Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Red alert. Red alert.
The lapsed Catholic in the next stall has sent me an email. Do you know the Hebrew word sotah? 
Of course, I know the word. I also know why she's asking. This has to be about that Ragen book.

I prepare for the balancing act. Can't make the faith look stupid. But I won't misrepresent it, either. There is a source in the tradition for recognizing the tradition's own shortcomings, I tell myself. But who am I to decide what is a shortcoming and what isn't? What to leave out? What to leave in? She's going to think we're seriously weird....

First question: Is there really a moral squad? [Sort of, but I don't think they get into white slavery like the squad in the book.]

Second question: Are the matchmakers ever women? [Are they ever!]

Third question: Do those yeshiva boys really learn all day? [Yes, definately, but not all of them are learning Torah]

Fourth question: Why was the Mea Shearim family disappointed when their youngest daughter married a soldier. He was religious, wasn't he? [Yes, but...]

Fifth question:  Can a girl go to yeshiva, too, if she wishes? [Yes, if Drisha's a yeshiva]

Sixth question:  Why is it all about money? [Ouch! Low blow, lady!] Shouldn't two people be able to marry regardless of the ability of the girl's family to pay for an apartment?

We talk for an hour. I bring up Bruriah and Devorah. (questions 3 and 5) I remind her of Fiddler on the Roof (Questions 2 , 4 and 6) I say a few words about Rabbi Akiva's 24 years of devotion and his 24,000 students. (Question 3) I mention Velozhin and Slobodka (question 3) where
wherever you went and wherever you stood you saw nothing but yeshiva-boys, you heard nothing but the  mournful gemorrah-melody, and you could not escape the feeling, that the whole world was exclusively yeshiva-boys, who had no interest in life, and sought no future for themselves, other than simply to study and study and study.

"Is your Judaism anything like that?" she asks. I detect a note of awe. I think: Do Bruriahs and Tevyas still walk among us? Would our orthodoxy accept the simple-ignorant, but pius man, or the learned woman? Has Slobodka been rebuilt? I'm no romantic. I know the past, like the present, had problems a-plenty. But for now, I smile and leave it to her imagination.

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