Sunday, June 16, 2013

Books and Covers

I remember, lo those many years ago, when  I was very active at Shomrei Emunah, and worked on a project with someone who (heavens to Betsy!) didn't cover her hair, wore pants, etc.  We had a great time and ran a successful program, although it beats me if I can remember what it was.  I remember thinking afterward how stupid I'd been even thinking about what she wore on her head or body because (say it with me people) - you absolutely do not know anyone until you know them.

This person, whom I would certainly have judged (I know, so sue me) as "less religious" than me, turned out to be so much more religious than me in more important ways than what she wore on her body.  She davened 3 times a day, she was extremely careful about kashrus (as in "more careful than me"), and she forswore all lashon hara.    Whoa, I thought, hitting myself upside the head.  Remember!  No Judging!

So let's be honest.  Most of us look at other people and decide how religious they are.  Come on, don't give me that "Oh no!  I would NEVER do that!"  We all do it.  We see someone in pants and figure, "Hmmmm, less religious" and see someone in a black hat (man) and figure "Hmmmm, religious."  It's more of a gut reaction than anything else, based on our upbringing, culture, society, etc.  I'm not saying we're all baaaaaaad to the bone, it's just being human.

Then I made aliyah.  Whoa.  Definitely book and cover time on a deeper level.

For the first few months I was amused at the dress code of Israelis - none.  I mean in general, the fashion rules here rival those on the boardwalk in Ocean City - only much less classy.

But after about a year,  after observing people in all kinds of places we've been here, I began to look at religious Israelis differently.  You can't figure anyone out by what they wear, and that's one of the most beautiful and refreshing lessons I've learned.

Here, there is a massive variety of hair coverings, skirts, skirts and pants, kipot sizes, shapes, and fabrics, the length of payot, the in/out tzitzit (I am definitely not in Park Heights anymore.)

Religious life here has hundreds more strata than it does in the US (feel free to argue with me here, by the way).  You can't figure anyone out by what they look like.  In Baltimore it was rather easy - for me, anyway.

Here, you can see a man with a white shirt, big beard, tzitzit out, and his wife is in pants with her hair completely covered.  Huh?  Or you can see a man with a teeny tiny kippa, with the typical Israeli man shaved-head hairdo, and his wife has a long skirt and is wearing a hairband.  I see women in leggings and halter tops (Israeli women's haute couture, it seems) saying a bracha at a restaurant.

Or, like the other day, in the mall, a man without a kippa kissing a mezuzah on his way into a store with such feeling that I had to look away.

You just have no idea what people are about, and that's very freeing somehow.  Maybe it's because in Israel, people are indeed different.  Yes, it's the holiness of living here but it's also the fact that you are living in, and defending, your home every single day and you take less for granted. Once you realize that, you also realize that you don't know what people have been through, and that you should not judge anyone.

So you stop judging. Know what that does?  It frees you - and allows your heart the energy it needs to start loving people more.

So I feel like there is a brighter rainbow here, and that makes me feel happy.  It feels less confined, less "this way or that way" and somehow more in love with the country and with our people. 

1 comment:

  1. So beautifully written! I also feel like I have become less judgmental since I made aliyah, and one of the things I love most about Israel is observing how everyone serves Hashem in their own way. Women in tank tops being so careful about Pesach shopping, making brachot, etc. Outer appearances really don't tell much.