Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Living on the Periphery by Divine Design and Choice??

So who/what am I, you ask? Okay, I like the term Reconservadox for all types of reasons. But no, this does not quite capture it. It feels like a catch all term without commitment and conviction. Therefore, I like to use precise terms so Orthoprax-Conservadox-Halachic-Klal Yisrael’nik works for me but its way too big to fit on a bumper sticker which makes it an unwieldy descriptor. So I’ll go with one of my students who recently asked so wisely and simply “Can’t you just say you’re Jewish?” Works for me!!! So, now what is my community?

This is a discussion that my children, my husband and I have constantly. Each one of my three daughters could speak as well as write at great length about how they each do not belong wholly to any one community for all types of reasons. Yes, I have taught them well. Our youngest, our son, seems to be moving in the same direction as well. Makes a mother proud!!!! But, before we rejoice too much, let’s understand how difficult it truly is to fit in a bit in a lot of places but not completely in any one place.

I often explain that I am on the outer circle (periphery, if you will) of many different groupings and not completely in the center of any of them. I am fine with this, and I really believe that G-d does not have too much of a problem with it either. So why even care and discuss this here or anywhere else? Because, I also live within the reality of the constraints and parameters of the real world and in that world, everyone wants (and thinks they NEED) to know exactly what group each person belongs to, whatever that may mean. So who are the people in my group? I could give you some names, in addition to the people I have referenced above, but I am not sure that would help. Rather, I will try to explain by what criteria I define my identity in my banner less group of believing, practicing, committed Jews.

I believe in G-d and that G-d has created all of us. I believe that ALL OF US includes every type of Jew, monotheist, person of faith and person. I believe that ALL OF US have equal access to G-d if we care to exercise the option. I believe that we are all responsible for our own being and that of those around us, as we must learn the skill sets and values of living in the ongoing system of interdependence of which we are a part whether or not we like to think of ourselves in such a fashion. I believe that basically we are all good people that are doing the best we can with what we have and that G-d guides us in reaching our potential, but we ultimately have to accomplish set goals and aspirations through proper use of our choice and desire. I believe that the Torah and all texts that ensue in the long tradition that begins with it provide us with a blueprint of how to be the best we can be and make this universe of which we are a part a better place.

Further, I believe that as a Shomer Mitzvot ritualistically observant Jew (I know, more terms to confuse), it is my RESPONSIBILITY to work on my relationship with G-d, my relationship with other members of my Jewish community (ALL OF IT) and my relationship with all members of my human family. That means a strong commitment to social justice, acceptance of all who are different in belief, lifestyle, and any other aspect of their being, and accepting the commanded obligation that G-d has placed upon me to share and care with and for all those around me.

Now, this resonates in many corridors of our larger Jewish community but often not so much within our dovenning – walking distance from the shul - Shomer Shabbat and Kashrut community. It is this wall of separation that often frustrates and hurts the members of my family. So culturally and in terms of so many values of human kindness and acceptance (Gemilut Chesed), we often find we have much more in common with the drive to synagogue – eat out in restaurants – dress anyway you like - not so consistently observant of rituals community. But then our social interactions are sometimes limited there. So, like the story/poem of the Meshiach who comes to earth and tries to find a shul but his head covering is never quite right, we continue to find ourselves on the periphery of so many different groupings. As my daughter Talie points out, this allows us to be part of so many different realities – kind of participating in the smorgasbord of life and living and believing. I like smorgasbords – you get to taste and enjoy it all! I really think that G-d does get it and that is why G-d created all of us and our differences in this smorgasbord of life. How sad that too many of us do not take advantage of the wonderful opportunity of learning and sharing with each other. Thank you G-d for creating the periphery and thank you G-d for placing me on it!

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