I Need the Sequel to Judaism for Dummies

I’m taking a deep breath now.

Partly because I’m angry, and anger and blogging don’t mix.

But partly because I study meditation which is an offshoot of Buddhism which is not Judaism which is the religion I was born into and which is the religion of this religious state but isn’t necessarily equally understood or practiced by all its citizens.

I’m taking a deep breath now because I care about people, and because I care about my own name, my own reputation, and — you may be surprised — the reputation of Jews.

For years, I’ve written in publications that, for better or worse, represent Jews. Jewish newspapers, Israel-related organizational material, blogs about Aliyah or Israeli high tech, tweets and Facebook status updates emanating from Israel.

Before I write, I pause.

I ask myself, is this how I want myself represented? Is this how I want people to see one Jew, one Israeli, one woman, one mother?

It’s a struggle I face each and every time I write. I’m extremely passionate and opinionated to a fault. I relish the platform that is blogging as a space to express my opinions to a crowd. However, there are times I forfeit the expression of my personal opinion for the greater good.

The good of my family. The good of my marriage. The good of my employment status.

The good of Israel.

The good of Jews.

It’s not easy.

I am prone to change making. I want to change people’s minds and hearts. And I want them to listen to me.

My instinct is sometimes to shout, and even sometimes, to defame.

And then I breathe.

I remember what’s important to me — and how shouting and defaming are contrary to what’s important to me.

It’s true that I’m still a student of Judaism, despite years in Hebrew school, despite indoctrination by a Jewish youth group, and despite living on a pluralistic kibbutz in Israel where I pray at least once a week in a synagogue.

I still have a lot to learn about Judaism, about halacha, about Torah Law.

But I’m a smart girl, and at heart, a good girl, and this is why I don’t understand why individuals who publicly proclaim themselves as religious or orthodox or observant Jews, often in the same breath, so freely cast slurs upon their fellow Jews — their fellow human beings — in a public forum such as this free blogging space.

What drove me to finally ask this question — How is it permissible in Judaism to cast slurs upon bloggers? — was a personal reaction to personal slurs against someone I know personally. But it’s a question I’ve been asking myself for some time; more so since I started writing publicly, and since I started following conversations in the comments of posts at The Times of Israel, The Jerusalem Post, and Haaretz (all in English).

I should probably ask a rabbi, or two. I should probably ask my neighbor, who grew up ultra-orthodox. I should probably ask my father-in-law who went to yeshiva. I should probably ask my Facebook friends, 2/3 of whom are smarter or more observant Jews than I am.

But I think I already know the answer.

It’s not permissible.

It can’t be permissible.

It can’t be “good for the Jews” to write nasty, hateful personal attacks against another Jew; against another human being.

Judaism, as I understand it, is a religion that is most open to heated debate and discussion.  If Chaim Potok’s The Chosen taught me nothing else, it taught me this: Jews like to argue…especially over Torah and politics and baseball.

But it also taught me that Jews are required to be compassionate to one another, and to all human beings. Compassion, however, is not something I ever formally learned in Hebrew school, nor is it something I was required to perfect before becoming a bat mitzvah.

It’s something I’ve learned on my own, through interpersonal communications, through mistakes, through accidents, through pain. And through a desire to be a good human being. A good Jew, even.

And so, before I blog, before I comment, before I share my opinion in any public space, I try — Oh, how I try — to breathe.

And I ask myself: Is this good? Is this for the greater good?

Are my words worth it?





About the Author
Jen Maidenberg made Aliyah to the Lower Galilee with her family in 2011. A published writer and author, she chronicles her life in prose and poetry at www.andyaddayadda.com