Thursday, September 6, 2012

And I'm back: Uncovered head edition: On the Request of Alexis and Robbie

I also have a recipe one coming up soon.

In the final analysis, it is between you and G-d; it was never between you and them anyway.”
-Mother Teresa

Sorry about the lack of posts recently.

Anyway, some of you know that I stopped wearing the kippah after four months.

Don't worry, I'm still religious. A few of you wanted me to write up an explanation, so I did.

These things don't apply for everyone - many people find a lot of happiness and meaning in wearing such visible religious symbols - not just the kippah, but also the turban, the hijab, the enormous cross, and so on. This is just my experience.

Kippah wearing is not required by Jewish law (although my approach to halachah is decidedly unorthodox), but is seen as a sign of yirat shamayim - fear of the heavens, a sign of modesty, and now, a sign of pride.

 I think, like a lot of things, that my cessation might be hard for people to understand. Just as it is hard for people to understand that people need/want different religious practices at different times – I had wanted to wear the kippah from November onwards (and even while dating a non-Jew contemplated doing it), and decided quite suddenly in April to do it.

So why did I stop?

1. I felt like it distanced me from G-d. I spent so much time worrying about the kippah - and when to not wear it (unsafe, horrifically rainy weather, non-hechshered restaurants). I worried "am I tzniut enough?" "What do people think?" As a result, my own religious beliefs - and spiritual well-being - suffered, and I felt so beholden to other people that I felt as if my link to G-d - and respect for Him - was in decline because I was so beholden to other people's thoughts.

After I stopped, I found a really good blog post by a rabbi who detailed the same problem he had, but he's in a situation where he can't take it off

2. I felt targeted. I already had a rule of unsafe areas, hypothetical abroad, and non-kosher restaurants (I eat dairy and fish out) as being kippah-free zones. But I still felt targeted. Work was a safe space, but the streets weren't always. I got a fair number of comments over the four months from passerby. It got to the point where I felt as if everyone was watching, and I began to worry about things happening.

My worst experiences were actually with fellow Jews. I've gotten sexually harassed twice, harassed by extremists twice (once for buying a hechshered thing at a Starbucks) harassed for other reasons thrice, and a lot of "hey ehrlich friend"-type comments.

One of the awkward things is that the kippah in the US has become a symbol of Modern Orthodoxy - and I'm not Orthodox. So with Jews, some of it was confusion as well.

3. There’s also the fact that it makes me draw even more attention to myself when I have to explain religious things. That was not challenging and did not factor into the decision, but I think it will be a relief to not have to do that.

Things that did not factor in: family and friends' disapproval; dislike of kippot (I love them!); other kippah-symbolism problems (re: brands of Zionism); difficulty of maintenance on a day-to-day basis.

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