Friday, September 17, 2010

Modern Orthodox TV Contestant Bares Bra, Publically Renounces Shabbat [UPDATED]
First off This Video IS NOT tzniut and not necessary to watch - you can obviously just close your eyes and listen or skip to the conversation about what she says in the links below;

Further coverage and discussion on Bang it Out, on Tablet and a rebuttal here on the blog of the Pacific Jewish Center rabbi. This post will be repetitive, since I can't think of how else to express this utterly bizarre scenario.
I should really say she first publicly identifies as Modern Orthodox - then publicly renounces Shabbat observance. My two cents is that, as a result of this public binding of selective-observance and "Modern Orthodoxy" - and after about a decade of affiliation with "observant" Jews of all affiliations, I'm going to have to say "Uncle", and no longer put quotations marks around Modern Orthodox when suggesting that someone who identifies as MO is not observant isn't actually Modern Orthodox. I simply can't any longer. OF COURSE I would have to do the same regarding people who affiliate Charedi - who have no fewer closet Orthoprax/'Charedi-in-name-onlys', as Judaism of all forms in the modern era is so thoroughly - and now even publicly regarding Modern Orthodoxy - a matter of personal identification not practice or belief, first and foremost - if not "period".

Her interview is edited thoroughly of course, and I'm sure she attempts to clarify what her religious identity means to her, perhaps what it means to the community she is from (and seems to want to represent by publicly affiliating with it and discussing it as part of her identity), perhaps even why she thinks it would still be wrong to be m'halel Shabbat b'farhesia (I'm not sure what else it would be, if video coverage accessed by millions of people is acceptable evidence of transgression - I don't know)- all of which of course would be just so much incoherent religious BS left on the cutting-room floor as far as the media is concerned. What people who identify as Modern/Charedi/Conservadox do or do not do in their own homes is their business - and anyones guess; what matters for me is that she publicly connects selective observance, violation of Shabbat and "Modern Orthodoxy" to the world. Charedim and a certain number of Modern Orthodox affiliates have said this for years among themselves - but as far as this footage indicates, she has articulated these associations publicly, to millions of people, as a participant in both the transgressive behavior and identity.

Obviously, to Orthodox Jews, that she associates Modern Orthodox and attended Maimonides means nothing to whether she actually is or not; we all know too many exceptions; on top of which her family is not American and could very well identify as Masorti or "dati lite" - but they're in America, where Masortim generally associate with the Modern Orthodox institutions. The point is she could have publically said she's African American, for example - and people would have balked- as African Americans are a very public portion of the American and their identity is one people fathom the clarities and complexities of; it's all very...well, public knowledge. And Orthodoxy, let alone Modern Orthodox, simply is not.

By opening her gorgeous, late-teen Jewish mouth (let alone flashing the world) - she has become a real contestant for the role of representative of Modern longer is Leiberman necessarily "the face of Modern Orthodoxy", if people even now remember him for that role; she is now such a contestant who publicly connects Modern Orthodoxy with selective observance for the American television-viewing public, and says she will violate Shabbat.

Charedim will wallow in this, most all Modern Orthodox who even notice will despair, a handful will blog/write in the Jewish online press - where no one but a handful of committed Jewish Gen-Xers and Boomers will read perhaps the only 'public' conversation about this.

[Since I'd written this piece, a lots changed in my thinking as well as the news; her mother has stated that the Esther's seeming willingness to violate Shabbat was the result of editing by the TV people to make for controversy - I'm glad! And I apologize and emphasise the first few sentences of my comment to my post as a possible way of excusing myself...uh...yeah. But this piece includes an interview with Esther, looks like even more bad editing; it gives no statement of her keeping shabbat in response to the impression made by ANTM that she would violate it! To me, it leaves the impression that she's avoiding discussing the matter of Shabbat itself - and is edited to emphasize that she was "still" all kinds of good Jewish girl, as if it's despite unstated transgressions...You can read it and still ask - "Did she or didn't she?!" I'm dropping it, as I'm less inclined to judge as I was then - oh so 'long' ago]

