Thursday, May 31, 2007

I like... being Jewish

I like music. When I say that I don't mean that I only like a specific kind of music (for example only music in D minor, or only microtonal music). True, there are some kinds of music that I don't like, but many more that I do like. And even those that I don't like, I am prepared (to a certain extent) to give them a go.
I like heavy rock though I don't like death metal
I like Bach and Beethoven but strongly dislike Gamelan music
I like reggae but I don't like hip hop or rap
I like sixties acoustic, but I don't like free form jazz
I like Ladysmith Black Mambazo but I don't like Miami Boys Choir
I like Billy Bragg but I don't like the cover versions of his songs
I like punk but not all the aggro that goes with it
I like glam rock but not David Bowie's attitude to Jews

But what do you do with someone like Fish, or Marrilion, or even Dream Theatre? They don't fit neatly into any category, except that I like them all.
Having labels for music is kind of useful when you have to chose an online radio station to listen to, or when you want to find the right bin with the CDs that you like, but it is more useless than useful, because the bands and people I like could be in several different categories.

Which is why I just like music. There are even moments when i can put up with Abba. It is much better (I think) to avoid the labels and categories, and just get on with the tunes.

Yet people seem to have a need for labels. And this is most damaging when it comes to Judaism. We can't just be 'Jewish' but have to be Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, New Age Atheist Jewish etc. Within each group (but mainly within Orthodoxy) we have more and more refined definitions. Chasidic, chareidi, modern chareidi, modern orthodox, traditional orthodox, etc.
I posted the link to the quiz to find out what kind of Jew you are. I enjoyed the questions and thought it was cute. But the best result was the person who scored exactly the same in almost every category. In other words, just plain Jewish without any labels.
It gets worse, because some people think that those who don't fit into their category are no longer Jewish. In the same way that I struggle to see how some of John Cage's stuff (or most Jewish music) is really music, they can't understand how someone who looks or thinks differently can still be Jewish. We all know that the Second Temple was destroyed because people invalidated those who had a different hashkafa than they did (look at the Netziv's introduction to Haemek Davar). But nothing seems to have changed since then.
At Sinai, we all stood around the mountain, each tribe in its place. This means that each tribe and each individual had a slightly different perspective on what happened there. Each person saw and heard something slightly different than anyone else. This is because there are multiple paths to Torah. As long as we are facing Sinai and trying our best to relate to G-d and people in the best way, we can agree to disagree.
I was speaking to someone the other night who claims to not be chareidi. But he isn't anything else either. He suggested making a new category called 'Askan' for people who just get on with it and do things, rather than worry about labels. I think that is a great idea.
Let's all be Jewish, and appreciate that there are many paths to Torah and to serving G-d.

Sorry for the rant, but where else if not a blog.

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