Did you ever get upset that you didn't have a Santa?
Not really, because as you pointed out, we have eight days of presents. And latkes. Oh, and caramel cream-filled, powdered sugar-covered donuts. I must say though, that despite my not celebrating it? Christmas happens to be one of my favorite times of the year. I love the music, the lights, and the seasonal candy.
Why do Orthodox married women wear wigs? If it’s modesty, why do they wear wigs made out of someone else's human hair that sometimes look better than their own hair? This has never made sense to me, but maybe I just don't understand the concept.
Despite the fact that I don't cover my hair, I am asked this question a lot. Essentially, Orthodox Jewish women cover their hair after they get married for reasons of modesty. There are two factors that serve as the basis for this requirement: One is that hair is considered--for lack of a better word-- "sexay", and it’s a woman's literal crowning glory, so the general idea there is that the woman covers it so only her husband (and immediate family, depending upon her customs) can see it. The other rationale for the rule is that hair covering is simply an outward, visual sign that a woman is married.
Your point that the wigs can (and for the most part, DO) look better than a woman's real hair is well-taken. In fact, some Orthodox women actually don't wear wigs (choosing instead to wear only hats/scarves) for the reasons that you cited; namely, that they feel uncomfortable doing something that is supposed to embody modesty while wearing a wig that looks ten times better than their real hair ever could. Also, if you are someone who believes hair should be covered solely to be an outward, obvious sign of marriage, you probably would wear hats exclusively, since that's a lot more obvious than a wig. Oh, and I should point out that there are many women who switch back and forth between hats and wigs.
Without going into too much detail, there are TONS of variations on the intricacies of hair covering. There are questions on whether the rule requires HAIR covering (i.e., covering all of your hair), or HEAD covering (covering the crown of your head, and allowing your hair to stick out underneath). Some women will ensure that all their hair is covered when they're in public, but will uncover it in their house, no matter who's there. Some, as noted, don't let anyone see it but their husbands. As with most things in life, people do what they feel is right for them.
Note: Even people like me who don't cover their hair do make sure that their head is covered when they attend services in a synagogue, out of respect. Consequently, I am the proud owner of an extensive hat collection, some of which make me look like a human satellite dish. (I’m not kidding. Do you want to see pictures?) If you ever run into me and I look like I'm on my way to the Kentucky Derby, chances are I'm actually on my way to synagogue services.
Is it true that Judaism is passed on (or rather, taught) through the mother?
Yep, this is true. If your mom is Jewish, you're considered a Jew.
I can see the skirt rule, but no collarbones? What's so bad about a collarbone?
Again, this goes back to modesty, and I assume it's to keep cleavage from showing. I don't know why the collarbone was singled out, but I assume it's because it's an objective “yardstick," so to speak, as opposed to saying something subjective and vague, like “just make sure The Twins aren’t exposed.”
Catholic here, with a toddler who just started attending a rockin' Jewish preschool. Said toddler is asking us to sing a prayer before meals that starts with (and excuse my horrible approximation based on 3-year-old language) Hamochi. It also includes some thanking for bread, parents and maybe teachers?
I was jumping up and down in my seat when I saw this because...I think I know that song! My cousins used to sing it when we were little. There’s a blessing that is said before bread is eaten, and it's colloquially referred to as the "Hamotzi blessing." Here are the lyrics I think you're after:
Hamotzi lechem min ha'aretz
We give thanks to God for bread.
Our voices join in song together
As our joyful prayer is said:
Baruch atah adonai,
Elohaynu melech ha'olam
Hamotzi lechem min ha'aretz.
Does that sound familiar?
I would videotape myself singing it, but I think I've hit my embarrassment quota for the year, between the pictures of me in the last post and my assorted karaoke videos.
Was anyone ever forced to wear BOTH the school skirt and school dickie (snort!) simultaneously? And if so, how big a tramp was SHE?
I don't think this ever happened; if it had, I do believe that the universe would have imploded.
Why is it that Jews never get possessed? Is it because they don't believe in the devil?
We don't believe in the Devil, but we do believe in Satan. The distinction, as I understand it, is that the Devil is generally considered an equally powerful (but opposite) counterpart to God (which would be at odds with our monotheistic beliefs). Satan is more of a bad angel…type…dude, one who is still ultimately subservient to God, and not on par with him. (Did that make sense at all?)
Why do Jewish people dress up to celebrate Purim?
Purim is occasionally referred to as the “Jewish Halloween," since we dress up in costumes to celebrate it. At its most basic level, the reason for the holiday is that many years ago in Persia, a bad guy named Haman tried to exterminate all the Jews, but failed through a series of hidden miracles, and so we celebrate (with food and alcohol, as is our habit). We dress up our kids in costumes and visit neighbors and friends, exchanging baskets of food and candy. And drinking. Heavily.
The basis for the costumes is that the whole story revolves around (a) hidden miracles disguising themselves as natural occurrences and (b) mistaken identities. Consequently, we give a nod to that by dressing up in costumes. It’s also a way to get kids involved in the holiday. Way back when, people just dressed up like characters from the Purim story, but as time went on, they got more creative. In fact, certain people may have attended a Purim costume party in college dressed up as "Hit Me Baby One More Time"-era Britney. Certain people can probably now no longer run for public office.
