Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Temple honesty

Regarding whether we are serious or are we just pretending, voting for Obama, or we really want the Temple back, in '08:
I was a teenager when I came to the US from one of the last shtetls in Ukraine. My family was easily attracted to a magnificent Reform shul nearby. I was the one that had to ask several cloying questions - why do they wear scarves instead of tallis? why do they say strange things instead Jewish-related passages?

The answer was that because the Jews who long ago came from the utter poverty in Eastern Europe have become free to take control of their own lives to live in a great country, and we can modernize our beliefs accordingly. If I didn't like it at that shul, we could try a Temple not far away, because it may provide additional element of fun, by dedicating each week to honoring each of many nations of the world. Why, I asked? We Jews need to learn to appreciate other people.

Somehow I found myself in a Conservative shul. I remember a rabbi's, or a community director's speech during a Yom Kippur service, after a series of funny jokes: "And now we must be really grateful for this opportunity to sit here, together, free of fears and worries, enjoying this pelasant atmosphere, and maybe we can just devote a moment to contemplate on those who are really fasting today, because they don't have anything to eat. THIS IS the REAL YOM KIPPUR!"

That was the last straw. After college, after having even exposed there to the supermarket-like circus of ideologies, which included all variations of Christianity, New Age and Jewish Reconstructionism, Humanism and Neo-Neoisms, I still kept the memories of the soundbites from my Reform and Conservative experiences. Naturally, I steered myself to an Orthodox shul. Tehre I realized how dishonest I would have been to my late grandparents, who prayed for the Moshiach, and for the real Temple, had I graduated from a pathetic shtibl-shul of unpainted wood, to an airy edifice of concrete and stained glass, and to empower myself to edit the ultimate object of my grandparents' prayers.

Through communist prosecutions, accusations of being fanatical parasites, they kept on believing. I had no right to let the sensation of having become an enlightened, successful Jew, to actually disobey the commandments we have kept for thousands and so years.

We are the ones who are serious, who do not snicker behind our boss's back at his seemingly funny commands, and we proudly keep transmitting the words, the ideas, and practices we were asked for our boss. My and your grandparents told us about Abraham, where he might have thought about G-d's most incredible, challenging, inhuman to our gentle, modern senses request - to sacrifice your own son. He, being intellectually honest, believed - seriously, without fooling himself, and really wanted to obey his Boss. He built his own altar. And that is why we believe that we will do whatever he asked us. Through thick and thin, with eyes wide open, we know that there is no overriding authority above him. Yes, we will build our own altar.

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