Ask the Orthodox Jew/ Amateur theologian

Your Mama was Jewish, or you (like me) converted. :slight_smile:

So despite the fact that one of the guys bitched at Mrs. Plant for wearing a tallit, since they let us sit together they are cool. :rolleyes:

I guess I’d be Conservative if I were to choose. :slight_smile:

What’s the Orthodox Jewish opinion on the Books of Maccabees (1 and 2)? I find it interesting that they appear to be part of the canon of Scripture for some (though not all) Christian denominations, but apparently not regarded by Judaism as anything much. Do you know what’s up with that?

I guess I don’t count.

My Dad’s Jewish, and my mom doesn’t really count. I never officially converted to anything. :dubious:

Whats the idea behind the plaits,the hats and the other clothes ?
Can converted Jews become ultra orthodox,as in say,to use an extreme example a Kalahari Bushman?
Or do you have to be born with the bloodline as it were ?

The Lubavitcher rabbi says I could convert again under his teaching for a conversion that would stand up in Israel. :slight_smile:

My Wife was initially refused the use of a mikvah at an orthodox synagogue because I am a conservative convert. It turned out to be okay, though.

I am Conservative, so some of my practices differ from yours.

Do you wear pants, or do you always wear skirts? Do you wear short-sleeved shirts? What do most Modern Orthodox women do? I see quite a few women always wearing long skirts and long sleeves around my neighborhood, are they most likely Modern Orthodox or Ultra-Orthodox? We do have both around here (as well as Conservative and other denominations)- I see the guys in their black hats sometimes.

How kosher are you? I keep kosher, buy only kosher meat, and have two sets of dishes, but I will buy stuff without a kosher certification if I look at the ingredients and make sure there’s nothing non-kosher in it. I will eat kosher fish or vegetarian meals in non-kosher restaurants. I do the whole nine yards for Passover- no chametz or kitniyot, separate dishes, kashering the kitchen- though I don’t worry about gebrokts (and, being Conservative, I will eat peanuts and peanut butter during Passover).

What’s a typical Shabbat like in your house? How observant of Shabbat are you?

Are you married? If so, do you go to the mikvah regularly?

Do Modern Orthodox kids date like other kids do, or do their parents discourage that? Is there any encouragement to get married at an early age, like I’ve heard there is for Ultra-Orthodox kids? I converted as an adult, but Mr. Neville and his brothers and cousins seem to have had a dating life pretty much like other people’s.

What did you do on the last two days of Passover? (I see above in the thread that you do observe them as holidays, which I don’t)

Let’s hear some of your interesting or unusual ideas on theology.

They were voted out. In the time of the Great Assembly (about 350 BCE or so), the rabbis officially decided on which books were in the Bible, and which were not. Maccabees, Tobit, and other Apocrypha did not make the final cut. (There was also hesitation about whether to include the Song of Songs and Ecclesiastes, but in the end they voted yes).

So, Maccabees and its ilk are historically interesting, but not particularly holy.

I’ve a question that I suppose is more about you specifically as a Jew rather than Jews in general; what is it that’s led to your interest in Jewish philosophy and thought? Are there any particular facets of it that you’re especially interested or intrigued by?

If by ‘plaits’ you mean those long sideburns, they are called peyot. Leviticus 19:27 prohibits shaving the corners of your head, whatever that means. Apparently in ancient times this was a common pagan practice. What exactly you’re not supposed to do, and how you’re not supposed to do it, is debated.

Many Hassidic and ultra-Orthodox Jews take this to mean “Don’t ever cut your sideburns”. Thus, the long curly fringes.

As for the Hassidic dress code, I’ll let a Chabad rabbi tell you about it himself.

Now for the Bushman. If he (or she, but I guess then it would be a bushwomen) converts to Judaism, he’s exactly as Jewish as anyone else. He can take on the ultra-Orthodox lifestyle, if he feels it’s for him. Mind you, he’d have to not mind being stared at (when you live in an insular, homogenous community, a Bushman would be the talk of the town). And some communties would be more accepting of someone different than others. But if he wants to be Hassid, no one’s stopping him.

I personally wear pants, although a lot of my friends don’t. I feel that, if you like to run around, climb things, and sit in unusual positions, then pants are more modest than skirts. I wear short sleeves, but I’m thinking about trying to wear at least elbow-length in the future. I wear high necklines- at least up to my collarbone. (Which makes shopping really, really difficult). Legwise, I wear long skirts and long pants.

People from all over the spectrum vary in their personal standards, but in general the more ultra-Orthodox people are much stricter. I remember one boiling summer in Jerusalem, seeing a couple of girls walking by in what looked like ankle/knee-length black velvet. wince But to those girls, it would probably be as unthinkable to wear short sleeves as to walk down the street naked. Boys don’t get off, either.

I try to be very kosher. In my house, we have seperate dishes, ovens, sinks, and dishwashers. We only eat foods with kosher certification (unless it’s something like water, or raw vegetables). I had a class on kosher in high school, and believe me, they have all sorts of stuff that you can’t tell from the label. Like, trays that are greased with lard, and stuff like that. (And you don’t even want to know where castorium comes from).
Mind you, there are thousands of laws with all the little details, particularly when it comes to mixing meat and dairy. I can’t keep it straight in my head, so I do my best and call the rabbi if I think there’s a problem. He doesn’t mind.