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Fascinating Exchange on Non/Jews Gerut
..began here and continued here, both from linked from the blogroll of an OTD blog I follow. I spent some 10 years in a community with lots of Gerim, and too much time at a shul noteworthy for hosting them and leading them into "normalcy" (and sometimes families of them) - though the shul itself was far from mainstream, for all its pretense, though now it is much more blackhat than it had been. Having been exposed to these people, I think more than capacity/ability to actually believe what they're being taught to believe, or understand what they are or will be doing/becoming - a good number who convert apart from marriage have overwhelming, demanding psychological needs that neither they nor the beitei din register the strength and influence of; a sense of identity beyond themselves, a spiritual sense wed to peoplehood, a need for community - and essentially unconditional acceptance. There are some ways they're similar to BTs, but not many; a BT affirms a fundamental aspect of themself, no matter how uninformed - a Ger fundamentally officially renounces and denies personal idenitity with a fundamental aspect of who they "are".

SO these gerim have often been from philosophy to philosophy, religion to religion, political stances, etc, transitioning often by way of books and internet chatting, often on the fringes of actual communities since it's so hard to commit, to trust - they want to be “part of something bigger than themselves” - a community that wants them - or even better! - needs them (note how many put themselves into voluntary roles in the community to indicate sincerity, to make others depend on them, etc).

An illustration of how unconscious and powerful these drives can be, I’ll give an example from my own experience in a small, vastly-assimilated community with an "orthodox" rabbi and a mother with strong Jewish sentiments and tolerance for a doxy and praxy-minded intellectual "seeker" son. I remember early on dabbling with how I could accept the great amount of aspects of Biblical Criticism, and current Orthodox belief AND Chassidic practice and politics (I actually cooresponded for a time with members of "Friends of Jerusalem" - Neturei Karta in America) – and possibly martyrdom for being a Jew; a combination that entails PROFOUND ignorance of BibCrit, Orthodox belief AND any Orthodox practice!
Now with someone who is a stam goy, imagine such attitudes and ignorances - under the influence of deep, unconscious drives - being wrapped up with such a pathological sincerity and almost possessed drive to the point of honestly saying they would die for it! - but their gerut would likely be possul in any functioning COMMUNAL capacity! - aside from those authorities who are adamant that a gerut made by deception is still valid (actually NOT the consensus of most poskim of recent years). Setting aside of the course their inward, treasured PERSONAL identity as a Jew...and Jewish is supposed to be a people!? And people are persons and personal is just the matter, bzman hazeh; so much is a matter of personal choice, of individual association and affiliation, and these completely valid, almost-universal psychological needs become narrowed down to personal Jewish wants that drive these individuals - wants that act and influence like NEEDS that they are not, personally speaking; and that is where I think there is something trying to be what it is not. There is truly a need for them to be part of something bigger than themselves, etc - but there is no need for them to be Jews to do it, that is a want. You need food, clothing and shelter- you might want a gourmet meal, a space suit and a log cabin in Tennessee (many a Charedi would immediately think "a cheeseburger, an Armani suit and a Chateau in the Alps", or some other combination of "the best" things - as that is how they view being jewish; not as incomparable, but as "the best" of all possible choices; see r. Feinstein below).

On the receiving end, from the Jewish communal side, the only real reasons I can imagein Charedi Jews are so willing to even deal with Goyim who want to be Jews is because of what it tells them about themselves; we've made this personal decision to become/stay religious, and here come these goyim! - that affirms we've made the right decision", and also I think because it's "always better to be a Jew" really! This is a halacha from R. Moshe Feinstein! (n.19)...They believe this leaving unstated why they might be so self-conscious that they think it's so great; to me, it sounds like they're saying "No matter how distant from Judaism, no matter how non-Jewish one may be....there's always something right with being a Jew - and there's always something wrong with being a Goy"...either way, you just have to pick and poke and scratch long and hard enough and you'll discover the praiseworthy/loathsome trait you're looking for!....

