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Lamrot Hakol (Despite Everything)

Musings and kvetchings and Torah thoughts from an unconventional Orthodox Jew.

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"I blog, therefore I am". Clearly not true, or I wouldn't exist except every now and then.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

An Open Letter to Lauren - part 2

In my previous post, I responded to Lauren's blog post. She replied in a comment there, and I replied to her comment. And Blogger rejected my comment for being too long. So with apologies to Lauren, I'm going to answer in a separate post.

Hi Lauren,

Thanks for writing back. It's true that not everything is black and white. But not everything is grey, either. Somethings are black and white.

I understand your identity crisis. On an intellectual level, at least. I just disagree with it. Or rather, I disagree with your response to it.

What I meant by going against us is that you're railing against our completely natural, normal, and correct resistence to conversion. No, of course conversion isn't prohibited. A good friend of mine finished the lengthy process of conversion about a month ago. But I can't agree that someone who chooses Orthodoxy is automatically 100% committed. You seem very hostile towards the ambivalent attitude we have about conversion. In other of your posts, you have a lot of objections to the gender roles in halakha. Now... see, this is awkward, but I think there's a difference between a born Jew expressing those views and a convert expressing them. And a still greater difference between either of those and a prospective convert expressing them.

There are Orthodox feminists who are constantly pushing the boundaries of Judaism, sometimes to the breaking point. Sometimes past it. Why would we want to add to their number?

If I were to find out that I wasn't Jewish, I'd start a Noachide organization that wouldn't be predominantly ex-Christian. God knows there are plenty of people it would be good for. And I'm not convinced that such groups don't exist.

But let me ask you something. You say that if you aren't able to convert, you'd probably join a Reform congregation and marry a Jew. My question is: why? The very fact that you're saying that seems to indicate that your emotional connection to "Jewishness" is the main issue for you, and not any commitment to the Torah way being right. Think about it. If your attitude is, "The Torah is true, and I want to be part of it, part of God's plan, and serve God that way," then (a) you're the ideal candidate for conversion, and (b) you'd never join a Reform congregation, because you wouldn't be able to deal with the Reform distortions of the Torah. If, on the other hand, your attitude is, "I feel Jewish and want to belong to a Jewish community, and Orthodox... well, I guess it seems like the most authentic way to do that, but if I can't get in there, I'm okay with Reform," then can you see why there might be some questions about your motivations and commitment?

Okay, you can't just ignore your feelings, but do you see that what you're describing seems to paint you as more committed to a sense of communal Jewishness, rather than to the Torah?

Back when I was 23, I used to daven sometimes at a local Hillel House. There was a couple there who were very much in love. She was in the process of converting. Orthodox. He was a kohen. And ostensibly also Orthodox. I don't know what he was thinking, but I know that shortly before she went to the mikveh for the final dip, she broke up with him. And he did not go willingly. Think about that. Think about her emotions. She was in love. She didn't break up with him because she stopped being in love with him. She did so because her commitment to Torah and mitzvot came first. I can't even imagine how hard that decision had to have been for her. And she was your age.

So yes, emotions are a real issue, but if they are the primary focus here, there's something of a problem.

Now, about your thought experiment. Truth is, I've done a lot of work on my genealogy, and I was hoping that I'd find a non-Jew in my matrilineal line. Being Jewish isn't easy. And I'm gay, so it's about 100% times harder for me. But I've gone back to my maternal grandmother's maternal grandmother, and I can't find any sign that Sarah Zimberoff was a non-Jew. But that said, there's nothing at all wrong with a non-Jew saying Tehillim. They're about the wonder of Hashem and the world He created. What could be bad about anyone reading them? Relating to God? Do you really think God doesn't care about non-Jews? That non-Jews can't have a relationship with God? I don't believe that.

Lastly... I'm not sure exactly what problems you've had converting. I mean, have you been told "no" by your local Orthodox rabbinic establishment? Or are they simply not moving as fast as you'd like?