Why be a Jew? – by Michael T. Pullen

Why be a Jew? Or better yet, why do Jewish things?

Saturday is my Bar Mitzvah. Today I am feeling a bit disturbed. This happens every once in a while but today it stinks because I should be happy about my weekend coming up.

Should one follow the lineage of Hillel or Shammai? Should one follow the majority which the Talmud points out is more important than what’s “halachically correct” and G-d is OK with that (see Oven of Aknai, Bava Metzia 59b)?

I am disturbed by the frum Shammayans. Who are they you might ask?

Shammayans believe that:

  1. Jews who do not practice the way they do aren’t Jewish
  2. The law is more important than the intent
  3. Hillel was wrong and Shammai should have won
  4. Tradition is always right
  5. Judaism never changed between the Mishnah and the 18th century
  6. It is impure to daven with Jews who do not identify with their rabbi
  7. It is ok to belittle their kin and mourn them while they live
  8. Idol worship is wrong unless it is their way you worship
  9. Their kashrut is more kosher than yours
  10. As long as it is kosher who cares how it is done

It upsets me that I have the Christians trying to convert me, the Muslims trying to one up the Christians and the Shammayans trying to do more damage than both of them by destroying my identity and way of life. I can deal with the Christians and Muslims they are on the outside. I am not sure what to do with the Shammayans.

Why bother being Jewish if a significant portion of the same population doesn’t want you to be? And if the assimilated world does not want you to be? Nevermind antisemitism, Shammayans are doing their best to minimize the Jews in the world.

mTp – With Intention


7 thoughts on “Why be a Jew? – by Michael T. Pullen

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  1. Oh my goodness, what a painful piece. I wonder what made you focus on this right now. On a different note, MAZEL TOV! How exciting that it’s your bar mitzva. And finally, check out my post from today. How cool that we both happen to write on somewhat similar topics at the same time. Though this does seem to happen, doesn’t it?

  2. Hey there!

    Very intelligent piece! I think basically, you’ve hit the nail on the head. I’ve seen people like this do very hateful things in various communities and no one stood up to them. Well I did, but then again, I was from “Hillel” so I didn’t count…;-) Keep writing and chag sameach.

  3. How anyone… ANYONE… can say anything about someone else’s practice is beyond reason. IMHO, the more critical you are about someone’s practice, the more insecure your are about your own.

  4. Thank you for the kind comments. It is folks like you that make the wrestle fun.

    On Saturday at 10 AM I will be chanting Torah for the first time. I am excited.

  5. Ooh, just got shivers. Oh, and here come the tears in my eyes. I’m really excited for you, mTp. I really hope you’ll share some of your experience here with us afterwards.

    And I’m honored that blog midrash was a place where people could help you feel the fun in the wrestle.

    I think it’s important to remember that the Shammai that you speak of (and I’m not sure exactly who you are referring to) is a small minority, or so I believe. It’s amazing how loud a minority can be.

    Kol tuv.

    1. It is a small minority only in that there are not that many orthodox to begin with. For example, look at the Nishma site that you have linked off of this site.

      This is in one post on the black woman who became a rabbi.

      In reference to a conservative convert “Someone wants something, wants it real bad but doesn’t actually want to make a 100% commitment to it.” – huh what does that have to do with anything.

      “A fascinating subject which I often wonder about. However, I believe that Rabbi Hecht is treading dangerously close to trouble by implying that somehow the non-halachic (i.e. non-religious/orthodox) streams of Judaism are somehow on an equal footing as Halachic Judaism. As much as we yearn for their return to the fold, it behooves us to keep a great distance from them in most matters to prevent granting them legitimacy.”

      And how are they not on equal footing unless you have a very particularistic view of the world. If you identify yourself as Orthodox you are valid and “religious”?

      Why would I convert into “orthodox” way of Judaism? There has not been one convincing argument. The closest I get is that it is more apt to keep tradition.

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