Thursday, April 28, 2005

Ham on Matzah and Other Stories of Secular Jews

Ok, not to sound elitist or anything, but why would anyone think she has to keep Passover and not eat bread but think it's ok to eat the cheeseburger - so long as it doesn't have bread?

And I'm not kidding about the ham on matzah either - someone told me her father does it.

And these are not the only incidents I've had of people who I know don't keep kosher or shabbos or anything remotely related to Judaism that feel a need to refrain from bread on Pesach (and the need to go to shul on Yom Kippur probably).

What does that mean? Is it an extention of the Haskalah, but now insted of being a Jew at home and a mentsch outside you're a Jew twice a year and a goy the rest? I just don't get it! I'm not saying it's bad to do mitzvot or bad not to be perfect or any of that, but why do you think you can disregard all the commandments except two? I don't think that Judaism is an all-or-nothing deal; if it were we'd all be in trouble, but I also think Judaism is about more than matzah and white non-leather sneakers.


At 4/28/05, 10:41 PM, Blogger Jack's Shack said...

It is a little more complex than that. Some of this can be related to whether you believe in Hashem. If you do not, than it is easy to pick and choose what you want.

And even if you do it can be tough to just accept everything that is spoonfed to you. Minhag versus halacha makes a big difference.

But even beyond this, there is a huge question of education. Some things are very obvious, but many people know about Kashrut but very little about the details.

In short some do not even know enough to recognize that they are doing something wrong.

At 4/29/05, 8:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not everyone accepts that the commandments are from God. Many (non-Orthodox, of course) Jews believe that the Torah was written by people thousands of years ago for the world they lived in then. We are not concerned with following rules, but in what we believe the general spirit of Judaism is -- things like tikkun olam, caring for the poor and needy, creating a community.

Passover is a tradition which commemorates a historical/mythical event and matzo is symbolic of part of Judaism's cultural identity. While many don't eat pork because of the traditional prohibition, some prefer to do just the symbolic activities, which we find more meaninful. To understand this viewpoint, you need to put yourself in others' heads.

At 4/29/05, 12:42 PM, Anonymous leati said...

I think it's fantastic that some people who don't keep anything but take upon themselves the mitzva of not eating chametz over pesach. According to their lifestyle, they're only Jewish by blood. We "suffer" for a week without the chametz, think of it how much more difficult they find it when they probably don't even know why they're doing it. It just shows no one is a helpless case. I don't know how much browine points they're getting 'up there' but it's definitely counted. It's a tiny step, but at least it's something.

At 4/29/05, 12:46 PM, Blogger Eli7 said...

I understand people who don't believe in God and so don't do anything, or even people who believe in God and not the valididty of the mitzvot. I dont' agree with them, but I do understand where they're coming from.

I do not understand people who pick and choose - like either they're from God and you should strive to do 'em all, or they're not and you shouldn't care. The middle-ground makes no sense to me.

I think you're right, Jack, that there's an element of education, but these were people who acknowledged the fact that what they were doing was sacreligious but were okay with that.

And anon, if you're going to do only the symbolic and cultural, I get that. Eating matzah, fine, but depriving yourself of chamtetz for eight days is not culturally significant, is it? Since when was suffering and deprevation and starvation (ok, I'm being a lil melodramatic) cultral?

At 4/29/05, 12:47 PM, Blogger Eli7 said...

Leati, thanks for putting a positive spin to it! You're definitely right.

At 5/2/05, 4:49 AM, Blogger The Rabbi's Kid said...


It's a complex situation. SOme people are 3-times a year Jews but mega-machmir on Pesach. I put it down to a combination of guilt, heritage and tradition.

ALso, remember there are many Jews who believe in G-d but don't accept or don't understand Halachic process the way we do.


At 5/4/05, 11:33 AM, Blogger Shoshana said...

As someone who grew up keeping very little, but hanging on by a thread to a few things, here are two points:

1) Some view things like being more careful on Pesach or going to shul on Yom Kippur as the little traditional ties they were taught, many don't know much more than that. But they want to stay connected somehow and that is how they do it.

2) Instead of viewing it as disregarding all commandments except for two, why not view it as keeping two commandments, rather than discarding everything?

At 5/4/05, 2:03 PM, Blogger TRW said...

Someone was discussing this phenomonenon at my table this Pesach, and one of the things that was mentioned was kind of a spiritual trickle-down.

Frum Jews are super super machmir for the Yamim Nora'im and Pesach. We're extremely careful with what we do, how we act, what we buy around this time.

For days like Shabbos, which is so central to Judaism yet so frequent, we're a little less careful, and so the spiritual waves aren't so charged. People who are generally apathetic therefore wouldn't be so affected by it.

If we all really understood how important Shabbos was, I think we'd be living in a different world by now....

At 12/31/06, 7:51 AM, Blogger Shiri said...

gosh, that's so funny... I am a (somewhat) secular Jew, who tries to observe Shabbos, Yom Kippur, and no bread on Pesach. It never seizes to amaze me how Orthodox men, who are 100 times more observant than me, have no problem with sex outside marriage. I recently talked to an orthodox guy, studying in Yeshiva in Jerusalem and cohabiting with a girl for 2 years and not regretting it in the least, and planning on doing it again. and again. with different girls. But hey, he studies Talmud for hours!
I guess orthodox people would protect him and say "he does what he can, the best he can - at least he's trying". Maybe the same type of logic should be applied to seculars who are occasionally observant?
And as for believes, yes I do believe in God of course. But it's impossible for me to accept, that a man, who was openly promiscous (by our modern standard... 25 wives + 1 would-be wife. Or 900 wives.) is somehow morally superior to me or my contemporaries. Moreover, these men were considered prophets! God couldn't have possibly been so terribly biased against women and promoting such social injustices. So, I think Torah was greatly inspired by God, but still fruit of man's brain. Therefore, I "pick and choose" as you put it.


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