So, yet again I’ve managed to drift away from writing for a while with no real warning. Part of it has been senior year (which, btw, way more work than I was hoping for. College just keeps getting harder.) That said, part of it has been not wanting to write about what I had left to write from Israel.
So first, the easy bits. Israelis are really wonderful. Yes, they will elbow you out of the way in any line (including at hospitals. Even if you’re wearing a MADA uniform.), but once you get past that, they can be really really kind, in ways you only really see in small towns in the states.
Machenah Yehudah was also amazing. Huge displays of (KOSHER!) candy, and fruit so cheap I could hardly believe the price. Seriously, there is nothing you can’t find there. Loved it, and I’m still sad I couldn’t bring it home with me. mmm, sour gummie worms and nectarines for (at most) 6 shekels a kilo (A KILO!!!!) That and the bakeries where you can get 4 pastries for under 2 shekels.
Also, can someone please explain the point of a keychain with a copy of Tehillim(Psalms), or Tefilat HaDerech (The prayer you say before traveling) in it, sealed so that you can’t read them? I can’t quite explain why, but it feels really weird to me. Carrying the texts with you does no good. It’s reading them that matters, but you can’t read them if they’re rolled up and screwed behind a plexiglass plate. I don’t get it.
And now onto the more serious stuff, the stuff that’s been bugging me. While I was in Israel, there were a bunch of people who I ended up reasonably close to. One of them was someone who I had a few discussions about religion with, and about general social justice type things (women’s rights, vegetarianism, etc) The whole 6 weeks we were in Israel, he seemed like a pretty nice guy, really committed to what he believed, genuinely concerned about treating all people fairly, all in all someone who I had a fair bit of respect for. I mean, he was 19, and had a lot of the immaturity that comes with being a 19 year old guy, but still a good person at heart. Anyway, when we both got back to the states, I got in touch with him, and we had exactly one discussion. Because I’m curious about if I’m reading this wrong, I’m posting the text of it (Not his real name, but it’s hard to read without a name there, so I changed it. Other than that,I made no cuts internal to the section I posted, and I also didn’t correct for spelling. It’s legible, but not perfect.) Sorry it’s a bit long, but I think the context matters.
[02:32] Emily: please don’t do anything stupid
[02:32] Daniel: thats what makes life worht living woman
[02:32] Emily: woman?
[02:32] Emily: excuse me?
[02:32] Daniel: haha
[02:33] Emily: what?
[02:34] Daniel: I hate feminists
[02:34] Emily: are you serious?
[02:34] Emily: why/
[02:34] Daniel: what self respecting man doesnt
[02:34] Daniel: they need to learn their place
[02:34] Emily: oh, all the ones who ever want to have girlfriends?
[02:35] Emily: they being women?
[02:35] Daniel: and the best teacher is the back of the hand
[02:35] Daniel: even the rambam condones it
[2:35] Emily: source?
[02:36] Emily: and condones what, feminism?
[02:36] Emily: or hitting women?
[02:36] Daniel: the latter
[02:36] Daniel: mishned torah
[02:36] Daniel: nashim
[02:37] Emily: can you be a bit more specific than that?
[02:37] Daniel: are you gonna look it up
[02:37] Emily: possibly
[02:37] Daniel: just look in chelech nashim in the duties to the wife section
[02:37] Daniel: it mught be perek gimmel Im not sure
[02:38] Daniel: though the ra’avid disagress with the rambam, hes totally against hitting
[02:38] Emily: ok, i’m just going to throw out there that there’s probably not a reasonable rabbi on the planet who will tell you it’s ok to hit your wife to teach her a lesson
[02:39] Daniel: yeah the ra’avad says that you should just starve her
[02:39] Emily: i’m thinking the same goes for that
[02:40] Daniel: false, yemenites actually follow the rambam to the T
[02:40] Emily: i didn’t say none, i said no reasonable rabbi
[02:40] Daniel: so you;re saying that all yemenites are not reasonable?
[02:41] Emily: if they permit spousal abuse? yeah
[02:42] Daniel: whats wrong with it, I dont understand…?
[02:42] Emily: what’s wrong with beating your wife?
[02:42] Emily: you mean other than the wife beating part?[
02:43] Daniel: what if she deseves it? like if she burnt dinner or something
[02:43] Emily: ok, please tell me you’re being sarcastic
[02:43] Daniel: not at all
[02:43] Daniel: its all in the rmabam
[02:43] Emily: you’re seriously saying you would beat your wife if she burnt dinner?
[02:44] Daniel: depends on how badly she burnt it
[02:44] Daniel: inedible burnt? I’d consider it
[02:44] Daniel: the same way Id hit a child
[02:45] Daniel: if he misbehaved
[02:45] Daniel: same idea
[02:45] Emily: ok, frst off, hitting children is equally unacceptable
[02:45] Emily: and second, why the hell would you treat your wife the way you would treat a child?
