Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Of Literary Note.

For the first time -- in a long time -- I shut the computer and plopped down on my bed to finish up a book, Chaim Potok's "The Promise." I'd been reading it voraciously, eating the words as if I'd been starved of prose for days, if not weeks. I'm not sure why, but that's what Potok's books do to me. They enliven the appetite for words. For me, that's rare. Of course this also means I need to set out to read all of his work, since right now I've read a mere three or four of them.

Last week I finished Marc D. Angel's "Orthodox Road to Conversion," which I haven't really had the chance to fully discuss. And then I finished "The Promise" and now? Now I'm reading Robert Eisenberg's "Boychiks in the Hood."

I know what you're thinking: Chavi is disappearing into the big, bad, dark black-hatted world of Orthodoxy and Hasidism! Quick! Grab a rope! It's like quicksand in the Jewish community, no?

No. I'm not sure why, but I'm drawn to Orthodoxy. I'm drawn to the construct of the rebbe in Hasidism. I'm drawn to this seemingly perfunctory -- if that's the right word -- Jewishness. It intrigues me in many ways.

But let's be honest here. I know Reform and Conservative Jews more kosher than me (in more ways than one). I'm the floating Jew, if you recall. Analyzing the movements and trying to find her place among the chaos and the intra-battle of Jew vs. Jew. I have a distaste for labels, remember?

The thing of it is, though, that below my copy of "Boychiks in the Hood" (in the pile of "to take to work tomorrow" stuff) is the newest issue of Reform Judaism magazine. Yes, I still get it, and yes it still comes to "Amanda and Ian Edwards." The first time it happened, I nearly cried -- it being so soon after the ex and I parted ways. But now, getting the magazine with that as the addressee, well, it gave me a good chuckle.

There are quite a few things that intrigue me in this issue and the biggest one is the cover story: Why religion matters. I opened the magazine randomly to a random page and ended up on a sort of Q&A about keeping kosher. The resounding response, it seems, was not to keep kosher by eating foods that some random Orthodox rabbi deems okay, but to go the vegetarian route. No way an Orthodox rabbi can taint your cause then, eh?

I'm ahead of the game, though. I need to read the issue -- cover to cover. I think there's going to be some good stuff in it, and I don't say that in a condescending sarcastic way (much to the disappointment of what many of my readers probably think). I don't dislike Reform Judaism, in fact, if there is one congregation in the world I will always return to, it's my Reform congregation back in Nebraska, for the people there, in my mind, are the most devoted, passionate Jews I know. They're the most real people I've met. But I'm biased. It's like how you have to love your family, no matter what, you know? I love them, come hell or high water or sheitls, I love them.

But that's not the point. The point is that I'm reading all these texts and fictions about the "other" side of Judaism. The inside world, as opposed to Tova Mirvis' painted "outside world." I'm looking and asking questions because that is what we do, as Jews, and what we ALL should do -- regardless of creed, beliefs system or values. Questioning is human. And anyone who tells you otherwise is a liar and a chump.

So I'll read on. And this "Boychiks in the Hood" book? I'm 20 pages in and absolutely intrigued. If you haven't read it, I recommend picking it up. It'll get your mind a'spinning.