Sunday, March 29, 2009

Response to Anonymous

I was going to put this in a comment in response to Anonymous's comments but realized as I constructed my answer that it would make a decent post and deserved to be more in the open than buried in comments to a post where it might get missed.

To Anonymous:

Finally, some comments that address at least some of the points I made. First of all though, my smug comment (as you put it) is directed at evangelical Christians who I have more experience with than Jews who might hold this opinion. I was referring to Christianity's and Islam's belief that they are the only right way to relate to the One. There is no way I would have given Judaism a second look if it did have that attitude.

With that out of the way, I had to chuckle at your intention to 1) dismiss and 2) expose me. I wasn't aware that I was trying to be concealed - if I was, I wouldn't be writing this blog. As far as dismissing me or others like me goes - good luck. You'll meet with some success especially in conventional circles but those of us who have wandered on to this track tend to be strong willed and willing to be different and one only has to search the web to see how more people are finding their way over here. Maybe conventional Judaism needs to be asking why some people are going in this direction rather than trying to dismiss us or complain about it. Ignoring things doesn't tend to work real well.

You have a problem with Jewitchery being seen as Jewish in any way but you still have not addressed the issue I presented in one of my early entries - What are the parameters of Judaism? With all of it's variations, when does Judaism stop being Judaism? As I've said before, that line is different with different Jews or 'denominations'. There was a time when Jewish Renewal or Reform Judaism was so unconventional that it was treated in much the same way you are treating Jewitchery. Now they are more or less mainstream.

By the way, although you are essentially correct that Judaism frowns upon paganism, I get the impression that you are not that well educated on the various forms of paganism including probably the difference between panentheism and pantheism - a situation I suggest you correct if you intend to debate with those who do consider these things and how they may or may not mesh with Judaism. It is not an uncommon belief in the pagan community (including and most notably in Wicca) that all the gods are merely the masculine aspect of the One, all the goddesses are the feminine aspect and that there is One Source. That isn't that far from Judaism - they just break down the attributes of the Almighty into different pieces for the human mind to wrap itself around. After all, the first of the Ten Commandments is not infrequently translated as "You shall not have other gods *before* Me" and Torah is rife with references to other gods and Hashem's supremacy over them. Is Hashem just a more powerful diety among many or, as I prefer to see it - the Source that other cultures divided into separate entities in order to get a grip on the Divine influence in their lives? Abraham's spiritual genuis was in recognizing that there is only One but I also believe that the human mind has to break down the One in order to have a relationship due to our inherent limitations. Even Judaism has done this via the Etz Chayim and Sephirot. Is there anything that is not Hashem? The answer I've been given by rabbis is "No".

You seem to be incensed that I feel that I have the freedom to define my own spiritual life and encourage others to do the same. That I state that the bedrock of that spiritual life is Judaism and have the audacity to make the claim that I am Jewish even as I step outside the conventional boundaries of it. You state that I have no standing to come into Judaism and change it in regards to paganism; I do have the right and duty of every Jew though to wrestle with Judaism and perhaps find different aspects than the usually highlighted ones and come to different conclusions than other Jews. Who are you to say otherwise?

Not all rabbis (who obviously were ordained by somebody in one of the 'denominations' - did they lie in order to obtain their smicha?) translate Shemot 22:17 the way you do although more do accept your conventional translation of not suffering a witch to live. See Rabbi Gershon Winkler's book _Magic of the Ordinary_. Convention and predominance of an opinion isn't everything although I am aware that that attitude is also not common in the evolution of Judaism.

As far as the Talmud quote goes on the blog, I adopted it from another Jewitch who seems to know her stuff and I verified that it is from JT Kiddushin 4 (66c). Although we are not using it in the context it's presented in Talmud, the words are there. Talmud may not generally be referenced in chaper and verse form but looking at the Soncino software it seems the easiest to me and probably anyone else not traditionally trained in reading Talmud. Not everybody, especially women, are so lucky as to recieve a traditional Jewish education.

BTW, FWIW, I did look up San. 56, 60 and 67. Most of the discussions don't apply as idolatry and appropriate methods of killing a witch are not at issue, 67b addressed the idea that the practice of magic diminishes the Almighty by not giving due credit for the source of the ability to do magic which is not an issue in my case and there was one other page that listed the various magics one is not to perform which I found interesting especially since some of those things have been long standing aspects of Jewish folk magic. Maybe those who did so were technically bad Jews but it is part of Jewish culture like it or not.

