Having recovered from the brief mental health spiral that resulted from the widespread batshit reactions to this column, I recounted the tale of hate mail and scandalized hyperbole to my friend Aaron.
I maintain that the reaction from many of my progressive observant Jewish friends was tone-deaf and unnecessarily antagonistic. Trefa Banquet 2.0 was a Jewish event celebrating treyf and examining its role in attendees’ Jewish lives and in American Jewish history. In my column, I talked about the very Jewish family traditions around treyf that many attendees talked about. Yet a staggering number of Jews, from Reform on down the line, immediately perceived the event as public mockery of kashrut, as a nasty insult.
Can they not hear themselves? It’s exactly what a fair number of Orthodox Jews say to them (us) about any number of practices.
Anyway, Aaron quoted a friend of his: “We all have our own orthodoxies.”
It’s a great line. I’m definitely going to make use of it going forward.
And it got me thinking: What are my orthodoxies?
To be honest, I don’t have many left. Sometime between when I decided not to be a rabbi and when I headed off into Jewish journalism and writing, I became more interested in describing and seeing as many Judaisms as I can than defining hard and fast rules about what counts.
One of my final unreasonable demands of other Jews is the Amidah. I’ve got a strong attachment to it. A summer spent studying it kicked off my interest in liturgy when I was 16. I don’t care what else happens in the service, if the Amidah doesn’t fall within my parameters, I’m miffed.
Here are my rules:
- It has to be done standing (those who can), all the way through
- It has to at least make room for the possibility of a person saying of the traditional number of things (e.g. 19 on weekdays), which should be provided in writing
- Each part has to be about roughly the traditional theme (e.g. #4 has to be about knowledge/wisdom on weekdays, and about the holiness of Shabbat on Shabbat)
- No interruptions; once the Amidah is going, it’s going; I don’t want to pause between two pieces while a rabbi shares some clever thought about the next one
That’s it. Out loud, silent, whatever.
And yet… even that is starting to weaken. If I go to a Shabbat meditation service, I don’t expect it. When I went to my first Karaite service… well, I had no idea what to expect. (Though I will say that the vast majority of even the most far out Jewish communities I check out satisfy my Amidah orthodoxy.)
Gender egalitarianism is the really big one, the unchangeable one. Other than for work or some kind of special occasion, I don’t do mechitza shuls (I think I make exceptions for shuls with a maharat/rabba/etc.?). (Trichitzas are fine.) I grew up with women rabbis and cantors and got fully indoctrinated into egalitarianism. I’m cool with other people not saying imahot, but I will never not say it.
Beyond that, I’ve become very open out there in the Bay, thanks to my spiritual/journalistic practice and the Jewish communities I get to dabble in.
Gosh, that was a smug and sanctimonious stream of consciousness. What has this coast done to me?!