Saturday, June 23, 2007


Why Another Blog, you ask? Especially when you get barely any readers on the other one? Vanity, I suppose. My present blog is useful for many things, but I decided I wanted to have another space that could be slightly more contemplative, down to earth, and consist of other things besides yelling at people on the Internet. Also I had come up with the name about a month ago and was dying for the chance to use it.

Who I am: You might say I've got some Jewish baggage. For various reasons (some mentioned before), I was raised in a totally nonobservant home as, essentially, a marginally cultural Jewish atheist. We had a mezuzah on our door, did Hanukkah every year and a few times went to some seders, and that was it. In high school I started going to a friend's Reform shul for High Holidays, much to the bemusement of my thoroughly secular parents. My father used to tell me to "go pray for the rest of us."

In high school I became interested in Hasidism, though, for reasons which will become clearer, I never seriously considered becoming frum (not that this has stopped my family from frequently freaking out at the slightest mention or indication of me doing anything Jewish).

So where does a former atheist (I thought the Messiah, like an afterlife, was an exclusively Christian thing)-turned firm agnostic (my honest opinion is that us limited humans can never truly know whether God's out there or not, we simply don't have the capacity) turn?

I knew from the start that, despite major attractions to the culture (and, in some ways, the communities) of Orthodox Judaism, I would never want to be Orthodox, because the truth is that I don't care about halakha. It just isn't something that moves me. I think a lot of it, frankly, is downright stupid, and while I respect observant Jews' right to do things their way, have no interest in following their lead. This, to a lesser degree, is the same problem I have with Conservative Jews- I understand their process, but the necessity of needing to rewrite or interpret halakha is, again, not something that concerns me. My eating shrimp (and if I have anything to say about it, I'll die eating dim sum or sushi) is not going to be determined by a vote of rabbis, it's just not. I like it and see no good reason to act otherwise. If I honestly believed that eating treif was a sin at all (which I don't), much less one so serious it could land me in whatever hell-construct Jews are threatening each other with this week.

So what about Reform? Well, I suppose ideologically, I fall somewhere on the Reform-Reconstructionist spectrum, with the one thorny point being that during college I started going to a monthly Carlebach-style minyan, which I absolutely loved. I loved the Hebrew, I loved the singing, it was just fantastic.

Problems: I don't speak, read, or understand Hebrew. One of my most treasured Jewish possessions is the transliterated Kabbalat Shabbat a Hebrew-literate friend wrote for me. Hopefully this will be something I can address in the future.

So I like Hebrew, and while I'm intruiged by Hasidism, I'm not particularly interested in pretending to be a hippy-dippy pseudo-mystic. If you want to talk mysticism, let's sit around with some friends and talk about how godamn trippy the Zohar is- I spent a year doing that, and it was great fun. But I'm looking for a place that moves my heart without insulting my brain. Reform autonomy is great, but I'm not looking for something that feels so watered-down as to be meaningless. (To be fair, some of this is probably projection from friends of mine with poor views of Reform.)

The one big wake-up call on this I had at a particular Reform shul that, almost from the very beginning I set foot in, just felt so wrong. It was all of the negative stereotypes about Reform being "churchy" without even the anthropological interest that would have come from an actual High Reform service. The straw that broke the camel's (me) back (brain) was when the rabbi delivered his drash on the bimah without a yarmulke on.

Talking with my friend on the way from the shul- "They can do whatever they want, and intellectually I know it shouldn't make a damn bit of difference to me, but... it just was so weird!"

Then there's Recon and Renewal. Haven't investigated them so much at the moment, but pretty interested- though again, my preference would be for interesting and meaningful "folk-ways" (which is a much more attractive and intellectually honest way of viewing traditions and mitzvot since anything I'm doing I'm CHOOSING to do anyway, not being commanded to) as opposed to hippy-dippy-ness or something ripped off from the Buddhists down the street.

Now, for the biggest wrinkle. My dear, dear, Shiska Girlfriend. Love her dearly, hoping to spend many, many years with her. She was raised a nominal Christian (one of the saner sects of Protestants) but would have been a U.U. if I hadn't snagged her into coming with me to the Carlebach minyan, which she also liked quite a bit. She doesn't plan to convert anytime soon, if ever. Fair enough. What's important to me is living a Jewish life and having a Jewish family and home (on my, not Rabbi Amar's, terms).

So join us, why not, on our amusing tale of shul-hopping. We hope to entertain, and eventually, find a spiritual home that works for us.

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