Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Confessions of a Fence-Straddling, Long-Skirt-Wearing Gal

Whenever anyone asks me how I label myself religiously, my standard response is that I straddle the fence between modern orthodox and ultra orthodoxy. But the truth is, I’m not really sure what that means.

Does it mean having newspaper meetings until 15 minutes before Shabbos so that I make Shabbos but just in time? And never mind workplace handshakes (I’ve never been brave enough to go a la Rav Orlofsky and say “I don’t believe in premarital handshaking”), but does it mean letting guys hug me because it would be too awkward to explain negiah? Does it mean going to parties even for just a few minutes where there is drinking and I won’t feel comfortable? Does it mean pulling successive all-nighters during the week and then sleeping straight through Shabbos? Constantly struggling to daven even the bare minimum? Saying every time I go shopping, "If I weren't frum, I would buy that [pair of jeans/dress/short skirt/tank top]"? Choosing a profession I love even though it will make parts of Judaism (like raising the family I don't have yet) incredibly hard?

I’m not saying any of those things are wrong or right, only that they are things I don’t want to be doing, things that are inconsistent with the type of Jewish lifestyle I would like to have. Okay, maybe that means I’m saying they’re wrong.

A scientist by training told me at a Shabbat meal recently that he couldn’t understand people who believe in global warming but not evolution (i.e., a good number of frum Jews) because you can’t say you believe in part of science. To him, that means you don’t believe in science at all. Maybe that’s true, but, to me, science doesn’t have anything on God. And, to me, that’s what orthodoxy means—believing in, and acting on, the priority and primacy of God over all else.

And, well, I’m not sure I’ve been doing a particularly good job of that. Sure, you say, I keep Shabbos. I daven most of the time. Brachas, check. Long skirts and long sleeves and high necks, check. Starving myself at work lunches where I can’t eat anything because of kashrut, check. But I’ve been cutting corners where I shouldn’t be, picking and choosing when I don’t believe that’s an option, and that worries me. And I know how self-righteous this may sound, but I also know that I am not incredibly pleased with where I've been standing religiously, long skirts and all.

What now, then? Can I go on doing what I’ve been doing now that I’ve publicly confessed and have thus been alleviated of my guilt (maybe the Catholics were on to something)? Can I pretend, now that I’ve done my requisite religious pondering, that I’m fine? I really I hope I don't.


At 6/27/07, 7:47 PM, Blogger Lichvod Shabbat Kodesh said...

Quite candid, Eli7. Lehavdil big time, reminds me of that Spec feature on Mental Health where the Opinion Editor went full disclosure, even though here you don't seem to be struggling nearly as much as her...I think that modesty is actually your biggest statement to values that challenge you...

In any event, for sure since the Hasmonean rule in Judea, and through the Romans and the exile that followed, Jews have had it much worse than today. Today, Jews actually have rights in the workplace and no subjugation (at least agree with me, relatively).

Also, I have a friend from Princeton who is working on a project of compiling essays from Orthodox Jewish students at secular universities about their religious experiences. Do you want me to gmail you more info?

At 6/28/07, 1:04 PM, Blogger Scraps said...

Wow...you really do have a flair for self-examination, I must say. Sometimes, I feel the same way...I dress a certain way, but do I always live up to the picture I paint of myself? No. And sometimes I meet people who, for all that they don't "look" as frum as me, they put me to shame. I gotta make my insides match my outsides...


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