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Archive for the ‘Politics and Culture’ Category

This post at Dear Diaspora seems particularly timely (it’s a bit old, but timely for me anyway) and addressed some of what I touched on in my earlier post today. About how to deal with those parts of Torah teaching that feel, for lack of a better word, abhorrent. She writes, in one section, “as Hillel famously said, ‘What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary.’ Looking at it through that lens, one might even conclude that being horrified by what is horrifying is actually the point.”

I think that is part of what I was driving at in my last post, when I said that you had to read the Torah but listen to the voice of G-d in your heart, because I do think it is the voice of G-d we are hearing when we study and something whispers, “Wow, that’s really hateful. How about some love and kindness for your fellow travelers instead.” or when we recoil in shame or horror at what others do in the name of religion. I’d take it a step further. What is hateful to you, do not do to your self. I’ve always held that the whole Golden Rule thing included the Self in the folks you were supposed to be doing unto.

Anyway, it’s a good post. Check it out. Another one I like from her is this post about what people would like to see Judaism become or evolve into.

She asks some questions which I will probably work into a whole ‘nother post or series of posts as I work through the process of answering them, because I think they are really worth thinking about:

– What do you like about Judaism and Jewish culture? What do you dislike?

– Why are Judaism and Jewish culture important? Why is it important to preserve them?

– What is your relationship with Judaism as a religion? Do you feel connected to Judaism? To a temple community, to a minyan, to a study group? If not, would you like to be?

– Are you affiliated with any of the movements? Which one, and why? If not, why not? What do you like and/or dislike about it?

– How observant are you? How important is observance to you? How observant should others be? Are some kinds of observance more important than others?

– What practices or ideas are most central to your Jewish identity? (i.e. eating bagels, loving books, celebrating the High Holidays, not celebrating Christian holidays, keeping kosher, fighting for justice, etc.)

– Ideally, what will Judaism and Jewish culture look like in 10 years? In 25 years? In 100 years?

– What are most critical issues for the Jewish community to address right now? Israel, intermarriage, declining synagogue attendance, something else entirely?

– What are the key qualities for Judaism/Jewish culture to embody or functions for it to perform?

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A little dissonance…

this is such a difficult thing to read about, especially since earlier this week I was reading about how during Jerusalem’s Pride was disrupted by death threats and curses from the Ultra-Orthodox. I am so saddened by this. I believe, emphatically and totally, that such violence and hatred is wrong. I don’t know how anyone can become so hateful and twisted in the name of G-d.

I am finding this issue a stumbling block on my road to becoming baal teshuva. There’s a huge part of me that asks how I can affiliate myself with a religion that hates. That part of me struggles every day. Does the religion itself hate? Or is it just some hate filled people who identify as Jewish? I know that many Jews do not hate the GLBT community, but some do. Enough seem to. Many temples say they are “inclusive” but the ones I have found are all Reform. Can modern orthodoxy or the conservative movement co-exist with being GLBT friendly? Do those two things have to be mutually exclusive? Why on earth would they be?

Because here’s the deal – I am and believe a lot of things that appear to be huge no-no’s to the religious Jewish community… I am unwilling to hide who and what I am or what I think, for the sake of appearances. I can give up pork, I can give up shellfish, I can cover my hair and study the Torah, but I will never give up the fundamental ethics that make me who I am or the parts of my Self that don’t fit Judaism. I will evolve, but the foundation of my identity is what it is. If a community can’t handle it, then it is the wrong community for me.

Am I just barking up the wrong tree after fairy dust, here?

How do Christians handle it? There’s a huge swath of their faith that hates the GLBT community too, yet there are many GLBT friendly churches and individuals. How do they reconcile being part of the same faith as haters? How do queer Christians reconcile being part of a faith that seems to hate them? Are there queer Modern Orthodox? Are they all in hiding?

Is the lesson for me here that if I am going to progress, I cannot care what other people think? Or say? Is the lesson that I must progress in my own way, according to what feels right, and damn the haters? Can you pick and choose? There are some who say no. Some who say, sure, why not? I’m of the mind that I’m going to have to, or else I’ll never get any farther than I am right now.

It is a bit of a crisis of identity, I think. I am struggling to grow into a new religious and spiritual identity, but it has to be one I can reconcile with my core identity, the person who I have grown to be over the last 40 years.

I am reading a book by Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson. He writes, “In a famous passage, the Book of Proverbs lauds the ‘Woman of Valor’ because she opens her mouth with wisdom and on her tongue is Torat besed, a Torah of love. The description poses a curious dilemma. Doesn’t the mention of a Torah of besed, of steadfast love or loving kindness, imply that there is a Torah that is not of love? Can there be a Torah where loving kindness does not rule” (xviii) He goes on to talk about how the parts of Torah that are troubling to us are the ones that really challenge us to learn the most deeply, to ask ourselves the spiritual and ethical questions that make us grow (paraphrased). I think, if the word of G-d is written down in Torah, maybe the living voice of G-d is speaking to our hearts while we are learning and thinking. And I wonder if maybe other Jews sometimes feel like the two are not saying the same thing and strive to find harmony in the middle of some very dissonant and conflicted issues.

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