I want to start with this: There’s going to be a bit of a “Jews are the chosen people and have been persecuted for thousands of years” theme here, so let’s get a couple things clear first, to avoid hurt feelings. To non-Jewish readers, please remember that I hold you all in as high regard as I ever did and appreciate you being part of my life. To Jewish readers, please remember the old “two Jews, three opinions” adage, and don’t feel like I’m pressuring any of you to believe or observe the way that I do.
So, let’s go chronologically.
My father has a friend who is a Seventh-day Adventist minister, and he referred this friend to me when a question about Judaism came up in their correspondence. (Apparently, being a seminary girl makes one a “higher authority” when it comes to questions about Jewish practice….) This minister and I have, since then, been involved in (totally friendly on both sides) email debating since then. It’s good for me, actually, as I’m having to look up sources and figure out exactly what is right when it comes to such basic things as G-d being one, Shabbos being an eternal weekly gift for the Jews, and there being 613 commandments in the Torah. I’m working on my latest response to him now. I look forward to further debate with this person, and hope he someday gets around to reading this entry!
Then I had an incredibly weird dream last night. In the dream, I had somehow been forced to leave Israel against my will. It started with me on the plane, except the plane looked more like a bus, with seats facing each other and such. My dad, stepmother, and sister picked me up and brought me to my new apartment, which I’d never seen before. At this point, I literally didn’t even know what state I was in. So, I met my roommates, one of them a girl who told me she was also an Orthodox Jew, and the other, my cousin (we don’t do names here, but I will say for those in the know that this particular cousin is the oldest son of my father’s sister). Now, since this cousin is a male and this other girl is an Orthodox Jew, there is a bit of a problem with the three of us living together. But apparently we were at least going to have a kosher kitchen, though this cousin doesn’t, as far as I know, keep kosher in real life. So I was all sad and culture-shocked about the lack of religious Jewish life in the area, but then I found out that there was a Chabad house next door and a kosher deli down the street. And I found out that I was in Richmond, Virginia, which…okay, fine, I don’t actually know much about the Jewish life there. So my sister and I go to this kosher deli and I start crying to her about how I miss Israel and I’d been forced to leave Israel so abruptly (“I mean, we don’t even have internet in our apartment yet! And I had Shabbos plans already!”). And then I woke up. I’m not really sure what any of that means…any thoughts??
And today, we learned from the text “Michtav Me’Eliyahu”, a classic work of Jewish ethics. It referenced the story in the Talmud about the persecution of the Jews by the Romans. This story records a secular Jew coming to Rabbi Akiva and saying, “I don’t understand. Why do you study Torah when it has been outlawed? You will be killed if they find out you are still studying and teaching!” Rabbi Akiva responded along the lines of “Yes, but a Jew without Torah is a fish out of water. I might die from Torah study, but I’d die [spiritually] without it even faster.” Time passed and both Akiva and this secular guy got arrested–the latter simply for being Jewish. He came to Akiva and said, “Rabbi, I envy you–you got arrested for doing something you love and which G-d loves that you do, but I got arrested for nothing!” The rabbi who was teaching this class pointed out that this was but a precursor to what would happen in twentieth-century Germany–Jews being killed merely for being Jews and not because of the way they practice.
And that, actually, is a big part of why I got into religious Judaism. If I’m going to be hated anyway for being descended from Jews (and let’s face it, there’s still an awful lot of anti-Semitism out there), then why not learn what being Jewish is all about? Why not learn to practice the faith of my fathers the way it’s been practiced since the time of the Torah? Truthfully, I don’t understand how any Jew would not want the immense rewards of a Jewish life. (I admit to being in the minority here, even among the Orthodox. Many people who grew up with this religion look at people like myself and ask why the heck we chose the path they were born into.)
Thus end my philosophical ramblings. I’m off to dinner. 🙂