My Orit Arfa Interview II

Here’s part one.

I really tried to keep the conversation holy, but…

Luke: What do you think of the beard? What does it say to you?

Orit: It says I need to be accepted as an Orthodox Jew. Please accept me as an Orthodox Jew. I will prove to you through my beard that I am holy, that I am the moral leader. You do have a nice face. You have nice eyes. You have nice features and I think it covers it, but that is part of your personality. How do you feel? If you are comfortable with who you are, if this is you and you have this ‘This is me, I’m happy with myself, I’m comfortable in my own skin, take it or leave it’, women can find that very attractive.

Luke: “Everyone seems to hate the beard. Women hate it. Men hate it. There are only two places where the beard works — Orthodox Judaism and yoga. The yogis have beards. I feel good walking in to shul because I have a longer beard than the rabbi. I can really bring it. I’ve got my tzitzit out. I’ve got my beard down to my heart. Let’s daven mincha… The beard gives you a certain confidence that you are doing the authentic Jewish thing.”

Orit: “And you’re dating someone, so it works.”

Luke: “She hates the beard.”

Orit: “So why do you have it?”

Luke: “Because I feel like it is the authentic Jewish thing.”

Orit: “Why don’t you keep the beard but trim it? It reads like I’m not groomed. I don’t take care of myself. I am messy. I am a slob.”

Luke: “But those things are true.”

Orit loved the TV show Sex and the City. “It grapples with the issues women deal with… They are just so honest and forthright about what women feel and go through in relationships. Everyone woman can relate to being dumped or sleeping with a guy who has really weird habits and you’re like, huh? The quest for finding love. It gave all of us women a framework for talking about our relationships openly. It was like real girl talk.”

Luke: “I loved the show.”

Orit: “Is that becoming for an Orthodox man?”

Luke: “No, it is not. I had much more trouble with The Sopranos. All the banging of the strippers. I had to forget about God to enjoy the show.

“Did you have to forget about God to enjoy Sex and the City?”

Orit: “My God is more embracing. The honesty of that show is Godly. Godliness is creativity.”

Luke: “You were raised an Orthodox Jew. But you don’t look like an Orthodox Jew.”

Orit: “I was traditional. We went to Orthodox day schools. I was practicing most of the mitzvot for about five years [until age 20, Orit lasted two semesters at Stern College]. I wore skirts and everything.”

Orit, the second oldest of her siblings, graduated from YULA girls school circa 1996.

Luke: “What did you love about Orthodox Judaism and what caused you to question it?”

Orit: “I loved it being a complete ethical system. It made sense rationally at that time.”

Luke: “What caused you to question?”

Orit: “I got too religious for my own good. I just felt like I was at peace with God. I felt like I was on the right path. I wanted to push the envelope a little bit. I was studying at Stern. I loved Jewish philosophy and Jewish texts. I just started feeling like the prayers were stifling me. I wanted to talk to God but I was stuck with this script that wasn’t appealing the burgeoning artist in me. I was a little too creative and free-spirited. That’s when I came up with my idea for a painting of Rebecca, with the foremother who was not modest.

“I started working at the Forward. I saw women who were wearing pants. They seemed really strong and intelligent and still caring about the Jewish people, but they were like a different breed. They seemed to have a lot more freedom. I don’t know if they were secular, but partly because of their dress. And that’s when I started wearing pants. I was 19. I felt freer.

“I still believed that when you meet a guy, you want them to look into your soul. You don’t want them to judge you on your dress, but I still think that can happen and you can wear jeans. Certain things not, maybe miniskirts.

“Then I got even further, wanting to experience sexuality, which is very limiting when you are Orthodox. My choice was either to date and to have sexual experiences out of wedlock or to get married so that I could have sex. That option was very frightening and limiting to me so I had to pursue a different romantic path. I had to leave Orthodoxy, but people still say I have such a religious soul. I am connected to Jewish culture and Jewish ideas. Israel is a part of my life.”

Luke: “Did you stay at Stern while you were wearing these pants?”

Orit: “I did for one semester.”

She gets a big smile on her face. “I would just walk in and shock all the rabbis. It’s funny. There were girls who would look at me and say, who are you? And there were girls who’d applaud and say, Orit, we love you.

“I was on this kick. I was such a rebel. This is me. I’m having fun with it. Take me or leave me. I eventually left.”

Luke: “Is there a denomination you identify with?”

Orit: “There’s something of me in every one. I would say no, I’m forging my own movement.”

Luke: “Have you always believed in God?”

Orit: “You take it for granted growing up in Orthodox day schools. Now I would say my view is more of the Spinoza god. You know Spinoza?”

Luke: “Yes.”

Our conversation wanders to the live cam chat room.

“Do you believe that God is separate from the universe?”

Orit: “Wow!”

She looks flustered. The question has taken her breath away. She blushes.

Orit: “Luke! We’re getting so philosophical.”

That’s what all the girls tell me.

Luke: “Well, you studied Philosophy. I couldn’t help it.”

Orit giggles and leans in: “I think!”

She waves her hands and rocks back and forth. “I think this is getting you a little excited.”

