Religion & Beliefs
What the hell am I? I mean, I hate labels for labels’ sake just as much as the next guy. But sometimes they’re really useful. Like "cat" and "dog," for instance. If someone tells you they have a pet … Read More
What the hell am I?
I mean, I hate labels for labels’ sake just as much as the next guy. But sometimes they’re really useful. Like "cat" and "dog," for instance. If someone tells you they have a pet dog, you know what you’re in for when you come to visit them. It works for Jewish denominations, too. Mostly. When you say Reform or Conservative or Reconstructionist, everyone knows what you mean. But Orthodoxy is, well, kind of a mess.
I grew up in Crown Heights, see, back when Lubavitch was at its non-crazy height. J.J. Hecht was my brother’s sandek, for crying out loud. But my family was a little different. We went to public school. Watched television. Went *gasp* to the movies on occasion. Apparently, as I found out later, these are things that "the Ultra-Orthodox" don’t do. Which is weird, because if you’d asked me then (and depending on the day, if you ask me now) I’d say I was "ultra-orthodox." I black hat for Shabbat, wear a gartel, wrap Ashkenaz but wear Rabbenu Tam. Then the Rebbe went and died and everyone flipped out and said he was coming back from the dead. Which was slightly embarrassing, because now everyone [i.e., the world] was wondering, One: What was the difference between Judaism and Christianity now, and Two: What was taking the Rebbe so long, since it only took their guy three days.
So we left Crown Heights and came to Midwood. I was underwhelmed. Of course, having been here for about 15 years now, although I still remember the Tehilat Hashem siddur like the back of my hand, the actual ideological conflicts I had have blurred into a general list of don’t likes. I think Midwood skirts are too short and too tight. I think there’s not enough beards. Why are guys dyeing their hair? Those straw holders on the lulav where you just insert the haddassim and aravot aren’t machmir enough. I hate when kedushah is sung to the tune of "Star Wars" on Simchat Torah. Why are you reading newspapers on Shabbat? Eruv? Really? Why? Can we NOT talk in knesset about the ballgame last night that you magically happened to see? (Which, best case scenario, I hope you caught because you put a timer on your television.)
However, this newfound so-called "Modern-Orthodoxy" wore colored suits. Went to college. Watched movies. Knew what a "Crunch" bar was. (Although I gotta admit, I’ve still got a soft spot for "Milk Munch.") But with their modernity they were still Torah-observant. So then I thought, "Hey, maybe I’ve never been Ultra-Orthodox. Maybe I’m Modern Orthodox." So I adopted this for a while in college…Until I ran into some MOs synagogues that had mixed seating, or people who would eat in non-kosher restaurants, but just the salad. Huh? Ok, so scratch that.
For a quick second I thought "religious" or "observant" were going to be my new default answers…Then realized that Senator Joseph Can’t-Really-Recall-A-Picture-Where-He’s-Ever-Wearing-A-Kippah Leiberman also called himself "observant," and Evan and Jaron were "religious." (Please, you know that "Crazy For This Girl" is somewhere in the bowels of your iPod, too. Don’t front.) Anyhoo, those two also went out the window. Hell, while researching for this article, I stumbled across "Shomer Mitzvot" as a new Orthodox term. Of course, I don’t know what mitzvot that means you’re shomer about.
I don’t really have a conclusion here, because I don’t really have an answer. So I guess I’m just Orthodox. What kind? Neo-ultra-modern-orthodox. Or something.