What strikes me is even R. Broyde considers this a more "liberal" view, simply becauase on the surface it is so inclusive - in a contemporary, Protestant American sense I guess this would be 'liberal' - if imperialism and hegemony are liberal traits. just under the surface, I think it is astoundingly biggoted - and can only be comfortably stated if you think everyone shares such a view of personal identity - which is simply not the case! Any sociological assessment of identity would indicate (every conceivable group is not 'missionary', does not believe it harbors a discreet worldview nor is literally as identity-centric as so many Orthodox Judaisms are, viewing every facet of the universe as conceived and executed for Jews, along with Hashgacha Pratit and Jews, etc). That may be the case with fundamentalist Evanglical christians and muslims who want to convert the world - but I'd be suprised if Charedi Jews weren't suprised at how it sounds when you play such a recorded message back to them.

Back to my point; with people married to Jews or irredeemably embroiled in a relationship with a Jew such that marriage is impending – I think there is a familial and communal need for conversion – particularly if there is also individual WANT on the part of both spouses.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

hopefully finished before Rosh Hashanah

I think popular paradigms of hashgacha pratit encourage a peculiar certainty about the nature of the world. It is as if all - spiritually speaking, physically speaking, everything - as in everything all over, over time from Day One on - could have happened no other way than precisely as it did and does, no exceptions - without resulting in badness we don't like ("Potterville" scenario of "It's a Wonderful Life"), if not universal destruction. To my mind, this mortal-held certainty impinges on God's freewill (depending), in saying He could not "do" it all any other way than we witness or experience (or are told by the sampling of the mesorah) - since Creation is as Creation does - "it" would not be any other way, that there is no way for the world to be than as it "is". So?

Kiruv workers face many arguments from many challengers, and most will concede the logical possibility of one or multiple challenges to traditional Judaism to be logically possible - occasionally compellingly so. For example, the weaknesses of Kuzari argument will be admitted by many, many RWMO will admit the possibility of natural morality/ethics which Torah then comes to define, certain fewer will formulate ways of reconciling Biblical Criticism and observance, say uncle to evolution, consider that halacha is often very socially-conditioned, embrace non-literal readings of most all historical narrative of Torah, and rejection of revisionist histories of "Jewish survival". But when many of these points are allowed or conceded, one is really left wondering what makes Judaism specially special - since many faiths have and do engage in such reconiliations of core defining matters - admission of many of them makes Judaism less strong in say, historical argument against Christianity's claims; or the liberalizing claims of the reformists.

One approach left is to demand that the OTDer or potentially-frummy explain various historical "particularisms" of Traditional Judaism that boil down to this; how much better the world is for "Jewish" Judaism being in it, how different it would be without it, how impossible the world you encounter would be (as a modern, Western, affluent Jew), without it.

But the assumption behind such historical claims is far too inclusive of the events and uncertainties, the vagaries of Day One. Everything now derives as a result of Day One - laws therein accumulated, conditions therein rule out others, by definition. Yes,"fundamental Constants" of the early universe included radical conditions from which the slightest deviation - at that time - meant literally universal destruction - but at many points over time (again, something time is within creation), these conditions concreted and "universal destruction" is ruled out. Mary is not inevitably a widow, Potterville is no inevitability - and again the particularity of kiruv apologetics faulters. People apply the same potentiality of Day One to every moment of history, without allowing that conditions and circumstances rule out others, make the path for potential futures.

On top of which our knowledge of past events, let alone the present - change inexcorably. The past is never what we think it is, just as so many hashgacha pratit stories explored too thoroughly become rather mundane events - or not-so-particular miracle stories.

What I'm saying I think is that the world - from the biblically and Western (biblical) scientifically proposed Day One - really does look to have a path and structure to it - but many. God is pro-life, pro-intelligent life, the universe is much the same - not just pro-Homo Sapiens Sapiens, let alone Jewish Homo Sapiens. Many possibilities! Avraham Avinu for example was obviously a very, very special person - the only one who raised his hand in class, shall we say. But he did it in classroom.

What I'm saying is possible is that there could very likely have been many numbers (but not any; rules, conditions and parameters accumulate), of other possible ways - and we, as Kellner has pointed out - could be doing a Judaism derived from the Navajo. And I'm not sure how this possibility applies any less to the moments of our lives - with no spiritual or physical harm done to the universe.

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