*** That was Orit’s test of me!

Luke: “Please! I’m a holy man. I don’t get excited.”

So, gentle reader, how well did I handle Orit’s test?

Amy says: “You got it right. You made light of it.”

Orit pours herself a cup of water. She looks away from me to the water and remembers all the overheated blog posts I wrote about her. “I don’t know. From what you’ve written about me, I don’t know.”

The temperature has gone up 50 degrees in the hovel.

Orit briefly looks at me and then turns away, holding out her cup of holy water, looking over the glories of the hovel, imagining what life would be like here, the life of the mind, the life of Torah, the life of art and blogging, holiness and mitzvot, studying Bava Kama Sutra every night, dissecting important moral issues from the lump of blankets beside the toilet, reaching for the stars and the pea-stained cups while keeping our feet on my iJoy foot vibrator (recommended by Oprah!), breathing in the purified air next to my Air Free machine, taking the Gemara’s approach to the politics of the day, grappling with our ethics, our weaknesses, the frailty of our flesh, the intensity of our desires to connect with the Almighty, the loftiness of God’s moral demands upon us, what would the rabbis think of what we’re doing, would Rabbi Union approve, what would Rob Eshman say, would they be scandalized? Do they realize we’re up to no good in the hovel. The door is closed. We’re violating Judaism’s prohibitions on yichud (being together with a member of the opposite sex — not your husband or fmaily member — behind closed doors).

If this interview doesn’t shift and shift sharply right now, we might just get up and start dancing.

Orit turns around and opens the door. “Yichud!”

Luke: “Spinoza was basically a pantheist.”

Orit: “That’s a very simplistic way of looking at his views.”

Luke: “Do you believe in a transcendent moral code?”

Orit: “I do believe there is a moral code that goes beyond… I don’t think it’s Shabbat. Shabbat is more particularistic to the Jewish people. Not to murder, not to steal, not to lie. Those are moral absolutes. I definitely believe in moral absolutes.”

Luke: “Is there anything that God commands you that you don’t want to do?”

Orit: “I think there are Godly recommendations I probably don’t do, whether it is pray more, not necessarily Orthodox prayer, but being more meditative. It’s still not a thing to do. I think I’ve got it down. I think I’m good.”

Luke: “How do you determine what is right and wrong?”

Orit: “Wow.”

Orit takes a drink of water.

Orit: “I think reason… What’s rational for one person might not be rational for another. A lot of my ethics were influenced by Ayn Rand

“The question that underlies ethics is what does man require to survive… You could say that if a man wants to cheat, he’s surviving, but he’s not surviving because he’s not using the quality that is given to man to survive.”

“The particulars of Judaism are not necessarily conducive to what makes man happy.”

Luke: “Certainly not what makes you happy.”

Orit: “Doing productive work and being in love make you happy… Those are the curses of the Garden. Those are the hardest things to achieve in life.”

Luke: “Do you think that when you apply your reason you come to wiser answers than Judaism about the way men and women should love and marry?”

Orit: “I don’t want to be so full of hubris to say that my wisdom overrides the Torah. I don’t think my wisdom is wisdom. I’m culling from different works I read about relationships, including Jewish works. I think Judaism is very wise in what it says about relationships. I think there’s a lot of sense in women holding out on sex until marriage. I think that can also cause damage.”

“Torah has left such an imprint on my soul that it can not be erased.”

“I don’t have gripes about Orthodox Jews. I have some critiques, just as they have some critiques of me.”

Luke: “You integrate a lot of Biblical stuff into your book. Why?”

Orit: “I wanted to infuse some holiness into the pick-up artist field.”

“My life is very much filled with dichotomies, taking these secular values and melding it with my yeshivish good-girl background. That’s a hallmark of a lot of my work, and my existence too.”

Luke: “Is premarital sex immoral?”

Orit: “It’s not wrong, or I’m going straight to Hell. It may not always be wise. It’s a subjective area.”

Luke: “How would you feel about guys who use your book to sleep with more women? Sleep with them without love?”

Orit: “Like I said, if a woman knows that a man just wants to sleep with her, and that’s all he wants and he makes it clear, he gives her great sex, he doesn’t make her feel bad about it, doesn’t make her feel used or slutty, lets her feel safe in embracing her sexuality and giving her awesome orgasms, she’ll be happy and grateful. It’s about how he sleeps with her and how he presents himself in sleeping with her.

“I’m not for a guy who sleeps with women and then never calls her, really uses her, but if there’s communication that we’re going to make each other feel good, and enjoy this and not give each other guilt and sorry, then that is totally OK.”

Luke: “A lot of guys fear calling women after sex because then he’ll have to talk to her and then she’ll expect feelings to be a part of the conversation. It’s difficult for us to talk about our feelings, particularly with women we’ve just had sex with. I mean other men are like this.”

Orit: “Unless she’s really inexperienced, all they expect is a phone call to know that you’re thinking about her and that you still respect her and that you didn’t use her. I don’t think they’re expecting that feelings conversation unless they’re really inexperienced, ohmigod, he had sex with me and he loves me.

