Reflections of a "fringe" Jew

Full disclosure:  I don’t fit in all the time, but then again, most of us don’t.

In truth, I play the part of blending into the “mainstream” frum lifestyle fairly well.  I talk the talk and I walk the walk.  However, when I walk, I think about how the word הלך is the root word of halacha, meaning “to walk”.  I also usually hum the song “A Walk” by Bad Religion.  I just can’t help myself.

I rarely have time or schedule time to think about what makes me different from those around me who are frum.  It usually is just a waste of my time.  Once in a blue (new) moon, I find myself in a situation where I cannot distract myself with my Blackberry, hisbodedus, or a sefer and am forced to actually accept that neis that Hashem made each of us different.  Case in point: this past Motzei Shabbos.

I ventured out, on my own, to see the band Pitom.  They were great.  While I am not a major fan of klezmer music, there were enough electric guitar riffs, hard drums, killer bass lines, and one insane electric violin to make me forget that I was actually listening to “Jewish”-based music.

As I sat in a crowd of about thirty, I scanned the audience and found, maybe, one or two others who I’d label as “frum”.  Not a big deal.  It did get me thinking that even though I have changed in many ways since becoming observant year ago, I still am sort of an “arty-hispter-type”.  I still find myself moved by music as an art form, not just as a niggun, a tune to Adon Olam, or the newest song by any generic “boys choir”.

I think that most people, if they look hard enough, have something that makes them different than everyone else.  That is how Hashem made us.  We are all on the fringe of something.  It could be the fringe of getting closer to Hashem or the fringe of going out of our minds as we get ready for Pesach.

Just as each shevet has a different degel, we are each different…created by Hashem, who is “Echad”.

4 thoughts on “Reflections of a "fringe" Jew

  1. micha

    I would actually make a stronger argument…

    Say we formed a movement (hypothetically speaking, of course 🙂 ) that encouraged people to think about their avodas Hashem seriously, to care about their relationship to G-d, to plan a chart to specific spiritual goals.

    One person has one set of skills and emotional proclivities. As well as his one set of ideas that resonate and make sense to him. Another person, with a different set of strengths and challenges, is not only likely to find a different way of viewing the goal of Judaism, he is also likely to find a different set of buttressing ideas to resonate with him.

    In such a movement, no one would end up with Party Line thought. They might sociologically live in Teaneck or Lakewood, and dress the part, but internally — and these people care deeply about that “internally” — they thought about things and found their own set of answers.

    Fitting in too much — at least as seen from the inside — is reason for reflection… Have I really considered all the questions of being a Jew and pursuing holiness? If so, why are all my answers exactly like the platform of this camp?


  2. Neil Harris

    Yaak: Thanks

    Micha: My original draft had a line about my own individuality being part of the reason I gravitated towards a derech towards mussar, since middos are sadly counter-culture.

    To address your issue, I think that you are right. Realizing the importance and steps towards Avodas Hashem are currently “fringe” ideas, yet your proposal is what’s needed, since it offers a customizable formual. 🙂


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