A Recent Returnee To Traditional Judaism Speaks Out: Unrighteous Indignation
August 26, 2010
I am what one would call a recent returnee to traditional Judaism … a baal teshuva, a ‘newly orthodox’, a ‘born-again Jew,’ or what have you. While becoming more observant has been the most rewarding decision in my life, it has not come without its fair share of challenges—as I’m sure many of you who have incorporated more Yiddishkeit into your lives can relate. I am far from being very learned or very pious (the two often go together in Judaism). However, I wish to share my experiences and hear about yours no matter your affiliation or level of Jewish education. The entire Jewish mashpacha is invited to bring their perspectives to the table. There is a popular saying that proclaims: ‘two Jews, three opinions’ so I’m excited to see how this will turn out.
In this blog I wish to share my insights and observations since adopting a more observant lifestyle and stimulate the much needed dialogue and discussion about issues of concern to the Jewish community here in DC and throughout the world. It is my hope that you the reader will get involved and tell your fellow Jews what you think. All I ask is that you please keep your comments clean and respectful.
The first issue I want to address is sinas chinam (groundless hatred) within the Jewish community. The Talmud teaches us that it was for this sin that we lost the Holy Temple. However, we must acknowledge that within the Jewish community there is a diverse tapestry of different levels of religious practice, Jewish education, affiliation, and outlook. We are religious and non-religious, Chassidish and Litvish, modern and insular, Sephardic and Ashkenazi, liberal and conservative, etc. The differences are there and always have been to some degree or another. This is not a bad thing. The key is working with each other despite our differences to promote more harmony within the Jewish community.
Some things to ponder: Do you ever feel stereotyped or looked down upon by other Jews? Do you yourself feel that you may be a little too judgmental or discriminating when it comes to how you view the wider Jewish community? Is Gather the Jews doing a good job of bringing different kinds of Jews together in DC and the DC area? How do we increase in our observance of the mitzvah of “V’havta l’reacha kamocha,” i.e. “Love your neighbor as yourself,”(Vayikra 19:18). How can each of us better promote ahavas Yisroel (love of our fellow Jews)?
We are in the month of Elul, a special time devoted to teshuva (repentance) and introspection. Now is an especially good time to think about these issues as we prepare to start the new year off in a positive way. Please leave a comment and let me know your thoughts!
Sfasi Teeftach is a contributing writer for Gather The Jews.