I have an issue with religious Jews. They have this thing about not showing affection in public. You would never see a very religious couple holding hands walking down the street and certainly not kissing in public, as it is considered immodest. But I think this teaches children that affection is bad and romance is taboo. How will they ever get married if they don't see affectionate parents?
Here is a true story that happened to a family I know. They are observant and G-d fearing people, and indeed the parents never showed physical affection, even in front of their own children.
It once happened that this family was out driving in their van, parents sitting in the front, and their large brood in the back. While stopped at a red light, one of the children pointed out a scene that caught his eye. Right beside the car, on the side of the road, was a young couple engaged in a very public display of affection.
The kids expressed their strong disapproval, with "ooooo" noises and calls of "yuck!" The oldest, a girl of twelve, loudly declared, "Disgusting!"
Now the parents had a few options as to how to react to this situation. They could have encouraged their children's innocent aversion to street corner romance by telling them not to look at such a yucky thing. Or perhaps they should correct their children's hard-line view and tell them that there is actually nothing yucky about love between two people. Or they could just smile to themselves and let it pass.
But any good parent knows that there are certain teaching moments that don't come along too often, and if they are not grabbed they will be missed. Some lessons are better taught spontaneously. Rather than the parent sitting down the child to talk about an issue, it is sometimes better to wait until the child sees or hears something, makes a comment or asks a question, and use that as an opening to address the topic. An alert parent will have a store house of lessons at the ready, and patiently wait for the right opportunity to share them.
This was one such moment. And the wise father of these children who had labelled an act of love as disgusting jumped at the opportunity to teach them a lesson for life.
"It is not disgusting," he told his children. "It's just in the wrong place."
I heard this story as it was told by the twelve year old daughter, now a mother of children of her own. She said that all these years later she still remembers what her father said, and what an impact his simple words had on her. At first she was shocked. Her father, a rabbi, didn't think this was disgusting? Do my parents do this too? But then it dawned on her. Of course they do. They love each other, and when people love each other, this is what they do. Just some things are supposed to be private. Not because it's disgusting, because it is precious, it doesn't belong on the street.
There are couples that no one will ever see touching each other, but anyone can see the deep love they share. It is reflected in the way they speak to each other, the way they look at each other, the way they talk about each other. And then there are couples who are all lovey-dovey-kissy-huggy, but it is no more than a show for the onlookers. How intimate can affection be if every passer-by is privy to it? Does romance have any real meaning if it is shared with strangers?
When a couple is secure in their love for each other, they don't feel the need to demonstrate their affection to others outside the relationship. And yet, everyone, including their children, will know that love is there. Physical affection is more powerful when kept private. It is not disgusting, as long as it is in the right place.
Judaism doesn't do it for me. I've been there done that - I was start pupil at the bar mitzvah class of my temple, spent my teenage years at a Zionist youth group, did the Israel thing after high school, even took Judaic Studies in college, but after all that nothing has turned me on. What do you say to people like me who simply are not inspired by Judaism?
You remind me of the story of the poor man's cheese blintzes.
A poor man was once walking the streets, feeling hungry, when he was struck by a delicious aroma. From the kitchen window of a huge mansion wafted the smells of a rich man's breakfast. Looking through the window, he watched carefully as the cook mixed the ingredients and prepared a pile of cheese blintzes. He had never seen or smelled anything so appetizing in his life.
He ran home and told his wife, "We must have some cheese blintzes for breakfast. They are delicious. Can you make me some? All we need is French pancake mix, milk and eggs, some butter to fry them in and cheese for the filling."
"Certainly my dear husband," the kind woman replied. "I will whip up the best cheese blintzes anyone ever tasted."
But when she looked into her pantry for the ingredients, she was greeted by empty shelves. An industrious and resourceful woman, she wasn't phased. "We will have to be a bit creative," she thought to herself. "I haven't got any French pancake mix, but a little potato flour should be just as good. We are a little low on milk. I'll just use water. Eggs.... I don't have any eggs, but I can throw in a few potatoes. We certainly can't afford butter for frying, but I have some old oil that I used last week, I am sure it can be used again. And cheese costs a fortune these days. We will have to settle for some mashed potatoes instead of cheese, that will be close enough."
In no time the delicious breakfast was ready, a pile of home made cheese blintzes. The good wife brought them before her excited and grateful husband, who eagerly bit into the first cheese blintz he had ever tasted in his life. After chewing on the first blintz, his face quickly turned from eager anticipation to bitter disappointment.
"I have to be honest," he said, "I don't really get what those rich people see in cheese blintzes. They really are nothing special...."
The Judaism you have tasted is about as authentic as those cheese blintzes. You may think you have been exposed to the Jewish way of life. After all, you sat through a year of bar mitzvah classes, crept into the back row of a synagogue on Yom Kippur every a year and even spent three months on a kibbutz in Israel when you were 19.
This is all very nice. But these are not the ingredients for a true Jewish experience.
If you have never racked your brain over a page of Talmud, if your soul has never been touched by the deeper meanings of the Torah, if you have never felt the embrace of a warm and spiritually committed community, if you have never experienced the peace and holiness of keeping a Shabbos fully and correctly, then you have never had an authentic taste of Judaism.
Enough of the cheap imitations. Go eat a genuine cheese blintz.
