Tuesday, September 10, 2013


You know, it really has been a while since we added yet another ideological grouping to our growing rainbow of the many different definitions of Judaism and Jews. I often feel lost inside of all of the different names we give to ourselves. I can’t even imagine how Moshe Rabbeinu would handle this disunity since titles seem to be so important in our times that they practically walk in the door before we do.

A poem that I often have used through the years at this season in my teaching is Moshiach’s Hat by ANOMYMOUS BEN KOLANYMOUS (which can and should be found and read at http://haruth.com/Jewish/JSMoshiachsHat.html ) -- it is a thoughtful and actually chilling piece that walks us through the journey of the Moshiach who comes back to earth and tries to find where he fits in and cannot. Either he is not accepted by the “black hats” or looked at as suspect by this and that Hassidic group, not accepted by the more liberal Jews who want to be sure he is safe and so on. You get the point – think the Jewish version of Tom Lehrer’s National Brotherhood Week! It’s funny if you find tragedy amusing.

So, I have been reading this wonderful book that my daughter Rachie gave me for Channukah. It is SHUVA by Yehuda Kurtzer about how we fashion our identity today through consideration of “the future of the Jewish past.” I highly recommend this book to those who are struggling, as am I, with what has become and is becoming of that thing we call Jewish community or AMCHA! Then to add to my already pensive mood, this morning I opened up my most recent email from Morethodoxy (also a wonderful resource for thinking and consideration of difficult issues) and I see this word that keeps appearing lately in so much I am reading – PERFORMATIVE – namely the notion that to be Jewish we have to DO Jewish. So what does this mean? Well according to the Moshiach’s Hat it is ALL about the dress – what you wear and how you look wearing it. In our Jewish communities it is about who is allowed to play with your child or mine or where we are allowed to announce a variety of Semachot that may not resonate with the larger community. What will they say if my daughter has a public Simchat Bat? What if we have people of color in our shul? Where can I share the good news that my lesbian daughter and her girlfriend have decided to spend their life together? Who accepts me, with my Modern Orthodox ways and look, as a teacher of Jewish texts? Who does not accept the conversion of my son? And so the list goes on…..

Now I often say that I am going to write a book one day called “I stand in one place and they change what they call me” or some more catchy shortened version of the notion. I was born to an Orthodox identified mother who INTRAmarried my father from a non-religious background and we grew up Halachically conservative. Yes, chevra, there was once such an entity! So I learned how to be actively and purposely Jewish – you got it. PERFORMATIVE in an intentional way. Then I become an adult (at least I think I did) and there is no such thing any more. So now, I am Orthodox, then it is important to distinguish that I am Modern Orthodox and now they call me Open Orthodox. Go figure! Again, comedy is surely to be found in this tragic insanity.

So as we are in the midst of the Aseret Yemai Teshuvah/Ten Days of Repentence and return to G-d and to our rooted identity, I take stock. I am clearly intentional about my Judaism and it is most definitely performative – filled with codified actions and involvements both individually and as part of a community. So, when the Moshiach comes to look for me, he can look in my inclusive pluralistic INTENTIONAL PERFOMATIVE Jewish community and place. Please do feel free to join me.

Gimar Chatimah Tovah to all.

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