Home May 2014 Rachel Goes Rogue

Rachel Goes Rogue

We’ve all heard as children the story of this picky and pretentious Jewish Princess named Goldilocks. She clearly has an inactive Jewish mother, seeing that she breaks into someone else’s house for food. Strange, we must admit, but for whatever reason, we empathize with her. See, the matzo ball soup Goldilocks steals is too hot, another bowl, too cold. I know that the children’s version only provides us with three bowls, the last being “just right,” but we know that there are more bowls of soup to try. In the adult version, Goldilocks tries one bowl that was too heavy and another way too fluffy, some flavorless, some with too much spice. What makes Goldilocks any different from how we deal with religion and dating?
No, this is not another jab at my JDate profile. Goldilocks really did have an idea of what she wanted; just like many of us understand where Judaism fits in our lives. When we meet others, in any context, we start to classify them, using terms like: more Jewish than me, too Jewish, not Jewish enough, not religiously focused, secular, extreme, culturally affiliated, or the most ambiguous, “just Jewish.” These categories are subjective; they vary by our own labels and comfort level. Like Goldilocks, we are looking for that bowl of soup that is “just right.”
For example, do you wish to keep a kosher home?  For many in Orange County, if the answer is yes, that may be problematic, however, it may not be. Like Goldilocks, we move to the next question. Do you want to observe Shabbat? If so, what does that mean for you? What!?!?! You eat on Yom Kippur and work? That’s cool, me too (don’t tell my mother)! Or, can we change that? I need a partner who observes Yom Kippur and makes sure our children do too. In other instances, people have converted. Does it matter to you what sect of Judaism they branched into? Are you a practicing Cohen? These are basics. I haven’t even broken into the concept of Tzedakeh, Jewish community activities, what synagogue we would attend, or if just us having Jewish mothers is enough. Maybe one of our moms is not Jewish. Is that okay? Yes? Awesome! No? Next bowl of soup!
In a few relationships, I have noticed the couple starts on the same religious path, but then one of them decides to veer. What happens when our partner needs to become more observant, or less, and vice versa?  How do we as a couple navigate different desires and wants from our partner after we have made such a big commitment? Our responsibility to our families is to grow together . . . how can we accomplish religious changes together? These issues need to be discussed. Compromises need to be made, but most importantly we are faced with the challenge of valuing one another’s differences in a working relationship.
I realize I have thrown a lot into your proverbial pot to stir, yet we do this categorizing as second nature. It is an innate reaction we have when meeting anyone. Clearly, this affects us more when we make big life decisions, like finding a mate. Many rabbis have said that as a potential Goldilocks (gentlemen, you too can be Goldilocks!) we should make lists about what things we are willing to compromise on and other attributes on which we should not be willing to compromise. This concept of listing does not just apply to education levels, humor and height. These attributes should also include how we navigate our Jewish future.
It seems so easy. You’re Jewish or willing to convert, I’m Jewish, let’s date! Yet, the reality is that being Jewish is never quite that simple. Like many other meaningful aspects of our lives, we need to place thought and effort into what we value in our religion and culture as well as what we are willing to negotiate. Everything is compromise, and all negotiations taste better with a bowl of soup.

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