“Female hormones after sex go a little crazy and long for a connection with a guy. This is where men need to mantsch up and take on those mentchy qualities.”

“Women have needs. Women get horny. Women, especially in this day and age, they’re career focused. A lot of them don’t want relationships. They can use a man as much as a man uses a woman. It’s more rare…

“Ask Samantha from Sex and the City. She just loved sex. It was great fun. She was off chasing orgasms. That’s fiction. She’s maybe 5%.”

Luke: “Do you think porn stars and prostitutes are denying their femininity?”

Orit: “I don’t want to moralize about that.”

Luke: “Do you think prostitution is immoral?”

Orit: “Unless there’s lying or cheating going on, I don’t think it’s immoral. It’s an exchange of values. If it’s not hurting anyone…”

Luke: “Most women inherently hate pornography and prostitution. You don’t.”

Orit: “Yeah. For me to break out of my mold, I had to have an open mind to sex, to feel OK with having premarital sex. I had to snap out of these conventions. I’m sympathetic to sexual desire. It’s something that should not be squelched.”

Luke: “What are the joys and oys of being a singles columnist?”

Orit: “If the date doesn’t go well, at least I have something to do with it… The satisfaction of sharing knowledge that can help people. I would say money but it hasn’t paid off financially though there was a point when I did feel I’m selling my personal life and this isn’t right. Now I don’t get so much into my personal life, but more about my thoughts about relationships. That’s where the oys are, being so open. Being an artist and a writer, I don’t have a problem with that. That’s part of my personality. Men might think it’s hazardous to go out with me.”

Luke: “Have you ever heard that?”

Orit: “No.”

Luke: “Have you ever sensed that?”

Orit: “If that’s how they feel, they’re probably not be man enough for me.

“Let it be said that I am discrete. I don’t write in any way that’s identifiable and I take concepts that I’ve gleaned from the specifics of dates. I’ve yet to see hazards….

“Giving advice to men sets my own standards very high. Would I go out with a guy who doesn’t ask me specifically out on a date?”

Luke: “What about if he said, let’s do yoga?”

Orit: “Are you asking me?

“That would be cool if you have seen the guy on a date.”

Luke: “No. You haven’t gone on a date.”

Orit: “Here’s the problem if men don’t ask you on a date. You don’t know what the intentions are. You don’t know if they want to hang out with me or if they are a friend who just wants to teach you yoga.”

Luke: “Of course you know. No heterosexual man is going to ask you to yoga to teach you yoga. They will all do it because they want to sleep with you.”

Orit: “That’s fine. But if he is not going to take her out for coffee and be with her one-on-one, then it is murky waters.”

Luke: “People don’t date anymore.”

Orit: “I think it’s sad… Most women appreciate the process of dating, the process of courting. It’s very manschly to put yourself on the line and to ask a girl out and to deal with the expectations that come with that, such as paying for the date. It is presenting yourself as a suitor who she can judge.”

“It’s do you want to come to my house and watch a movie? Do you want to go to a party? It’s sad. It’s a cop out from getting to know someone one on one. It prevents a man from putting his ego on the line. When you’re just hanging out and you’re friends and it’s sliding into something sexual, he never hears no. Maybe she’ll stop calling and he’ll take that as a no.”

Luke: “What is it like getting critiqued?”

Orit: “If I can’t handle getting critiqued, I should not be an artist.”

“Women — and what I teach a lot in my book — women, yes, want to be recognized for their greatness and their beauty, but even more so, they want to be comforted and they want to know that a man will handle them and love them when they are difficult, neurotic, insecure, bitchy, irrational. Sometimes I don’t look for a guy who’s going to love me all the time, love me because I’m a great writer or pretty or whatever it is I am, I want a guy who will love me through my insecurities and bolster me during those times of self-doubt and make me feel good about myself as a woman all around. Sometimes attractive and intelligent women are the ones who are most insecure because they are always on a pedestal, they are always worshiped. It’s a lot of pressure. A guy who can make her laugh and comfort her when she’s not at her best, that can make her feel very safe with a man.”

Luke: “How did you and why did you transition from primarily sharing in your singles columns to teaching?”

Orit: “If more men knew these techniques on how to date women, there’d be fewer singles. My singles column will be obsolete when I meet the man who can be manschly enough for me. One reason is that the Jewish Journal discontinued the column. It was nice to have a break and like keep my private life to myself.

“Teaching, I don’t have to reveal so much about myself, but I can still discuss these issues. I know my girlfriends are very thankful to me.”

Luke: “Why?”

Orit: “For bringing these matters to light.”

“A lot of the time men don’t know and they are scared… If the mind of a woman can be demystified a little bit, men can feel better about themselves and date and be in relationships, which is more of a priority now than it was for me in my 20s.”

“To succeed in love, you have to detach so much significance to it.”

“I have faith that I will find the right one and these bad dates will be something to laugh at.”

“You have to look at dating as a process of self-discovery.”

Luke: “Is there been any feedback on the book you’ve found interesting?”

Orit: “I haven’t had people really respond to it. My friends said it was spot on.”

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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