Thursday, October 09, 2008

A Shout Out to Shtreimel on Yom Kippur

About a year ago I stumbled upon this blog by a Hasidic closet atheist. I don't know what search terms got me there, but as an atheist who is nominally Jewish, I found his blog compelling. For Jews who come from reform or conservative traditions, doubt (or even better, certainty!) is an easy thing to deal with, at least socially, and for many there's no contradiction between identifying as both a Jew and an atheist. Many say, "I'm a cultural Jew." I don't say that. I say I'm a New York Jew. But for me atheist is the much more important component of my self-definition.

Jews who come from ultra-orthodox or Hasidic communities have a much harder time coming out of the atheist closet. They live in insular communities, and belong to large families that would shun them if they were to proclaim their heresy. Some do manage to make the break, at the cost of lost relationships, but many stay in the community and lead double lives. I've learned that there's a book about "Hasidic rebels," The Unchosen. The web has provided a space where the disillusioned can bare their souls and share their woes under the cloak of anonymity, but it's not an area I've pursued. I'm not really that interested. Nonetheless, I remembered Shtreimel's blog as this day of atonement approached (personally, I have nothing to atone for but atonement itself). This blogger is charming, funny and enlightened, and I just thought I'd go all Sarah Paliny for this maverick and give him a shout out (and thankfully, unlike most in his community, he's not a Republican).

I'll be working this Yom Kippur, as I always do, when I have a job, that is. I know a number of secular, even atheistic, Jews who always take the day off on Yom Kippur, even if they work on every other Jewish holiday. It seems to be a variant on Pascal's wager: this is the holiest of days, so just in case there is a god I don't want to get on his bad side today. This approach reminds me of those not-kosher-but-won't-eat-pork Jews. I've met a number of them too. Cheeseburgers, no problem. Lobster, no problem. But somehow pork has come to represent the quintessence of treyf for some Jews. Of course, there's nothing in kosher law that reserves a special place in Gehenna for pork above and beyond any other forbidden food, but who am I to tell these people they're meshuggah?

I plan to pig out today, my extra burden for all those Jews who are fasting for Yom Kippur. And yes, there will be pork.


Blogger Shtreimel said...

Hey, Thanks for the shout-out! Now that the fast is over, and I can start accumulating sins to be repented next year, perhaps I should start with eating oysters. (not - still can't bring myself to eat that, it's just not food, me still thinks.)

8:48 PM  
Blogger Peter Cherches said...

You could always start with the bacon on top of those oysters.

10:01 AM  

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