Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Top 10 Questions People Ask Me About My Judaism

I get asked a lot of interesting questions.  The most interesting part is how many recur - very few are original.  The questions I get asked are usually prefaced by a few common introductions, such as, "Can I ask you a really stupid question?"  "I hope you don't mind my asking this, but..."  But I love questions.  Because they open the lines of communication.  And that makes me happy.  And when momma is happy, everybody be happy.

And here are the winners:

1. If God is all-powerful, why do bad things happen to good people?

Note:  this questions appears in various forms and may be hard to discern under the alias.  Like, why are bad things happening to me?  Am I being punished?  Am I truly that bad?

Answer: I do not answer this question unless it's in person; I have time to transmit the ideas I've learned in full; and I know the people I am talking to and what their questions really are.

2. Is that your hair sticking out from under your hat?

Answer: if you see it, it's not my hair.  It's my wig!

3. How do you have time for everything?

Answer: I don't.  But I will not compromise on my sleep (though I do suffer from insomnia) or on household help.  Also I really insist on my kids' help in accepting responsibility around the house.  Also, my husband is an amazing help.  Also, I believe that God helps me because He wants me to succeed.

4. How do you remember all your kids' birthdays and appointments and activities?

Answer: God gifted me with a good memory and an organized orientation.  Also, my Droid.

5. Do you guys speak Hebrew at home?

Answer: no, English is my first language and that's what we speak at home.  Although I confess, it IS liberally sprinkled with Hebrew and Yiddish references.

Example: Come here!  Let me wash your henties (hands, Yiddish).  Oy!  You're so cute I could just plotz (pass out, Yiddish)!!

6.  How do you have three teenagers?  You look so young.

Answer:  Can you ask me that again?  I didn't hear you the first time.
Real answer: Exercise and good genes.
Real answer, for real: I am so young.  I got started young!

7.  Were you Orthodox your whole life?

Note: I always wonder here, what the "right" answer is.  Are people hoping to hear "yes" or "no"?  Do I present as an FFB or a BT?  Does it matter?

Answer: yup.  But that doesn't make me a blind follower.  It's always been important to me to ask tough questions and make intellectual sense of that with which I've been raised.  The more I probe, the more I love.

8. Are you Chassidic?

Answer: no.

9.  Are you Amish?

Answer: no.

10.  Are you Chabad?

Answer: no.

Note: if you are Chassidic, Amish, or Chabad, I'd love to hear from you for a future post.

What questions have been posed to you about your Judaism?



  1. It's amazing how certain questions do pop up more than others! I also like that you don't answer question #1 unless those conditions are met. It seems like a wise thing to do.

  2. Rivki: I've learned from my mistakes. When I was just starting out in education, I felt the urge to answer every question that came my way, in the moment. Now I know that is often not wise.

  3. I would like to know why certain women wear shetels and others wear turbans, or scarves. Also, how do others know your wearing a shetel? Before most wore "ugly" ones on purpose...now they are so nice!
    And do you cover your hair from your children too? When is the cut off point? I doubt a baby would know the difference...
    Thanks and I hope my questions don't see too impertinant!

  4. Dominique, did you see this post:
    That might answer some questions.
    People that wear a sheitel can spot others wearing a sheitel in a heartbeat.
    Different women handle the kids seeing their hair differently. I try not to let my kids see my hair, but sometimes it doesn't work out. When they're babies I'm not concerned.
    Welcome to the blog!

  5. That Chabad and Chassidic are presented here as two different categories makes for itself an interesting observation, considering Chabad/Lubavitch is just one of dozens of groups within the Chassidic movement.

  6. Most common question from my relatives "Why must you be so frum?" or in my Mom's version "What's so bad about the Judaism you grew up with?"

    Most common question from my employers "Do you really, really mean you can't work this [Saturday, Rosh Hashana, Friday night)? My answer to this one is always the same "Sure, no problem. Just stop the sun from setting and I'll work as late as you need."

  7. Yossel I know a fair number of people with an interest in Jewish sociology or religious taxonomy who think dividing Chabad from the remainder of chassidut is reasonable. Basically they feel the Chabad emphasis on outreach/shlichus is so different from the insular turn of most chassidic communities as to support putting them into different categories.

    Having seen some of the Bostoner approach to outreach, I find this division less convincing.

  8. I became Mennonite (Amish, but we drove cars and used electricity basically) before I found Judaism. For better or worse it was my attempt at making Judaism fit into Christianity, oddly enough. It didn't work. that's why I'm here :)

    (there is of course a longer explanation to that one! This wasn't an overnight change.)

  9. Yossel and Larry: when I try to explain to people that Chabad IS Chassidic, I find it to be so incomprehensible that I leave it out till people know more about the different sects. It's confusing for folks.

    Re: "why must you..." I find I am sometimes questioned about what I am "allowed" to do in the sense that some armed Orthodox Rabbi is standing sentry at my door...

    Tzipporah: if you would guest blog for me on the Mennonite thing, I would be insanely grateful.

  10. I could be wrong, but it may be safe to say there won't be many current Amish to respond. Unless they're on their year off (the name just evaded me) - Umplatz!!


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