Daily Archives: July 31, 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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