Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Social Stratification in the Orthodox Jewish Community: FFBs, BTs, and Geirim (Part II)

Before reading this check out Part I, especially if you do not understand the abbreviations used in the title of this post.

The purpose of this post is to take a closer look at the FFBs. In a previous post I described the FFBs as people who do not know what bacon tastes like. By that I meant to say that FFBs are different. They remind me of what F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote about "the rich":
"Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft where we are hard, and cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand. They think, deep in their hearts, that they are better than we are because we had to discover the compensations and refuges of life for ourselves. Even when they enter deep into our world or sink below us, they still think that they are better than we are. They are different."
I think that Fitzgerald hit upon something which is really quite obvious. The way one grows up affects one's psyche. Someone who was born and raised rich is going to be fundamentally different from one who acquired wealth later in life. I think the same thing is true when we are dealing with FFBs. They are "different" than BTs and Geirim. They grew up Jewishly "rich". Their psyche, their inner spiritual world was built differently.

However, I do not think that FFBs necessarily "think that they are better than we are" or any other of the negative traits that Fitzgerald ascribes to the rich. Perhaps some do think that way. Others highly respect BTs and Geirim, as they have internalized what the Torah has to say on these matters.

In any case, FFBs are different. While I was memorizing the chords and lyrics of pop songs they were memorizing mishnayot. While they were staying up late Thursday night learning Torah (a practice known as "mishmar" in yeshivot), I was...never mind.

Yes, I am familiar with the Talmudic statement,

במקום שבעלי תשובה עומדין, צדיקים גמורים אינם עומדין

"In the place where BTs stand, the completely righteous are not standing(Brachot 34B)"

From this we see that BTs have a certain advantage over the FFBs. However, the issue is not "who is better?". The above quote from the Talmud actually strengthens my case: it shows FFBs and BTs are different.

So, what is the nafka mina? How do these differences affect our lives, and how do we deal with them? I hope to deal with that in the future, with God's help.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Social Stratification in the Orthodox Jewish Community: FFBs, BTs, and Geirim

I thought that I would write about a subject that is often dealt with on other blogs: social stratification in the Orthodox community. There is stratification based on community (Ashkenazi, Sefardi etc.), and ideology (Hasidim, Mitnagdim, National Religious, Modern Orthodox, etc.). I may touch upon these, however the main focus of this post (and some upcoming ones) will be stratification that is a manifestation of when you "joined the club." Here we have three main groups:

1) FFBs ("Frum From Birth"): These are people who were born into Orthodox Jewish families and have been practicing Jews all their lives. These are they guys that don't know what bacon tastes like.
2) BTs ("Balei Teshuva"): People who were born Jewish but were born into families where Torah observance was weak (i.e. they did not keep the Sabbath, dietary laws, etc.). Later on in life these people embraced Orthodox Judaism. I belong to this group.
3) Geirim (converts). People that were not born Jewish but out of their own free will converted to Judaism according to Jewish law.

I think that most reasonable Orthodox Jews will admit that stratification based on the three groups mentioned above does exist. It has different manifestations, particularly but not limited to the shiduchim that one is offered. However, the degree of stratification varies depending on which community one belongs to. What is true in the Modern Orthodox community in Kew Garden Hills is not necessarily true for the National Religious community if Ofra, or by the Vizhnitz Hasidim in Haifa.

How should one deal with the above mentioned social stratification? Personally, I do not believe in waging wars against windmills. What's more, I am not convinced that the phenomenon is always negative.

I hope to give examples of what I mean in future posts.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Who do the territories belong to?

Will Anthony Weiner and Huma Abedin Get Divorced?

Now that Anthony Weiner has lost his job in Congress, is he going to lose his wife as well? Is the humiliated Huma going to give Weiner the boot? That is the question that many who have followed this bizarre case are asking themselves.

The truth is, according to Jewish law, Anthony Weiner and Huma Abedin are not married. A Jew cannot marry a non-Jew. Period. According to the Torah, their current lifestyle is a simple case of promiscuity, to put things mildly as possible.

My guess is that Huma and Tony are going to be parting ways in the near future. Huma thought that she married an up and coming Congressman who was on the way to becoming the Mayor of New York City. Now her "husband" has become a walking joke! Such an embarrassing situation is no doubt unbearable. Huma has little use for such a disgraced has-been. He's not President Bill Clinton. She will show him the door quicker than most people think.

Chances are that they would have broken up in a few years time anyway. As is well known, intermarriages are recipes for domestic strife and confused children. The Weiner-Abedin union is no exception. I wonder what baby Weiner will think when he/she hears the imam say that his/her father is "a descendant of apes and pigs"?

