Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Mr. Orthodox Rabbi

Being involved in the secular world leads to many interesting scenarios. When in yeshiva you are surrounded by (mostly) like minded individuals. You don't represent Orthodoxy, you're just one of many.

But in the secular world (think graduate school or job) you're confronted daily. Gentiles and Non-Religious Jews abound. You aren't just a member of Orthodoxy, you're the Rabbi, whether you've spent years learning or sleeping.

I've been asked what makes pizza kosher, and if the bad taste is a pre-requisite; why some women only wear skirts while others walk around wearing hats; why do some men wear black hats and have long hair behind their ears. Those are the easy ones, the hanging curveball that you can slam out of the park.

What do you do when a sensitive issue comes up? Example: Someone whose mother isn't Jewish, but father is. The question hasn't been posed to me, though at least one acquaintance of mine is exactly that. I’m still not sure how I’ll word my response.

When answering you take into account the feelings of the other person. You don't want to embarrass them or make them think that Orthodox Jews are backward. You don't want to distort halacha. So you give the same answer you'd give in a conversation with your chavrusa, but your wording has to be different.

You are Orthodoxy. You are the Rabbi.