I have long eluded boxes. This is not new to me. What is new to me is people feeling like they absolutely must be able to place me in one. And I am not alone. There has been a lot of talk around the web over the past few weeks about who fits in what denominational box and what exactly defines the walls of those boxes.
I will never understand who gets to decide the walls and what they are made from because it seems they are always shifting and organizations and individuals like to try to change the walls constantly based on what they feel defines the box. Often times, the walls seem to be based on an other-ness, a sense of “if you don’t fit in what I think defines my box, you must belong in that one” – even if the people in that box feel the same sense of other-ness about the person you want to place with them. This all sounds very vague, and it is intentionally that way because while there have been some big things in the news on these points, it is also very personal for me.
There is no box for me. You cannot put walls up to define me amongst a group of other Jews. I do not fit in any denominational boundaries.
And while I have come to accept this about myself, many people I meet along the way do not know how to cope with this. They keep trying to place me into a box I don’t fit into – trying to make me into something I am not. Perhaps this makes people feel better about themselves for some reason. Perhaps they think it gives clarity on some level. Its hard for me to say why people do what that they do, what I can tell you for sure is that it doesn’t feel good to me.
So, to save you all the trouble of trying to box me in, here is what you need to know. I do not identify with any denomination in Judaism today. I do my best to live a shomer Torah life. I learn and question and learn some more each time something comes up, so that I can make educated decisions, based in halacha. I avoid leniency or stringency for the sake of leniency or stringency – striving to live a more centrist, yet religious, lifestyle.
As for others, stop trying to make them fit what you want or expect them to be. Religious and spiritual journeys are highly personal. We are all on a path (which is ironically also the literal translation of halacha), and there is nothing to make one stop dead in their tracks like feeling judged about the direction their path is taking at any moment in time.
We need to support, love, and respect one another in these times more than ever. I love this video‘s reminder of that, so I shall leave you with this as a happy note.