15 August 2007

What is Frumkeit (really)?

Rabbi Maryles wrote a wonderful post about how praiseworthy it is to be a BT, yet we/they are treated as "defacto second class citizens" by many in the FFB world. For example, in our community, there is this FFB named "Golda".

Golda is the youngest child in a family full of rabbis, educated in a top-notch Beis Yaakov, and eventually married the "most frum" of a MO family (her brother-in-law was another early positive influence and a friend from college). Golda is extremely fascinated, to the point of being rude, with gerim and ba'alei t'shuvah. Upon discovering that a mutual friend of ours is a geress, she asked (in front of a large group of people) which traife food she "missed" the most. I really do not know what Golda is thinking with these questions. Tova (the friend) and I recently found out about another "stranger" in our midst (she told us because she is trying to make a shidduch for her daughter who converted as a child, over 10 years after the mother's Reform conversion). Tova joked that if Golda found out about this development, she might run to the lady's house and ask what pork tastes like or something rude to that effect.

Anyway, Golda seems genuinely fascinated by gerim and ba'alei t'shuvah because since she grew up in it, it seems odd that someone would "choose" to take this on. At the same time, she likes to "educate" us non-FFBs about the inner workings of the frum world. (Did I really want to know?) [At least twice, she has pointed out to me that one of her mother's ancestors was connected to "THE" Avraham ben Avraham, (of sefer fame)...Talk about riding on the coat tails of yichus.]

A recent simcha in the chareidi world may have changed Golda's perspective...She was snubbed at this party because amongst various reasons, it seems that she "married down" when it came to her husband (who, by the way, can boast of having had a grandfather who was a rabbi and a brother who is one), in the eyes of her mother's neighbors (and people she grew up with). This time, I gave Golda the education.

It seems that everyone has lost focus on what being "frum" means. So many people equate it with how many chumrot one takes on (or other meaningless external measures). First of all, my understanding of the mitzvot is that their purpose is to bring me closer to Hashem. My accountability (if I break one) is to Him, not to my fellow Jew (as much as some may want me to justify my life). I do sincerely believe that spirituality has died in so many people, that they may feel that taking on the most stringent rule fills them with a sense that they are getting closer to G-d (and keeping up with the Schwartzes on the chumrah of the month club).

Based on my bitterness about frum life (which I approached with open eyes), I have been asked why I bother. The answer is simple, which I told Golda. Golda did not have a choice to be frum, it's all she knows. I, on the other hand, chose to be frum because I wanted to have a closer relationship with Hashem and follow his mitzvot. I do this for purely selfish reasons and without a concern of other people and their relationships with G-d.

1 comment:

  1. The yichus thing really bothers me. My husband and I both have documented yichus (ancestors who were rabbis). When we got married, the rabbinical bureaucratic organization where we were living at the time required us to "prove" that we were both Jewish. It was done in a condescending way. Yet I can prove my maternal Jewish line about six generations further back than the average FFB person. (How many people can give the names of their maternal ancestors back to the 1700's?)

    Statistically, any Jewish person today is going to be a diretc descendent of a large number of famous rabbis from the past. In fact, most people are probably reasonably close in relationship to today's gedolim.


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