Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Chabad Aseres Hadibros

Now for the sequel. Those who dislike leitzanus my want to skip this post

Presenting the Chabad Aseres Hadibros:

1. I am the Rebbe who will take you to Eretz Yisrael. Thou shalt be mekushar to me.

2. Do not ask for brachos or eitzos from other rebbeim.

3. You should have images of all of the rebbeim in your home, in as many rooms as possible

4. You should observe Yud-Tes Kislev, keep it holy, and farbreng

5. You should honor the rebbe, your mashpia, and your parents--in that order

6. You should not say that the Rebbe died. If you must, say he was nistalek. Otherwise, just use the term "hidden"

7. You should not interact with the opposite gender, unless it is shlichus, in which case almost anything goes.

8. You should not steal another shliach's territory.

9. You should not lie. Just evade the question if someone asks your opinion on whether the Rebbe is Moshiach

10. You should not be jealous of any other group in klal Yisrael. Remember, Chabad is the best!

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Charedi Aseres Hadibros

Despite the generally very serious and reflective tone of this blog, I actually do have a sense of humor.

Therefore, for a little variety, I present the Charedi version of the Aseres Hadibros:

1. I am the Lord your God who took you out of Egypt. You must therefore believe in me, the authority of the Torah, and all rabbinic law that came after. 
2. Do not have any other gods before me. Therefore, one must not engage in any secular  activities that are not absolutely required. The rabbonim who have never worked get to decide what is absolutely required. 
3. Don't make any images of females, graven or otherwise 
4. Keep the shabbos holy by not doing any melacha, eating all of the shabbos foods in the correct order, and learning Torah at every spare second of the day. 
5. Honor your rabbis and teachers. This includes your parents if they teach you Torah, therefore you may not deviate from the minhagim of your parents even if the reasons for the minhagim no longer apply, unless it is to keep a more stringent minhag 
6. Do not murder, however beating-up dissenters is permitted 
7. Don't do anything "not tznius"
8. Do not steal anything from anyone who isn't the government or a large corporation 
9. Do not lie when speaking to the rabbonim, only when doing kiruv or for the purposes of a shidduch. 
10. Do not covet your neighbor's freedom, because it will lead him to gehenom anyway.
 Coming soon, the Chabad Aseres Hadibros

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Be careful what you wish for...

One night, almost ten years ago, I sat down with a purple pen and a sheet of lined paper and made a list.

I wrote a sincere and heartfelt list of the qualities that I was looking for in a chosson. I wrote on that list that I wanted my husband to be a sincere person, with true yiras shomayim, who was truly dedicated to yiddishkiet. I wanted someone intelligent who loved learning Torah. I wanted him to be srupulously honest. I wanted him to have smicha or be in the process of getting it, and ulitmately work in klei kodesh. I wanted him to focus on ruchnius rather than gashmiyus.

I davened to Hashem that I should find a chosson with these qualities. Whenever I davened shmoneh esrei, I focused my requests on finding a good chosson and building a Jewish home.

I got everything that I wanted. I got married at 18, on my first shidduch, to a chosson with every quality on my list. I had won the shidduch lottery. I had succeeded, by background had not prevented me from getting married, as I had feared that it would. My husband was even a FFB. I succeeded.

Or not.

What I needed was the exact opposite of what I had asked for. I needed more time and more life experience. I needed time to "find myself", despite my confidence that I had already done so.

Perhaps if I had done so, my list would have been different.

What I needed, or at least need now, is the freedom to grow and explore. What I need now is a partner who will view life as a journey, a person who is willing to question and search.

My husband recently showed me my purple list again. He explained that he has every quality on the list. He is right, he does.

But the list changed because I changed. Of course, I cannot expect him to change because I changed, but I can't refrain from changing because of him.

So I remain, tenuously perched on the fence.

For now.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

"If only you wouldn't be Chabad/Charedi/Non-Modern Orthodox, you would be fine"

After practically every post I have written, someone has commented that the problems that I am bringing up are charedi-specific and that I should just become Modern Orthodox. Such comments are not limited to the internet, however. I have heard plenty of offline comments of a similar nature.

