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So I'm at roughly ten weeks and counting until my fiancee arrives in the US.

I have a lot on my mind, not just marriage and boats.

We're going to see my parents after the wedding.

Now, my parents aren't coming to my wedding - for several reasons.  One, they are uncomfortable with Jewish ritual and will feel out of place, even while being honoured.  Two, we have moved the wedding site from Vegas - please take note - the kickboxing match post wedding will have to be moved.  Third, we decided that we would take the time to say goodbye to people who have shaped a lot of my adult life - my fraternity members.

Now this is not a Greek fraternity - it's a Mongol one.  I admit it, I'm a closet SCAer.  Not only am I a closet SCAer who's first Pennsic was XVII because I wasn't old enough to go to XVI alone - but I'm also a Brother of the Great Dark Horde.  We're getting married on Horde Hill at Pennsic.  (It's a big two week camping war thingy - like a private ren fair with no actors.)

So we are what we are and we do many things and for those of you who might not be SCA here's the rundown:  The SCA is an educational group that encourages both the research and use of cultural artifacts from between roughly the years 650 CE and 1650 CE.  The primary cultures represented are European, however there are some others represented in small groups or even strong willed individuals.  It's a really good excuse to wear cool clothes on the weekend and try out the new shield you made or show off a weaving piece with documentation.  There is very much an educational and scholarly side to it - and there is equally a hillbilly dreamer side of it.  My particular group emulates a Mongol tribe - with very few Mongol personnas.   We do our thing within the SCA alongside the administrative "kingdoms" as the only Great Household left from the beginning of the SCA - there were originally five.  

Like any tribe we have our dramas and ups and downs, but it's been a meaningful part of my life since I was 16 - and that was a long time ago.  I will be far away from the larger gatherings of the Brothers I know for the rest of my life - it's probably a good idea to say farewell.

I'm also saying goodbye to my parents - they aren't likely to fly over to visit us and who knows when or if we will be able to afford to come back to visit them.  I live in the same country now and average about once every decade or so.  Like all children who have grown up I have my deep love for them - but for me it's along with a side of anger and sadness.   We are improving our communications slowly - but there is a part of me that anticipates a very awkward visit.  And some of it probably will be.

We're not only chassidic, but we are coming back from Pennsic - so I will have the big Jew curls going full on - it's past my shoulders now and about ready for a cut after Shavuos. (Jewish holiday, giving of the Torah on Mt Sinai and end of the hair cutting restrictions of the Omer ) We dress differently even in daily life to an extent, we eat differently - and there is no question a man with a kippah and peyes is going to seem pretty damn weird in Lafayette, Louisiana.  

And that's a whole other thing itself.  I've been really slack as a Jew for a while now - basically since my chavrusah died. (learning partner)  He was my best friend, my mentor, my teacher - the guy I wanted to be like.   I owe his widow money and I've been too ashamed to contact her - and it's been over two years now.  I don't know how to explain to her that when he died - I wanted to die too.  I loved him so much - but I couldn't intrude on her grief and their children's loss with my feelings and then time passes...  

But when I cut my hair and go from pirate!Jew to Yid again - there's no hiding what I am.  Not that I try to hide - I'm the town Jew.  But I have to mean it if I'm going to wear peyes again.  And I have to mean it to be a husband and father and stand under a chuppah before G-d.  And I'm scared.

Not because I don't think I can do tshuvah,(repentance-ish) I can.  But because I know how hard it can be to transition back to that world - and it's a whole other world, even when you live away from a community.  Time is different for an observant Jew, broken up into different hours and measurements of holy time on a different calendar.   Whole sections of my life will go back to what they were - with more people and more responsibility and even different mitzvos. (commandments)  Even my clothing will change.  No more shorts, no more tee shirts with obnoxious messages on them - black pants and white shirts all the live long day.  

And it will be difficult, of that I have no doubt - I've done it several times before.  It is hard for me to give up the easy comforts of Saturday for the holy rest of Shabbos.  I'm a horrid singer.   I get an itch to work, to finish things, to ride my bike - to break Shabbos when the sun shines and the wind is sweet and the days are long.  We have so much to do - and yet I want to become shomer mitzvos (guarding the commandments literally - fully observant) again.  But that is what will get us through - to cling to the Tree of Life.

I am also guilty about leaving my country.  Now, I didn't feel like I grew up here much - we were an overseas Army family for some pretty important stretches of my life.  But we were very much an America! Fuck Yeah!  kind of family. I even enlisted in the Navy myself.  And I'm leaving.

