Monday, July 30, 2007
I watched a documentary this weekend called Trembling before G-d (2001) about frum gay Jews. I was so struck by the beguilement of doctrine on people who have been ostracized by their yeshivot, their shuls and their families. They have been sent to therapy and to rabbis and to Israel "where there are no gays" for the purpose of becoming heterosexual and getting rid of this particular evil impulse (yetzer hara - BTW, this link is a brilliant StarTrekkian analysis of the concept).

Religion, especially ones with intricate rituals, create structure for our lives.

Jews know that on Friday afternoon we bake challah and at sunset we light candles, say certain blessings and welcome the Sabbath bride.

We know that on other days we fast, we dress a certain way, we eat certain foods and don't eat others, we have our own language and special laws that we follow.

In reading one of my favorite Jewish blogs Renegade Rebbetzin, a commenter wrote,
"The measure of a first-rate intellect is its ability to hold two contradictory ideas at the same time."
I think this is the concept I have been searching for in the impasse between being an atheist and being identifiably and enduringly Jewish. I believe it to be a similar predicament faced by those who are gay while maintaining their belief in the Orthodox interpretation of Torah.

It is embracing these two contradictory ideas. Being Jewish is and is not a culture alone. Is and is not solely a religion. God is an integral component of Judaism and yet, I am Jewish without belief in God. My Judaism informs me on a regular basis, provides me with cultural touchstones and yet there is a substantial element of Judaism from which I am estranged.

I welcome these contradictory ideas today because I am not attempting to conform to some archetype, whereas I think, in the past, I think I searched for an unachievable change in my nature.

What a relief.


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