Tuesday, March 19, 2013

No Going Back.

In Plato's Allegory of the Cave, Socrates imagines a prisoner who breaks free from the cave where he has been held with other unfortunates, where a lack of both light and perspective have created a false reality. Such a man, the philosopher posits, would at first resist the truth once it was revealed to him. Sunlight would be blinding; so much so that his initial instinct would be to return to his former familiar captivity.

Incredulously, we read the kvetching of the Israelites to Moses after the Exodus. Under the Egyptians, they experienced hardships beyond imagining, backbreaking work for no pay, even infanticide. And yet, at the first hint of the unfamiliar, the people are ready to run back to that existence. In spite of witnessing firsthand the miracles that led them to freedom, they find it difficult to trust G-d with the little things.

How much more so for us, who can only dream about the parting of the Red Sea. There's an old saying, "The devil you know..." about our tendency to stay in comfort zones that we know are bad for us, but that are just so comfortable. As a convert, I have felt exactly like the prisoner in Plato's tale; ignorance really was bliss in so many ways. But like that protagonist, and like my spiritual ancestors in the desert, turning back was never really an option. A taste of freedom, whether for the mind, body, or both, only increases over time. The human spirit longs for growth, for challenges to overcome, even when the road ahead is daunting.

Don't just make Pesach about cleaning or shopping or burning out on macaroons. Which deserts did you cross in the last year? Which oppressive habits will you leave behind in the months to come, marching bravely and brazenly into the unknown future?

Onwards and upwards, my fellow Jews. Chag Kosher V'Sameach!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Feminist Mistake.

I'm so happy and honored to be back at LadyMama with a new post, this time to discuss my beef with the feminist definition of "empowerment," and how Judaism has shown me what it truly means to be a strong woman. Let me know what you think!


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Ideals and Idols.

Parshat Ki Tisa has always been one of my favorites: There's the precedent of counting the Jews by their contributions, not their numbers; a call to eat with compassion with the prohibition against combining milk with meat; a reminder of what a gift Shabbat is; and of course, the golden calf dramz.

I once read a commentary which said that when Moses descended from the mountain and witnessed the worship of the idol, he did not smash the tablets in a temper tantrum. Rather, he understood that if the people felt they needed an intermediary between them and G-d to replace the MIA Moses, then they would only turn the mitzvot into idols as well. According to the Talmud (Shabbos 87a), G-d Himself affirmed that Moses had done the right thing, so we can see a clear distinction between this incident and the one that resulted in Moses not being allowed to enter the Promised Land.

It would be great if we could say Moses' concerns were completely resolved in the forty day period before he received the second set of tablets, but fast forward a few thousand years and some change, and unfortunately, there's still some major mitzvah worship going on. Instead of each Jew utilizing the mitzvot to connect to G-d and set an example of a G-dly life, they uphold a certain few (and only their interpretation of them, no less) as an end-all, be-all form of Judaism. I do not believe that Moses brought down the Torah so that any one Jew could zero in on and obsess over one particular thing and ignore all other aspects of their neighbor. In keeping with the mitzvah of giving someone else the benefit of the doubt, let's presume that every Jew is better than us in at least one aspect of Judaism, and know that the Jewish peopleand the worldare better for it. In this way, we will learn not to worship idols in any form, and only then can the sin of the golden calf be fully rectified.

Shavua tov,