I try to comfort myself by saying this is not the America I grew up believing in - but I believed in a myth - I wasn't here for a lot of the reality.  I lived in a world of green.  In the old series M*A*S*H Major Houlihan had a line that honestly defines my early childhood "I thought civilians were people who's uniforms were at the cleaners."  

But the America that we live in today scares the hell out of me.  The Christianisation of the military, the attacks on women by legislation, the fear and the hate and the willful stupidity and selfishness - that isn't something I want to be a part of - or think I can really help change.

Alas, I must grow up.  To be a mentch - that is the goal of every Jew.  I have not been one in a long time, but I feel the desire to be one again.  To stand in shul with my coat and my tallis, to sing awkwardly to my wife, to bless the world as I experience it in holiness and look for the good.  I will never be the man that sits and learns all day - I do not have the patience for that.  But I hope that when I stand before Hashem I can at least say that I certainly enjoyed the world I lived in and lived by the Torah given to us.

So there's a lot swirling around in here.  But it's just another day on the edge of America.

Originally posted to Mortifyd on Sun May 22, 2011 at 06:24 PM PDT.

Also republished by Elders of Zion, HaYishuv, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (18+ / 0-)

    And we sail and we sail and we never see land, just the rum in the bottle and a pipe in my hand...

    by Mortifyd on Sun May 22, 2011 at 06:24:53 PM PDT

  •  This glimpse into a moment of transition (5+ / 0-)

    is filled with opportunities for anyone to reflect on how the way we choose to carry out the details of ours lives, can actually make a difference.  Does a Saturday entail lounging or prayer?  Does one's clothing choice reflect holiness?  How much do we feel that the clothes are a part of or a reflection of us?  How the people in our lives can become our family of choice.

    Your writing always makes me think, reflect, turn concepts over and over in my mind and eventually learn.  Will you be continuing your writing, after your big move and transition?

    I wish you luck on your meeting with your parents and hope the four of you find a note of resolution on which to begin the process of your new lives.  

    I've republished to Elders of Zion and HaYishuv.

    You all are the heart and hope of America today. This is not just another political rally. This is the birth of a movement. -Tony Shalhoub, Madison, WI.

    by thebluecrayon on Sun May 22, 2011 at 09:04:55 PM PDT

    •  I'll keep writing (6+ / 0-)

      I have no idea what, but I'll keep writing LOL

      I can't speak for others, but I know for me that those demarcations between Jewish and non - kashrus, mitzvos, potentially bad ass hair - these things require a certain level of commitment.  If I wear big peyos I can't be eating in KFC.  Other people might be able to - but I can't.  It's a responsibility to uphold.  I'm proud to do it - but I don't feel it's something you can really half ass do - you have to do it, even if you are only half ass motivated.

      I've been caught in a cultural limbo for far too long, it's part of what caused my burnouts.  I was a grown man with the knowledge in some respects of a child - and perfectly content to sit with the kids and learn with them because I wanted insight into the culture.   I seldom wear suitcoats, but I often wear waistcoats with my black hat.   I looked like an overgrown child with a beard.  Children adore me because I listen to them, read to them and ask them questions that are interesting, but not personal or about their family life - I ask about their cultural and religious life.  That's acceptable - and very interesting.

      I've been engaged in my heart since 2003, but not in reality until 2006.  I was refusing all attempts to marry me off - trust me, that doesn't help you look like a grown up.  We're only getting married now in 2011 G-d willing.  But those clothes are important to me on a psychological level - I will be a man moreso than I was at my bar mitzvah.  I will be a MAN with a long coat and a new life and new brochos to learn to say every day.  

      I have to set the tone of our home as a reflection of my wife, not the echo of my father.   I get a chance to make a new beginning and take the best of how I live and what I saw at the children's table - and make something both old and new.  

      And we sail and we sail and we never see land, just the rum in the bottle and a pipe in my hand...

      by Mortifyd on Sun May 22, 2011 at 11:37:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  shomer mitzvot = impossible piety (7+ / 0-)

    I can't see how one would even approach a fraction of the mitzvot (as interpreted by Orthodox Judaism) without going out of one's mind.  The micro-managing of one's lifestyle by Rabbis and community pressure would just be too much for me.  I'm rebellious at my very core, and I resent the imposition of rules which make absolutely no sense to me.

    What really disturbs me about Orthodox Judaism is the existence of "thought crimes" ("thought sins" might be the better description).  By merely looking at a pretty woman and getting enjoyment out of it is a sin.  Or listening to a woman's voice violates the "kol ish" prohibition.  The idea that G-d is going to punish me for thoughts in my head is preposterous.

    I really enjoy your diaries, and you certainly seem like one interesting dude.  Congratulations on your marriage.

