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How Jewish is Jewish enough?




I find this baffling, but then I am no expert on our religion.

I am not a rabbi, nor am I even close to being a spiritual teacher, but to me there are no levels of being Jewish. You either are or you aren’t.

Does it mean that because you don’t keep Shabbos every weekend, you are not Jewish enough? Does it mean that if as a woman you wear pants, you aren’t Jewish enough? And if you don’t wear a sheitel and go to the mikvah every month – what then?

I do understand that for the people whose faith is everything, there are definitive levels of Jewishness that are leveraged by just how observant a person is. I totally respect their right to believe that.

However, there are those who are extremely devout yet do so much to help others, Jewish or not, to be the very best people they can be.

These same people make a huge effort to help you and me be better Jews, and experience being Jews to the best of our ability. They do this without judgement. They do this apparently out of the kindness of their hearts, and because it is part of their belief system. This might be the way of many a rabbi and devout person in our community, but it is very clearly something in which the Chabadniks believe. And there are numerous Chabad rabbis in South Africa.

Now, before I continue, I need to be clear that I am not a Chabadnik, nor do I go to a Chabad shul or have any vested interest in the Chabad movement. In fact, I am very happily ensconced in a modern orthodox shul, where I have a wonderful rabbi for whom I have the greatest respect.

Recently, I had reason to be astonished by the way that Chabad engenders care and love of religion.

At the end of last year, Crossroads School parents were told that their Jewish Studies extra mural might have to stop unless they paid a premium price for these lessons, as it was no longer going to be funded. (See page 10.)

Suffice to say, Chabad Rabbis Pini Pink and David Masinter got wind of this situation, and for them, it was a no-brainer. There were Jewish children who were hungry for some Jewish knowledge, and all that was in the way was a little bit of money.

They didn’t hesitate, they made it happen.

And this week, the Jewish children of Crossroads resumed Jewish Studies as if it had never been in question.

Kol Hakavod to Chabad!

In a recent chat I had with Masinter, I asked him about teens with reading issues who found sitting in shul and battling to read the siddur really tough and unpleasant.

Masinter said, “Then he doesn’t necessarily need to sit in shul all the time. If it is hard for him to do so and he gets nothing from it, then he is connecting with G-d in other ways.”

He suggested CDs children could listen to and learn the songs while they enjoyed the melodies. Perhaps they could help in the children’s service? He suggested options that would certainly still be meaningful. It would bring the youngsters closer to shul and Judaism, instead of being forced to sit in shul, hating every minute of it.

I am so impressed by this openness and love of religion that doesn’t find fault if someone isn’t on the same religious level as you are.

Instead of people not being Jewish enough, it is about showing them the beauty of our religion.

I know I am harping on about one or two rabbis from Chabad, but that is not to say there are not many, many other rabbis and frum people from other groups who are just like this. I am simply using them as an example of why I believe we need to stop separating ourselves out into good, better, and best. Instead, we should see each other as part of a mottled and interesting community.

I guess in some respects it is about attitude. If I want to find good in other people, I will. If I want to find something I can look down on them for, that I can also do.

It is easy, and it certainly doesn’t take much. It’s as simple as, “That person eats too much; that person has really bad table manners; that person isn’t terribly smart,” and so it goes on.

Quite simply, we are all different. What is important for me may not be important for you. What is appealing and attractive to me may not be to you.

So, instead of stooping to looking down our noses at who is or isn’t following the letter of the Torah or doesn’t eat Glat kosher, can we perhaps see them as fellow Jews or fellow human beings who simply do things differently?

If we see each other like that, it is so much easier to help each other, to inspire in each other elements of Judaism and sheer goodness.

This is a crazy world we live in, and I would like to see more of us subscribing to the Pink/Masinter way of thinking because it makes for a far more beautiful and inclusive world. It takes away so much anger and negativity, replacing it with goodness and kindness.

Shabbat Shalom!

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Choni

    Feb 2, 2019 at 9:41 am

    ‘Excellent editorial’

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