Saturday, January 31, 2009

cautionary tale

in "juno" the heroine refers to herself as a cautionary whale. which hit home with me because mine is a cautionary tale and since my name is yonah i always identify with whales.

i am 53 unmarried and live without extravagance. if various causes had not pulled me to zion i would be in new york teaching public school right now.

i am a writer. i have written, but not published. my primary accomplishment is a book called "bar mitzvah prophecy" about a 13 year old kid whose older brother is an off the derech nik, but an off the derech nik with a messiah complex and his arrival complicates his younger brother's bar mitzvah.

during the course of the year, i fast on yom kippur. this is mostly to avoid feeling cut off. i have eaten on some yom kippurs and the post yom kippur depression is worse after having eaten. so to make the day after yom kippur tolerable i don't eat on yom kippur. of course in the last hour of the fast i might try to take advantage of the light headedness that goes with fasting and pray to god or take a walk or listen to music.

i attend a seder. one year i skipped the seder all together and one year i skipped the first night seder and only went to a second night seder, but missing the seder is a major deprivation.

my favorite holiday is sukkot. i don't really like the lulav and esrog, but eating in a sukka the first night of sukkot is something special for me and i try not to miss it.

the first night of rosh hashana when the apple is dipped into the honey is special and missing it is a deprivation.

i really dig purim, because i like getting "intoxicated" and some of the ideas of the purim holiday really inspire me, so i go to the purim seuda as a rule and miss it when i don't.

i have one brother and three sisters, who are all orthodox. my older brother became ultra orthodox though we were raised in a modern orthodox home and all my sisters are modern orthodox. my brother has 11 kids and a gaggle of grandkids, without an evil eye. and my 3 sisters have 12 kids between them. i try to avoid my brother's family for the most part, but hang out a lot with my sisters and their kids. i do not attempt to teach my nephews and nieces that off the derech is the way, although not all my comments are reverential. when i visit them for shabbat i usually avoid going to shul. but at the table i am careful to bensch after we eat. there are many starving people in the world and there were many starving jews not so many years ago, and i therefore think that bensching is a good thing. i do not bensch when i eat alone.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

can't live with it. can't live without it.

this is the meaning of the title of the blog.

off the derech

bumped up against the "left frumkeit" bloggers and figured i'd add my ten agurot. (two cents)

in all generations there are people who have left, different generations have different dynamics. no two snow flakes are the same.

my own proximity to the holocaust (not known as such until i was in my teens in the seventies) might give a different twist to my beliefs and disbeliefs.

the t.v. shows i saw as a kid: my favorite martian and the fugitive, might provide me with a different language than one you are comfortable with.

i was born a cohen and "fell in love" with a woman forbidden for a cohen and if not for that circumstance my reaction to my modern orthodox torah upbringing would have been different.

i stayed with torah (continued to wear a yarmulka 99% or more of the time.) until i was 23. i lained the parsha often enough that the words still skip off my tongue 30 years later. i had spent enough time in yeshiva to achieve a facility with talmudic texts and to learn that a certain soul thirst could be quenched with a "successful" shabbat.

israel, zionism and the holocaust played major roles in my jewish outlook.

when i read the atheism of young people i am skeptical. y'know those two dimensional pictures that appear three dimensional if you look at them right. well that's what god is like to me. part optical illusion, part reality, all perception.

we are all scientists and artists to different degrees. the scientist within me (minority) sees the value of insisting on evidence and denying the unseen. the artist(s) within me (majority) sees the value of enriching myself, by allowing my dreaming, creative self to assert the added dimension of insisting that carbon, hydrogen and oxygen do not suffice to create life, but a teaspoon of "magic" is needed as well.

the holocaust is a valley of death, not even a shadow, but an eclipse. i cannot deny the survivor his denial of god's existence. i cannot deny the survivor his assertion of god's existence. but when i go down into that valley i leave depressed and so i try to avoid it.

israel. i idealize the diversity of new york city's union square. a (realist) person would acknowledge the history that yielded and yields that diversity. the campaign of europeans against the indigenous. the slavery and after effects. the wealth of america vis a vis the rest of the world. the border control (porous, but still a factor). so the peaceful diversity has an element of illusion to it. nonetheless it is impressive and a logical goal.

israel's lesser diversity falls short. given the muslim reality, the goal of diversity is subject to (infinite) a lengthy delay. my less than realistic dreams or policies supported by a few dissenters rather than the conventional wisdom, regarding israel, will wait til later, or be discussed elsewhere.

the children killed in this gaza campaign is deeply troubling. the holding of gilad shalit by hamas is deeply troubling. my own emotions are so overwhelming that policy statements are washed away in their flood.