Wednesday, March 07, 2007

"Are we all bad Jews?"

I was chatting with my friend last Wednesday night, and I bluntly stated, "I SO don't wanna fast tomorrow," and felt instant remorse.

How could I say something like that? I am sure many normal people feel that way, but to say it out loud almost makes it as if it's okay.

"OMG," I realized aloud. "How dare I say something like that? Like thinking I have things to do. I have to prepare Mishloach Manot, I have to cook (the things my mother allowed me to cook) for the Seuda, I have tons of homework, quizzes, and none of those should come before fasting. I mean, Judaism should be #1. Why should I think about how it would interfere with my "life," since my life should really revolve around this?"

Agreeing that most normal people don't enjoy fasting, and obviously don't look forward to it, my friend asked,"So, you're saying we're all bad Jews?"

"Basically, yeah," I clarified.

So many times I feel like I've allowed my physical desires come before my spiritual needs. Why is it that when I daven I could space out and not focus, but when I read about politics, or marketing, I can pay attention?

Something is certainly lacking there.

It's a matter of how you look at things. In discussion about schoolwork with classmates, I say, "I can't do any work on the Sabbath, I'm not allowed to..." and it sounds like Shabbos is interfering with my work. Shouldn't I feel like the schoolwork that would be on my mind the whole Shabbos is interfering on Shabbos?

I try to justify it, and say, "we live in America, I need to do well in school," which is certainly true, but I don't feel it's right to dread fasting because it will interfere with my ability to perform my schoolwork.

Perhaps this is a product of the Bais Yaakov system in which if you aren't perfect, you aren't worth anything at all.


At 3/07/2007 10:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

you can't blame everything on the bais yaakov system...
it's called the yetzer hara-of course he doesn't interfere with your reading politics-why should he? it's your kavana in davening that he wants to ruin...Life is a challenge and we're here to work on ourselves, no one said it was going to be easy

At 3/07/2007 6:47 PM, Anonymous haych said...

My first question is who gave you the right to speak Lashon Hara about on of Hashems children. How can you decide that you are a bad Jew? You are a Jew b/c you have a Jewish soul and you are human b/c G-d put your Jewish soul into a physical body to do a job. It's a very special job; you have to use holiness to conquer anything that tries to undermine holiness. B/c of this you need a Yetzer Hara every time he makes himself know you have an opportunity to say no.
Yes it's a lifetime occupation; you cannot expect to finish it overnight. In fact when a person finishes this job he moves on to a different world.
Next time a though crosses your mind that you don't appreciate take a moment to realize you can fight it and change it. Take that same energy and do something good. If you dislike fasting... take the opportunity to invest some energy into asking for and end to fasting with Geula.
You don't have control over what comes into your head but you have control over what stays in your head. And being able to conquer a though that shouldn't be there is even more incredible than not fighting it in the first place.

At 3/07/2007 10:48 PM, Anonymous just me said...

I have the same story. I am in ur boat I would rather not fast BUT I know where it comes from.
We are not viewing our religious duties as positive opportunities rather as chores. I suggest that you do as I do and pick one thing (for me, shabbos) and learn to love it and appreciate it.we are not bad jews bc we know that there is no human being that is able to run this show. We all admit there is a greater being and because the way our foundations were built we have grown to dislike hashems mitzvos. We must learn to love them.

I hope I don't sound like a religious freak bc I sooooo am not but in my eyes that's what our socitey is lacking a love for god and an understanding of what he is.

At 3/08/2007 7:28 AM, Blogger Michelle said...

Anon--I suppose you're right. I can't blame everything on the Bais Yaakov system, but if you want to know why there are so many troubled teen girls, I firmly believe it is due to the unrealistic perfectionist standards in Bais Yaakovs.

At 3/08/2007 12:20 PM, Anonymous sil said...

We are supposed to hate fasting. If we didn't it would be pretty pointless.

At 3/08/2007 1:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

see rashi on prohibition against eating treif-he says there that the correct thought process is I want to eat that but I can't as opposed to it is repulsive to me. Maybe the same applies here-maybe the correct thought should be I don't like fasting but I will because that is G-d's will...

At 3/08/2007 2:31 PM, Blogger Orthoprax said...

Purposefully depriving your body of nourishment and hydration is generally unpleasant. If you _did_ like it then you would probably be suffering from some mental disorder.

Personally, I can fast for a day pretty easily, so most times I don't mind it that much - but it's not something I look forward to either.

In any case, the point of fasting is not just to 'do your duty' as is the common poor conception, but as a means to change your way of thinking. It is to understand why you fast and to grow in character and spirituality (whatever that means exactly).

Too much of modern Judaism consists of doing what you think you have to and being 'covered' rather than looking beneath the surface and understanding the messages that underline the actions and traditional rituals. See Isaiah 58:5-6. If all you accomplished from fasting was being hungry then you accomplished nothing.

Yes, Judaism interrupts regular life - often by design - but that doesn't mean regular life is not important. Having a job, a family, enjoying life - these are all important supporting beams for life that exist complementary with personal development. A good Jew is not a monk - he is a person who lives in the real world while remaining mindful of the lessons of Jewish tradition. And an interruption now and then helps make that possible.

