Wednesday, June 07, 2006

My Orthodoxy

(Due to having just watched a spat of Scrubs episodes on, I think I'm going to take to naming all of my posts "My Something". Until the novelty wears off. Which will probably be after this post.)

Search-for-Emes brought up something interesting in the comment thread on his latest post. In response to a comment I made, he saw me as "a fairly Un-orthodox Orthodox." It got me thinking.

I've always known that my Orthodoxy is somewhat atypical. I disagree with almost everyone I know about at least half my positions. (The key is to know enough different people that it's always different halves.) I have friends questioning their Orthodoxy and friends who have just converted. I have friends who think that I am a total shtarked-out religious fanatic and friends who probably pray for my soul daily. I have friends who can't believe I went to a Beis Yaakov high school and friends who can't believe I'd go to a secular college. Friends who thought I was crazy for coming back to America after seminary and friends who think I'm absolutely insane to be transfering to Bar Ilan.

So, which group of these should define what's "Orthodox"? And how should I feel about the fact that I'm different from almost all of them?

Well, to be frank, it doesn't really bother me so much. So I'm different. Nu, I think I be more annoyed if I were just the same.

I think that one crucial advantage that I have had in my life is that I attended a high school whose philosophy was radically different from my own. (I sound fixated on high school. I'm really not. But you have to remember, it was only two years ago. I am young. I have an excuse. she whimpered) (I can never remember- different from or different than?) Not that it was fun at the time. I have a note book with pages filled with unvocalized screams. Of course, I knew that I was going to be reading them later and it was probably at least 50% pretention, but still. It wasn't easy. I disagreed with nearly all of my teachers, administrators, and classmates. In ninth grade, I spent an hour (with Miri, actually) arguing with my principle over whether non-Jews got Hashgacha Pratis. In tenth grade, I (and Miri again, actually) took over the school newspaper and went on a crusade trying to get the school to schedule davening time on gym days for a time that actually conformed with z'man tefilla. I spent eleventh grade in awe of the fact that I had a chumash teacher who actually stimulated my mind to some degree- a Michlala graduate who introduced us to such novel ideas as dissecting p'rakim for themes, contrasting meforshim, and so forth. (Not with Miri, this time. She tended to sleep through these classes. She never got enough sleep). And in twelfth grade, I spent the year trying to apply to seminaries that the school would not allow into the school and colleges that the school would prefer that I did not even know existed.

But the point is, I think it was awesome for me. Putting aside the awesome legal training, it does a lot for your intelligence and hashkafa to daily have to justify them, argue them, analyze them, question them, and fight for them. I wasn't able to get by without thinking. And that, if anything, is what's unorthodox about me.

Not that I claim complete intellectual honesty, nor can I necessary defend all of my opinions in a free and open debate. But the point is that I have thought. Nine times out of ten, I have already struggled with the issues that people tend to raise. I have something vaguely intelligent to say to people who wonder what Orthodoxy is all about, and to those who want to know the basic reasons for basic things. And I generally know why I do the shtarked-out things and why I do the crazy secular ones. I have found a place for Beis Yaakov and University of Chicago, for America and for aliya.

And I don't think that this makes me all special or anything like that. And it certainly doesn't give me any of the answers. But it probably does make me just a little bit Un-orthodox. I think I can handle that.


Miri said...

Hey, I spent until half-way through tenth grade arguing abt hashgacha pratis (just saying.) and I also appreciated our eleventh grade chumash teacher; I sincerely wished I could be awake for her classes. my point is that depite all our similarities, I'm proud that I can actually still disagree with you. and I do. good post, kid. ps, might want to mention that bit abt how our crusade for the correct davening zman was actually successful, thanks to your sister.

Shana said...

Actually Tobie, the only thing I am worried about is the fact that you are now refering to yourself in the third person.


Seriously, it is ok to do or b whatever, I can disagree or agree with you, but that is half the joy of knowing you.

(the other hald, well the other hald is harder to explain)

The issue becoems whether you as an individual or you as a group isx limited to become the best person possible by a specific stream in Orthodoxy. (or any stream of Orthodoxy)

Had you'd been thrown out of school over any of htis, emotionally incompacitated in any way by those who cannot figure out how to accept, well then I would have issues.

Be aware, Tobie, that I suspect that if you had not been a smart young lady your Beit Ya'akov might have given you hell for being different. Coming from NY where this seems to be a big issue (don't ask), being different can get you into big trouble..or at least no shidduchim ;-)