    •  I guess it depends... (7+ / 0-)

      on how you do it.  I'm no robot lol - I live on a sailboat.  I'm also a Breslover chassid and there is only so much micromanaging Rebbe Nachman can do from the grave.  Of course, now I should really think about going to Uman - but that's a whole other diary.  

      I'm not going to live in a  Jewish community - been there done that several different times - didn't work out so well for us.  It could depend on the community of course - it's possible I could find one where I really felt I belonged - but not likely given some of my rather... unorthodox way of looking at things.

      I don't go in for the "thought crimes" or "kol ish" in the privacy of my own home.  I do hold by it in public spaces and with guests who would be uncomfortable - but the rest of the time my wife understands my fixation on Kate Bush and Tori Amos, just as I understand her repulsive attraction to the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  

      There is a part of me that tries to make the rules make sense - and there is another that can find a kind of peace in surrendering to them.  There is a certain rhythm, a steady movement of time and space and all of it is acknowleged in some way.  It is a different way of living that can be highly individual, while looking much the same.

      And we sail and we sail and we never see land, just the rum in the bottle and a pipe in my hand...

      by Mortifyd on Sun May 22, 2011 at 11:46:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  First of all... (3+ / 0-)

        ... I love Kate Bush, Tori Amos, & The Red Hot Chili Peppers.  I'm also a classical music and opera freak.  I saw Rene Fleming perform a recital with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra last summer.  In my opinion, her appearance and her voice are equally stunning.  I definitely got enjoyment out from my eyes and ears.

        I understand what you say about being a part of the community, but not living directly in it.  I would find the geographic restrictions of living close enough to a minion of your own kind to be like a tight jacket.  I like the idea of an "on-line yeshiva" where one could study at will, but still remain isolated (and anonymous) from all of the community standards bs.

        •  hrm... (3+ / 0-)

          To each their own, music is very important to me on a listening level, but I can't stand crowds and don't actually enjoy concerts because I'm too stressed.  

          When I mean live without a community - I mean exactly that.  No minyan.  No community eruv.  I will build a mikvah. We will drive to get kosher food in bulk if we can't have it delivered or grow it ourselves.

          Breslovers primarily live in Israel, I will live in Australia.  You can live as kosher a life you want to on your own terms - but you have to decide to do it and then get on with it.  

          It's not about what you do when other people are watching - it's what you do when you are not being watched that tells who you are.

          And we sail and we sail and we never see land, just the rum in the bottle and a pipe in my hand...

          by Mortifyd on Mon May 23, 2011 at 11:37:19 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  I am curious (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        asterkitty, thebluecrayon, hikerbiker

        about the Orthodox lifestyle...I know a couple who are, sort of peripherally. I've met a few. I've never met a Chassid. It's interesting to hear about and I hope you will share some of your experience.

        I guess what I believe at this point in time is that the ritual commandments are for us, not for G-d's sake - but that ritual can set a mood, establish an atmosphere, and reinforce an attitude toward life, as well as create a rhythm that is comforting and sustaining. I don't really believe in a G-d who will punish anyone for using the wrong plate in a kosher kitchen.

        The way I've learned about Judaism, the ethical commandments are the true foundation - how we treat other people. And it's challenging enough to get that part right (speaking of teshuvah....). So, I'm still working on "do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God." If I get that part right, then learning the rituals will feel more meaningful, because I'll understand from the inside out what I'm using them to reinforce.

        Just a few random thoughts....

        •  so.... what are you curious about? (5+ / 0-)

          Punishment is not the point of mitzvos, refinement is.

          G-d may not punish anyone for using the wrong plate, but I'm sure as hell not going to be happy about it.  

          I come from a philosophy that is the opposite - start with the mitzvos, the understanding will come to you.  Rituals are only invested with the meaning you put in them.   Mitzvos are fundamental character shaping events for Jews.  Every one has a deep ethical and moral lesson in it - but sometimes you have to do them a while before you understand it.

          And we sail and we sail and we never see land, just the rum in the bottle and a pipe in my hand...

          by Mortifyd on Mon May 23, 2011 at 11:43:13 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  awesome (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            thebluecrayon, Mortifyd

            Refinement? By that do you mean the personal discipline it takes to follow the mitzvoth? The way I learned it, we're not supposed to do mitzvoth without kavenah, which suggests the proper intention should come before instead of after the actions. I think R'Bachya ibn Pakuda actually says that in his book Duties of the Heart if I understand him correctly.

            What I'm curious about: I guess I wonder what it's like to be strictly observant. I'm intrigued. I want to do more, but I want it to come from who I am and not be imposed from outside. Maybe I'm just not there yet. Plus, ritual is hard to learn, even harder to remember - and I am on my own with it.

