I heard Orthodox rabbi Yitz Greenberg say that while Israel should be more moral than other nations, if it insisted on being 100% more moral, it would be dead. It should instead strive for something achievable and survivable, such as being 25% more moral.
I feel the same way as a convert to Judaism.
I often feel like I am held to Jewish standards many times higher than that leveled on other writers in the Orthodox community.
In numerous Orthodox shuls in Los Angeles, writers and producers of sexually charged R-rated movies are honored. Similarly, journalists for such polite publications as the Los Angeles Times and the Jewish Journal don’t get suspended from their shuls for committing such journalism as outing people who publish in the public square.
As for me, a humble servant of the truth, I get the shaft. I was booted from my shul for identifying the author of an anonymous blog on the JewishJournal.com.
I’m told I should run any controversial blog posts past an Orthodox rabbi prior to publication. That I should fluff his ego. That I should play the game. That I should play penitent. That I should tell him he’s my moral leader and that I want to be formed in his image. That I should be another big fat Orthodox phony.
I’m willing to run my blog past the rabbis just as soon as the other writers in Los Angeles Orthodox community run their scripts and stories past their Orthodox rabbi to get his approval.
Let’s be real, no Orthodox Jew could work as a journalist if he had to abide by the laws of lashon hara (evil speech) as compiled by the Chofetz Chaim. Yet I’m supposed to abide by them?
No Orthodox Jew could make a living as a screenwriter or TV writer if he had to run his scripts past his rabbi.
There are a lot of Orthodox Jews who work as writers in Hollywood but they all do so by flagrantly violating Judaism’s commands on proper speech.
Now, I don’t want all these Jews kicked out of their shul. I just want a fair go.
I’d be content to just sit in the back of your shul and study the sacred text and you never need to give me maftir.
I know that many Orthodox Jews do go to their rabbis for religious advice. Usually it is about something with no discernible moral upshot, such as what happens when a meat spoon comes in contact with dairy. I know that many Orthodox writers do go to their rabbis for religious advice. Usually it is about something with little impact on their work. ‘Rabbi Cohen, is it OK for me to put profanity in the mouths of my characters?’ They know they’ll get approval. They also get a chance to vent about things they don’t want to write about but need to write about to make a living. They get to look like they are religiously serious and they get to bond with their rav and stroke his ego and play the game.
Big fat deal. I don’t roll that way.
As soon as the Orthodox Jews in my community start going to their rabbi for the real moral questions in their life — is it OK to bang my secretary, is it OK for me to hire a hitman to knock off my ex-wife, is it OK for me to do insider trading if I give 15% to the shul, is it OK for me to scheme to get my supervisor fired because he passed me over for a promotion, etc…, I will too.