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Wednesday, April 20, 2005

S'iz Shver Tzu Zein a Yid

I've been reading through some engrossing and extremely well-written posts over at Mirty's blog about her estrangement from Orthodox Judaism. I commented over there that she is scaring the crap out of me. And it's not just because I like to say crap (thank you Strong Bad). It's because I really understand where she's coming from. It's emblematic of what is wrong with Orthodoxy. How is it that we can turn off such bright, talented and creative people? Why are there so many old men in the shul every day, while their children and grandchildren have intermarried and want nothing to do with the faith that was transmitted, father-to-son, for 3000 years? Why do we hear so often about Baale Tshuva, returnees to Judaism, whose grandparents came from Orthodox European homes, but whose parents were not instilled with a love of Judaism? What have we been doing wrong?

I know. I was not raised in an Orthodox household, but I've been surrounded by Orthodox Jews my entire life. It boils down to this one phrase: S'iz shver tzu zein a Yid. It's hard to be a Jew. At no time is this more evident than before Passover, when our wives and mothers krechtz about how much work this holiday is. How much of a pain in the butt it is. How happy they'll be when it's over. What's a child to think? He/she has some time off from school, and it's all spent working. Scrubbing, cleaning, shlepping. Work work work. S'iz shver tzu zein a Yid. Who needs it? What's the message we're sending the next generation?

I'm Orthodox now. It took me a while to get here. It may not have been always for the right reasons. But now that I'm here I'm convinced it's the right path for me and my family. But I worry that we're sending the wrong message to our children. Orthodoxy isn't a negative form of Judaism. It's not all "you can't do this/eat this/have this/watch this." It's not about intolerance and bigotry and poor grammar and hygeine. It's NOT ABOUT UNIFORMS!

I don't think Mirty was shown the positive side of being an Orthodox Jew. When she needed help, comfort, guidance, there was no one there for her. And she turned elsewhere for her needs. She sounds like she's turned around and is looking back towards the direction from which she came. I'm encouraged by that. But I'm also scared. Not for Mirty. I think she'll be fine. I'm scared for my children, and the children I see around me. I want to be a good role model for them. I want them to say, "When I grow up, I want to be just like my Abba. I want to spend shabbos with my family." I know I have a lot of work to do. S'iz shver zol zein a Tatte.

1 comment:

PsychoToddler said...

I know exactly whatyou mean. I have requested a moratorium in my household on complaining about pesach preparations. when I was a kid, pesach meant going to florida, cleaning my grandparents' house, doing all the shopping, helping cook, and spending yom tov with a myriad of relatives. Everyone had a great attitude and it was immensely enjoyable and one of my happiest memories. Now, we have all sorts of conveniences, cleaning people,etc., but we still kvetch, and our kids think of pesach as a tircha, rather than as zman cherutanu.
dilbert | Homepage | 04.20.05 - 2:34 pm | #

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I am told that Rav Moshe. zt'l, would get very upset when he heard people say 'shver tz'yain a Yid' and that he blames thatattitude for many people moving away from Yiddishkeit. If kids keep hearing that, why should they want to stay in the fold?
moChassid | Homepage | 04.20.05 - 3:24 pm | #

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This is the particular post he's referring to: http://mirty12.blogspot.com/2005...- continues.html (I thought I would point it out, because I do a lot of posting and things can get hard to find.)
Mirty | Homepage | 04.20.05 - 4:20 pm | #

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Oh, he had that link in there. Doh.

Anyway, I think you are right on several points. We have to make Judaism a joyous thing, fun even. My father always spoke of the suffering of the Jews. And there is a lot of suffering. But let the children, at least, be happy!
Mirty | Homepage | 04.20.05 - 4:21 pm | #

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i heard that phrase so often growing up and i made a decision that my kids would never hear it from me.

They see me going crazy with shopping and cleaning, but they see the smile on my face. I tell them, yes we have to work hard to make the chag enjoyable, but I am so excited to spend the time with them.

Even cleaning the car can be a fun chore if you do it together.