I am so embarrassed I don't know what to say. I bought a tomato sauce in the supermarket last week that I thought was kosher. I always buy this brand, but this time it seems I chose a different flavour than usual. After cooking with it and feeding my family, I read the ingredients, and to my horror, the sauce wasn't kosher! When I say not kosher, I mean as not kosher as you can get. It contained..... ham! I will do whatever I need to make my kitchen kosher again, I know that can be fixed. But what devastates me is, what can I do about what I ate, and fed my family?
You have a rare opportunity before you, one that even the holiest people never have. You can now make pig kosher. Here's how.
Every food has its nutritional value. Certain foods provide us with spiritual nutrition, and by eating them we become more sensitised to our souls. This is kosher eating. The Torah allows us to eat these foods, not because they are healthy for our body but rather they are healthy for our soul. On the other hand, non-kosher foods are the opposite, they block the connection between body and soul, deaden our perception of holiness and desensitise us from the world of spirit.
But there is an exception. There is a way that non-kosher food can elevate you. When the eating of non-kosher food itself stirs you toward spiritual growth, when you regret what you have done, resolve not to do it again, and commit to being more careful, what was a fall in spiritual observance becomes a step up to a higher spiritual plain.
This creates an amazing turn around. The pig you ate actually made you more spiritual. The sin had the same impact usually reserved for a mitzvah, it made you closer to G-d.
This is the law of transformation. A dispute, when resolved, makes friends closer. An argument, when handled correctly, makes a marriage deeper. A mistake, when seen as a learning tool, makes you smarter. And a piece of ham, when you regret eating it, makes you more kosher.
You should never deliberately start an argument, and you should never choose to eat non-kosher either. But if it already happened, don't feel down. Turn it around, and make the pig kosher.
The problem with rabbis like you is your narrow view of the world. You always talk about the Jewish future, Jewish continuity, Jews marrying Jews, having Jewish children. What about the rest of humanity? Why do we have to always divide between people? Can't we speak of humans rather than Jews?
Rabbi Moss answers:
You have a good point. Maybe I should broaden my perspective and be concerned about more global issues and not so pre-occupied with Jewish particularism. So if you don't mind, I would like to hear your point of view on one such issue: The hairy-nosed wombat.
I have been approached by an organisation that is dedicated to saving endangered species. They are campaigning to save the hairy-nosed wombat of northern Queensland, which is on the verge of extinction. They say if we don't do something soon the wombats will be gone forever.
Do you think this is a good cause? I could write about it in my weekly article but am not sure if it is worthy of promotion. This is not a Jewish issue. Should it really bother me if there are no more hairy-nosed wombats?
Now you're talking. I would love to see a rabbi promote conservation and eco-awareness. And by the way, it is a Jewish issue! If the hairy-nosed wombat is lost, we all lose. Every species is an integral part of the whole ecosystem. I would much rather you wrote about something like that than the usual myopic Jewish stuff...
Rabbi Moss responds:
I have no doubt that the hairy-nosed wombat makes an important contribution to the world - otherwise G-d would not have created it. But I happen to think that the Jewish people are at least as worthy of preservation as the hairy-nosed wombat.
While the contribution wombats make to the world may not be obvious, the Jewish contribution is. From Moses to Maimonides to Marx, from Philo to Freud to Forbes, Jews as individuals and as a community have given much to the world, and I don't think we have run out of ideas. I think we have more to give.
This is not to put down any other nation and their achievements. Just as the attempt to save the hairy-nosed wombat is not insulting to any other animal, so too the desire to continue the Jewish legacy of four thousand years in no way belittles the gifts of other people.
My work is to try to keep Jewish souls Jewish, because I believe Judaism is an idea that is yet to have its time, and you can't have Judaism without Jews. So I will continue to try to preserve Jews, whether or not they are hairy-nosed.
Nefesh is excited to announce that the following guest speakers will be addressing us during Nefesh services in June while Rabbi Moss is in New York.
Friday Night June 7- Rabbi Yaacov Chaiton
Shabbos Day June 8- Rabbi Dr. Nathan T. Lopes Cardozo
Friday Night June 14- Rabbi Mendel Kastel
Shabbos Day June 15- Rev Amzalak
Friday Night June 21- Rabbi Yehuda Spielman
Shabbos Day June 22-Rabbi Aaron Groner
Friday Night June 28- Rabbi Michoel Gourarie
Shabbos Day June 29- Chazan Isser Feiglin
INTERNATIONAL GUEST SPEAKER AT NEFESH
Nefesh is honoured that Rabbi Dr Nathan Cardozo will join us for Shabbos on June 8 and address us during the service.
Rabbi Dr Nathan Cardozo lectures regularly at over fifty institutions of Jewish and secular learning around the world and is often hosted by programs with affiliation ranging from the Orthodox Union and Union of Sephardic Communities to Oxford and Harvard Universities.
He is renowned for his unconventional style, straight-forward approach and unswerving honesty. He has been quoted as saying that "when Judaisim is introduced to a person as a religion of taboos, permanent damage is inflicted upon its very structure. Too often, young people have become victims of such negativity and consequently have not been able to find their way to the Jewish experience. One of the greatest tasks of Jewish educators today is to daringly turn the tide and show our people that Judaism is foremost the art of enjoying G-d's world."
SERVICES AT NEFESH ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Friday Night Candlelighting 4:35pm
Shabbos Service 6:00pm followed by Kiddush
Morning Service 10am-12:30pm- Followed by Kiddush sponsored by the Morris family in memory of Deo Dutt - may his memory be a blessing.