At 3/08/2007 4:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i find it helpful to think of gashmius/secular stuff as a tool for spiritual stuff.. for example, in the FIRST place, why are you are you studying? why are you in school? to get a job. if u want a job to contribute to the world, and do your portion of tikkun olam... then ur ultimate goal is spirituality. meaning, of COURSE your not gonna study on shabbos, because that would just ruin what your trying to accomplish by studying anyway ...

At 3/08/2007 8:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think your attitude comes from your home, not from Bais Yaakov. Why? Because I know plenty of girls who've gone to BYs and they don't have perfectionistic tendencies.

One who grows up in a healthy environment knows to take what the teachers say with a grain of salt. Chazal say that one experiences God the way one's father was to him/her. Thus, if one's father is punitive, that's how he'll perceive Hashem. If one's father is loving and shows sensitivity and understanding, the person will not feel that he has to be perfect to make God happy.

A truly confident person can feel satisfied even with occasional failings. Perhaps you have to evaluate whether your attitudes about God and Judaism are really reflections of your own shortcomings.

At 3/09/2007 7:41 AM, Blogger Michelle said...

SIL-yeah, but isn't there more to it than that?

Orthoprax-Yes, I agree.

Anon 8:33-Very interesting. Thanks for bringing it to my attention (in a non-attacking manner, which is always appreciated.) there are some things from school that I try not to let get to me. Like when a teacher said we can't be spiritual if we watch TV. I feel hurt as I type those words, rememebring the judgment passed on me that day, for a mere hobby of mine. Little did she know all I was watching was Roseanne reruns and other sitcoms, while the others watched The Bachelor, and WORSE.

At 3/09/2007 8:34 AM, Anonymous Ike said...

- The words of the tochacha in Ki Savo come to mind - "tachas asher lo avadata es Hashem elokecha b'simcha ub'tuv laivuv" - The tochacha happens when we don't serve God with joy.

Sure, we all have to aspire to grow. But when that aspiration turns to an obsession, and makes us feel guilty and like "bad jews" all the time, something is way, way off.

- I would add to anon 8:33 and Michelle by saying that I don't think it's about taking the teachers' messages seriously. The main role of schools is saying that religion is important. Then it's up to you, the student, to decide where to go with that message.

Most perfectionists won't just have their attitude when it comes to religion. It can come up in school (remember the dorks arguing with the teacher about their 99?), work, shidduchim, and performance in general.

(That said, I still believe most bais yaakovs have their work cut out for them, to put it nicely.)

At 3/11/2007 11:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I still believe most bais yaakovs have their work cut out for them, to put it nicely"

Just wondering what you mean by that.
(Not criticizing, just want to know)

At 3/12/2007 12:09 PM, Anonymous Kay said...

Normally, I don't really think one way or another about fasting and this year I also felt like I just wasn't in the mood to fast. I think it's because we didn't have Purim to look forward to that night, so our biorythyms were messed up or something.

At 3/12/2007 12:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

well, i can't say the bachelor is an appropriate show to watch, but i don't think roseanne is something i would want my kids seeing either. I do not mean to rebuke you, and i don't agree with what the teacher said to you, but roseanne was pretty crass. and did you know she teaches courses at the kabbalah center's university in california? anyone associated with that organization is not someone i'd want in my house on a regular basis. just my humble anti-roseanne opinion.

At 3/12/2007 7:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perfectly fine to say that a mitzvah is unpleasant. Who said all mitzvos have to be pleasant?

At 3/12/2007 10:12 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

If I may answer for Ike, I think he means that the Bais Yaakovs have a lot to do in terms of Chinuch. What they have done thus far,in many people's opinions, inclduing mine, has been inadequate, and damaging at times.

As far as Roseanne..yes, she was very crass. Perhaps that was a poor example.

But as far as not enjoying a mitzvah, shouldn't the mere fact that I was to commit a Mitzvah be enough to make me look forward to it? Shouldn't I feel like, "I don't like being hungry and weak, but since I am doing G-d's will, I am happy to do it, and it's the least I can do."

Considering what G-d gives us EVERY DAY, giving Him one day of fasting (which should be spiritually centerd, not hunger centered, like a commentor pointed out) with true love and enthusiasm to be able to do that?

Kind of like when someone does you a really big favor, and you feel like you must reciprocate-you want to do as much as you could do for them in Hakaras HaTov. Is that a good way to look at fasting?

At 3/13/2007 7:10 AM, Blogger jewish philosopher said...

If you drink a lot on the day before, like a few liters, fasting should be fairly easy.

At 3/13/2007 1:10 PM, Blogger Notsofrummie said...

Im sure theres many people like myself, who dont know the exact reason for fasting and dont feel the solemness one is suppose to feel. But i just do it cuz as a frum jew its what im suppose to do. Then to help me pass time, i watch some tv and movies, so im not sure whats the point of fasting if im going to distract myself with secular activities.

At 3/13/2007 7:22 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

notsofrummie--thanks for your honesty.

Yeah, fasts become days that people need to kill time to distract them from hunger. That's kinda one of the things I was dreading about fasting.

Why should I watch TV when I should be focusing on my spirituality, but I can't think about anything because I'm dizzy and exhausted?

At 3/13/2007 7:23 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

This comment has been removed by the author.


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