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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?

11 Comments:

Blogger Shulamit said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

11:46 AM  
Blogger maddiej said...

Lisa,

Do you consider Reform Judaism to be a valid form of Judaism? If not Jewish, what would you call this religious community? Simply Reform - Reform people?

Best.

4:07 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Maddie, I don't consider Reform to be a form of Judaism at all. Validity isn't even the issue. It's a group that a lot of Jews and a lot of non-Jews belong to. I call them non-religious Jews. The ones who are Jewish, that is. The ones who aren't, I just call non-Jews.

5:14 PM  
Blogger maddiej said...

And how would you view the Karaites? Are they Jews to you?

Thanks again for your time!

7:28 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

They are Jews, but their religion is not Judaism.

10:50 PM  
Blogger maddiej said...

Passing the censorship along now, are you?

May we all live to see our eyes opened in truth and kindness.

Shalom,
Maddie

9:29 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

I don't know what "censorship" you're talking about. You posted the same thing twice. I approved one and rejected the other.

10:41 AM  
Blogger maddie said...

Sorry to accuse you of not allowing my comment, I posted this to you, apparently it didn't go through:

How can you consider the Karaites to be Jews if they have always followed patrilineal descent? What is the likelihood that each Karaite is actually a Jew by your standards?

And on the same note, Rabbinic Jews followed patrilineal descent before the Mishnah. How do you reconcile the fact that Rabbinic Jews did not think twice about intermarriage with patrilineals for more than a thousand years--how can you justify calling their descendants Jews?

9:54 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Maddie, we never followed patrilineal descent. Not before the Mishnah, and not after it. You're grossly misinformed. We followed patrilineal descent for tribe. We still do. A Kohen is a man whose father was a Kohen.

I'd need to check to be sure, but I'm fairly certain that the reason the Israeli rabbanite has chosen to recognize Karaites as Jews is because they have an incredibly low rate of intermarriage, and those who intermarry almost always leave the community entirely. So those who are still there have a legal presumption of being Jewish. Chazaka, or legal presumption, is a fundamental part of Jewish law.

And Maddie, they aren't "my standards". They are God's.

8:24 AM  
Blogger maddie said...

Clearly your personal standards align with your view of God's standards, so I did not mistype.

Karaites reject the Mishnah as directly descendant from God. They accept the Tanakh as a source of their laws. That is why the follow patrilineal descent. Patrilineal descent was in effect for at least some period of time after the Tanakh and before the Mishnah. If you have a source to cite that says otherwise, why don't you provide it?

On a side note, many Rabbinic rabbis throughout early history believed that the children of Jewish fathers had a special status that allowed them a conversion to remove Safek (doubt), and reverted back to their Jewish roots following the process, therefore did not take on the status of a convert. They were not treated identically to gentiles in the conversion process.

The intermarriage rates of Karaites are irrelevant. I personally know people with a Jewish father raised and educated in a Reform setting who joined the Karaites. The Karaites accepted them. Even if it is "incredibly" uncommon, Karaites with only a Jewish father still exist, therefore Karaite bloodlines are matrilineally murky.

Anyways, this is a very controversial issue we are approaching. I urge Lauren to discover her own path and not let anyone else impose their mentality, yours or mine, onto her identity.

Shalom,
Maddie

7:02 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Maddie, the burden of proof is on you if you're making the absurd claim that we ever used patrilineal descent.

8:16 PM  

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