My daughter re-told me this story told to her by a Yoetzet Halachah (certified by a panel of Orthodox rabbis to be a resource for women with questions regarding Taharat Hamishpachah [an area of Jewish Law that relates to marriage, sexuality and women’s health] Taken from http://www.yoatzot.org/about.php.) This role was devised to assist women who are more comfortable discussing very personal issues with another woman) in Israel. She was telling another Israeli woman about using the mikveh and the laws related to it, when the woman responded, “I only do things that are rational.” Upon asking what does that entail, she answered, “I only do things that my mother did.”
Someone I know of a certain age (it does make a difference, in this case, perhaps) who lives in an area that used to have a problematic eruv would still carry his glasses, even when he knew that he was walking in an area without the eruv. “G-d wouldn’t want us to do anything that wasn’t convenient.”
Things that may not pass the silliness test:
- Pidyon HaBen, redeeming the first born son; the part especially when you put the month-old baby boy on a silver platter, surrounded with jewelry. Meat market, indeed.
- Kiddush Levana; especially jumping at the moon as part of the inauguration of the new moon, which has to be done at night outside. My cousin, when she first saw my husband doing this while on a visit to the ocean, said, “Now that’s really one for the books.” I can’t imagine what she wasn’t saying, or maybe I can.
- Drinking 4 cups of wine at each Seder at Pesach, along with the many other bizarre and quite inconvenient parts of Pesach (cleaning OCD-worthy, anyone?), Especially the time when one of our guests fainted after eating the horseradish straight-up; it turns out that he has a condition that causes him to do that after eating spicy foods (!). As the paramedics were on their way, I spent the anxious moments trying to move as many empty wine bottles away from sight as possible…those shikkers…
- And then there’s the whole business with Taharat HaMishpachah, that lovely hedge of roses of Family Purity laws, half month on, half month off…
- you get the picture; any others come to mind?
No, it’s all inconvenient, but we still do them. Some, davka because of the silliness–let’s call it “theatricalness” (yes, it’s a real word). It accentuates what we’re doing, but it doesn’t define what we’re doing. And it doesn’t define why we’re doing it. But it should help define us.
Yes, there is a problem with the luftmenschlichkeit of Yiddishkeit, the lack of grounding, the disconnect with reality that let’s us do silly things like these without caring about the consequences, since we’re so used to being looked down upon that we put ourselves away from thinking about it. How can you be looked down upon if you’re up in the air?
But who’s in charge? What’s on second?