Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Guess I Can't Sleep Through The Night Anymore

It must be entertaining to watch your fractured daughter walk around trying to make sense of everything. Every day I fight out what I must think as opposed to what I would think if You didn't exist. Take away my religion and I get to be a good person - someone who includes everybody, who is kind to everybody, who doesn't have to see people as those struggling with sin. But at the same time, I believe You exist. That is the only reason I do anything- because I believe You exist. If I didn't, why in the world would I refrain from the seductively beautiful inclusive belief that calls to me? Lost and insecure, you found me.

People find it odd that I'm fractured into Chana the American Citizen and Chana the Orthodox Jew and they're not the same person. Well, they can't be. There's everything I personally believe and then there is what I must believe since I must surrender to You. I don't believe that the government has any right to act in a paternalistic fashion and define what a marriage is or is not. If there's a separation of church and state, that ought to actually exist in truth, not just in name. So if they gave me a ballot asking if we should legalize gay marriage, I'd say yes in a heartbeat. This is aside from the fact that I think everyone should be treated equally to begin with. I'm an LGBTQ ally in disguise, with a little problem called that's forbidden to me...because I'm Orthodox.

Guess there are some people who are one or the other. Either they are a Jew or not. I can't be that way. There are two worlds and they are both equally alluring. In fact, if anything, it's the other world that I prefer. Except then there's You. There's my belief in You and your law. Do you think I like trying to explain laws I would prefer not to believe in to a class of people who think I'm crazy because of it? And worse, do you think I like failing? Then I feel like I've failed You. You're the only one I'd do it for, and I haven't even done a convincing job for You. Worse, I've offered people misconceptions in the name of my religion. I'm the token Jew and I haven't even done a good job representing You. And in a strange, irrational twist, just to flavor everything else, that's what makes me feel sad.

So I wake up exhausted and go to bed exhausted and I resent this line You make me walk, and I hate having to shelve my own ideas and thoughts in order to accept Yours, and damn it, I would prefer to be anything but the way you want me, but that's the way it goes, isn't it? That's the way it goes and I haven't got a choice. I don't understand the law and I certainly can't love it the way other people do (you made me far too emotionally responsive for that to be the case) but I do respect it; therein you have my service.


Mighty Garnel Ironheart said...

First of all, a reading suggestion: The Lonely Man of Faith, by the Rav. It might answer some of your concerns regarding your dichotomous lifestyle.

In reality, you don't have a conflict. To use your example of homosexual marriage, I have in the past argued that my problem with the homosexual lobby isn't that they've tried to redefine the definition of marriage but rather that they've committed the same crime they've accused the heterosexual lobby of in redefining it to be only 2 people. After all, if it doesn't have to be a man and woman, why is "two" such a magic number? Why isn't polygamy wrong under such a system?
As a religious Jew, I have no trouble noting that in an amoral secular society, marriage can be redefined as whatever society wants it to be. Would I personally want to be part of such a relationship? Well no, because my personal bond with God and the beliefs that it implies precludes that.
The other thing to consider is the nature of God. I have my thoughts and feelings. God has different ones and as a Jew I defer to those. Why? Well because, by definition, God knows better. This isn't such a hard concept to grasp. Who didn't, as a child, have an idea which his parents shot down as unreasonable? And how wrong were they in his eyes? The old teenage refrain "Parents just don't understand!" comes to mind. Years later with maturity we all come to realize: Oh crap, they were right. Yet at the time, caught in the grips of childhood or adolescent angst, we were so convinced we were correct and their values were "the other".
God is described as Avinu for that reason. We can have ideas, feelings, values, that we think are so important but compared to His they aren't. The test of the Jew is to put aside what he's so sure is right because of that.

The Joy of Ladin said...


I have to admit, I am not sure I understand the drama. I assume that you've chosen to take this course; nobody put a gun to your head to take a course on Sex and Gender roles. I imagine it is not a prereq for your Bible Studies curriculum. And I assume that coming into this course, you could have predicted that your values, formed as they are by Orthodox Judaism, would conflict with many of your classmates.

As far as flunking the "performing gender" assignment is concerned, I am also confused. As far as I can tell, this is one theory that is proposed by Dr. Butler and while influential, is by no means accepted academically. Though if I were you, if I were to disagree with the whole premise and try to avoid the F, I'd have backed up my arguments by citing the relevant literature instead of personal feelings and religious values.

Interestingly, one of the main criticisms of Butler seems to be her over-reliance on language in relation to gender - which is the opposite of some of the statements made in the comments on this blog...

Unknown said...

Re: "Separation of church and state", the closest reference in the constitution is:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof"

It's hard to say that this blocks the people of this country from voting for - or against - gay marriage.

Anon said...

The joy of Ladin
,there is little acceptable relevant literature one can rely on in this class. Contrary to what you stated, I believe that personal feelings and religious values are important key factors in presenting Chana's point of view which she is entitled to. Hey,people are different. People in this class may not understand where she is coming from,nevertheless, her points are valid and work for her way of life.

David Staum said...

There's no issur to attending a GLB rally. It may not be "in the spirit" of "torah values" but if it's not expressly forbidden by halacha, why suppress yourself. as long as you're not peforming homosexual acts yourself, what's the problem?

Anonymous said...

"So if they gave me a ballot asking if we should legalize gay marriage, I'd say yes in a heartbeat. "

Everytime I see people write this, I feel compelled to make note of the wikipedia article on "marriage"

I think every person who votes for "marriage equality" should be voting for ALL forms of marriages to be legal. (there's like over 30 of them)

Like in France where they let you marry a dead person. (bout time that became legal!)

The Joy of Ladin said...

>,there is little acceptable relevant literature one can rely on in this class. Contrary to what you stated, I believe that personal feelings and religious values are important key factors in presenting Chana's point of view which she is entitled to.

Little acceptable relevant literature??? This is one of the hottest topics right now... How about Susan Bordo, Peter Digeser, Nancy Fraser for starters?

The rest of your comment is pure gibberish. Everyone is entitled to a point of view. However if you take a course in a university, most professors expect you to back up your point of view with something a bit more academically rigorous than your feelings on the subject.

Chana said...

Garnel, I've read it and everything else he's written in English, but I thank you for the suggestion. Re: the rest of the comment, the whole point is that what I feel to be right and good does not jive with what God feels to be right and good, and simple answers such as 'God knows better' don't (and never have) worked for me.

Joy of Ladin,
This has nothing to do with the class. I enjoy the class. I love the class. I am happy I am in the class and am being challenged to think outside the box. My problem is the fact that intellectually I agree with the class; it is only due to halakha (and God) that I can't act on that.

I think it's understood that if God states that the act of a homosexual male sleeping with another homosexual male is a sin, it's not something I ought to be advocating for.

Anon 3:02,
I don't see marrying a dead person as synonymous with marrying a person of the opposite gender.

Joy of Ladin,
This wasn't a paper and I could back up my point of view if I had wanted to...this was merely meant to be an online response in a discussion forum.

All of you,
This isn't a problem you can solve. This is a problem that defines how I live and every so often I get frutrated and rant about it which does not mean I want an answer to it. It's just part of living; that's how we roll.

Chana said...

Or in short: This post by Jewish Atheist has always resonated with me and probably always will.

David Staum said...


If you're interested, here's my post on how I deal with a similar disconnect.

Anonymous said...

yah *sigh*

Anonymous said...

Chana, is that you commenting on Jewish Atheist? Is your post that you linked to there up somewhere for us to see?

Chana said...

Yes. Oh, that particular link got deleted. But it's here.