Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Don't blame the message

First, read this blog--

My Love and Not So Like Relationship with Orthodox Israel

I find this blog post very interesting- I like the tree analogy, but I don't agree that orthodoxy without secularism is akin to a useless stump. Sometimes healthier growth occurs once you prune the broken branches.... 

Interestingly enough, it's not the blog but the comments on it that are itching my mind.  There are some not-so-nice things being said about ultraorthodoz Israelis (Haredim).  I hearken back (and yes, I did just use the word hearken in everyday use, Mom) to a message that my teachers repeat often-

Torah is perfect, people are flawed

The simple phrase helped break the mental connection when I see orthodox Jews behave in ways that are a Chillul Hashem (desecration of G-d's name).  I used to think "How can they say they follow G-d's mitzvot and act like that?  What kind of Torah approves of that behavior??!!"  The answer is no kind of Torah.  It's understandable but erroneous that people make that judgment.  What's the cure?  Education.  Communication.  Understand what the Torah really says, and you'll understand that it only teaches how to be a better person.  Learn with teachers who can answer your questions with actual text and source.  Don't blame the message if human beings are playing telephone with it- it becomes clouded quicker than you think.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Matisyahu- cleaning up his act?

I just read this article about Matisyahu, and the, well, let's call them public changes he is making in his life. I'm having a few (well, at least three that I can articulate) issues with both the article and its content.

1. I'm wondering what his announcement will mean for the public face of observant Judaism. A lot of his Jewish fans look to him as an example of the possibility of straddling both the secular and religious worlds-- if he can do it, maybe I can as well? Plus the music is rockin', and gives "kosher" messages to boot- does it get any better??? Maybe if they served kosher food at his shows.... well, a girl can dream, can't she?

Now he is clean-shaven, blogging about "... reclaiming myself. Trusting my goodness and my divine mission." Is he giving up chassidus, or observant Judaism altogether? I certainly pray that it is not the latter. You can be chassidic, yeshivish, modern orthodox, on "the path" or any point along the ortho-spectrum and it matters naught, but once you hold the belief that 1) the Torah came from G-d and 2) Mitzvot are His way of telling us how He wants us to connect to Him, what must happen to make you give that up??????

If you say that it is his right to believe what he wishes, I certainly won't disagree. Everyone has the right to believe whatever they wish about G-d. Matisyahu became a public figure, however, in large part due to his persona as an observant, ba'al teshuva Jew. More needs to be said by him soon, because the world-at-large may well interpret that observant Judaism can be cast off as easily as picking up a razor and buying a new suit. To allow that perception to spread unchecked would be a tragedy, a chillul Hashem (desecration of G-d's name).

2. Matisyahu and his choices aside, I did take offense at one statement in the article:

"Heeb congratulates Mr. Miller on his momentous decision and on the bravery of his public honesty. We also look forward to seeing him at Chulent with all the other recovering kiruv victims."

Recovering kiruv VICTIMS??!! As someone who has benefitted from the inspirational kiruv (literal translation-"bringing close") efforts of many, to see the kiruv movement portrayed in such a one-sided way hurts me deeply. Heeb's seeming celebration of "his momentous decision" reveals a not-so-subtle bias against Torah Judaism. I don't doubt that there are cases where kiruv is not performed so well, but to make such a sweeping, casual statement trivializes the work of great men and women like R' Noah Weinberg zt"l of Aish HaTorah, R' Menahem Mendel Schneerson zt"l of Chabad Lubavitch, and Rebbitzen Lori Palatnik of the Jewish Women's Renaissance Project, among many, many others.

3. One last thing is lingering in my head.... the timing of this. Matisyahu. Chanukah. The original Matisyahu was a central character in the Chanukah story, which carries the central theme of triumph brought to a group of Jews who held fast to their beliefs, who refused to assimilate even for appearance's sake. and his namesake is brought to the public eye during this Chanukah season. Coincidence? I think not.

Come on, Matisyahu, don't leave us hanging. Tell the world you're still you- beard or not. You tweeted that you went to the mikva and shul today, "just like yesterday." Let that be your new truth- that you can be an observant Jew without looking like everyone else That's a message I'd listen to.