*Editor’s note: Welcome Selena, The Jewish Press Online’s the newest blogger
Please select one of the following boxes:
[ ] Modern-Orthodox
[ ] Orthodox
[ ] Ultra-Orthodox
[ ] Charedi
If you’re anything like me, your mind begins to boggle. In some aspects of Judaism I believe I am ultra-observant, in others I’m more lenient. I would have absolutely no idea which option to select.
So many times, I have been asked:
‘So… nu? What are you?’
There’s one answer I give to such a ridiculous question.
Can I please start by making the following statement:
You cannot quantify a mix of spiritual and physical entities to calculate a result.
The ‘box’ issue is one I’m sure a lot of people feel affected by. There seems to be a notion that everyone can be categorized, which is most certainly a lie.
From infancy, everyone is taught that each person in the world is unique. Fingerprints and DNA are examples of individual traits and I’m adding religiosity to that list. Faith, observance and belief are so varying that I am yet to meet anyone in the world who is the same as myself.
A big issue surrounding this is that a number of people deduce one’s spiritual standing based on their physical appearance. Many revered scholars have stated that men and especially women must clothe themselves in the way that they deem appropriate, with different opinions given as to what is acceptable. Generally speaking, skirts to the knee, elbow-covering tops and no chest revealing items is what is agreed upon.
I am in no way disagreeing with what these Rabbis are advocating, but what I am questioning is why Orthodox Judaism is commonly based upon how well you observe this single rule?
I was recently talking to an American friend and we happened to touch upon this topic. In the UK, more often than not, I am seen to be Modern-Orthodox even if I personally disagree with this. She completely contradicted this label and said I was Ultra-Orthodox! This made me realise that it isn’t her who is wrong, it’s the, and I quote, “crazy-ass system” that is.
THERE ARE NO BOXES.
Be who you are, not what a category depicts who you are. If you are keeping 604 out of 613 mitzvot, you’re doing exceptionally well! I’m not saying that you should become complacent about those other 9, but honestly, if it happens to be a physical law you’re struggling on, don’t let negative eyes ruin your dedication.
On a personal level, I know there are certain commandments that I struggle with. Some are physical and some are spiritual but I take pride in the strength of my faith. A lot of things have tested my commitment to Judaism throughout my life but I have always pushed myself to come out on top. So much so that, thank G-d, I have now wholeheartedly recognised Hashem’sexistence. There are few people in this world who can get to that point so I’m overjoyed to have reached it within 22 years. I may not look like the most Judaism-oriented person in the world but you have no idea of how religious my core is. My faith is my identity, but I don’t wear it on my sleeve.
It’s impossible to know someone until you see the soul within them.
Can you think back to the first time you ever met someone who is closest to you in your life? They look or seem different to you now than they were back then. They could have been mediocre at first but over time, their beauty hits you and one day you realize how gorgeous they truly are. That realization isn’t physical; it’s your soul connecting to the soul of another. Never again do you consider who they are based on how they look because in your eyes, they are just bloody brilliant!
I have friends who are older, younger, from different walks of life and who have grown up in other countries. They all see me in different lights because their understanding of the ‘boxes’ all vary. In fact, I think that every single person in this world has their own opinion of these ‘boxes’.
Rid yourself of the view that you can put someone in a certain quadrant of your mind. I guarantee, when you take the time to get to know the real side of someone, you will chuckle at how opposite your first impression of them can be. I know people have done it with me and I’m not ashamed of saying that I’m guilty of previously doing it myself.
There is one very simple solution to this problem so, repeat after me:
Goodbye boxes, hello individuality.