Dear Jew in the City,
I am a somewhat observant Jew in a big city with a decent Jewish population, but I am having trouble finding my bashert. I am not Orthodox and while many of my friends and family members are, and I understand and respect living an Orthodox life, I know certain aspects like being shomer negiah and dressing tznius (modestly) are not who I am.
I keep a kosher home, and observe Shabbos in my own way (I dont drive, but watch tv). My problem is that to the majority of the Jewish guys I am considered too religous as they like to go out Friday nights to get cheesburgers and go to the movies, which I won’t do. The other guys are all Modern Orthodox and want a wife who will wear a sheital and what not. I am 26 and ready to find my husband, but I am starting to think I might have to become less religious or more religious than I am comfortable with in order to do so. I don’t want to change who I am for someone, but I’m out of ideas. What should I do? Should I move somewhere with a bigger and more middle of the road community instead of here where it is all or nothing?
Thanks for your question. Perhaps if you moved to a bigger city you’d find more guys who are similarly “somewhat observant.” But then, God willing, you’ll marry one of them, start a family, and have to impart the values of “somewhat observance” onto your children, which will likely present you with a new set of issues.
How will you explain to them why you keep some mitzvos and not others? Why is driving on Shabbos a no no, but tv’s allowed? Why is keeping kosher important, but dressing modestly is not?
I hope that you don’t feel personally attacked by these questions. I was raised in a home where we observed some things and not others too. I, like most Jews, just did what my parents did without questioning any of it. But as I started learning more and meeting Jews who strived to observe everything, some of my family’s practices started to seem pretty illogical.
For instance, we were brought up in a totally tref home – shellfish, pork products, cheeseburgers, you name it – we ate it all and loved it all! But then on Passover, my mom got pretty strict about what we could eat. Everything had to be marked kosher for Passover in order to pass our lips during those eight days.
So I took the two principles I grew up with – “milk and meat is OK to eat together” and “we only eat food marked kosher for Passover during the holiday” – and I made a matza pizza topped with salami one Passover day! The only thing I noticed at the time was that it was delicious, but years later the hypocrisy of it all sunk in.
Now while I agree with you that Judaism doesn’t have to be all or nothing, my reasoning seems to be different than yours. When I do something that’s not according to halacha (Jewish law), I don’t tell my kids that it’s not “who I am,” but rather explain that although I’m not there yet, I’m working to be there one day.
I think the reason that you’re only finding guys who are either fully observant or fully non-observant is because that place in between lacks a certain consistency, if you think about it. Either the Torah is God given and we should strive to incorporate as much of it into our lives as we can, or it’s man written (and simply claims to be from God) and therefore its laws are no better than any other man-made philosophy.
Where does this leave you in practical terms? I definitely don’t think you should change for someone else. Such a change wouldn’t be sincere and could lead to future marital strife. I do, however, think you should learn more about Judaism and figure out where you stand on these issues. The more you know about Torah Judaism – through both studying and experiencing it – the more educated a decision you’ll be able to make about whether or not it resonates truthfully to you.
A fun way to learn and experience an observant lifestyle firsthand would be to go on an organized trip to Israel. There are many reasonably priced programs for people your age, but one that I’d especially recommend is Pathways Israel. It’s run by many of the rabbis and teachers from the seminary I attended, and they give their participants a beautiful taste of Jewish learning and living in a very easy-going environment.
Hopefully more knowledge will lead to more clarity about who you are and who your bashert might be. (By the way, did I mention the trip is co-ed?)
Best of luck on your journey,