Little Boxes

Ikea, the world leader in efficiently-packed, mass produced, globally distributed housewares, now builds houses!

Nearly my entire apartment is from Ikea. Before school started, I spent a week putting together a bunk bed, 2 desks, 2 bookshelves, and a dresser, all from Ikea. Many of the tools in my kitchen are also from Ikea, and lest you think that all kitchen utensils are packed the same way, I also had to assemble my pots and pans-it’s cheaper to ship them with the handles removed, and placed inside the pots.
I can spend days walking around the Ikea store. The fact that there is the entire second floor dedicated as a showroom, there just for the benefit of the design-less like myself, makes me smile. But Ikea houses? I’m not so comfortable with that. My desk is a bit wobbly, and we had to return the bunk bed because some of the boards didn’t fit into where they were supposed to. All that is fine for furniture that I’ll be done with in 2 years, but a house is a long term investment, and I’m not sure I trust Ikea with that.

Living For Herself

If I had it to do all over again, I may or may not have chosen to go to the high school(s) that I went to, but I definitely would not have gone to the seminary I went to. I just didn’t know what I wanted out of a school. I basically asked my principal, who I highly respected, where he thought I would like, and he told me to go to the school that I did.

Even before I went there, I was a little apprehensive about it. I knew that it was more right wing than I was, but I wasn’t sure that was a bad thing. I knew that the girls from my high school who’d gone there weren’t exactly like me, but then again, who IS exactly like me? It seemed that everyone who spent a year learning in Israel came back at least a little, if not a lot, more religious than they were when they started.

I bring this up now not because I’m dwelling in regret, but because my sister is a senior in high school and is deciding where she wants to apply to seminary now. Now, my sister and I are vastly different people, and I acknowledge this. However, her arguments for applying to schools that are more right wing than she is sound eerily familiar. “My guidance counselor thinks I will like it, and she knows me well” “So-and-So went to this school, and she’s a cool person” “I don’t want to go to seminary just to read texts all the time. I like the discussions” “I’m not looking for the same things from college that I am from sem”.

I want her to go to the best school for her, not the best school for me. If she wants to go to the same school I did (she doesn’t, but for different reasons) then so be it. However, I hope she isn’t tricking herself into thinking that because other people tell her that’s what she wants, it’s what she wants. I want her to have the clarity of mind to choose a place that will affect her positively for the rest of her life, not just for the 6 months after she gets back when she’s still on her spiritual high.

Driving Thoughts

I teach on Sundays at a school about an hour away from my house. It gives me some great time for personal introspection. Among the thoughts that crossed my mind this week:

-7:45am is WAY too early for a Sunday morning, no matter what. 
-I wonder why drive through Starbucks aren’t more popular?
-How important IS Jewish continuity anyway?
-If I’m going 80 in a 55, I can’t really get annoyed at the cars going 65 for going to slow. The problem isn’t their speed. 
-My ipod is useless because in order to use it in the car, I have to hook it up to the radio, and change the station almost as often as I change the song. 
-If these parents are so committed to their children getting Jewish education, why not send them to day school already?
-My day school was really crappy. My high school wasn’t much better. Still, despite this, I left both these institutions way more committed to Judaism than I was before. Why?

Zionism-My Epiphany

I don’t know why it has taken me so long to realize this. Maybe it’s because my formal learning about Zionism ended at 7th grade. Maybe it’s because I don’t discuss the issue with enough people. Maybe it’s because I have never been in an overly Zionistic environment for an extended period of time, until now.

Whatever the reason, it all seems so clear to me now.

I never understood the seemingly intrinsic connection between Modern Orthodoxy and Zionism. Why is it that one of the earmarks of a Modern Orthodox institution is that hallel is said on Yom Haatzmaut? Why do the Modern schools have Israel committees, (theoretically) well developed Ivrit programs, and aaliya advisors? And conversely, why is that lacking in the more “traditional” Orthodox schools? What’s with the “non-Zionist” phenomenon? Is it truly a tenet of Ultra-Orthodoxy to dismiss both the Zionists and the Anti-Zionists at the same time?

Suddenly, out of no where, it hit me. I finally got it. And I can’t understand why it took me so long to connect the dots. 
Zionism, in it’s most original form, was a secular, political movement. It was, basically, an answer to anti-semitism. Some secular Jews got this notion to create a State for the Jews, and [eventually] decided to put it in Palestine. Now, the rest of the Jews, especially the Orthodox, had to decide whether or not to put their support in Israel, and this was a big debate.
On one side, there were those that said traditional Jewish thought claims that the Messiah will bring the Jews back to Israel on the wings of eagles and that it’s not our place to do the Messiah’s job (!). 
On the other side, there were the Jews who said, we too believe in redemption and Messiah, and we can take an active part in bringing that era. Even when taking the literal approach to traditional texts, they argued, there’s nothing wrong with setting the stage for the promised era. Not only is there nothing wrong, but it seems that in fact this is ideal, Judaism is not a passive religion, rather, an active one. 
And this, my friends, is the struggle between modern orthodoxy and chareidi orthodoxy that exists today. Is secularism something that should be avoided at all costs, or should observant Jews embrace parts of secularism as beneficial tools not only for the mundane, but for the religious benefits as well?