For the last few months, I have been considering writing a post on why I did not simply become Modern Orthodox. I could definitely think of a few good reasons to list, including:

1. The fact that I would be just about as unacceptable to my husband for me to live an openly Modern-Orthodox lifestyle as a non-frum one. He would never be okay with me openly talking to the kids about Modern Orthodox hashkafos or dressing to Modern Orthodox standards.
2. I have issues with accepting the concept of Torah M'sinai without some kind of proof because some of the things that are written in Torah are quite unbelievable, and others are very difficult to live with. No, the Kuzari mass-revelation argument is flawed and does not qualify as proof.
3. Despite my current fence-sitting, I am a big believer in consistency. Despite all of its flaws, the one thing that Chareidism has going for it is that it is internally consistent, which is precisely what drew to me towards Chareidism in the first place. Chareidism has a consistent way of interpreting halacha, and is not afraid to stand for beliefs and practices that contradict modern sensibilities if they are more consistent with the most straightforward interpretation of the Torah and Rabbinical texts. 
 Modern Orthodoxy, however, seems to lack this consistency. They bend-over backwards to find loopholes for halachos that they don't like, yet insist on strict interpretations of less-objectionable ones. Anything that seems philosophically-objectionable is deemed non-literal while everything else is literal. Why couldn't God have just said what he meant?
However, on further reflection, there are aspects of Modern Orthodoxy that I like such as the emphasis on morality, the high-regard for tradition combined with an openness towards modernity, and the sense of community.

Therefore, I would like to give my Modern-Orthodox readers a chance. Please, tell me, why are you Modern Orthodox? What appeals to you out being Modern Orthodox over being not frum, or alternatively, Charedi? How do you deal with the "difficult" sections of Torah, including sections that are historically highly improbably, such as the mabul or things that are morally-concerning, such as the laws that are discriminatory towards women. How do you reconcile halachos that seem outdated with modernity? And, most importantly, why should I join you?

I look forward to reading your responses.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

My Daughter and I

I sat in the hospital room, late at night, holding my newborn. She was the only girl, born third in an every-second year sequence. My boys were born in 2004 and 2006, followed by my little girl in 2008. She was healthy and cute, but I was scared. I was scared not at the massive responsibility that awaited me, nor in awe of heaven. 

I was scared with myself. After both of my boys, I immediately felt, "I want another one". This time, for some reason, my thoughts were very different. This time I thought, "This is it. She is my youngest and I don't want any more".

"But it can't be!", I thought, "I'm only 23! A frum woman cannot stop having kids at 23! What's wrong with me?"

"I'm probably just thinking that way because I am temporarily overwhelmed", I thought. "I'm sure that I just need to adjust, then everything will return to normal".

This thought continued to haunt me over the next few weeks, despite my repeated attempts to push such "machshavos zaros" out of my mind. As the weeks went on, and the pressure from dealing with the children (and pretty severe post-partum depression) increased--I reached the point where I really couldn't function at all. I was unable to properly care for my children much of the time, so I did the unthinkable...

I asked for a heter. And after a thirty-minute interview by the rabbi asking every personal question imaginable (and repeatedly asking me if I had both a boy and a girl), I was deemed in need of a two-year heter. I shudder to think what would have happened if this child had been a boy. Apparently in such a case, my legitimate medical issues would have been irrelevant.

Why was I so hesitant to ask for a heter? It wasn't because I was unaware of their existence or afraid the rav would reject my claim. Rather, because a "normal" frum woman is supposed to have as many children as possible unless she "can't handle it", asking for a heter was tantamount to saying that I was an abnormal failure who couldn't handle life. Eventually, the situation got desperate enough that I had to do just that--admit that by frum standards I was a failure and not normal.

However, this realization crushed more than just my fragile self-image--it crushed my entire worldview. 

Unlike many others, I had no problem with Judaism's concept of the role of women. If the Torah (or for that matter, "da'as Torah"), viewed women as having a different role than men, then it must be for the best. Equality, or lack thereof, didn't enter into the equation at all. I saw nothing inherently wrong with the idea that a woman's primarily role should be to raise a frum family, with her doing other things only when needed to fulfill that primarily. Although I have always been more of the intellectual type and had severe ADD, if God put me in this position it must be that I had the capabilities to overcome it and fulfill my God-given role, and only through doing this could I achieve happiness.

Well, I did try, and I couldn't "handle it". Not only that, trying for so many years to be someone that I am not, took away my ability to focus on what I am good at. Rather than struggling for many years to be a mediocre homemaker, I should have put my energy and focus towards working at what I am good at.

I ultimately realized that the problem was not that I failed to fulfill my Torah-ordained destiny, but rather that the Torah failed to take my destiny into account. Not everyone can be boxed into predefined gender roles, nor should they. It is illogical to assume that an all-powerful and all-good God would create everyone differently, yet expect them to fulfill the same general role with minor variations.

This began the journey that led me to where I am today.

However, the great irony is that my daughter, the little girl that started me down this path, is the stereotypical female that I never was. She has consistently, since birth, fulfilled practically every female stereotype in existence. It is almost as if someone gave her a book of instructions on how to act like a girl, and she followed it to the letter. At 15 months she would cry if I gave her pants rather than a skirt. My little girl who has never seen a Disney movie wants everything to be "pretty" and preferably pink. She loves playing with dolls, hates getting her clothes dirty, and attempts to take care of her brothers and the house.

Maybe there is something to those gender stereotypes after all.