What I love most about being Jewish, except not: #8 (counting down)

It’s so weird that I chose this topic on a week when I’m not feeling much love towards being Jewish. Though if I think about it, it’s probably a case of thinking the grass is greener on the other side.

OK, so what’s my number 8 in the countdown?

God, it’s really hard this week. I keep feeling like my Jewishness impedes my movement, growth and vibrancy.

Everything I think of to write here, I then wonder if it’s an inherently Jewish thing or just a thing.

Right now I don’t really love anything about being Jewish. Whatever I have in my life supposedly because I’m Jewish, I don’t know for sure that that is why I have it. I may have had these things anyway.

So I guess it’s not that there are things I love about being Jewish. It’s just that I am Jewish. For better and for worse.

Maybe I’ll be able to continue the countdown tomorrow. Right now I just can’t.

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7 thoughts on “What I love most about being Jewish, except not: #8 (counting down)

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  1. Here is my personal ( and somewhat frivolous) Top 10.

    ( in random and stream of consciousness order)

    1) Our Rabbis are not sales people. They are not trying to convert, pitch or win over followers. I like how this differs from Christianity. No one will ever ask you “Have you accepted Jesus Christ in your heart as your lord and savior?” “Well, why not?”

    2) Free Pass. On a related note, if people are trying to sell me Jesus, I explain to them that I have a tribe and nine times out of ten they back off. If I told them I was a floater, they would pounce. Judaism garners some kind of respect from the evangelists, I suppose.

    3) Kinship. I can go anywhere around the world, meet all kinds of people, and if by some chance, bump into another Jew, instant kinship. Sometimes a knuckle bump.

    4) Cheering section. Related to the Kinship entry. We all root each other on. Or perhaps it is just me. I mean, there is so much negative stuff in the world, especially directed at Jews, we all need to step up and support each other. I think we do. For instance. I was on Etsy, looking around at the various goods. I fell upon a seller, who looks to be doing well for herself. I scrolled over to her bio and saw that she was living in Israel. I immediately had a feeling of “right on, sista” wash over me.

    5. Non Jews having the name Judith. It cracks me up.

    6. Yiddish. Especially Yiddish insults. You can call someone “a shtik fleish mit tzvei eigen” whilst smiling, and oftentimes people will have no idea what you just said. If they did, see entry 3.

    7. Our prayers are meaningful and genuinely help, console, atone, etc. I feel they have much more depth than say the average christian prayer that is blindly memorized and repeated.

    8. Our temples, synagogues, shuls, do not have dark or macabre names. For instance many have lovely names with combinations of the following: Shalom, Israel, Or, Torah, B’nai, Talmud, Beth, King, Gold, etc. Happy words. Compare that to say names of Catholic churches…Precious Blood? Sacred Blood? Holy Cross? Those are a little dark if you ask me. It is focusing on the cruel death of their religious focal point. Yikes. What about a nice name like “Friendly Jesus” or “Happy Helping Jesus” or say “Sons of Golden Jesus” Nope. Just us. We have the best names.

    9. Sufganiot.

    10. Kedem Grape Juice.
    (http://www.parishesonline.com/scripts/dbsearch_GenURLMap.asp)

  2. Here is my personal ( and somewhat frivolous) Top 10.

    ( in random and stream of consciousness order)

    1) Our Rabbis are not sales people. They are not trying to convert, pitch or win over followers. I like how this differs from Christianity. No one will ever ask you “Have you accepted Jesus Christ in your heart as your lord and savior?” “Well, why not?”

    2) Free Pass. On a related note, if people are trying to sell me Jesus, I explain to them that I have a tribe and nine times out of ten they back off. If I told them I was a floater, they would pounce. Judaism garners some kind of respect from the evangelists, I suppose.

    3) Kinship. I can go anywhere around the world, meet all kinds of people, and if by some chance, bump into another Jew, instant kinship. Sometimes a knuckle bump.

    4) Cheering section. Related to the Kinship entry. We all root each other on. Or perhaps it is just me. I mean, there is so much negative stuff in the world, especially directed at Jews, we all need to step up and support each other. I think we do. For instance. I was on Etsy, looking around at the various goods. I fell upon a seller, who looks to be doing well for herself. I scrolled over to her bio and saw that she was living in Israel. I immediately had a feeling of “right on, sista” wash over me.

    5. Non Jews having the name Judith. It cracks me up.

    6. Yiddish. Especially Yiddish insults. You can call someone “a shtik fleish mit tzvei eigen” whilst smiling, and oftentimes people will have no idea what you just said. If they did, see entry 3.

    7. Our prayers are meaningful and genuinely help, console, atone, etc. I feel they have much more depth than say the average christian prayer that is blindly memorized and repeated.

    8. Our temples, synagogues, shuls, do not have dark or macabre names. For instance many have lovely names with combinations of the following: Shalom, Israel, Or, Torah, B’nai, Talmud, Beth, King, Gold, etc. Happy words. Compare that to say names of Catholic churches…Precious Blood? Sacred Blood? Holy Cross? Those are a little dark if you ask me. It is focusing on the cruel death of their religious focal point. Yikes. What about a nice name like “Friendly Jesus” or “Happy Helping Jesus” or say “Sons of Golden Jesus” Nope. Just us. We have the best names.