I don’t think a typical shabbos in my house is very typical, at least compared to my friends. They seem to think of it as a time of spiritual growth, peace, and relaxation. Maybe it’s different if both of your parents are religious.
Anyway, we light candles, and we have shabbat dinner. Which isn’t always easy, because my brothers don’t get along very well, my autistic sister is prone to screaming fits, and my father likes to force us to talk about school. But sometimes we get through okay, and the food is usually pretty good. My mom bakes her own challahs, and I sometimes make rice crispy treats.
Shabbat morning, we go to shul. Or sometimes we don’t. It depends on the weather, and how much people oversleep. I tend to sleep very late, so I’ve been missing a lot lately. I try to go, though.
Then we have lunch, and afterwards we go off to nap or play games or read a book. Usually my friend comes over to play cards. Sometimes I go back to shul for the Third Meal; I’ve been missing a lot because of the aforementioned friend, but now that summer’s coming I think there will be enough time. When shabbat ends, we say havdala, and everyone goes back to their computers.
Reading over what I wrote, it’s a bit embarrassing, but we’re not perfect.

I am not married. If I was married, I would go to the mikva, but I don’t see wedding bells in my near future.

I don’t know about dating. Remember my first post where I said I have a bunch of psychological issues? Well guess what? I’m asexual, too. (Or possibly lesbian, which would make things even more complicated). I have never fallen in love, and I’m rather scared of males in general.
What I’ve heard about the infamous Jewish singles scene is scary, but completely second-hand. I’ve heard that the girls are desperate not to become “old maids”, and and generally have a shorter shelf life than the guys. And that no one wants to be the last person in their class to get married. Other than that, your guess is as good as mine.

And, finally, the last two days of Pesach, I… read books. I think there’s probably some spiritual thing I am missing here, but I’m not sure what it is. I read books, and complained about the effect that matza was having on my digestive system. I accidentally had dinner at my friend’s house, and her family seemed to be doing something- when I showed up, she was waiting for her dad to come home from shul. I guess I’ll have to ask her.

I guess I’ve always been interested in how the world works. My curiousity about the physical world has led me to become a biology major; my curiousity about the spiritual world has led me to become an amateur theologian.

I’m fascinated by the system of it. Why ethical principal A leads to law B leads to kabbalistic concept C. The integrated whole makes sense to me 95% of the time, and I want to figure out the other 5%. I like to feel the slots sliding neatly into place.

I also like the fact that Judaism is so logic-based. Even the mysticism is rational. Miracles are impressive, but they don’t prove anything.
There’s an awesome story in the Talmud that illustrates this point. There were a bunch of rabbis arguing about whether someone’s oven was pure. Three said it wasn’t, and one said it was.
The holdout said, “Let that tree fly through the air if I am right.” And, lo and behold, the tree flew through the air.
The other rabbis said, “You can’t deduce law from a tree”.
The holdout was stubborn. He made a river flow backwards, and the walls of a house cave in. Finally he said, “If I’m right, let God confirm it”. And a heavenly voice called out that, yes, the oven was pure.
The other rabbis were unmoved. “It says, ‘The Torah is not in heaven’. We were commanded to deduce the laws by logic, and no miracle, not even a heavenly voice, can change that.”

Have you ever doubted the existence of God? If you ever ceased to believe in God, would you continue in your way of life?

Do you observe the restrictions on melakha during Shabbat?

I don’t. My Shabbat observance can be best summed up as: “no work brought home from the office, no errands, no non-trivial chores, and no real cooking.” Non-trivial chores can be defined as basically “anything that requires more work or thought than loading or unloading the dishwasher”. Real cooking is hard to define, but anything where I have to do something like chop vegetables is definitely included, while heating up soup from a can isn’t. I’m willing to turn electric items on or off, though. I’m willing to drive to synagogue (Conservative rabbis say you can do that) or to something fun, but not for errands. I don’t go to shul that much because I usually need to catch up on the sleep I don’t manage to get during the week.

We used to light Shabbat candles and do havdalah sometimes, but we don’t now that we have the cats. I wish we could, but “Never, ever leave a burning candle unattended” is a cardinal rule in our house because of the cats. We did Shabbat candles last Shabbat when we were with my in-laws for Passover. It kind of freaked me out when they left the candles to burn out unattended on the stove, because I’m so used to having to worry about curious cats (my in-laws don’t have any pets).

Do you have pets? If you do, did you feed them special food during Passover? Are there any pet-care issues with Shabbat for you?

What was your seder like? Do you use the traditional Haggadah and do it all in Hebrew and Aramaic, or do you use one of the newer Haggadot with more English and interpretive readings in it? We use one of the newer ones- in fact, I compiled my own Haggadah a few years ago, cobbled together from various other Haggadot. Do you make sure to start after sunset? My in-laws always start seder around 6, regardless of when sunset is, so the meal will be at a reasonable hour.

