Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Am I more "Modern" than "Orthodox" / Am I more "Religious" than "Zionist"?

Just like most Modern Orthodox Jews growing up in America, I had a TV in my home, went to movies, followed (and played) sports, and basically allowed myself to partake of all that American culture offered (so long as it didn't conflict with my religious beliefs - or at least not too much). Generally speaking, up until my graduation from high school the conversations that I had with friends revolved around my areas of interest, as stated above.

(Shoshana, of Sweet Rose, has an excellent post entitled "Comparison and Contrast" where she questions whom she has more in common with, the Chassidim who frequent the neighborhood where she works, or her secular / non-Jewish co-workers. (Check out the post to find out her conclusion).

Now that I live in Israel, I no longer define myself as being a Modern Orthodox Jew, but as a Religious Zionist Jew (not that I am a big fan of labeling myself at all, but that is for another post). I do not have a TV in my home, I am more selective of the movies that I watch, and while I still follow US sports, they are not as important to me as they once were. Generally speaking the theme of the conversations that I have with friends revolves around the future of the Jewish People, the challenges that we face, (particularly relating to those here in Israel), and what we can be doing to overcome them.

I am not sure if I would still consider myself to be "modern", although, if I am not "modern", than what am I? I can't claim to be up on the latest in Israeli culture (music, TV, movies...), nor American culture for that matter - and I do not feel that I am any worse off for it. On the other hand, I can't say that I fit into the ultra-Orthodox world either. My clothes are not their clothes, I don't speak Yiddish too well, I imagine that I am not as strict in Mitzvah observance as they are (I do not know if an ultra-Orthodox Jew would eat in my home, even though I would eat in his), I value interacting with the surrounding world (with those who are different from me, and who share different beliefs than I) and involving myself in shaping Israeli society as opposed to spending my days immersed in Torah study (and only Torah study). In that sense, I do have much in common with the secular Israeli Jew.

I encounter the same dichotomy in labeling myself as a Religious Zionist. I do believe that the State of Israel (and the Land of Israel) play a central role in the "redemption" of the Jewish People, just as the secular Zionist does - granted our definitions and vision as to what the redemption of the Jewish People are exactly may differ slightly. On the other hand, I do not believe, when a conflict exists between Jewish Law and the rule of law in the State of Israel, that the authority of the State is superior. I do not believe that Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel has entitled the Jewish People to determine for themselves which parts of Judaism are and are not relevant in the shaping of Jewish / Israeli society in the State of Israel - similar to the ultra-Orthodox Jew.

So, at the end of the day, who am I? Whom do I have more in common with, the secular Israeli of Tel Aviv or the ultra-Orthodox Jew from Meah She'arim? Whom should I be striving to have more in common with?

My goal has never been, with my making Aliyah, to become Israeli . I am just a simple Jew trying to fulfill my individual potential in this world, and trying to collectively help the Jewish People achieve theirs. I view both the secular Israeli, as well as the ultra Orthodox (chareidi) Jew as my brothers, regardless of the differences that we may have, and I can only hope that they feel the same way about me.


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