            My story, in a nutshell: My mother was Jewish, but my father wasn't. We didn't "do" religion as a family. My mother was in fact quite anxious that people not know she was Jewish. So, when I grew up, I felt like I had this hidden secret, but that it was important without knowing why. I felt like G-d wanted me to be Jewish. I began to study on my own, going through tons of material from Secular Jewish Humanism to Reconstructionism, Reform, Renewal, Conservative, Orthodox - the whole nine yards. Until I began to study with a Renewal rabbi, I wasn't hearing much about how to live spiritually, or what it means to be a good person. Most of what's out there is about who gets to be Jewish, what the holidays are, learning Hebrew, what to eat, what to say at what time, how to watch out for anti-Semitism, what we should think about Israel - things that feel very external to me and are not about connecting with G-d throughout the day. Now I am grateful to be studying Derech Eretz from the Talmud.

            From what I've observed, the liberal Jewish contingent tends to do ritual more as a habit based on cultural expectations, or as family tradition. They may regard the ritual mitzvoth as optional - but not necessarily know the ethical commandments, nor follow them either. So then what does it mean to be Jewish, if it is only an ethnic identity? Do you know what I mean?

            Periodically I try ritual on my own. I test it out, see how it feels - like lighting the shabbos candles, sometimes saying all the blessings and sometimes not (alone)....Mostly I read.

            I got married long before I felt comfortable with exploring Judaism, and my husband is a non-Jewish, former Christian, current Born Again Atheist who feels an affinity for the existentialist philosophers. I haven't connected with a Jewish community because who I am and who my family are don't seem to fit.

            But I want to deepen my practice, so I guess I wonder what it's like to live that way all the time.

            •  not just to keep going (2+ / 0-)

              though that is a part of it - to still keep the mitzvos when you are tempted not to - but the mitzvos themselves shape your character by doing them.

              A child wants a cookie, so he learns to say a broucha before eating it.  A three year old generally isn't having deep kevanah connecting to the King of Kings - he wants the cookie and knows mummy won't give it to him until she says "Omein" because he repeated the broucha right.

              But a five year old can be connected enough to thank their not frum auntie for the candy and slip in in their pocket - then either check it themselves privately for a hechsher they recognise or ask a parent to check.  They are thinking about not only what they put in their body but their identity as religious Jews.   Be polite.  Be sensitive of others feelings.  Know who you are and choose to be that.  

              Of course there are children - even adults - who would eat it without looking or saying a broucha while claiming to be frum.  But that's their poor midos and their yetzer hora - and they have to deal with that themselves.

              I find it a relief sometimes to know what I am supposed to be doing and how to do it.  Even when I'm not doing it - I still think about how it should be done.   A religious person makes about 100 brouchas a day just in basic observance and assuming three meals with bread on a weekday.  That's a lot of structure.  I know how to tie my shoes.  I know how to wipe my bum.  I know how to behave with my own people and how to behave socially and acceptably with others.  I have over 100 opportunities a day to observe something about my life and acknowledge that each of these things are no longer ordinary because I have put thought and energy into how I do them.  Everyday things can be holy, even the loo.

              Would you be interested in a diary about a day in the life of a frum guy from rising to bed?  I can certainly describe what that's like easily enough.

              And we sail and we sail and we never see land, just the rum in the bottle and a pipe in my hand...

              by Mortifyd on Mon May 23, 2011 at 03:08:32 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  yes (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                thebluecrayon

                I would be interested in hearing about it.

                Do I come across as rude to you, or are you saying in general we should all be careful?

                I think I hesitate to do things because I am the only one in my household who would do them, and feel on some level I am waiting to be given permission, or to be shown how, and it's unfamiliar territory.

            •  I'm so happy for you (3+ / 0-)

              I've been meaning to tell you this for six weeks or so as I've read your comments. I'm so happy that you've embarked on this journey.

    •  It is sad the the understanding of (3+ / 0-)

      Yiddishkeit has degenerated from one of Simcha to one of a dreary, repressive practice.
      You have taken the most extreme Haredi examples, and I understand why you would see the practice as repressive and destructive. My experience with Yiddishkeit is that is infinite and transformative. Rather than repressive and micromanaging, it provides a framework to face the world and Hashem in a meaningful and soulful way, on a daily and continuous basis.
      I assume you are Jewish, and I think your viewpoint is understandable considering the struggle Jews have faced over the last 150 years.

      "How I hate those who are dedicated to producing conformity." William S Burroughs

      by shmuelman on Mon May 23, 2011 at 11:14:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  the culture you know (0+ / 0-)

        When you grow up in a certain environment, its rules make sense to you in a way they would not be if you came in as an outsider.

