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!