Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Snarks in 5769

One of the great joys of festivals is the ability to eat at different people's tables and meet new people in the process, along with the obvious pleasures of a truly spectacular brisket. This Rosh Hashanah found me sitting at a table with a family of three, with a fourth on the way. He's Jewish, she was converted by our reformed brethren, and there child is in the local Lubavitch preschool. Any more information and I'd be sued for invasion of privacy, so instead I'll lay out some of the conversation. In fact I missed this part of the conversation, as I had to go to Mincha and Tashlich, which may have been just as well. Regardless, I later received a full report from the host, so here goes something.

The Mrs. started off by wondering why Jews can't just all get along. What's the sense in all our fighting? Why can't, for example, the orthodox accept a reform conversion? More to the point, why can't they accept her reform conversion? Why is her son not Jewish enough for them? If she has another son, why can't he have a Bris in our orthodox Shul? And why can any Joe Shmoe off the street walk into Shul on Yom Kippur, eating a BLT and smoking a cheroot, and we'll accept him with open arms, while she, paragon of Jewish virtue, is refused?

I know what I would have said to these honest queries, and I'm rather glad that I wasn't able to respond. I assume that she wouldn't have been prepared for my snark and cynicism. Why can't all Jews get along? I would answer, "What would be the fun in that?" I'm not sure that my outlook on this particular nook of life is the ecumenically correct one, but I simply thrive on conflict. In fact, most people do. What would be point if we all agreed? The media, for one, would die a slow and painful death. This itself would provide a modicum of entertainment, but after that?

And why can't the orthodox accept a reform conversion? Because it's not good enough. I know this sounds terrible, and that's why I'm glad I didn't get the opportunity to say it. I understand that you worked hard for it. I understand that a large segment of the Jewish population thinks you're Jewish. I also understand that as long as I don't think you're Jewish, well...who cares about my opinion? No one. Heck, even I don't care too much about my opinion. Still, I do tend to follow the prevailing winds, and in this case, I think that they auger no good for those who have not become part of our faith in the orthodox fashion.

And how about her son? Will the Cheder at some point say that he can't continue in the school unless he undergoes a proper ceremony, complete with prick and acceptance of the 613? Is this fair? I don't rightly know the answers to any of these questions. Obviously, this situation is unique, and quite complicated. There is one thing I can posit though: Life is unfair. Deal with it. Similarly, why is it that a Jew is a Jew is a Jew, no matter the level of observance? Simple. Because no matter how much some people don't want to acknowledge it, Jews are different. We have a Jewish soul. Once you have it, yeah! And if you don't have it, then you either have to arrange to get one or arrange to get out.
In this situation of course, I'd be the first to publicly preach tolerance, in the Merkos-approved manner of course (whatever that is). But sometimes, you have to tell people the truth. I'm glad that I wasn't able to respond on this occasion, because it probably wouldn't have accomplished anything, and anyway, she probably knows all of this anyway. Still, it might very well have been entertaining, and that to my mind is worth a lot. Oh well.

Meanwhile, in other news, I was walking with Rabbi Moshe Feller and we were discussing the various things. This is probably one of those occasions where what he said was intended for my ears only, but there's an old Chassidic tradition of releasing classified information to the public, and I would hate to go against Chassidic tradition.
He said that without Chassidus there's no way a person can understand Davening. "What do the misnagdim think when they Daven," he asked, "What do they know of Shema? Nothing!"
He mentioned that Rabbi Moshe Tuvia Lieff always introduces him (Rabbi Feller) by saying, "He learned in Torah Vodaas," as if that makes him Kosher. Once Rabbi Feller said to him, "Cut it out! Yes, I learned there, but then I saw the light!"


Leo de Toot said...

Dear Mr. Real Shliach:
I see you have started the year riding a decidedly fiery chariot. As always you are on target with your observations. I followed the interesting link you provided - the question/answer article confirmed that the Reform movement lacks substance and, at best, merely serves to assuage the consciences of poorly connected Jews. I maintain that Chabad is successful because it does not compromise - people actually do appreciate that there is a right way and a wrong way and, even if they don't have what it takes to follow the right way, at least they are reassured to know that somewhere, somehow, someone is maintaining valid, meaningful and legitimate standards. I don't think its a matter of fair/unfair - the rules are there and people suffere the consequences of breaking them. Supporting Chabad as always, LdT.

SZB said...

Just another day at the ranch...

Nemo said...

Ahhh ... %#%^^^% is hitting the fan. Forget about all these questions of Jewish existentialism, the economy is going to the gutters ...

It's no joke. Congress is twiddling their thumbs in Washington and meanwhile we're all going to ruin. By next week, our economy might be finished.

Only The Real Shliach can save us from this mess ...

A gut gebenchteh yar b'gashmiyus.

The Real Shliach said...

Glad that I have your confidence in my abilities.

Cheerio said...

am i the only one laughing at the (unintended?) double entendre? (oops, i may just have revealed more about myself than i might wish to...)
on a serious note - why does Reform even convert? what's the point?

Cheerio said...

and why weren't you HOME on Rosh Hashana?

The Real Shliach said...

Which double entendre (oops, I may just have revealed more about myself than I might wish to)?

Why do non-Jews convert reform or conservative? They want to be Jewish, but they don't want the 613. It's sort of like Diet Coke.

And why should I have been at HOME for Yom Tov? Oh, you mean 770! Ha! Why weren't you there?

Cheerio said...

think hard, very hard, and if you still don't get it, then you really are pure minded!

my bad, i forgot - SUKKOS is the time to be home. or at least it is where i come from. perhaps people from the strange land of minnesota have different customs.

The Real Shliach said...

I must be very pure minded.

I don't get this part either. I was in MN for RH. I'm in MN for Sukkos. What's the problem?