If I am correct this will also be for Anthony Weiner's good. As long as he is "married" to Huma he cannot make amends with his Maker. Once she is gone, the gates of teshuva will be wide open for him. Will he enter?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Anthony Weiner Resigns From Congress: For Real!

About a week ago I published a fictional post, "Anthony Weiner Resigns From Congress". Well, the post has been fulfilled, that is to say, the resignation part.:

BTW, I found the heckling extremely distasteful.

I've written a few posts about Weiner. People have arrived at these posts using a variety of search terms:
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The Weiner chronicle is not over. I am interested to see if any other aspects of my fictional post will come true. Time will tell.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Givat Shaul III: Yesh!!!

It started as "Birkat Rachel", afterwards it was called "Alef", and now it is "Yesh".

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Givat Shaul II

Givat Shaul Street looking west:

The sun is going to set soon...minchah, minchah.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Some Pics From Dimona

I was in the town of Dimona recently. Yeah, that's the place with the nuclear reactor near by. It's a nice town and here are a few pics:

This shot was taken from inside the Yeshiva high school. Nice mural:

This is the exit gate from the Yeshiva high school, with a very educational message written above it:

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Should Rep. Anthony Weiner Change His Name?

I have already mentioned that Rep. Anthony Weiner can leverage Weinergate to his advantage. He has a golden opportunity to reexamine the way he has led his life until now. Now that he is officially taking a leave of absence in order to address his problems, let's hope that he will find a rabbi who will give him the spiritual guidance that he really needs. He must realize that the only cure is to lead a Torah-true life. If he is able to make the change, he could be one of the great Jewish heroes of our generation.

Ever since the Weinergate scandal broke the Internet is just full with "Weiner" jokes. One gets the impression from him that he has had to bear such jokes for many years:
"It seems like what happened someone somehow got access to my Twitter account and tweeted a joke, I guess, when your name is Wiener you get some of those sometimes."
The truth is that there is nothing wrong with the name Weiner. It means "wine merchant" in Yiddish.

That being said I'll address the question in the title of this post: Should Anthony Weiner change his name? Before we answer let's take a look at what Maimonides has to say (Laws of Return 2:4):

מדרכי התשובה להיות השב צועק תמיד לפני ה', בבכי ובתחנונים, ועושה צדקה כפי כוחו, ומתרחק הרבה מן הדבר שחטא בו. ומשנה שמו, כלומר שאני אחר ואיני אותו האיש שעשה אותן המעשים; ומשנה מעשיו כולן לטובה, ולדרך ישרה. וגולה ממקומו--שגלות מכפרת עוון, מפני שגורמת לו להיכנע ולהיות עניו ושפל רוח.
A rough translation:
Among the ways of repentance is for the penitent to always raise up his voice before God, in crying and supplication, and to give charity according to his ability, and distance himself a lot from the matter that he sinned in. He changes his name, as if to say I am another and not the man that did those deeds. And he changes all of his deeds for the good, to the straight path. He exiles himself -- for exile atones for sins, because it causes him to be submissive and to be modest and humble.

As long as this guy calls himself Weiner people are going to associate him with this scandal. According to the Maimonides it would be a good idea for Weiner to change his name, along with the other aspects of Teshuva. What name would I suggest? Well, instead of Weiner he call himself Yeinan, the Hebrew word for wine-maker. Instead of Anthony he could choose the name Yosef. Remember, Yosef is the one who was able to overcome the temptation of Potiphar's wife.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Anthony Weiner Resigns From Congress

Anthony Weiner is taking a leave of absence from politics in order to learn Judaism at an Israeli rabbinic academy. Rep. Weiner, looking sporting a turquoise yarmulke and the beginnings of a scraggly beard, looked relaxed as he explained his latest move.

"One of my lady Tweeter followers sent me a link from some blogger in Jerusalem. I can say with certainty that what the guy wrote really made an impression on me. After consulting with my wife Huma, we decided that we are on our way to Jerusalem."

When asked why he does not stay in New York to learn at a local rabbinic academy, Weiner replied,"For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem."

What does Huma think about this? According to Weiner she said, "For whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God; where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried; the LORD do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me."

Disclaimer: this post is entirely fictional, at least at this point in time.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

How Rep. Anthony Weiner Can Leverage Weinergate

One might think that the disgraceful Weinergate scandal and the pathetic attempted cover-up spell the end for Anthony Weiner. I beg to disagree. This entire debacle can be a positive turning point for the man!