[02:46] Emily: she’s not you’re child, she’s an adult
[02:46] Daniel: basically the same intellectual capacity
[02:46] Emily: ok, you are on seriously thin ice here
[02:46] Emily: remember that sarcasm doesn’t translate well to text
[02:47] Daniel: I am not kidding around here
[02:47] Emily: so you’re saying you honestly think i have the intelectually capacity of a child?
[02:48] Daniel: perhaps an older child [
02:49] Emily: were you dropped on your head or something as a child?
[02:49] Daniel: not that I recall
[02:49] Daniel: I am a man of science
[02:49] Emily: mother abandoned you, rejected by some girlfriend?
[02:49] Emily: have serious issues with women?
[02:49] Daniel: women score lower consistently on IQ tests
[02:49] Emily: secretly gay, and bitter?
[02:49] Emily: that’s actually crap
[02:50] Daniel: Colom, R. and Lynn,R (2004) Testing the developmental theory of sex differences in intelligence on 12-18 year olds. Personality and Individual Differences, 36, 75-82. Shows girls have higher IQ at ages 12 & 13 by 1.7 IQ points; boys higher at ages 17 & 18 have a higher IQ by 4.2 IQ points.
[02:50] Emily: women score roughly equal on iq tests, and higher on SAT type tests
[02:50] Emily: 5 points is meaningless
[02:51] Daniel: thats SAT are designed for women to do better becsause of our bullshit liberal society that demands women be equal
[02:51] Emily: we’re not even sure what IQ tests really measure
[02:51] Daniel: are you kidding
[02:51] Emily: no
[02:51] Emily: there are differences between men and women for sure
[02:52] Emily: but the within group spread is way larger than the between group spread
[02:52] Emily: the differences, while interesting, are meaningless when you’re dealing with individuals
[02:52] Daniel: Since the French Revolution the influence of woman in Europe has grown smaller in proportion to the increase in her rights and demands, and the “Emancipation of Woman,” to the extent that that is desired and demanded by women themselves (and not just by superficial men), has, as a result, produced a peculiar symptom of the growing weakening and deadening of the most feminine instincts. There is a stupidity in this development, an almost masculine stupidity, about which a successful woman—who is always an intelligent woman—would have to feel thoroughly ashamed.
[02:53] Emily: source?
[02:54] Daniel: Nietzsche!
[02:54] Emily: and, by the way, the attitudes you’re expressing are exactly, to the letter why my reform friend feels i’m betraying women by being orthodox. this is what people point to when they say observant judaism mistreats women
[02:54] Daniel: Im a minority
[02:55] Emily: oh yeah, and i’ll belive what he says about feminism because i put so much stock in everything else he says?
[02:55] Emily: yes, thank God
[02:55] Daniel: but there are those of us who adhere to true judaism
[02:55] Emily: true judaism involves beating women?
[02:56] Daniel: Maimonedian Judaism, yes
[02:57] Emily: and just curious, are you also of the opinion that jewish lives are more important than non jewish ones?
[02:57] Daniel: oh god, haveyou been readin Noah Feldman
[02:57] Emily: no, i’ve heard people say it to my face
[02:57] Emily: both when they do know i’m converting, and when they don’t
[02:58] Emily: i’ve also been told by someone who’s mother is jewish, but his father isn’t that he’s more jewish than i’ll ever be, since he was born jewish
[02:59] Emily: and i’ve spent the last year following the debacle in which israel stopped recognizing any conversions from outside of israel, and then when that fell through, the cheif rabbi introduced a bill into the knesset that removes converts from right of return
[02:59] Emily: i’ve heard about the noah feldman article, but i havn’t read it
[03:00] Daniel: if there are all of these problems with judaism, then why are you converting?
[03:00] Emily: i don’t have these problems with judaism
[03:01] Emily: i have these problems with a few specific jews
[03:01] Emily: i have problems with a few very specific attitudes
[03:01] Daniel: if I saw two people drowning, a jew and gentile, I would save the jew. period.
[03:02] Emily: and if it weren’t a choice, if it were just one person drowning?
[03:03] Daniel: what do you mean
[03:03] Emily: if it were just one person drowning, would you just save them, or would you first check to see if they were jewish?
[03:04] Daniel: thats a ridiculous question
[03:04] Daniel: of course id save them
[03:04] Emily: and if it were shabbat?
[03:04] Daniel: its not that i dont value gentiles but Jews are family and they come first
[03:04] Daniel: depends on the situation
[03:05] Emily: depends how?
[03:05] Daniel: depends on how much of a position Im actually in to save them
[03:06] Daniel: if my breaking shabbat will directly lead to their life being saved, absolutely
[03:06] Emily: seems that would apply no matter who your saving or when
[03:06] Daniel: yeah…
[03:07] Emily: directly lead meaning what?
[03:07] Daniel: DIRECTLY
[03:07] Daniel: I call the ambulance,
[03:07] Emily: meaning what?
