Wednesday, September 03, 2008

short cut?

So I read this article in the NYTs today with mixed feelings.

Now I am not Orthodox anything. I am Hindu, but not crazy Hindu, and there are people out there that are and one has to respect that. I get that. This post is in no way meant to offend anyone. I hope it does not.

They way I see it, religion serves many purposes. Some people use it for guidance or support, others for structure and balance. Still others to feel that connection. And almost all religion uses some form of sacrifice. Be it pork and alcohol for Muslims, beef (or meat altogether) for Hindus, pork for Jews, fasting on certain days for almost all major ones, etc, I always felt that adherence to these sacrifices was done out of respect for the religion. I think "respect" is not the right word here - perhaps "reverence"? I am not sure. But my mom only eats nuts and fruits on certain days because it is important to her to adhere to that part of Hinduism. Some friends turn down crab cakes or take the bacon off their burger order, or fast during Ramadan or stick to Matzo on Passover. They don't "have" to do this. There are no immediate and direct consequences for breaking these rules. For me, I don't eat red meat (or pork) out of respect for the traditions I grew up with. It is what it is.

Because of this, I see these kosher inventions as cheating. I understand that it is harder and harder to adhere to ancient texts as everyday technology develops, but isn't that kind of the point? If you are not supposed to use technology on the sabbath, then finding ways to cheat the system seems like that sacrifice is not something you do for yourself, but something that is seen as an inconvenience to you. When I saw the Orthodox Jews in Sharon walking to temple, I saw the sacrifice they were making for their religion and respected them for their decisions. If I saw them going to temple in a voice activated wheelchair, I don't think I would feel that way.

There are definitely two sides to this argument. And there are always exceptions to every rule, especially as people are living longer and longer and need more technological support in their old age. I would hardly expect someone to suffer in pain because they cannot push their morphine button or walk to the hospital when they are in labor. At the same time, I would expect someone who was willing to make the choice to be Orthodox also make the choice to go to bed with the sun instead of turning a lamp shade to block a bulb that has been on for 24 hours.

Am I being way too judgemental of choices people make in a life I don't lead? Maybe.


On a lighter note - I can't help but think of a story from the New Yorker. It is not online, but if you can, check out Shalom Auslander's "Playoffs," from the January 15, 2007 edition (p. 38).


Blogger Sara said...

I completely agree with you, it's why I would never be kosher or keep shabbat myself. If you keep making exceptions to the rules, how far will you go? It's a slippery slope. Did you know there is anstring around the entire town of sharon (and brookline I believe) called an eruv that is blessed and allows people to carry things on shabbat? if the point is to NOT carry things on that one day, aren't you destroying the meaning of it by creating a way to allow it? I think it's absurd, and while I don't "judge", I find it extremely hypocritical.

6:54 PM  
Blogger SR said...

Well, it's actually that you're not supposed to "work" on Shabbat. "technology" didn't exist per se when the texts were written. Toothbrushes or makeup either. So, it's open for interpretation, really, what is meant by "work." As a Jewish doctor who's had to ruefully work every single Jewish holiday for the last 4 years, I'd say if you can find a way to "cheat the system" that didn't even exist when the rules were written, and still be a part of the world you live in, you should. :)

12:31 PM  
Blogger SR said...

Plus, us Jews are cunning. We'll always find a way to do what we want. hee hee hee.

12:33 PM  
Blogger Deepa said...

i def see your point - but i still stick to my original feelings - then again, i do see that religious law has to evolve with the times. i don't know. we will continue this debate next time I SEE YOU!!!

9:56 AM  

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