I know what you are thinking: This guy must be kidding! After all the Weinergate narrative is as follows: Anthony Weiner is a young and rising star in Congress, the pride of his family, "My son the congressman". The man is married to an aide to Secretary of State Clinton, giving him even more traction in the Democratic Party. Things are looking good for him until his deplorable "virtual relationships", complete with foul-mouthed chats and immodest photos, are revealed to the public. His political future and the future of his marriage seem to be in doubt. What can be positive about that? A true "from riches to rags" story!

I would like to offer an alternative Weinergate narrative: An American-Jew grows up, like so many of his generation, knowing almost nothing about Judaism. He engulfs himself in the pursuit of power, money and physical pleasures. Weiner leads an immoral life for decades, culminated by marrying a gentile. From a Torah point of view, this man is not a success, and that is an understatement. Then he gets caught indulging in virtual debauchery. This is a true "from rags to filthy rags" story.

However, in spite of everything, Anothony Weiner can leverage this situation. What seems to be an unfortunate turn of events is a blessing in disguise! It is a wake up call for Anthony Weiner. Anthony Weiner, ayeka? Where are you? Perhaps it is time to reconsider the way you lead your life? Come home, Anthony Weiner! Leave your false concepts of success, and leave your gentile wife! Take some time off to learn in a yeshivah, to find out who you really are! Weinergate may be the best thing that ever happened to you! It all depends on what you do with it.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Weinergate, Shavuot and the Zohar

As I was waiting for the chazan to start chazarat hashatz this morning I took a look at Sefer HaZohar. I opened up it up to this week's Torah portion and this is what I found:

וַיְדַבֵּר יְיָ אֶל מֹשֶׁה לֵאמֹר. דַּבֵּר אֶל אַהֲרֹן וְאָמַרְתָּ אֵלָיו בְּהַעֲלוֹתְךָ אֶת הַנֵּרוֹת וְגוֹ', רִבִּי יְהוּדָה פָּתַח, (תהלים יט) וְהוּא כְּחָתָן יוֹצֵא מֵחוּפָּתוֹ וְגוֹ'. זַכָּאָה חוּלָקֵיהוֹן דְּיִשְׂרָאֵל, דְקוּדְשָׁא בְּרִיךְ הוּא אִתְרְעֵי בְּהוֹן, וְיָהַב לְהוֹן אוֹרַיְיתָא דִּקְשׁוֹט, אִילָנָא דְּחַיֵּי, דְּבֵיהּ אָחִיד בַּר נָשׁ (ס''א ירית) חַיִּין לְהַאי עָלְמָא, וְחַיִּין לְעָלְמָא דְּאָתֵי. דְּכָל מַאן דְּאִשְׁתְּדַל בְּאוֹרַיְיתָא וְאָחִיד בָּהּ, אִית לֵיהּ חַיִּין (ס''א אחיד בחיין). וְכָל מַאן דְּשָׁבִיק מִלֵּי דְּאוֹרַיְיתָא, וְאִתְפְּרַשׁ מֵאוֹרַיְיתָא, כְּאִלּוּ מִתְפְּרַשׁ מֵחַיִּין, בְּגִין דְּהִיא חַיִּין, וְכָל מִלּוֹי חַיִּין, הֲדָא הוּא דִכְתִיב, (משלי ד) כִּי חַיִּים הֵם וְגוֹ'. וּכְתִיב (משלי ג) רִפְאוּת תְּהִי לְשָׁרֶךָ וְגוֹ.

A very rough translation:
Meritorious is Israel's portion, for the Holy One blessed be He desired them, and gave them the Torah of truth, the tree of life, that in it a man grasps life in this world, and life the the world to come. And every person that exerts himself in Torah learning and grasps it, he has life. And every person that abandons the words of Torah, and separates himself from the Torah, it is as if he has separated himself from life, for she (the Torah) is life, and its words are life, as it is written,"For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh" and it is written, "It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones."
What an appropriate passage to come across the day before Shavuot!

But what does this have to do with Weinergate? There seems to be a difference of opinion if Congressman Anthony Weiner is really a Jew. In any case, his father certainly is.

When one is attached to Torah he is attached to life, to the source of life. When one distances himself from the Torah, he separates himself from the source of life. He (or his offspring) will eventually descend to the depths of depravity, as seen from Congressman Weiner's tweets and attempted cover-up.

I admire Congressman Weiner for coming clean and admitting his wrongdoing. If Congressman Weiner is really a Jew, he should go the full path of Teshuvah, which would include separating himself from his gentile wife.
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