Sunday, August 29, 2004

Hello Rabbi Feintuch,

I just wanted to drop you a line! I have started reading The Making

of the Modern Jew by Milton Steinberg. It is much easier going having

read The Source, and everything has a grounded context for me now.

I thought a lot as I was reading about why this would be important to

read for someone studying Judaism. Not only did I gain a larger

breadth of the history of the Jewish people and a fuller understanding

of the Diaspora, but because characters were used, people I became

attached to, the full horrors of the Inquisition and the Crusades

struck me with a greater force than if I had been reading about them

in a history book that depersonalized the violence.

But one of the important themes that I find emerging from everything

I'm reading, again and again, is the conflict that emerges between

groups wishing to preserve the Orthodoxy of the Talmud and those who

want some reforms.

And I am really torn because I can see both sides very well. For the

first time, I have some idea of how the Talmud was put together and

how it came to be, and why this was so important. I understand now

the phrase, "Build a fence around the Torah," and that the discussion

of issues so mild as should a man be allowed to wear a false tooth on

Shabbat actually address a circumference of other issues.

On the other hand, being a product of the Twentieth Century, although

my affinity for Judaism is very much linked to spiritual needs and my

belief in G-d, not just rooted in the desire for ritual and tradition,

I don't think I personally need to wear a head covering all the time.

But that also strikes me as pretty arrogant on my part considering

that the laws were so successful in creating Jewish communities

throughout the Diaspora, and that the laws were instrumental in the

survival of Judaism in the face of what should have been usurmountable

oppression. So, I understand the rife between the two camps, and I

find myself pulled between them.

I also understand now with much greater complexity, having read Potok

and Michenor both now, the politics behind the establishment of Israel

and the conflicts there. There has never been peace there, and I

don't think we are going to have peace there in our lifetime. But I

still have much more to learn. And I have concerns about being

welcome there if I am not Orthodox, but I am trying not to let things

like that worry me unduly.

We are still celebrating Shabbat every week, and we are hoping to host

some Hillel students throughout the year so they can teach us the

tunes to the prayers! I need to become better about giving the

children a snack because we often eat Shabbat dinner later than we eat

on other nights because we are trying to finish preparations, so

during the prayers, they are starving and just want to eat the

Challah! But we are learning. I have started saying the Sh'ma in

English with my younger two because the Hebrew isn't as meaningful for

them. Sometimes I say both. But I want them to have the meaning of

the words, not just hearing the Hebrew by rote. We also translate the

Shabbat prayers for them (which means it takes us awhile!) and have to

pause to answer questions: "What is Holy?"

I am taking a day off work to come down for Rosh Hashanah, and

planning to come for Yom Kippur (I won't have my children that

weekend), so I was hoping I could get a ticket for myself for Rosh

Hashanah, and two for Dereck and me for Yom Kippur-- can you tell me

who I need to speak with about that?

I hope your son is enjoying his introduction to college life here!



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