Hashkafic Awareness 101

Your השקפה – hashkafa is your level of observance/philosophy towards your Jewish practice.

This has been seriously highlighted (highlit?) in my life lately. Really ever since I came to Jerusalem. Being on a path to increased observance for almost 12 years, there have been subtle changes to my hashkafa and some less subtle ones.

Subtle – realizing all the sudden one day that I am not as comfortable as I have been in the past singing or dancing in front of men.

Not subtle – dressing modestly, even in the heat of summer.

Subtle – phasing out non-Kosher restaurants (starting by only eating dairy out then being vegetarian).

Not subtle – turning off your cell phone for shabbis.

You get the picture. But as I spend time in Israel, my practice and observance of Judaism has grown in leaps and bounds. I don’t remember the last time I ate in a restaurant that served both milk and meat (here it is a part of the decision process… do you want to be fleshig [eat meat] or be chalavi [eat dairy]). I haven’t driven a car, flipped on a light switch, or strained food during the 25 hours of shabbis in 8 weeks. Wow. But now I am in a place where I have to make decisions for the future. In my future home, with my future husband (G-d willing), how will we practice our Judaism?

In my home growing up, we followed a lot of the spirit of the halacha (laws) but not always to the letter as defined by a certain rabbi or two. We enjoyed our shabbis and didn’t spend money but we watched tv and turned on lights. Our definition of halacha was fluid and evolving. And I loved that but I also like some of the rules… however, some of the minutia is hard for me. You can’t tear toilet paper, you can’t file a nail, you have to pour the hot water in a cup then into a second cup and then put your Starbucks Via instant coffee in. Perhaps the minutia is hard for me because I didn’t grow up with it so in an attempt to understand it better, I am going to have a chevrusa (study group) with one of my teachers/friends/most awesomest chick ever to learn more about these things so I can decide if I can put them into practice.

You know what is most interesting to me? Certain things just make sense to me, even if they seem illogical to others. Like covering my hair when I get married. I am thrilled and excited to do it. It seems like a special bond between husband and wife. But I can’t not file my nails on shabbis?

Sometimes our hashkafa comes out of life experiences or bad experiences with others. My path towards tznius (modest) dressing began with a crappy relationship that left me feeling naked in the world. I realized I didn’t want everyone to be privy to me and tznius & shomer negiah (not touching people of the opposite sex) was a way to protect that. Especially when your practice is born out of these types of situations, you have to ensure you are doing it for the right reasons and that they are sustainable, most certainly if you are making decisions about getting married.

One of the things that irks me the most is when people assume that there is an end point to hashkafa… I think it is ever evolving. Translations change and so do we. What is relevant for you right now may not make sense in 15 years when your life situation has changed. Nothing is forever and nothing is for certain.

That’s why we should all just Jew in the now. Express our Judaism by making the word Jew a verb. Judaism is not just a label, it’s an action. A hashkafa.

Climbing up within observance (photo by Rucheli)

Originally posted at Talia, She Wrote

  • http://population-we.blogspot.com Barb Bohan

    I do think observance of the traditions of one’s religion can give a person a sense of harmony as it separates you from the everyday. While we may not all chose the same rituals to observe, I do think making a conscious effort and showing that you are serious about living one’s religion helps you to identify with your religion and in many ways be an example. I’m not Jewish but have been fascinated by orthodox and less orthodox customs since high school. I used to think that reform Jews were just living the easier lifestyle for preference. But in reading a book, I learned that they feel that teachings can change with new insights and find harmony living that way. While I tend to love orthodox religions and people adhering to them who are blessings to others as they live their faith, I am open to the many ways faith is manifest and lovely in the less orthodox individuals. I know many people these days will say they are spiritual and not with religion these days and I respect that too.