Thursday, December 16, 2010

Why am I still frum?

I've spent so much time slamming the frum community on this blog that it's probably starting to sound like the answer to my question of, "Am I a frum feminist?" is that I'm more feminist than frum. I admit that I have misgivings about the frum community and my place in it. Why, after all, would I want to be a part of a community that I see so many flaws in?

In short, if I have so many problems with the frum world, why am I still frum?

The answer came to me this past week when I attended the bris ceremony (aka circumcision party) of my friends' 8 day old son.

As I stood in the crowd of people waiting to partake in the ceremony, I thought, "Oh my G-d, this is so barbaric! Crowding around a tiny baby, waiting to do that to him while serving a huge meal to celebrate, and everyone's smiling and laughing with each other..."

Except the celebration and the joy was about bringing this tiny person into a covenant (the real translation of the word, "bris",) - into a bond - with G-d, turning this apparently barbaric ceremony into the greatest sign of loyalty and love to G-d.

In a world where the moral code is based on human understanding, circumcision absolutely is barbaric. But in a world where the moral code comes from G-d, it becomes a sign of devotion.

There's no hope in this world for a moral code based on human understanding. Think back to the Germans pre-World War II. Germany was the birthplace of the Enlightenment. They were considered the most cultured of people, studying the latest sciences and philosophies.

And yet with their sophistication and their philosophies about humanity, they managed to rationalize the most inhumane behavior mankind has ever seen.

Why am I still frum? Because in a world where morality is based on human understanding - in a world without a G-dly moral code, - we are doomed.

I believe in G-d because I know that humanity without G-d allows atrocities like the Holocaust to happen,

I'm frum because I believe in G-d, and all the downfalls of the frum community cannot discredit that belief.

Is the community flawed? Yes. But these flaws are ones made by us puny humans, not by G-d.

So I continue to follow the word of G-d in spite of the flaws in the community, just as I will continue to fight to fix those flaws.

I continue to be frum. I continue to be a feminist. And they needn't be mutually exclusive.

Note: For a thorough, and beautiful explanation on bris milah - circumcision - click here.


  1. Great post.

    Sometimes, we can't JUST hover all the flaws and the cyncism. There is good as well.

  2. Who cares about the word frum. Be Jewish. The word Frum... is created by people who are limited, and being Jewish and Godly is unlimited.
    So I'm not sure the word Frum makes sense to use.

  3. Well put. I have a strong belief in G-d as well and dont let the way people behave interfere with my core beliefs. G-d and the Torah are is not.

  4. Thanks, Hyrax. It means a lot, coming from you.

    Anonymous: I see what you mean;by "frum", I mean that I'm an Orthodox Jew, but sticking myself into the box of being "frum"... You're right. It's more complicated than that.

    Dov: Exactly.

  5. Funny I always saw you as more frum them feminist. Perhaps it's all relative to the people you're accustomed to hanging around with.

    Next course: human made morality

  6. Explanation: You criticize sociological issues in the frum community but not religious ones.
    Whereas I criticize both.
    (Although I remain the frummy of my OTD crowd)

  7. As for man made morality, it bothers me greatly when people point to nazi germany as an example of what happens when humans think for themselves; The Nazis were a prime example of humans FAILING to think for themselves, blindy and unquestioningly following authority.

  8. I love the title of this blog, for as my friends all a bit of a feminist and proud of it. I agree with your concluding statement that being frum and a feminist dont have to be mutually exclusive!RIGHT ON!

  9. Kisarita -

    The Nazis rationalized their atrocities. They a used a variety of methods - propaganda, nationalism, mob-mentality etc. - to explain logically why Jews, the mentally ill, the disabled, blacks, gypies, and gays (and others, I'm sure, this is just off the top of my head) needed to be killed.

    The people who accepted this logic were people without a true moral compass. (Or, perhaps, they were just lacking balls.) The people who had a moral compass tried to fight the Nazis. Tried to save Jews. Fought Hitler.

    It's a popular theory that the Nazis "followed blindly", but that's not accurate. You don't "blindly" follow someone into committing murder. It takes a truly warped mind and\or mindset to be a murderer.

  10. aminspiration - Are you a frum feminist as well? We're hard to find. Probably mostly because we're scared of speaking out, but it's always a pleasure to meet a fellow frum feminist!

  11. I am definately a frum humors a lot of my friends..But I love it!

  12. Kudos to the both of you, now that feminism is out of style in the secular as well as the frum world.

    Regarding the Nazis: I don't see anything logical whatsoever in their ideology. What about it wasn't completely absurd? It is hatred not logic that made Hitler who he was, and a culture of repression and authoritarianism that allowed him to grow, and a climate of material deprivation that made it ripe.

    I agree that to commit murder one must be warped. But warped isn't necessarily born. Warped can be made.

    In anycase, current day orthodox Judaism isn't aligned with your views on morality. The going view, based on commonly disseminated interpretations of akedat yitzchak, amalek and such, is that there is in fact nothing intrinsically wrong with what the Nazis did, except that they did it to us. When abraham does it to his son or when we do it to amalek, that's cool! there is no such thing as morality except by the divine whim...

  13. FF, very well said, thank you

  14. Really? What about Iran? Saudi Arabia? Their worldview is based on religious fundamentalism - based on G-d. By your rationale, these countries should be wonderful, idyllic, respecting human rights.

    Same with any other religious state. Or any state with a dictatorship. That's what Nazism has in common with the regime in Iran.

    It doesn't matter what ideology you use to dehumanize a group. Ahmadinajad, a religious Muslim, hates the Jews. Hitler, an atheist, hated the Jews.

    Human beings don't need G-d to be moral and they don't need atheism to be immoral.

  15. So Germany's reliance on intellect and reason allowed them to justify the barbarisms of the Nazis....but your reliance on the fallible human mind's understanding of what G-d wants allows you to justify the barbarism of circumcision? As an observant Jew (who just happens to oppose circumcision) I call bull----on your logic.

  16. Hello. I found this very interesting. I call myself a feminist first & an observant Jew next. I struggle constantly with the frum world's attitude about women & their role.

    Basically how I've managed to survive is not to go to shiurim. I used to go & left every one incredibly angry. I follow the laws as best I can & don't pay attention to all the garbage spouted by rabbaim.

    I'm lucky that I only have boys; we've tried very hard to teach them that women are just as good as men & not everything in frumkeit is always correct. I'm not sure what I could have told my daughters when they ask me why they can't learn gemara......

  17. Just stumbled onto your blog. I read this post and saw that there were 20 comments and assumed that it would be 20 people saying what I'm about to say. But there weren't, so here I go.

    I want to echo Anonymous's point. Frum does not equal Jewish. Frum does not even equal Orthodox. Frum, in the way that you are using it, describes a subset of the Jewish community. And you can continue to believe in G, you can continue to follow Halacha, and you can find a community that does both, and not be 'frum' in close-minded sense you describe. Really.