You may consider me a coward for not talking to the rabbi of the synagogue I attend about this stuff but frankly since you don't have the courage to sign a name I don't know why I should care about what you think of my courage. Personally, I think it takes more courage to do what I've done than to merely take the word of a rabbi especially one who really doesn't know me or the situation. I don't claim that Jewitchery is conventional Judaism and if someone is going to consider conventional Jews as the only legitimate Jews then I and others like me don't fit your view. Fortunately you don't speak for all of Judaism.


  1. --Personally, I think it takes more courage to do what I've done than to merely take the word of a rabbi--

    When the issue is Judaism who else WOULD you ask?

    You have shown NO courage (and for the record - I am keeping my name anonymous to avoid embarrassing you), you are simply avoiding what you know to be true. Fact remains - your views are outside Judaism - and Judaism (not a convert) gets to define Judaism.

    --I verified that it is from JT Kiddushin 4 (66c).--

    You don't read Hebrew - and the Jerusalem Talmud has never been translated to English - so please tell me EXACTLY how you did this.

    I further note that you changed the way you were representing the citation (it's still wrong, by the way) without acknowledging error.

    --if someone is going to consider conventional Jews as the only legitimate Jews then I and others like me don't fit your view. Fortunately you don't speak for all of Judaism. --

    I speak for 99.9%. Good luck.

  2. >>I speak for 99.9%<<

    Only in your own mind. There are so many liberal Jews out there that I'm not worried about not being accepted. You're sounding more and more Orthodox, who make up <10% of the Jewish population but who seem to think that they are the be all and end all of Judaism. BTW, thanks for the good wishes.

    I verified the quote from the JT by finding the same quote in an online scholarly paper which gave me the (66c) reference. When that citation and my original source agreed on language and basic cite it was close enough for me. Maybe I'm wrong; would you care to give me the correct citation? BTW, how do you know that I don't read Hebrew? You obviously aren't anybody I know since you don't know basic things about me. As a matter of fact, I do read some Hebrew.

    As far as courage goes, I don't know why I would be embarrassed by you giving your name. I'm going to take a guess that you are a rabbi or something like that but since you're not somebody I respect or probably have even heard of, why should I care? Sorry, your comment about not embarrassing me doesn't cut it although I do appreciate you supposedly not wanting to cause me embarrassment - not that I'm sure I believe that. If you did mean it you'd request your concerns be kept private rather than conducting a potentially embarrassing conversation in a public blog. BTW, have you forgotten the mitzvah of not throwing a convert's status in their face? Obviously.

    So what if my views are outside of conventional Judaism? It appears to me that most Jews don't think nearly as much about their Judaism or spirituality as I do about mine. If you think that kind of examination is easy then you have never done it or acted as any sort of a counselor to someone who has otherwise you would never impugn my courage as you do and that's not just my opinion but the opinion of many who engage in self analysis and spiritual betterment.

    I'm not trying to be part of any particular Jewish community and therefore don't have to conform to their particular standards. I am a Jew by virtue of mikvah, bet din and being accepted by the Reform community as a Jew upon my conversion. I have never had a problem interacting with either the Reform or Conservative Jewish communities. I'm not trying to recast Judaism - I'm not even sure Hashem is up to that with the stiff-necked independent bunch we are. OTOH I don't apologize for what I am or for the fact that I have a personal relationship with Hashem and there are aspects to my spirituality that are not strictly Jewish. So what? You sound like you are very scared of people thinking for themselves.

    >>--Personally, I think it takes more courage to do what I've done than to merely take the word of a rabbi--

    When the issue is Judaism who else WOULD you ask?<<

    You missed my whole point. I didn't say that I don't ever consult rabbis - of course part of my research on the various forms of Judaism and Jewish thought in general has included consulting with rabbis but I consider them as a resource rather than someone to give me all the answers. How do you think I ran across Rabbi Gershon Winkler or Rabbi Jill Hammer? You obviously don't realize that not all rabbis agree but then again that's not surprising considering your apparent narrow experience base and views.

    BTW, I hereby close this discussion. It has turned more acrimonious than I'd like and it is obvious that your are not interested in anything than forcing me to bow, yield, kneel - ain't going to happen. If you feel so strongly about Jewitchery then post a blog of your own. Mine is for other things.