Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Thoughts Of A Young Woman Who Doesn't Like To Miss An Episode Of Madam Secretary

Somehow, some way I accidentally [everything is from Hashem but some things SEEM accidental] stumbled upon this article from the Stern College newspaper which I found incredibly insulting and condescending to an entire large community of girls. Here is the article in italics interspersed my comments. This is nothing personal against the author because a - I don't know her personally. And b - If would would know her personally I would almost definitely like her because I like just about everyone I meet - even those whose values [or lack thereof] are counter to everything I would die for... I omitted her name for this reason and if she reads this [I have learned that my writings travel far and wide] - nothing personal, really. I am sure you are better than I am in many ways. But the pen [and keyboard] is very powerful and it is critical that good, frum girls be encouraged and not mocked. There is NO GREATER GROUP of young women in the world than Orthodox Jewish women. They are - as a group - pure, sincere, bright, idealistic, modest and sweet. This article is a terrible misportrayal [I don't think that is a word but now it is:-)].   

It’s a Monday afternoon. I sit in the cafeteria, drinking my second cup of coffee for the day and catching up on the latest episode of Madam Secretary [wasn't ever zoche to see that:(] that I missed the night before. As I take a sip, I look around at my surroundings. Everywhere I look, I see the “same” girls sitting down, eating their salads, talking about the stereotypical young, Jewish girl issues—their GPAs, who is dating whom and which girl from their seminary just got engaged or married. It shouldn’t bother me that they are all dressed alike, but for some reason, it does. There’s nothing that seems strikingly different about each girl I glance at, although I’m sure there’s something there if I took the time to talk to them.

What should they talk about? Young girls talk about young girls issues. And they are NOT all dressed alike. Very religious BOYS and MEN dress all alike, not women. What she means is that they are all dressed modestly. And OF COURSE they are all different.. Just like all religious men are different even though they all dress alike.  

It seems to be a recurring theme that not one girl in the Orthodox Jewish community is different from one another—emphasis on the word seems. It seems like they are all Bio majors, looking to get the grant for Stern College students at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. They all seem to worry about their best friends getting engaged before they do. They all seem to want to be the picture-perfect “Good Orthodox Jewish girl,” but failing to adhere to all the rules, although they give the impression that they are upholding them. But is it so wrong to not be the perfect person? Is it alright to be a little unorthodox while still maintaining your values?

They are NOT all Bio majors looking to get a grant to go to Einstein. They are NOT all worried about their best friend getting engaged before them. Many of them daven for their friends to get married [it is called עין טובה]. They are all trying to keep the tradition and yes - there is something VERY WRONG with being unorthodox because that means compromising your values. That is what one does when she watches soul and mind polluting television shows.  

I start to think about who I am inherently. I grew up in a Modern Orthodox home, with a TV and access to movies and theater. I went to a Modern Orthodox yeshiva for my formative school years. My father received semicha when I was seventeen, so I am technically a rabbi’s daughter. I am shomer shabbat and shomer kashrut. Although my twin brother studied in Israel for the year, I chose to go straight to college, something that some people in Yeshiva University can’t fathom doing. I have my struggles with trying to figure out what religious level of Judaism I choose to live by, something that ironically didn’t start until I came to Stern. I choose to wear pants, something that a small group of people at this university physically turn the other way for. I don’t worry about getting engaged, because frankly, I’m not ready to start dating. I’m more concerned about getting a job after graduation than about what ring I am going to receive for my non-existent engagement. I choose to be accepting of all types of people, rather than surround myself with the same type of person. I could go on forever about my choices, but either way, I’d probably win the same prize: “Bad Orthodox Jewish Girl.”

You don't seem to be accepting of all types of people because you stereotype and demean those who have chosen to follow the path of goodness, holiness and values. They all chose to go to Israel because they want to live spiritual lives and that is the best place to set one on that path. Wearing pants and pushing off marriage does no good for the Jewish people. Dressing according to tradition and starting a family does. Sorry - you are not helping the Jewish people by getting a job. The Jewish people need girls with strong Jewish values who are excited about starting families. It is - among other things - our revenge against Hitler and our way of bringing more light into the world. This stress on professional success is a hallmark of modern culture which has insidiously seeped into our world. I am sorry you grew up with TV movies and theater. That is probably why you are struggling religiously, deciding which laws you want to keep and which you don't.   

