Jewish Behaviors

When Micah Sachs was InterfaithFamily.com’s managing editor and blogger extraordinaire, he would every once in a while post a “Link Sink” with interesting but not necessarily thematically related links. I’ve been away some and not blogging regularly, so I thought I might revive that practice. But it didn’t turn out that way.

Anita Diamant, a wonderful writer including frequently for InterfaithFamily.com, has a wonderful post on the Huffington Post today, My (Jewish) Daughter’s Tattoo. Although Jews are not supposed to get tattoos, she says,

“My daughter has the Hebrew letters Chet, Zayin, Kuf on her right shoulder blade. This spells chazak, which means “strength.” She says, “I like this because it’s a word used when you finish reading one book of Torah and go to the next. It reminds me that we go from one thing to the next in strength.” She’s been planning this tattoo for nine years, since she was enrolled in a semester-long high school program. “Israel was a time of transition for me, and I feel like it reinforces that message of strength that is inside me forever and ever. “It’s more than just a tattoo,” she explains. “It’s a sense of pride, a display of who I am that you might not be able to tell by just looking at me.”

I don’t know about you, but this sounds pretty much like a Jewish tattoo to me.

Next, Rabbi Evan Moffic, a wonderful young rabbi at Temple Solel in Highland Park, IL, has an op-ed in the New York Jewish Week today, Jewish Weddings on Shabbat: A Different View. Rabbi Moffic responds to Rabbi Leon Morris’ earlier op-ed, A Call For A Moratorium on Shabbat Weddings. Rabbi Morris, reacting to the fact the Chelsea Clinton’s wedding took place on a Saturday before sundown, says that we need Shabbat now more than ever, and we should be more strident in our embrace of it. He says Reform rabbis should “model what it means to take time seriously, to honor a day, to live in symbolic ways that speak to the kind of Jewish world we would like to see and are committing ourselves to creating.”

Rabbi Moffic’s response: the proposed moratorium “would not only alienate the vast majority of American Jews, but it would constitute a tremendous abdication on the part of Reform rabbis to engage our members and honor the spirit of Reform Judaism.”

“The challenge, then, is to arrive at a place where we can honor Shabbat within the context of American life. It is not an either-or choice. We do not need to self-segregate in order to live fulfilling and committed Jewish lives.

To insist that a marriage ceremony take place at 9:00 pm on a Saturday night rather than 6:00 pm, as such a moratorium would demand, would do exactly that. It would define Shabbat so stringently as to communicate that a three-hour difference constitutes the end-all and be-all of a Jewish wedding. Is that the message we want to send?

A wedding ceremony is an opportunity to create a Jewish memory at a critical moment in a couple’s life. It is a chance to welcome a couple into the Jewish people with open arms and open hearts. It is the last area where we should seek to impose an obstacle that does not violate the spirit of Shabbat.”

As readers of my recent Forward op-ed on the Chelsea Clinton wedding know, I think Rabbi Moffic has the better argument here – especially when he concludes that “Many couples have a strong commitment to Jewish life and have legitimate concerns that lead them to get married a few hours before sunset on a Saturday evening. Are we going to turn them away?”

So it turns out that there is a thematic relationship here after all. And not just because both Anita Diamant and Evan Moffic are members of InterfaithFamily.com’s Advisory Board! The theme is that we are in the midst of a major transition in terms of what constitutes Jewish behaviors. Tattoos – never used to be; now, more common. Rabbis officiating at weddings on Shabbat – never used to be; now, more common. As Rabbi Moffic says, “The Talmud instructs us to “Puk Hazei Mai Amma Davar– go see what the people are doing” when we need to interpret a law or understand a principle.” Well, the people are doing new and different things, and who knows what sets of behaviors will emerge from the current transition? Something to consider as we enter a heavy period of reflection at the new year.

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