And this year, he's going to be Elvis!
Hole in the sheet. Fact or fiction?
I was waiting for someone to ask this…NO, this is totally false. Read here for more information.
What is your Jewish name? And why have Jewish names in addition to real names? Why not just use the Jewish name as your real name?
Pretty much every Jew has a Hebrew name (in addition to their “regular” name). However, there's no rule that you need to have an English name, too. It's just that many Hebrew names have natural English counterparts (The Hebrew name "Yaakov" is "Jacob" in English, "Rivka" is "Rebecca," etc.), and so in order to make things easier on their kids, parents tend to give their kids English names as well.
(That shouldn't be taken to mean, though, that you MUST name your kid the precise equivalent of their Hebrew name. In our case, we gave T two English names, and two Hebrew names, neither of which have any relation to one another. The English names appear on his birth certificate, and the Hebrew ones were bestowed upon him at his bris.)
In general, Jews give their children Hebrew names in honor of relatives that have passed away. (If they hate the name of that relative or even hate the actual relative, they use the initial that person's name started with.) If they don’t have a specific person for whom to name their child, they can use any Hebrew name they like.
Personally, I love the Jewish naming customs. I was able to give my kid "mainstream" names that we loved (i.e., his English first and middle name), as well as Hebrew names that carry a deep significance to us, as T is named for J’s father (who passed away a while ago).
My Hebrew name actually IS Metalia. It's sort of made-up, as it’s a combination of two other Hebrew names, “Meital” and “Talya” which together mean “from the dew of God.” I dunno, man. Go ask my parents.
Can you clarify EXACTLY the difference between Yiddish and Hebrew? And also, does anyone speak Yiddish anymore, or is it just old people? I know words like "tush" and "schmutz" have entered the mainstream lexicon (they're from the Yiddish, right?) but does anyone speak it more exclusively? Even if it's just, like, people's grandparents in their living rooms?
Hebrew is the national language of
Yiddish is a passel of assorted European languages, and came into being in the Middle Ages...I think. I know that it was spoken primarily in
While it is a dying language now, you wouldn't know it if you hung out at my grandparents' house. Though English is their first language, they have a tendency to pepper their conversations with obscure (and occasionally colorful) Yiddish phrases, my favorite one being something about a man with a terrible singing voice sounding like “a goat pissing on a tin roof.” I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THIS MEANS. But in Yiddish, it sounds awesome.
Do you keep Kosher, with the milk plates and the meat plates and never having cheese on a hamburger because that would involve mixing milk and meat? If so, where the hell do you keep all that stuff?
Yup. I’ve never had a cheeseburger, ham, and much to the dismay of some people, bacon. We do have separate sets of dishes for dairy and meat. It does take up a lot of room (um, double the amount, actually), but the truth is that I’ve never known anything different, so it’s not such a big deal for me that I have to do this. (Though yes, it does suck to have A GAZILLION SETS OF DISHES, FLATWARE AND SERVING PIECES IN ONE NEW YORK APARTMENT OH MAH GAHHHH.)
What is the distinction (if any) between Orthodox sects/adherents that follow the hats/wigs rule versus those that do not? For example, I have friends who observe Sabbath and keep kosher and so on, but who have a strict "no hats, no wigs" policy (i.e., the men don't want women who wear them, and the women don't want to wear them themselves). Likewise, I have male Jewish friends who consider themselves Orthodox and observe Sabbath, etc., but do not wear a kippa/yarmulke at all times.
Is it a modern versus ultra-Orthodox distinction, or are there distinct groups that do certain things but not others, or is it more a matter of personal choice (like any religion, where you pick and choose what you want to do or not do)?
There’s no distinction per se; I mean, I consider myself to be “modern Orthodox,” but the girl down the street who covers her hair and only wears skirts might consider herself to be, as well. There is a broad spectrum of people who define themselves as modern Orthodox, and as you put it, it’s a matter of personal choice.
Are you troubled by the trend toward out-marriage (i.e., interfaith) among Jews?
I know I’m “supposed” to care, but honestly, as long as two people love each other and are good people, I feel like it shouldn’t matter.
It was important to me personally, however, that I marry someone Jewish. As I’m sure you saw throughout this post, we have a lot of customs and rules. And yes, I KNOW I don’t follow all of them, but even so, it helps that J and I have similar backgrounds, and are on common ground when it comes to our religion.
This was definitely my longest post ever.
Thank you all so much for asking the questions; I hope the responses were informative. (Feel free to keep the questions coming, by the way; I can make this an occasional feature if you have more.)
And now for my disclaimer:
I don’t claim to be an expert on anything but lipgloss, and certainly not such a weighty topic as Judaism. The answers to these questions were based in part on my general Judaic knowledge, but also my opinions and personal experiences. So if you think you’ve seen another explanation somewhere else? You very well may have. And they can both be right. In a nutshell: Don’t yell at me if you don't like my answer(s). Pretty please?