The teacher of my Me'ah class this semester is terrific. She's managed to break down the complex topic of medieval Jewish history into bite sizes neither too small and frothy nor massive and overwhelming. And she--unlike one of the good, but not great, instructors we had last year--is not the star of each lesson. I usually don't mind when a teacher injects herself into the subject matter, and enjoy hearing the personal perspectives which can bring a topic to life. But there's a line beyond which I become uncomfortable. I want to learn the thing, not the teacher's reactions to the thing. I want the teacher to be a little anonymous and distant so I can concentrate on something else besides the teacher.
My first reaction to Girl Meets God, a book I'm reading thanks to a deep and insightful review by The Velveteen Rabbi, was that its author had crossed this line. I kept getting distracted by the author's voice, kind of whiny and self-centered, despite the great story of a spiritual journey. I must admit that the subject matter, Orthodox Jewish woman converts to Christianity, also made me a little uncomfortable. I tried to wipe all biases from my mind as I began Chapter 1, but found myself casting judgments at every page: what's wrong with you, to do such a thing? I also remembered that I once contemplated--in secret, quietly, but the thought existed nevertheless--this same act, leaving a Judaism that seemed completely irrelevant. Maybe I bristled because parts of her story hit too close to home. But, really, I just wanted to shout at the author: why couldn't you find another kind of Judaism, like I did? Why did you leave us?
The subject matter made me uncomfortable, too. The story of my own journey with the book -- picking it up; feeling both curious and distressed; putting it away; eventually facing my own baggage where the subject matter is concerned -- wound up being at least as interesting to me as the book itself is. :-)
But, really, I just wanted to shout at the author: why couldn't you find another kind of Judaism, like I did? Why did you leave us?
YES. I can really relate to this. I had conflicted feelings about that -- part of me wanted to ask why she left us, while another part of me felt sad that I apparently couldn't escape my old binarisms -- but it was definitely a strong undercurrent of my reading experience.
(I'm glad my review of the book was thought-provoking enough to make you want to read the book, too. Yay.)
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