Torah Weirdo

A few years ago in the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles, Aish HaTorah rabbi Aryeh Markman called me a “Torah weirdo.”

I felt hurt at first but then Chaim Amalek told me he loved the phrase and so I learned initially to make peace with it and then finally to use it to my advantage (even when the goyim don’t like it).

I met someone in yoga the other day and ever since then I’ve found myself repeatedly explaining to her that the only explanation for my behavior is that I’m weirdo.

Hey, in my book, any date that doesn’t end in a cloud of pepper spray is a good date.

Yaakov Brawer writes for Chabad:

“Can’t you do anything normal?” The first time I heard this question actually voiced was 15 years ago. I was a newly appointed member of the staff of the Royal Victoria Hospital and of McGill University. I had walked out in the middle of an important departmental budget meeting because the sun was low, it was Tu B’Shevat (the 15th of the Jewish month of Shevat, celebrated as the “New Year for Trees”), and I had yet to eat any fruit.

I ran down Peel Street to Chabad House, ate a couple of figs, and ran back to the hospital, where I was confronted by several concerned colleagues who naturally assumed that my abrupt exit from such an urgent meeting betokened the onset of serious illness. I put their minds at rest and told them about Tu B’Shevat, the sun and the figs. They looked at me in frustrated disbelief, and one of them, a Jew, sputtered the question that had probably been gnawing at him since my arrival at McGill: “Can’t you do anything normal?”

Aside from the grammar, it was an excellent question. It encompassed absences from important professional activities on Shabbat and Jewish Holidays, unwillingness to attend obligatory social events such as the rash of holiday parties in late December, the beard, tzitzit, dietary restrictions, etc. The answer is, of course, No. I can’t do anything normal. Jewish life is simply not normal. The Torah demands abnormality.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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