Friday, November 11, 2005

Is there a dark side to religious life?

I often ask myself whether I really know what I am getting myself into by being in the religious world as a Lubavicher. Everything is all nice and dandy when I am practicing religion on my own because I follow the laws and I do what I am supposed to do and I abstain from things I am not supposed to do.

I also look to my rabbi and my friends who I believe live religious lives. Like me, they keep Shabbos (the Sabbath), they keep kosher, they pray when they're supposed to, they learn the Torah, they give charity, and everything else a Jew is supposed to do.

However, I've only learned Judaism from my Rabbi's point of view and the point of view of my Yeshiva (Rabbinical College). What if there is a deeper, but darker form of Judaism that lurks behind the scenes that I am not aware of?

For example, on a Shidduch date (a date between a guy and a girl made by a matchmaker), when speaking to my Rabbi's wife on what to do and not to do, she was VERY serious about not calling the girl by her name because it is not modest. She also had all these rules that I had to follow, such as picking her up at a location that is not filled with Jews so that people will not see her getting into a car with a man (even though it is permitted for the purpose of dating). It is sometimes also frowned upon for the man to hold the door for a woman, or for a man to do any of those things that a man customarily would do on a date. Plus, in some extreme cases, the girl will show ABSOLUTELY NO EMOTION on the date for the purpose of not opening up until she and the guy got more serious about each other.

So while I find these details and customs fascinating, I am also worried by them because I often ask myself what is there that I don't know? There are wacky religious people who get angry when you talk about something that is not G-d related. There are people who have very strict stringencies on various laws. There are people who don't dress like me, even though my dressing is professional and modest. Most of all, there are people who are so serious about G-d that it takes over their lives and that is all they do. I love G-d, but He has His place in the laws and in the prayers.

Then there are the Jewish laws, some which are so restricting that people customarily don't follow them. For example, one washes his or her hands in the morning after a night's sleep (neggelvasser) to remove the impurity of the night that according to Jewish law rests on a person when he sleeps. When he wakes up, the impurity leaves his body but rests in his extremities (hands, feet). That is why we wash our hands (and some customarily also wash their feet) in the morning with a pouring cup and a basin that is near the bed. In fact, we are not allowed to even walk a certain distance while we have this impurity on our hands. This is all fascinating. Yet some people take this to an extreme and actually wash their feet by the basin although most people today don't do so. Other people cover the water in the pouring glass with a small towel so that the spirit of impurity doesn't enter the water during the night and make it impure.

These are such things that I know about and I practice because I know about them. But I often wonder, "What DON'T I know? What am I missing?" I am happy to spend my life learning the intricacies of what to do and what not to do in life, but I fear more than anything that my wife [when I meet and marry her] will be more strict than me (even though a woman is supposed to follow the man's observances and customs) and that she will look down on me for being the simple Jew that I am.

I don't keep to a standard called "pas yisroel," because there is no bread where I live that has that standard of being kosher. I don't daven (pray) every day with a minyan (the required ten men). I don't always have time to learn Torah. And I do things that a fully religious person would never consider doing. For example, I've gone out to a dance club, or I've gone to operas and musicals (in violation of kol isha, not hearing a woman's voice sing), I read and enjoy secular books sometimes to the exclusion of religious books, and I feel no compunction when I go out to a jazz bar to listen to music. I am often in places a religious person wouldn't find himself, and I wonder whether my wife will look down on me for this.

So these are my thoughts.

5 comments:

The real me said...

Life is full of learning, just do what you have to do, and if you don't want to do something find out if its a chumrah, or if its min hadin.

Also there are different minhagim about dating, apparently your rabbis wife holds of all the strict ones...

Whenever in doubt, head to copper for a day to figure it out.

Rowan said...

I don't know so, again I don't want to put my foot in my mouth by being a gentile, but isn't it possible if you do not hold doors and other such courtesies, that you will show rudeness to your intended? I don't know, but I would first and foremost in this time and age, look for common courtesies in a possible match. Just my way of thinking, but it's something to think over I think. I also think, like therealme, that there must be levels of "oldschool" vs. "newage" religion...doens't it change from generation to generation to fit within societal law as much as possible? There are some things surely that were practiced 100 years ago, that would be unnaccepted by the general public today, would there not?

Karl said...

How can you know all the intracacies if you were not brought up with them and are not living with it. Don't worry about not knowing everything - if you did, you'd be the leader of our generation! I am living with it all and still don't know what I am suppose to be doing on a shidduch date. I hold doors open for women on dates as that is the common decency I have been brought up with. (and opening the car door for them when getting in and out.) I dont think there are many laws about dating, just many customs. Do whatever you are comfortable with. As for all the other laws, you can only practice what you know, and your wife will accept you for who you are.
Hatzlocho.

Zoe Strickman said...

Karl,
Thanks again for your comment. A girl once told me she didn't like men holding the door for her because it wasn't tsnius because he can see up her skirt when she gets into the car. Other women have told me that they enjoy the man holding the door for them because it makes them feel cared for.

I don't understand the whole shidduch world, and as you know I've been indoctrinated with all the rules and customs, yet between you and me, I'm thinking of circumventing the system and just finding a normal religious girl to marry.

How was your trip? -Zoe

Anonymous said...

Zoe:
this is the first time I visit your blog...
Just one thing. Once I read in a book called "DEAR DAUGHTER" as an example only that if a woman is kosher le pesach no gebrokts and a man is, then the woman shall adopt the minchag of her husband, because of the risks that she look down on him. Of course, the author is a Rabbi and he will not refer to activities like movies, dancing, etc.
The important thing is that you find a woman that not look down on you because your practices, profession, health condition, etc. In all instances, and not matter what, if a woman looks down on you...that deteriorates relationship and marriage.
So, you can either be more strict
or search that modern chassidich girl. Personally I am...and BH I already with my bashert also a moder chassidich good man that I love and admire. Just I am wating and praying he propose me.

Lots of Chatzlacha!