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, one definition of the word orthodox is “conforming to [an] established doctrine, especially in religion.” The Orthodox Jewish community has come to believe that the word refers to how tzniut your outfits are, whether you keep Shabbat, the laws of kashrut, or whether you go to synagogue every week. The Orthodox community has come to accept that, in order to be a practicing Orthodox Jew, you need to live by an arbitrary set of rules that you only follow because you need to keep up with the people surrounding you. It’s a contradiction that we really need to consider. I think about this concept a lot, probably more than I should. I don’t know why this bothers me so much—it shouldn’t. I grew up in it, and I should see no problem in being Orthodox… But I do. Every day, I question what it is to be an Orthodox Jew while still being me.

"The Orthodox community has come to accept that, in order to be a practicing Orthodox Jew, you need to live by an arbitrary set of rules that you only follow because you need to keep up with the people surrounding you."  G-D SAVE US!!! They are NOT an arbitrary set of rules. They are the word of G-D given at Mount Sinai that we have sacrificed everything to keep for 3,300 years. You can still be you while being frum. But you can't do whatever you feel like because you feel like it. That is not "you". That is the animal within you. "YOU" are a pure holy neshama who wants to be close to G-d. All you have to do is connect to that and you will feel it. 

The way to do this is by eschewing [excited to use that word. Rarely get the chance. Was considering "shunning". Would've worked also:-)] the lower parts of secular culture, dressing and acting according to tradition, learning a lot of Torah and chasidus, saying daily tehillim and surrounding yourself with like-minded, growth-oriented girls. 

I learned to view Judaism as something that shouldn’t be “black or white”—you either do this or you do that. I wouldn’t have a great relationship with my dad’s side if I did. Our religion shouldn’t have any labels, although we often thrive on what level of Orthodoxy we’re on, or where our family is from, or who our family knows that could help us find the perfect shidduch. We shouldn’t conform to what we know/grew up with and never question our beliefs. What we really need to do is be unorthodox while still being Orthodox. We need to question what we think we know. We need to be accepting of everyone and their ways of believing in God. We need to be supportive of one another, despite our differences. In a world that often hates others for being different, we should form a community and protect our fellow brothers and sisters, despite clashes on world or religious views. Although I will admit that I’m not a saint, I do try (keyword: try) to be understanding of everyone’s methods of religion, even if I personally don’t agree.

She is RIGHT on one point here. "We need to question what we think we know." Correct. If she did then she would realize that she is almost completely off. Her views might work for an article in the Jewish Week but not our time hallowed tradition. She is just [as so many do] making things up as she goes along. If we are "accepting of everyone and their ways of believing in G-d" in the way she preaches then it spells the end of Torah. 

Back in the cafeteria, I hear my name from a distance and I glance away from my TV episode. I see one of my closest friends approach me for our planned lunch date. From the outside, we couldn’t be any more different—she is dressed like the girl I described previously, and I am in a pair of jeans and a baggy sweatshirt, with no patience to put together a nice outfit for the day. But underneath appearances comes a friendship forged from the first day of our university years. We look past our differences and look at what makes each of us unique, which is exactly the type of person I need to be around. Our views on religion may be different (she is a little more “to the right” on the religious spectrum than I believe I am), but our friendship was never based on that. It’s based on loyalty, trust and acceptance of the other’s beliefs, without questions or expectations to be different.

I hope she has a positive influence on you....

Maybe at some point there will be a way to merge the unorthodox and the Orthodox views. Until then, I will continue to question my values and go through trial and error until I gain my own beliefs.

You don't have to gain your own beliefs. We have a beautiful system in place already. Try it:-) 

I wouldn't go to Notre Dame University and write an article in the student newspaper that people should be less Catholic. If I did they probably wouldn't publish it [although I think it was rreally rude how they walked out on the Vice-President when he spoke at their graduation]. Why does an Orthodox institution publish an article promoting the idea that people should be less Orthodox?

We should all be zoche to do teshuva shleima and discover that we are souls that are housed by a body and not body's that happen to house a soul. That would make life much more clear and simple. For me - Kisvei Hasfas Emes and Rav Kook are especially helpful in this regard but to each his or her own.