Orthodox Yes, Suckers No

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A gender-segregated event at a municipal park in Afula, in northern Israel, on Wednesday, August 15, 2019.

Once upon a time, there were three major streams of Judaism – Orthodox, Reform and Conservative. In Israel there arose another stream – the indulgent stream. This stream, a mentally disturbed version of the Orthodox stream, decided, or so it seems, that mitzvah observance was a little difficult, and thus it decided to share it with others.

It’s actually pretty weird. After all, when a person decides to become Orthodox, he knows perfectly well that he’s taking upon himself a whole system of obligations and prohibitions. A long list of actions, foods, pleasures and behaviors will be totally forbidden to him. For example, he cannot be a chef in a seafood restaurant, eat Hungarian salami or be a steward on Lufthansa, a masseuse at a spa, a pig-leather gloves merchant, a hired killer, an astrologer, a nudist or a Shabbos goy, and if he’s one of the ultra-holy he will also be forbidden to go the opera, study in a “mixed” classroom or spend time in the company of women – and that’s just a very partial list.

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But a religious person is meant to deal with all this without the help of others, no? After all, that’s the essence of his religion: to resist temptation, to fight his evil inclination, to observe the commandments. As he sees it, that’s what makes the religious person superior to the secular beast.

But the activists of the indulgent stream believe otherwise. “Why should we be the only ones who suffer?” they whisper to themselves. “Let everyone suffer. It’s hard to observe mitzvot when everyone else is celebrating.” And so they immediately got to work.

At first, quite a long time ago, it was the laws of marriage and divorce. Only a few secular beasts bellowed mildly at the time.

The indulgers saw that it was good, and proceeded to public transportation. “According to our mitzvot, we cannot travel on Shabbat. But why should we be the only ones not traveling? No one will travel. So cut that out – buses, trains, airplanes, everything.”

“That’s not so bad,” the secular beasts whispered. “There are taxis, cars and Haifa. We can deal with this.”

Then came kashrut. “According to our laws, we may eat only kosher food,” the indulgent said. “But that’s not so easy. So make sure everything is kosher for us. Schools, hospitals, hotels, factories, groceries, the army, the airlines, everything. And make it mehadrin, yes?”

“We’ll manage,” the secular beasts mumbled. “We’ll bring sandwiches from home, we’ll eat in secret, we’ll hide hametz in our underwear. We can live with this.”

Then it was the women’s turn. “Our holy Torah requires us to separate the sexes,” the indulgers suddenly recalled. “When we see them in front of us, it’s hard for us. So keep us separate, okay? On the buses, in classrooms, at public events, at the beach, in the army, in the dining hall – and thanks again!”

“Now this is interesting,” the secular beasts finally began wondering. “In 2,000 years of exile, at every point on the globe, they observed their mitzvot without outside help. They walked on Shabbat, they koshered their food on their own, and they excluded women without assistance. But here, in the Jewish-democratic state, they’ve lost the strength? Here in particular they need the muscle and laws of the state to observe their mitzvot? The master of their universe is surely very, very disappointed with his lazy servants.”

“Indeed!” came a voice from somewhere in the sky. “I’m pretty disappointed, but not surprised. After all, this isn’t the first time they’re pulling this trick on me. Oy, how right I was to make them swear not to establish a Jewish state; how great a benefit I granted them when I dispersed them among the nations, and how wise it is of me to continue to delay the time of the Messiah’s arrival.”

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