[03:08] Emily: what would indirectly saving their life look like?
[03:08] Daniel: driving to help
[03:09] Emily: assuming there are other people there to save them?
[03:09] Emily: or you would let them drown rather than drive to rescue them?
[03:09] Daniel: Im not sure
[03:09] Emily: are you serious?
[03:09] Daniel: yup
[03:09] Emily: you would let a person die rather than drive on shabbat?
[03:09] Daniel: in some cases
[03:10] Emily: what if it was me
[03:10] Daniel: Im not sure
[03:10] Emily: are you honestly saying that you think God cares more about you not driving on shabbat than he does about my life?
[03:11] Daniel: how should I know
[03:11] Emily: you can’t know anything for sure, i’m asking if it came down to it, what you would do
[03:12] Emily: if you had to make a decision, if you had to guess which God would prefer, are you saying that you would choose Shabbat over my life
[03:13] Daniel: I honestly dont know
[03:13] Emily: how can you not know?
[03:14] Emily: and how the hell could i have missed this talking to you in israel? i seem to remember you agreeing with me when i complained about these attitudes from israelis, am i just delusional?
[03:16] Daniel: i dunno
[03:16] Emily: no, you do know
[03:16] Daniel: sometimes agreeing is easier
Am I crazy, or is he out of line? Is this really what I’m signing up for when I convert? I managed to miss all these attitudes in him talking to him several times a week for a month and a half. Am I just missing this in the people I talk to now, or would other people find what he said as upsetting as I do? How can someone who claims to believe in the same God I do honestly have any doubt in their mind about whether He would prefer they not drive on Shabbat, or SAVE A PERSON’S LIFE? How can that be in doubt? I mean, sure, argue over teh specific reasoning for why you should do it, to maintain peace in the community, between Jews and non Jews, but in the end, YOU SAVE THEIR LIFE, whatever the reasons behind it. If you’re not willing to die for your own Shabbat observance, (and every opinion I’ve heard says you shouldn’t) why should someone else have to?
Also, hitting women? Hitting children? Just because the letter of the law, by one opinion allows you to, doesn’t mean you should, doesn’t make it right. Halacha allows you to stand by and let someone die of a heart attack, even if you know CPR, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do*. There is no justification for hurting a child (and here, i’m not talking about spankings, or doing something like pulling them out of the road by yanking hard on their arm, or hitting their hand out of the way of a hot stove. If they do something dangerous, by all means make that a massively negative experience. Don’t cause permanent damage, but scream, yell, slap their hand, make a huge deal out of it.) And there is NEVER a justification for hitting your wife. Never. There is no reason that could make that ok. And to suggest that your wife is exactly the same as your child? Anyone’s wife is going to be years, likely decades older than his child. That alone makes it a relationship of peers, between two adults, not between an adult and a child. To suggest that women are at best at the intellectual level of an older child? I just can’t believe that someone my age would believe that.
Anyway, that whole conversation really threw me for a loop. Please let me know if you have a better take on it, or a different one. I don’t know, I’m hoping that I’m just too close to it to see what’s really going on, and someone will be able to show me how I’m just really overreacting. Please?
Beyond that, it’s been really hard being back from Israel. It’s weird, I though I would be fine, that I would be able to hold onto what I had gained, and bring that into my life here. What I found was that everything just seemed so much harder, and so much farther away than I had grown used to over the summer. To go from being in Israel, where Judaism is present everywhere, to back home, and back to my normal life was hard. Rosh HaShanah was bad. In all honesty, I don’t think that I’ve felt that alienated from God in as long as I can remember. I couldn’t find any meaning in the davening, I felt smothered by the holiday restrictions, I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to convert anymore. Like I said, really bad. And it was all things that had been building up for weeks, it wasn’t just Rosh HaShanah. Trying to sort out what I thought, and how I felt was part of why I haven’t been writing. Fortunatly, Yom Kippur was really good. I decided not to even try with the Hebrew for davening, and just tried to really focus and find meaning in the English. I managed to find exactly what I needed right then, and at this point I’m feeling much better about my faith, and about what I’m doing. Intellectually, I know that everyone goes through these phases, and I’m much stronger in my faith now than I was a week, or even a couple months ago, but it was still hard.
Anyway, Chag Sukkot Sameach everyone! Hopefully (No promises here) I’ll be back after Yontiff with some deep meaningful thoughts about Sukkot.
* CPR is great, do CPR if you know how, but I feel compelled to make the public service announcement that it doesn’t work very often. If you’re starting CPR, the person is already dead. If they don’t survive, you didn’t fail to save their life, or kill them, you were unable to bring them back from the dead. It’s much better than nothing, but it won’t always work, or even often work. Also, don’t do rescue breaths without a mask on someone you wouldn’t have sex with. It’s the same disease risk. That may seem like common sense, I know, but it warrants mentioning, since when you’re in a panic situation, it can be hard to think of.
(Edited for format to make the chat, you know, readable)