Thursday, March 11, 2010

UnAdventures in Ortholand

I thought there would be big adventures in Ortholand yesterday. With the exception of Crazy Chaim getting yelled at for singing to himself while we were supposed to be talking about Sholem Aleichem's Tevye the Dairyman (yet, again, he didn't even pretend to have the book), nothing exciting happened. We all got along…blah blah blah.

Is it wrong that I'm disappointed by such boring developments? I'm hoping that next week when I give a presentation on Shalom Auslander (an former ultra-orthodox Jew, who lives in constant fear of a non-existent all-mighty God and feels his parents theologically abused him) that the discussion will perk up. I've sent the boys a short story about Seth, an Israelite in Egypt who feels uncomfortable with God's plague policy and Moses' need for more desirable real estate. I also sent them an episode of the greatest radio program ever—This American Life. Shalom Auslander reads "The Blessing Bee" from his book Foreskin's lament, where a young Auslander attempts to lose a Blessing Bee at his religious school in order to put a curse on his hated father. Auslander is hilarious, irreverent, and vulgar. He will make them laugh and piss them off. I'm curious how these boys, with their newfound love of tradition, will react to a man who's walked away not only from tradition, but from God.

That being said, I'm beginning to think that only one of them (Crazy Chaim, no less) will really react poorly. A. the stutterer with black clothes and a beard, who kisses the mezuzah every single time he walks in any room (no matter how many times he's walked in that room.) is one beard length away from being a Torah Jew. While his stuttering probably has a lot to do with his desire to keep quiet in class, he's never said a word to me or even made eye contact. I'm sure I concern him, but instead of strutting around like a disheveled peacock (like Crazy Chaim), he chooses to stay away. Somehow, his desire for tradition is less bothersome to me. (maybe because he seems more authentic.)

M., the sweet boy from Atlanta, also doesn't strike me as a lifetime member of Ortholand. Chaim clearly rubs him the wrong way, but more than that, I get the feeling he's found community and structure in the world of orthodoxy more than a deeper sense of faith. While he does come out with odd comments like, "I think a little censorship is a good thing." He's willing to sit next to me, and share his book without getting out a spray bottle of mikva water to clear my impurities from the air. The constant attempt to make eye contact, smile, and wink at me doesn't strike me as very religious either. I may be wrong…

In contrast, as I keep harping on…Chaim uses his newfound religiosity as a self-righteous weapon: an excuse to think he's superior and an excuse to be misogynistic. I'm sure he won't read the short story or listen to the radio show, but he'll find a way to argue with me, and I'll argue right back. Because, as with most things, I simply cannot help myself.


  1. I'm glad you argue right back. I'm glad you can't help yourself. Stand your ground. You are right. He's an idiot (i know this is old, but...)

  2. Oh believe me, there are even more stories that i never wrote.