Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Now here's a thing.

My little story about the frummer on the train got linked by DovBear (presumably of Mezeritch, but I don't actually know him, even if I do have a degree specialising in the history of Hasidism, so I know Dov Baer was a disciple of the Baal Shem Tov. But hey, it's the internet age, you probably know this too).

So this is what's been exercising my mind. Check out the comments. I've obviously got semi-embroiled in a debate about what "frum" people do and if they do or don't sit next to each other in a mixed-gender way in a variety of planes/trains/automobiles/simchas. I don't have strong views about that - the web's about linking and referencing (or, as I should now call it referenciness), but I got to thinking about this comment from LkwdGuy:

Very nice.

I would also note the very different attitude displayed by that (non frum) blogger vs. (frum) Mrs. Shear.

Frum Mrs. Shear:
On several occasions, both men and women have stopped by my seat and asked me to move to the back of the bus. I have politely - and firmly - refused this "invitation". This is not a Mehadrin bus and there are no signs indicating that it is.

Non frum blogger:
I didn't sit with him because he was sitting in a two seat, and I wanted to sit with a table, and also, sometimes those guys don't like sitting next to women for modestly reasons, and I wouldn't want to embarrass them.

See, I'm the non frum blogger.

And I'm wondering how he's surmised that. I don't think I have a problem with it, per se, and I know that by charedei/Golders Green/Boro Park standards I'm not frum-frum, but I'm still wondering. Because, for all he knows, I could be wearing a snius (modest, only translated because google won't really help you here) housecoat and a snood. While having an indepth knowledge of the London club scene and eighties rap music. Unusual, I grant you.

Partly, because I had this conversation with a friend recently where I described myself as 110% Jewish: pretty much everything I do in my life is governed by Jewish values, customs or laws. I like it like that. It's a bit much for people who don't think that way, I grant you, and I don't like to label myself, having recently come over all post-denominational (I said that to some cousins at the barmitzvah at the weekend, and they just looked at me like wtf?).

But how does one decide these things? I keep strictly kosher (at home), apart from mostly eating fresh fruit and vegetables, which makes it pretty easy, I go by the London Beth Din kashrus list, and only cook with kosher wine. I have a slight question over gevinas akum given that (a) I am a vegetarian, and (b) the custom in the UK is to use non animal rennet anyway. I celebrate and observe all the festivals, even the silly ones, I am sabbath-observant to a degree. OK, when you're frum-frum, there are no degrees. I give tzedaka. I have (relatively) good middos, although I (a) fear that this is not something one should say about oneself, like being pretty, and (b) suspect that it counts against any humility I might have. Hence moderately. Hey, doesn't Moderately Good Middos sound like an eighties band, but with sheitls? I am committed to Jewish life and community in a way that to the chareidim world probably just look like social action, and that's a bit hippy/liberal/left-of-centre Jewish.

Aside: I had a very interesting conversation with a reform Rov over the summer, who said wouldn't it be great if Reform Judaism was known for the ben-adam-le-chavero commandments (the second six about relationships between man and man), because it seems like orthodoxy's very much about the man and G!d stuff. But this is a very big conversation I won't start now.

So, bottom line. Probably, by a strict ruling, I'm not frum. And let's face it: orthodoxy is about strictures and strictiness (mishpocha with referenciness). I just don't want other people to say it. I think it's OK if I say it, and ... feels weird if someone else does.

I think that, deep down, I think everyone (Jewish) should follow all the rules properly, even if it's not what I do now. Like when people ask, are you frum? And you reply, "not yet."

Life's a journey. It's better when you have a bus-stop outside your house.

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