Monthly Archives: July 2009

Why I question

I am going to attempt to explain why I ask so many religious questions, and sometimes may seem like a renegade, when that is totally not who I am.

I went to a religious day school which taught us Judaism in a very dogmatic way. This is the way we Jews do things, and that’s it. No ifs ands or buts. Questioning the Rabbis was frowned upon. I was sent out of many a class for perceived chutzpah when in fact I just wanted to understand better.

I have been an orthodox Jew for all of my life, yet I feel there are huge gaps in my knowledge because we were not taught everything in school. The last 14 years I have been busy raising my kids and so many questions arose that I had no time to look into.

Now I have the time and the opportunity to seek answers to these questions. Many things I thought were halacha are minhag, and vice versa. I want to understand why we do what we do, what the reasons are for these customs and laws, how certain customs evolved. I do not seek, chas veshalom, to pour scorn on our esteemed rabbis and teachers, I seek to understand in order to improve my Avodat Hashem.

I do not aim to stir up dissent and disharmony amongst our people. On the contrary. However, being a sheep has never worked for me. I want to know why I have a mezuzah on my door, why my friend cannot obtain a Get, why my sons didn’t put tefillin on 9th Av shacharit. There is nothing wrong with asking why. There is nothing wrong with healthy discussion. I have learned so much from these discussions and I hope I helped others learn too. It doesn’t stop me from keeping all the mitzvoth, even if I do not yet understand each one. It just spurs me on to understand more.

Not a day goes by that I don’t partake in a religious discussion on Twitter with my “Jew Crew” (they objected to being called the G-d Squad). This week we discussed Chalitzah, not eating meat during the nine days and a whole host of other things. My education in my own religion is growing by leaps and bounds, because I DO ask the questions. I am not afraid to say “I don’t know something. Teach me, please.”

I am not a kofer (koferet?) by any stretch of the imagination. I have a profound thirst for knowledge and a deep and abiding hate of hypocrisy. That is why I question and sometimes criticize. But only because I want to be a better person and a better Jew.

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The Chains that Bind

(Cross posted on Dov Bear)Breaking-The-Chains-Of-Debt

I was pointed to this article in the Jewish Chronicle.  It is about a TV documentary that talks about the plight of Agunot – Jewish women whose husbands will not give them a Get, keeping them chained forever. Miriam Saleh, a mother of two sons, one of the women interviewed for the television show, is a religious woman. She tried desperately for 5 years to obtain her Get, only to be repeatedly disappointed. Finally, she went to a non-orthodox bet din to obtain her Get, as she had enough frustration and wanted to carry on with her life. Her religious observance has not changed, she is still devoted to Orthodox Judaism, but feels that it is misogynistic, at least in this regard.

I was fortunate enough to obtain my Get without a hitch. But what would I have done had I been in Ms Saleh’s situation? It is so hard for us to judge, but there will be those in her community who will now be doing just that. She is concerned she will be shunned because she is now speaking out about the unfairness of it all.

Kudos to her for doing what she needed to do to move on with her life. I feel so saddened that it took this long, and that it took so much out of her to get to this point. Is there nothing that can be done in this day and age to convince a recalcitrant spouse to grant his wife a divorce? This couple already have a civil divorce, what is the point of not granting the Get other than pure anger and resentment? Does he not want to carry on with his life? Should HE want to marry again, he would grant the Orthodox Get in a heartbeat.

What can be done to change this situation?

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Aliyah LeTorah

What is your shul’s minhag? Can you be called to the Torah if you are not wearing a hat, do you need to have your tallit over your head to say the brachot? Does your character even matter?

Seriously, folks, if someone is a known philanderer how can he be given an aliyah to the Torah? A guy who spent time in prison for selling kidneys or defrauding the government – is that who we should honour with an aliyah? Someone who beats his wife regularly – he can be called up too? So long as he wears a hat, it’s ok? But someone who is known for not keeping Shabbat, well, some RW shuls won’t call him up because he isn’t “frum”. Some may not even count him in a minyan, so I am told. If his kashrut is questionable – not him either. (This is based on what I have heard, not my own personal experiences).

The rabbis say that it is not for us to judge. That we will all be judged when we meet our Maker. But I say that’s baloney. If we are calling people up to the Torah there needs to be some kind of standard. If some can judge the dude who doesn’t keep Shabbat as not minyan worthy, why can’t we judge the wife beating philanderer not aliyah worthy?

What are the halachot concerning this issue? And for that matter, why can I not be called up to the Torah? I keep the mitzvoth. I happen to be a woman. So?