I agree with this. I try to dress modestly, though I don’t follow the rules on tznius. My version is basically no skirts shorter than knee length, no shorts shorter than mid-thigh (though I very rarely wear shorts), no cleavage, nothing too tight-fitting or revealing of body shape, and no strapless tops. This is partly to practice modesty and partly because of body image issues, though.

I’m betting it’s sometimes like that for them, sometimes not. Humans can’t really order up a peak experience like that on demand (or at least I can’t).

I had that, too. I’ve taken to calling it Pharaoh’s revenge, sort of the opposite of Montezuma’s revenge. I have depression, too, and the lower-carb diet I eat during Passover makes me irritable and depressed (your body makes serotonin from carbohydrates, and I take drugs because my brain generally doesn’t have enough serotonin).

Are your parents not both religious? How do you deal with the issues that brings up? How religious is your non-religious parent?

How old are you, if you don’t mind me asking?

Do you plan to live with your parents until you get married, if you ever do get married?

Every thinking person has doubts about whether what they believe is true. I have my ups and downs. But on the whole, both the philosophy and my personal experiences reinforce my beliefs. The philosophy makes sense to me, and my personal experiences… I’ve had prayers answered and stuff like that.
You can’t really have a religion without God. There has to be a reason for all the little rituals. I keep kosher and say blessings because I believe that my actions have an effect on the world. If I didn’t think it made a difference whether I prayed or not, whether I wore long-sleeves or a tank tops, then why bother?

I wrote about five long, informative paragraphs, then the computer ate them. Gggrrnnn!

Okay, let me begin again.

-Yes, I keep Shabbat to the best of my ability. I mean, there are laws that I forget, and laws that my OCD is giving me trouble with, but I hope I am managing most of them

-I have two beautiful cats, Mystery and Tikva. Their preferred brand of cat-food, Science Diet, is okay for Passover. And it’s one of the best brands on the market. A win for everyone.
<Explanation insert: not only can’t you eat leaven on Passover, you can’t own it. Or benefit from it. Thus, pet food can pose a problem. No, pet food does not have to be kosher.>
I can’t think of any cat-related Shabbat problems. Although trying to find Mystery in the basement when the lights have been left off is a challenge.

-We use the traditional haggadah (with English and Hebrew), and we have minimalist seders. The reason for the short seders is because our relatives aren’t religious, don’t know Hebrew, and have finite attention spans. So we do the rituals, give a short explanation, and move on to the next step. My dad wears a funny hat to get people to ask questions. Sometimes I think up a gimmick to keep everyone entertained (one year I wrote a play), some years I draw a blank. The relatives usually leave after the meal, although this year some of them stuck it out till the end. We usually end around eleven.
This is not the typical experience, from what I hear. My friends talk about seders that go on until two in the morning. I assume they’re giving Torah insights and expounding on the Exodus and all that. My extended family would be bored out of their skulls.

Okay, I’ve gotten past the part the hamsters ate. saves work this time

-My family is… complicated. When my parents met, they were both secular. My mother got into religion around the time my oldest sister was born. My dad came along for the ride a bit, then he decided he was sick and tired of religion.
My dad’s an enigma. One day he’s saying he’s an atheist, next day he’s saying he’s no such thing. He goes on his computer on Shabbat, but then he goes to the rabbi’s lecture. He seems to be okay with the rituals- he makes kiddush on Shabbat, and he enthusiatically conducts the seder. But he gets mad whenever we say we can’t do something.
Needless to say, this causes a certain amount of tension. When he wants us to do something, and we say, “But Dad, it’s Shabbat”, he gets grumpy and complains about how he’s sick of this religious stuff. And he gets bored when we try to share the Torah insights we learned. It doesn’t help that kids memorize rituals before they learn tact. I’m sure having his children screaming at him to stop doing that didn’t endear him to religion :smack:. God, if I could take back the things I said when I was seven…
What can I say? We deal. He lets us do our religious thing, we pretend we don’t see him surfing the net on Shabbat. I love my dad, and we’ve got to live with each other.

-I am 19 years old, almost 20. It’s a scary age to be.

-I have no idea what I’m going to be doing, actually. (See “20 is a scary age”, above). I assume I’ll have to move out on my own at some point, but right now, I’m not ready to deal with that yet. In fact, I’m getting panic attacks just thinking about it. At the moment, I can barely maintain a dorm room by myself, never mind a house.
Er, can I plead “special-ed late bloomer” and pull the covers over my head now?

I know a lot of Orthodox Judaism centers around the community. Do you live in a typically Orthodox Jewish community? Do Jews from other denominations live in your neighborhood?

Following up to your reply to my question, I appreciate the discussion of what the parah adumah is. I haven’t the slightest idea what it means, though. I’m hoping you can help with that.

What did you do for end-of-Pesach hametz?

I live in a mixed neighborhood, Jewish and gentile. I’m not really a social butterfly, so I don’t know who’s who, but I know that my town has two Orthodox synagogues, and at least one Conservative one within walking distance of my house.

I’m sorry, I’m not sure what you’re trying to ask me. Could you clarify a little for me?