Today, I feel glum.
Israel had a major chance to resolve one of the major inequalities in our country, and the government blew it. I refer, of course, to the scandalous situation regarding universal conscription [which is the law] for everyone -- unless you are haredi or Arab. I won't rehash the arguments, especially about the problem of Arabs and security. I have no problem with national service via Sherut Leumi; heavens knows the infrastructure of many Arab communities needs a lot of upgrading; Israeli Arabs could work in their own towns and villages. Since there are a number of mitzvot such as bikur holim that yeshiva boys could perform, while still studying part-time, there's no reason they don't serve, either.
Except, of course, that they are perfectly happy being parasites. The time is long overdue for that to end, forcibly if necessary. They claim to study Torah, but they obviously don't know what's written in Devarim 20: 5-8, nor do they know that no less a sage than Maimonides decreed that any war in the Land is a milchemet mitzvah and therefore there are no exemptions except those in the Torah.
Over on Friar Yid's blog, there has been a spirited discussion of the direction and future for liberal Judaism, as well as his continued search for a form of Judaism he feels comfortable practicing. There are moments when I wish I was in San Francisco and could sit down, face to face, with FY; other moments when I wish he'd come on a lengthy visit to Israel and I could "mentor" him. Ah, the Yiddishe Momma in me!
Several things have occurred to me while participating in this debate. One is just how far non-Orthodox American Judaism is drifting from authentic mainstream [not extreme or haredi] Orthodoxy. All sorts of newnesses are promoted without reference to the age-old usages and customs. Up to a point, this is common in the immigrant experience: the first generation feels that those who left the Old Country are primitive, Asiatic, blinkered, whereas they are free to make choices that were denied to their parents -- one of those choices being abandoning practices viewed as isolationist or limiting [such as keeping kosher, or davenning three times a day]. This isn't, incidentally, an American phenomenon -- first generation sabras, especially the Mizrachi ones, have much the same attitude, even if they don't carry it to such extremes as American Jews do. They aren't about to rewrite halacha; they just don't keep much of it most of the time. The second generation usually wants some reuniting with their roots, but are often so far removed that they wind up floundering around trying to reconstruct a lifestyle that is very alien to them [Fiddler on the Roof Syndrome]. They usually don't see that those who never abandoned the tradition have developed the means to live successfully in the modern world with it without going to absurd lengths to "revive" antique practices.
Another aspect is the dearth of Jewish education in young American Jews. No one can be expected to "connect" with something about which he or she is basically ignorant. A person doesn't even know the questions to ask, and the resources out there are not very good. For some reason, a lot of young American Jews reject any connection with the Orthodox [what do they think? That the Orthodox will kidnap them and force them to become frum?], thereby missing out on basic source materials of Judaism, such as Talmud study, or even learning enough Hebrew to find one's way around a siddur. If a Reform synagogue [somehow, the word "shul" doesn't seem appropriate for a "Temple"] has an adult education program at all, it often presents normative Judaism as some sort of antique fossil that can be dispensed with in modern life. My mother once called me to tell me about this wonderful new custom she'd just learned about at her Reform Temple, called "havdalah". Not one of her classmates ever actually made havdalah; it was studied as if it were some sort of anachronism. She was amazed that I knew about it; that we actually performed it. I sort of wish there was a kind of Birthright program that gave free education to American Jewish kids in their teens; the free trips to Israel have been very successful in encouraging both connection to Israel and connection to being Jewish among the participants.
Finally, I am impressed, in a negative sense, with the inconsistency of what passes for Judaism in the US. FY wants to begin keeping a kosher-style house [he's not actually kashering the kitchen, and I don't know the extent of his knowledge of the laws of kashrut; I suspect it's not very great], but he's married to a non-Jew. Judging by his description, both he and his wife have adopted a style of dress that "looks Jewish" [not sure what that means], yet I don't know whether he lays tefillin or not, or whether his apartment has properly constituted and installed mezuzot on the doors. It is almost as if they are adopting a role, rather than becoming. It is "as if". But I may be doing FY an injustice -- that's one of the reasons I'd like to meet him.
I know other Jews who have devoted considerable time to inventing new rituals while ignoring existing ones, in the name of political correctness and "modernism". It baffles me. I know Jews who have chosen to reject direct, Torah mi-Sinai, commandments or attempt to weasel around them with ingenious explanations that have no basis in traditional Jewish thought, and are then annoyed when traditionalist Jews don't accept them. The prohibition on male homosexuality is one of these. Like it or not like it; observe it or don't observe it --it's there in the Torah and it's explicit. The view, put forward by some homosexuals who want to be able to have their cake and eat it, is that the Torah refers only to acts, so a celibate homosexual is not transgressing a commandment doesn't wash. And given what the Torah has to say about homosexuality, a "gay" rabbi is more of an absurdity than even a female one. It would be like a Catholic priest who defines the Trinity as Allah, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and maintains he isn't in error because "both God the Father and Allah are monotheistic Gods". [Benedict the XVI would love that, I'm sure]
There's been a long gap in postings over the past few months because my life has been at sixes and sevens, not for lack of topics to write about. The hip replacement, my decision to retire, the consequent entire re-organizing of my life, my granddaughter [who's here most days] and the [finally!] move of the other daughter to her new home near Rosh Pina, has meant that just when I sit down to pen some deep insight, I get called away or the phone rings. And my memory isn't what it used to be. Hopefully, this will change and I'll write more -- but I've made this promise before.
Right now, life is reasonably quiet. It is broiling hot outside; I stay in my air-conditioned bedroom, which is where the computer is [an added incentive to blogging]. Number 1 son will probably visit in September; I'll be taking care of the granddaughter every day for most of August since her childcare goes on vacation. September this year contains all the Jewish holidays, and youngest daughter, with husband and child, will be moving into their new home around the beginning of October. Husband and I are going on a cruise at the beginning of November, and after that, I will probably have to accompany my granddaughter and her mother to the US since I'm sponsoring the granddaughter for US citizenship and the ceremony absolutely must take place in the US; cannot be done at either the US consulate here in Jerusalem or at the Embassy in Tel Aviv. So, life is anything but dull, without even going into US Presidential election matters.
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