I grew up modern ortho more left than right, and now we design ourselves as orthodox with a liberal twist. (hub is agudah member and black hat wearer) But one thing I remember learning - Ivdu et Hashem BeSimcha - serve God in a Joyous Manner. And that's how I want the kids to learn.
Kiki | Homepage | 04.20.05 - 5:12 pm | #

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I have much work to do in this respect.

Mirty (is your name Myrtle?): I linked to your first post. Thanks for adding the second (third?) link here. I note that you've listed them in sequence on the side of your blog, so people can follow the progression. Might I also suggest that you re-edit your posts to add a "next" link so people can jump from one to the next? I did that with Rose's story. It's time consuming but keeps the contiguity.
psychotoddler | Homepage | 04.20.05 - 5:19 pm | #

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Just 'Mirty' is fine

Getting it all in order is proving to be a challenge. I'm adding this link -
http://mirty12.blogspot.com/2005...-your- life.html
- a post about my reconnecting with Judaism.
I like the "next" link idea. Also a "back" link.
Mirty | Homepage | 04.20.05 - 6:42 pm | #

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My Rabbi has a great attitude about this. He reminds us yearly not to clean the kitchen tile grout with a toothpick. He wants us to remember the importance of the holiday and not the difficulty. He's right, of course. There is no good reason to clean all your carpets, dust the closets and steam clean your kitchen countertops. That being said, I'm going away!
However, two of my kids (ages 9 and 7) have already said that they don't intend to be as religious as we are when they grow up-and we're *very* Modern Orthodox. I'm not sure what to do about that.
BTW-my brother who was Haredi and is now secular would dispute your assertion. I think he believes that it is about intolerance, bigotry, poor hygeine and grammar,and definitely about the uniforms. That's why he's no longer frum.
ball-and-chain | Homepage | 04.20.05 - 9:29 pm | #

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What I meant is that orthodoxy shouldn't be about the intolerance, bigotry, poor hygeine etc. I'm not saying those aren't reasons people get turned off. I'm saying that that's what a lot of people associate with being frum, and it's just plain wrong.

So I think your brother would be in agreement with my post.
psychotoddler | Homepage | 04.20.05 - 9:35 pm | #

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I think the Pesach kvetching is a very legitimate point. I once saw the Pesach products display going up in a supermarket, and I made some very general complaint, and the (presumably non-Jewish) stocker says,

"Every one who stops here says the same thing. Don't you folks LIKE your holiday?"

I told him it was just too soon, like Xmas decorations in October. But seriously, I am sorry that so many people seem to miss the joy of this holiday. For my family, it's about the only time we are all on vacation at the same time.

Chag SAMEACH everyone!
tuesdaywishes | 04.21.05 - 1:06 am | #

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Don't. Get. Me. Started.

ball-and-chain's brother would agree with every word of your post. He grew up Conservative. Became Haredi-Black-Hat during college. Spent about a decade that way. Married and had two kids. Decided the whole thing was about lies, intolerance, bigotry, poor hygeine and grammar,and definitely about the uniforms. Became completely secular. Divorced. Works on Saturdays. Ripped the mezuzot off his doors. He's fairly happy and well-adjusted now. Suddenly ball-and-chain and I are the more religious relatives.
Doctor Bean | Homepage | 04.21.05 - 4:34 am | #

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I don't think the problem is JUST with Orthodox Judaism. The synagogue I attended the last couple of times was an egalitarian Conservative one, and it was filled with old people, and hardly any young blood. I think it's the idea of religion in general that is scaring people off. Once they get over the idea that it's not as bad as they thought, though it requires some sacrifices and limitations, they get much more involved. However, it's very difficult to get them to be open-minded enough to even look into it more carefully. I'm mostly speaking from my own experiences, because until quite recently I was quite repulsed by idea of religion.
Irina | Homepage | 04.21.05 - 9:53 am | #

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I see what you mean. one enver knows where a life path will lead. It sounds like some interpret Orthodox Judaism the way some Christians interpret it for Baptists. it's about more than the jot and iota of law.
Pearl | Homepage | 05.13.05 - 4:09 pm | #