        Maimonides was controversial in his time because he created a condensed version of the laws outlined in the Talmud, stripping away the varied opinions and nuanced discussions of the Rabbis until he had only a list of Do's and Don'ts. Later, Joseph Caro created another such list - a simple code book for those who didn't have access to a complete Talmud. Thus, Jews learned to base their lives around the preferred commandments and opinions of these men, without perhaps ever seeing the source.

        One rabbi I met studied all tractates of Talmud over a ten year period, and each tractate he studied with a specialist in that tractate. But he says since the Holocaust there are few true Talmudic scholars left in the world, and much information was lost.

  •  I find your diaries fascinating. (3+ / 0-)

    SCA meets Chabad...who'dathunk it?

    Let America be America Again - Langston Hughes Rick Santorum

    by TheFatLadySings on Mon May 23, 2011 at 05:53:36 AM PDT

  •  Sounds more like shekhineh... (3+ / 0-)

    (G-d is coming closer to you.)

    I think t'shuvah - our devotion - is always manifest through repentance - no matter how flawed.

    But, the part of us that will or will not accept that love is shekhineh. It is what draws G-d closer to us to convince us we are worthy of such love.  It comes through people.  It's the essence of repentance we make erev Yom Kippur.  

    •  HaShem is never far (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      thebluecrayon, ezdidit

      only we are.

      I just can't picture the concept of being married without Hashem involved on a day to day level.  I'm a Jew.  I need Hashem just like I need air.

      And we sail and we sail and we never see land, just the rum in the bottle and a pipe in my hand...

      by Mortifyd on Mon May 23, 2011 at 11:47:20 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  You've chosen a difficult (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    thebluecrayon, Mortifyd

    and intriguing road. I can't imagine making the same choices, especially living without a community or minyan, but I wish you the best. As a smart reflective creative guy you are sure to have an interesting time of it. I hope you do find a community eventually because, speaking for myself, that's the most important part of being a Jew -- being a person for others.

    •  Oh, I *never* take the easy road LOL (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dsb, thebluecrayon

      it's just not in my personality.

      And as much as I love the company of a community - the closeness of it bothers me because of the military family I was raised in.  I find it hard to connect and when my door is closed it is closed - and that just doesn't fly in the community I joined.   I am a man of contradictions but I try to reflect on them and be honest with myself about my flaws.    

      I know for myself it was very hard to be a single man without family support and be pressured about marriage and children when my heart was already taken but the timing wasn't right.  It was also difficult to be a BT in a FFB community that wasn't geared for kiruv and the reality that so many BTs are on their own navigating a new culture often with family hostility.  My parents are not down with me being a chassid at all - and I know plenty of MO people who face the same kind of hostility I did and still do.

      I do not know where we will end up but for now a lot of traveling in our floating home is on the agenda.  Perhaps if we are blessed with more children our desire for community will change.   That is something I could see - cheder and vibrant community life is something I never had as a child and I would definitely like to give that to any I have.

      And we sail and we sail and we never see land, just the rum in the bottle and a pipe in my hand...

      by Mortifyd on Mon May 23, 2011 at 03:22:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes, having a child is the point where I joined a (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        thebluecrayon

        Jewish community. I think that's not at all uncommon. Like you, when I was younger I didn't feel the pull so much. Also like you I come from a military family that travelled and as a result I feel the pull of the road or the water perhaps more than most. (We had a bit of a conversation about family background in your diary last week.)

  •  SCA=Society 4 Creative Anachronism? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    thebluecrayon

    You didn't say, but I think my guess is right.

    We're also curious which country you will live in after your marriage, but maybe it's none of our business.

    Don't let millionaires steal Social Security.

    by Leo in NJ on Mon May 23, 2011 at 03:15:26 PM PDT

    •  Yep, that would be the SCA I'm talking about lol (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      thebluecrayon

      We're going to settle in Australia - assuming they let me in and allow me to work.  Neither one of us likes our chances here in the US.

      And we sail and we sail and we never see land, just the rum in the bottle and a pipe in my hand...

      by Mortifyd on Mon May 23, 2011 at 03:27:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Nah Nach Nachma Nachman (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    thebluecrayon

    Me'Uman. I don't understand what you are getting at, but hang in there. It seems virtually impossible to me to do chuva in the US, be Shomer Shabbos, Kosher, etc. It's a lot easier in Tsfat.

    "How I hate those who are dedicated to producing conformity." William S Burroughs

    by shmuelman on Mon May 23, 2011 at 11:17:23 PM PDT

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