Religious Intolerance- Elul

The best time to talk about religious intolerance is certainly not now. Not at close to 1:30 A.M. when I am exhausted and exceptionally cranky. No sir, no ma’am now is not the time to do this, but since I never pay attention to doing things the easy way I’ll dive right in.

We’re in the Jewish month of Elul now. It is the warm up for the high holidays. Now is the time to get your shit together so that you can make full use of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Now is the time to engage in introspection and figure out what kind of person you are now, who you have been during the past year and who you hope to become. More on this in a moment.

Lately I have been engaged in discussion with a group of Frum people (Orthodox) about Judaism. And I find that I am sorely disappointed by their attitudes. It is kind of a funny thing, this aggravation I feel. They disagree with my level of observance and how I choose to practice being a Jew. Yet, I don’t care. If you know me in real life than you know that one of my favorite comments is that I won’t wear a sweater because you are cold.

If you like being Frum and you feel that it works for you I am happy to let you do it. Engage, daven, learn and grow. I’ll cheer you on, but don’t try to give me grief because you think that I am doing Judaism lite. ‘Cuz the thing is that you haven’t any way tor prove that you are right and I am wrong. I know, I know, you have lots of sources that you use to try and convince me that you are doing it correctly and I am not.

Well my friend Bubba has the same confidence in his book and let me confirm that it is not the same one that we read. If you ask he’ll give you endless reasons why he is right and we are wrong. And of course there are the Muslims, Hindus and others who will also tell you why they are right and we are wrong.

But I am not really concerned with them. What I am bent about is the attitude that some of my fellow members of the tribe have. Their belief that they can push, promote and enforce one specific way to do it is wrong and obnoxious. Not to mention that there is a certain level of hypocrisy in saying that we should be tolerant and accepting of their way when they refuse to grant the same respect to us.

In a comment on an older post someone asserted that my discomfort came from insecurity with my level of observance. They alleged that perhaps the problem was me, that I might be fighting the desire to experience the same thing as others. It is simply false and inaccurate.

Thus far I haven’t heard any voices speaking to me from bushes, mountaintops or pillars of fire. I am not so foolish to say that it is impossible for me to ever do as they do, but it is still unlikely. And it is even more unlikely to happen when the approach is to try and shame me into it.

I am not ashamed of how I do it. Do I believe in G-d? Yes, I do. I could care less whether you agree or disagree. It is a highly personal thing that has evolved over time and probably will continue to evolve.

So when it comes to Elul and the road to the high holidays I take a slightly different approach. I don’t turn inwards because I fear a negative decree. I don’t try to become better because I fear punishment. I do it because it is the right thing to do. I do it because it doesn’t hurt to think about the past year. It is doesn’t hurt to ask myself if I was good or bad. It doesn’t hurt me to to try to make myself a better person.

And like I said it is more important to me that I try to make changes because it is the right thing to do than because I fear supernatural punishment.

So be who are you going to be and do what you are going to do. And I’ll do the same. It is Elul and I feel unsettled.

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  1. TheJackB August 12, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    It is a mix of online and in-person. Some of these conversations have been excellent and I have walked away feeling like we all learned something.

    Unfortunately a few have been the opposite and I wonder if they have common sense and any ability to use logic and critical reasoning to frame an argument.
    My recent post Writing a Book- Sense of Accomplishment

  2. Mordechai Torczyner August 12, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    Sorry to hear it, Jack. Of course, intolerance is not the province of any one religious group, but I particularly hate to hear about it in those who identify with my own affiliations.

    Question: Are these discussions on-line or in-person? I find a greater tendency for people to speak persecutorially ™ on-line.

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