Saturday, December 31, 2011

So long, Mr. McGuffey!

Thing 1 finished the last lesson in her McGuffey Primer last week.  Now, we get to start reading stories!  She's already "team reading" with me, and read Go, Dog, Go! on her own a few weeks ago.  Not bad for a newly-minted five-year-old who never set foot in school.
I'm debating whether to use the First Reader or not.  We'll see how it goes after the storybook reader.  If she's comfortable reading books, then I'll stop and just let her practice out of regular books.  If not, it's back to the more formal structure of McGuffey's.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Which Torah is it?

Na'ama Margolis fears going to school.  Every day, she must walk a gauntlet of people throwing things at her and calling her a slut.
This is the sort of thing one could imagine happening to a scantily-clad teenager in an American high school, pretty much anywhere.  But it's not.  Na'ama Margolis is not a teenager.  She is eight years old and completely untouched by puberty.  She is Modern Orthodox, living in Israel, and attends a religious school where she must cover herself from collarbone to elbows to knees.  And she does so willingly.  And the screaming name-callers?  Not teenaged bums, but grown men, also religious Jews, and some of them old enough to be her father.  So why engage in this behavior?  Because they want only their kind.  Women who cover themselves completely from the neck down.  Women and girls who move aside for them, sit in the back of the bus, don't talk too loudly, and completely defer to them.  Women who stay away from the front synagogue entrances and stick to side roads, lest they be seen by a man.
Now, I've read the Torah every year, from Bereishis to Ve'zos Habrachah, and I only remember one reference to the laws of tzinut (modesty) mentioned anywhere.  And even that reference was rather oblique (in parshas Naso, during the discussion of the Sotah, it talks about the accused woman uncovering her hair).  I've also read the Nevi'im from cover to cover, and don't remember a single instance of tzinut being mentioned.  But I did see, over and over again, the need to love your fellow Jew.  Even in Pirkei Avos (the only part of the Mishnah I've ever been bold enough to crack), I only see commands to watch your behavior.  See, being religious is not about skirt lengths or stocking thicknesses.  It's not about making sure your shaitel came only from European hair, lest there be avodah zarah involved.  It's not about avoiding women, who, last time I checked, are Hashem's creation.  But, again and again, it's about treating others decently.  Love your neighbor.  Do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with G-d.  Anything that is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor.  The sad part is, that most of these "men" (and I use the term loosely) consider themselves Torah scholars.  They are talmidei chachamim.  They have read the same Torah I did, and studied it in great detail, for years.  They grew up on Torah Tzivah Lanu Moshe.  And, yet, by their actions, they have shown that it is nothing to them.   That the minutaie of halacha is more important that valuing G-d's fellow creation.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The rantings of another disaffected soul

Well, here I am on Blogger now.  I've really wanted to get back into the blogging world ever since I abandoned the Cat's Hat, and now I'm back!
For those of you who never read the Cat's Hat, here's a short rundown.  After living all over the country and attending college at SDSU (go Aztecs!  Your Queen calls!), I spent a couple of years in San Diego before settling in Brooklyn (Dun dun DUN!).  While I was in America's Finest City, I was mekareved by the Mormons (more on that later), and pushed from Conservative to full-on Orthodox by, of all people, a Messianic (more on that later, too.)  I began attending Torah shiurim, stopped driving on Shabbos (at least during the day), and made the decision that if I ever moved to New York, I would become Orthodox.  I moved to the  Big Apple in 2005, met Builder at a Torah shiur, and we got married six months later.  We now have two little girls, Thing 1 and Thing 2, who I am homeschooling.
So, why start a blog?  After six years, I've come to the conclusion that the Orthodox Jewish package doesn't match the wrapping.  With a husband and two kids to consider, I only have four realistic options:
1. Chug the kosher Kool-Aid and try to become more "frum."  This will never work because I don't like Kool-Aid (the drink and the mindset).  In fact, if I smell Kool-Aid, I run for the hills.
2. Leave observance.  Not an option.  For one thing, it would affect Builder and the Things.  For another, I actually believe in the Torah, at least the Tanach part.  Some of the Midrashim...well...I'd rather not say.
3. Live a life of quiet desperation.  I'm a little too loud for that.
4.  Separate the community from the religion.  So far, I've had the most success here.  Unfortunately, it violates a precept taught in Pirkei Avos: "Al Tifrosh Min Hatzibur." Do not separate yourself from the community.
So, I believe in Hashem, and Hashem's Thirteen Attributes.  I believe in the Torah, and do mitzvos.  I daven, and teach my girls to daven.  However, I also believe that the Orthodox community, as it stands, is in one of the most bigoted, corrupt, materialistic, and arrogant phases since the time of the Nevi'im.
So, this blog will explore my thoughts.  Thoughts on being in the community, and yet out of it.  Thoughts on homeschooling in an area where it's unheard-of.  Thoughts on why we need to look outside of our daled amos and realize that this evil will affect us.  Thoughts on the Parsha, and the Midrashim that just...don't really make sense.  And, thought about why this blog is needed.  See, the are a lot of OTD blogs.  There are a lot of apikorsus blogs.  And there are a lot of blogs for the Orthoprax.  But there aren't many for people like me.