Ok, So Why Am I Frum?
A while ago, Ezzie posed a question on his blog which intrigued me: What Made You Become Frum? I commented that my answer is too long for a comment (is that redundant?) , but that I would love to blog about it.
So curl up on the sofa with a nice hot cup o' Jo and some burekas.
This is my story. . .
Once upon a time in deh ohld kahntree (New York City) there was a little girl. She was born to a not-well-to-do family of 'conservadox' literati: Artists and intellectuals, teachers, bi-polar actors/songwriters/musicians and Hebrew poets (and with only two parents!)
Every so often those parents used to have soirees in their tiny apartment, with their socialist-and-former-socialist (just like in the old days of the Bund ) poet/writer friends over, laughing, talking, reading poetry, while (sometimes vehemently) discussing politics, Israel, Am Yisrael and the State of the Universe.
And yet, and yet--although she (when her parents thought she was asleep) enjoyed listening to these social gatherings through her bedroom wall, with the adults laughing, talking and smoking their cigarettes and pipes, it was not enough. . .
She had always felt a certain pull, every time she saw an obviously frum Jewish family walking down the street: A father in a dark suit and hat with tzitzit swaying in the breeze, holding a child's hand in each of his, walking with his wife, a mother with beautiful long hair (well, it looked real) all dressed up, pushing a baby stroller with another small child holding on to the side. The little girl time and time again pulled her parents' hands and said 'eema, abba, let's go over to them-maybe we know them? Maybe we could get to know them?' Somehow she felt that she belonged there. That there was her true family. . .
What that little girl did not know at the time, and which she discovered along the way as she grew older, was that her socialist-intellectual-artist family had descended from a line of Chassidic scholars on her mother's side (Rav Levi Yitzhak mi-Berditchev), and from the family of David HaMelech (King David) on her father's. So from the very beginning, this little girl had an affinity for Jewish scholarship and frumkeit, even if initially she didn't understand why. It was an ancient, ancestral yearning and connection to generations of Jewish Greats.
So the years flew by, and this little girl grew up, still not understanding who she was and why she felt the way she did--and married someone who was a Kohen, and the only one in his family who fasted on Yom Kippur. Together they agreed to have an Orthodox Jewish home, or what they thought was an Orthodox Jewish home. As time went on, they realized that what they were doing and how they were conducting their family's lives was not really 'Orthodox,' but rather 'conservadox,' just the way the little girl's parents had raised her. So little by little, over the years, they became frummer, while their kids were growing.
So there you have it. In the broadest, simplest sense, being a religious Jew, for me, connects me and my children to my people's past, and thus it's future. The chain will not be broken. In daily life, it commits us to always consider that there is a Creator above us, who granted us life for reasons whose depths we don't fully comprehend; who gave us the Torah, which I consider a 'blueprint' on how to live our lives by its offering a recounting of our past, giving us laws to live by, and encoding the future.
In between all that, it gives you a like-minded social circle and spirituality for your soul.
I rest my case.
As my older son once said after reading our family tree book B'nei Yonah (published by a cousin in Israel in the 1960s), 'between Abba and you, Eema, we come from Kehunah and Malchut.
It just about blows me away.
And now, with four out of five kids living in Israel--and my youngest just called this morning to announce that she had 'declared aliyah' and is now a full-fledged Israeli citizen with a teudat zehut, I can really and truly say, ושבו בנים לגבולם -- and the children have returned to their borders.