or "you gotta represent" (a somewhat more lighthearted look at how one spouse's observance affects the other's.)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"No matter how kosher you are, there's always someone who's more kosher than you."

Presumably, somebody sufficiently religious would not feel the need to measure their religiousness against other peoples'. In which case the comment ceases to be relevant, except as an expression by this rabbi that he/she is insecure about his/her own level of religiousness.

Sun Sep 07, 10:06:00 AM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Eric, I think insecurity is the name of the game. That's the only explanation I see for the rightward turn of Modern Orthodoxy--my impression is that many in the Modern camp are constantly looking over their shoulders and letting the Yeshivish and Chareidim communities tell their what chumrot (extra stringencies) they should be observing, lest they be suspected of being less Orthodox than the next person.

Mon Sep 08, 07:03:00 AM 2008  
Blogger rings said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Thu Sep 18, 05:43:00 AM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Nice try, but this is *my* blog (not *your* billboard). If you want advertising space, you'll have to pay for it.

Thu Sep 18, 06:48:00 AM 2008  

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