(ETA – I am not a renegade nor a rebel. I really don’t need nor want the kavod of a personal aliyah to the Torah. However, there are occasions when I deeply wish I could share fully in this mitzvah. For example, we have our son’s barmitzvah coming up – and all the important males in his life will be called to the Torah. This is one occasion where I would very much like to be a part of that, after all, it is I who raise him full time. I am not advocating for equality in the prayer services. (Heaven Forfend!!)  Just venting at a situation I cannot control.)

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If ever I forget thee Oh Jerusalem

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wednesday’s wacky signs


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The Club of the Tefillin Strappers

This morning, our second son, Squiggy, put on his tefillin in shul with a bracha for the first time. I did not expect to get emotional, but darn it, I am bursting with maternal pride. Watching him wind the straps around his arm, his father and his older brother watching and helping – it was a wonderful feeling and an awesome moment. Watching him daven with the menfolk all similarly tefillined – it’s like he has joined an exclusive club, one that will never have me as a member. But that’s fine. I’m quite happy not to have the obligation.

I watched as he unwrapped the tefillin with care, and slowly, painstakingly, wrapped the straps around his arm. It took a long while for him to be satisfied with how well he did the job. Then he moved on to the shel rosh, taking care not to mess up his hair. I got to watch him daven (through the mechitzah) and really shepped much yiddishe nachas! When it came time to put the tefillin away I watched the oldest take them off and wrap them up and put away in record time, but Squiggy took his time. I remember watching Lenny last year doing the same. I guess you do something day in day out you get better at it and more efficient.

We had a little l’chaim after shul – bagels and juice, nothing major, although there was scotch and vodka. I had none. At 7.30 in the morning?

It was just a perfect morning.

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Who on earth do you think you are?

If you want to know my business – ask me. I will tell you, or not. I will even tell you to your face that you have such bare faced cheek to ask me such questions. But at least you had the guts to ask ME.  Do not stoop so low as to ask my children for information about me. Do not pump the littlest dude coz you know you can get him to spill family secrets. That’s just lower than low. And anyway, what the heck is it your business? Am I up in your face with interrogations? Absolutely not. I couldn’t care less to know your private matters. If you choose to share such matters with me, fine, I will listen. But don’t expect the same kind of thing back from me. My private life is just that – private!

You mess with my kid, you’re messing with big momma. You have been warned.

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Dating WWYD

You met online. You have been speaking to each other on the phone for a week. Every night. Hours on end. He tells you without meeting you that he loves you. Is he full of it or do you think his declaration has merit? Do you tell him to get lost or does this comment pull you in deeper? Do you think a person can fall in love without actually meeting the object of his / her affections?

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The Same Religion?

This week my son will put on tefillin for the first time with a bracha. He will be barmitzvah a month after that. It is our family custom to start the boy off a month before so that by the time he is mechuyav he knows how to do it properly. Of course he has been practicing daily since he picked up his tefillin from the sofer. His older brother has helped him too – gets a little confusing as one is a rightie and the other a leftie.

I learned that Chabad starts the boys off two months before barmitzvah, and in some chassidishe places it is one week before. Now where on earth do we get such differing minhagim from? Isn’t it all the same Judaism? Does it really take a whole month to learn how to wind black leather straps around your arm seven times? And to do the horn thing with your fingers to make sure the shel rosh is properly placed?

Why do we have to practice? What else do we practice? And can you make a bracha when you are just practicing?

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Our Barmitzvah Invitation

(I got this as a forwarded email and I edited it to suit my purposes. It gave me quite a giggle. Hope it does the same for you. 😉 )

It is with great stress, emotional and physical fatigue and incredible financial sacrifice beyond comprehension,
that we invite you to join us as our wonderful son
Hopalong Squiggs
is called to the Torah as a Bar Mitzvah
Saturday, May 12th –

(yes we realize its Mother’s Day Weekend)

Temple Israel
14 Bailey Rd
Montreal  , Quebec
at the ungodly hour of 9 am

Even though you don’t really need to be there until 10:20 a.m. to catch the real action

If you make it through the 3-hour service, please skip the kiddush (it’s just cookies and cake) and join us instead for the ostentatious luncheon meal

(Kosher, got to do that to keep the natives happy),

which starts at 1 PM, (not 2 PM.. or you will miss out on the 2,000 canapes)

Fancy Shmancy Country Club
2500 Cote De Liesse
Montreal , Quebec H3S
(which we had to join just for this event  and you would not believe the initiation fees)

Please have the courtesy of showing up if you RSVP that you are attending,or you will be billed for $210.00 a plate if you are a no-show.

Please RSVP as soon as you get this and not a day before the
cut-off date. I can’t take the stress.

The gift of choice is either green, or contains a routing and account number

Hope you can make it!

The assorted parents and step-parents and grandparents of the aforementioned kid.

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