    9. Sufganiot.

    10. Kedem Grape Juice.

  3. I agree, that is a great list of reasons to be proud. I would only like to add a conversation I had today, with a Rabbi, at Starbucks. We discussed the reality that Jews are not supposed to separate ourselves from the world around us. Most Christianity sects, warrant this, such as a priest taking the oath of celibacy.

    The conversation started by my questioning how some Orthodox Rabbis do not shave, while others do. This stems from the fact that halacha says we must not be cut off from the world. Shaving our beards (men hopefully) with a razor is just this. We are in essence, cutting ourselves off from the world.

    So…how is it that some Rabbis have no facial hair? Well…according to tradition, using an electric razor is acceptable, as it is not actually cutting off the core of the hair; it is still there, just not so much of it.

    There is a huge controversy about this subject, but the point I want to make here, is that Jews are not to be without the pleasures of life. It is actually a bad thing to deny ourselves of pleasure.

    Take sexual acts for example…We are not required to abstain…something most of us can certainly appreciate. G_d says that to do so, is denying ourselves the pleasures he has shown, and given, us…

    So…in summary…Jews know how to have fun, and do so freely with Hashem’s blessing!

    On a separate note Deena…I can not say enough that to question these things, to be expected. You are created with reason, and so should be expected to do so. I guess…it is a time when you will decide your path, and from that choice, you will be stronger. You are simply experiencing choices in life.

    I am so much in the same boat as you, but am on the opposite side. I am questioning how valid my life is without my Jewishness. I feel that being more Jewish is making me more full and satisfied in life.

    1. Aharon, I said I would argue and so here I am to do so.

      OK, beards. I’m not sure i see the logic in the reasoning he gave for keeping a beard. First, what he said doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the actual halacha, as far as I know. In halacha, men are not supposed to shave certain parts of their face (the “corners”) so some rabbis take it further and say men shouldn’t shave any of it. Many just leave the hair by the temples. That is the payot that some grow long while others just leave it the length of the rest of their hair). Many others will shave it with an electric shaver.

      But his reason doesn’t make sense to me because at least these days, where we live, keeping a beard has the opposite affect of seperating the person from the rest of the world, as opposed to integrating. Also, I cannot remember the exact explanation but the halachik distinction between a razor and an electric shaver is different than what you quote him as saying. It has to do with the way each functions, not about how close to the skin it cuts. You are not allowed to use a knife but the electric shaver works in a way that is not like a knife. Something like that.

      I just don’t get how shaving your beard has anything to do with cutting yourself off from the world. It seems so random and it could just as well have been shaving your legs or head or I dunno, wearing sunglasses. And, may I ask, what about the women then?

      btw, Rambam, a very important rabbi from the Middle Ages, had shaved temples. I remember my parents finding a picture where someone drew in the payot, not wanting anyone to see that Rambam didn’t grow payot the way many people do today. How terrible to try to change history. http://www.fr.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/544104/jewish/Le-Rambam-toute-la-Torah-pour-tout-le-peuple.htm

      Aharon, also I just want to understand. What you were trying to say with the whole beard thing, was that this is another thing to add to the list of things we love?

      Finally, thank you so much for respecting my questioning. It is not easy to question things but at the same time, I am not really capable of not questioning. So, here I am. :)

  4. Deena…thanks for the reply.

    Two things…first, the Rabbi I spoke with never said the reason why the Talmud speaks about not having to shave, was a definitive law. According to one source I read…”The Talmud describes the beard as an “adornment of the face” and implies that a beardless man cannot be said to be handsome.” <– http://en.allexperts.com/q/Orthodox-Judaism-952/Shaving-beard.htm

    There are many ideas of "why" this is so. The one thing we know, is that a razor is not to come in contact with the five areas of the face. One is the sideburns, and all that is required there, is to have enough hair to grab. The people who grow the pe'ot, are actually going above and beyond what has been required.

    I personally feel that in a traditional sense, shaving the face would have cut a man off from the world. Take for instance the Eastern Monks. It is known that they shave their heads as a means of cutting themselves off from everything physical. It, along with wearing robes, symbolizes the renunciation of materialistic life.

    However…you bring up one excellent point. Since we are living in a Western society, where the majority of people are clean shaven, growing a bears could actually have the same impact as if someone back in biblical times shaved. A person with a beard is almost always considered an outsider, or at least seen as being different.

    What I am trying to say by all this, is that yes, we need to add this to the things we love, not just in the sense that men must not shave with a razor. I do not think that is all that great, especially considering I can not grow a full beard…it is quite spotty at bets…does not look to good in my professional career….

    We need to read between the lines of the Talmud. The Talmud is ensuring that we, as Jews, are not "removed" from society, or the pleasures of being involved with it. This can be gotten from many examples, not just the beard cutting one. Take for instance one of the biggest…Hashem gave us Cainan, so we would not be without.

    As for the women…I am sure if you gave me time, I will come up with another example. The reason why legs, etc…are not good examples, are that chances are, no one will see them. I doubt anyone back in those times, shaved anything.

    I hope this clears up my take in the matter…I am trying to state how I see things. I see that Hashem wants our lives to be full, and I feel that that is the reason a beard should not be shaven.

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