One Cool Guy

Posted on February 6, 2007

I was recently on one of my frequent trips over to Renegade Rebbetzin‘s blog, and while I love and enjoy her wit and candor, I did decide early on that I was going to have to find someone else’s perspective to serve as the model for Sara‘s mentor as she makes the transition from “rabbi’s wife” to “rebbetzin.” RenReb is just too unique, too funny, and occasionally a little too irreverent (in a good way) to be what Sara needs. (Sorry, RenReb!) And there’s no way I can justify using the word “cockyhead” in one of my books, unless it’s a cultural reference to RenReb’s blog. Which could be a possibility at some point…

But that’s not what I wanted to write about.

No, what I wanted to write about was another blog that RenReb linked to: Rabbi Without A Cause. After her glowing recommendation, and being all about PROCRASTINATION mind you, I headed over there and read his response to her post.

I nearly fell out of my chair laughing.

So since I was there and I’m all about PROCRASTINATION lately, I read a few more posts. And a few more after that. And then when I was done reading every post he’d written and I still wanted to read more, I figured I ought to say something.

I was going to post a comment to one of his posts, and I got as far as pulling up the comment screen and then I stopped cold. What in the world was I going to say?

Hi, I’m a big fan can you sign my blog for me?

Pathetic. I can do better than that. But what? I sat and thought and thought and sat and started any number of comments and then gave up. And then I realized I was nervous.

ACK! Nervous?!! I’ve probably interviewed about two dozen rabbis, half of them in face-to-face conversations, over the past eight years in the course of my research for my rabbi novels. The only rabbi I’ve ever been nervous around in person is my rabbi (and I suspect he may be slightly surprised and slightly unhappy about that tidbit) but that’s a different sort of relationship. With some of the others, I’ve had serious conversations and not-so-serious conversations and I’ve not been afraid to argue or joke or warn them – albeit humorously – that anything they say can and will be used against them in a book of fiction.

But none of these rabbis are Orthodox. Because when I asked around for willing victims, er… subjects for interviews, there was serious concern and no volunteers. Concerns ran the gamut from:

  1. I’m not Orthodox myself, to
  2. I might misrepresent Orthodoxy as presented by my interviewee and my offer to have him review the manuscript was insufficient, to
  3. Fiction in general and creative license in particular are inappropriate, to my favorite one,
  4. It is inappropriate for a female non-Orthodox Jew to write about a male Orthodox rabbi

So I did a ton of reading and observing and I made one up. Well, three actually. But only one will be a recurring character.

Now here I am at RWAC‘s blog, wanting to say hi I like your blog, but wanting to say more than that too, and all I can think of are these four arguments for why my request for interviews went unfulfilled.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t think he’d be offended by my leaving a comment or by my enjoyment of his blog. I don’t think. I haven’t confirmed this yet. But I’m pretty sure not.

What does make me hesitate is turning the perspective around. While my comment(s) may be welcome, would what I do be offensive? (Nobody needs to answer that; I like my delusions of total acceptance.)

Of course, this post is going to totally blow that out of the water.

It does bring up enormous issues of the role of fiction in Jewish life, the clear preference for non-fiction over fiction within the Jewish community, questions about the value of Jewish artists within the Jewish community, and the sheer audacity that someone (me) would represent non-Orthodox movements as legitimate and valid expressions of Judaism. Whether I agree with any of those expressions or not.

So, I’ve got mixed feelings over here about what to put in a comment, but I really do enjoy his blog and no matter what your leaning, it’s worth checking out. Besides, he’s an awesome writer (I know a little something about that) with a humorous, conversational tone that leaves you – well, me anyway – feeling like it’s an informal chat over tea some Sunday afternoon. It’s well worth the trip.


  1. Sheyna

    Yael – that was harsh. My reasoning was your comment “I’m looking forward to having liberal Jews for neighbors when we move instead of the black hats we have now.”

    That sounded rather generalized, that you don’t like all “black hats” because of your experiences with a few people. If that’s not true, perhaps you can clarify.

    What happened to k’lal Yisrael? Or ahavat Yisrael?

  2. Yael

    “Painting everyone with the same brush because of their beliefs or how they dress is a very slippery slope.”

    I have no clue what the reasoning is behind such a response. One less reader…Don’t need it.

  3. Sheyna

    Yael – don’t let the comment of one person color your image of an entire community. While I’ve had my share (or more) of put-downs locally for not being Orthodox, I’ve also met some really wonderful folks in the same community. Painting everyone with the same brush because of their beliefs or how they dress is a very slippery slope.

    Jameel – you’re absolutely right. My apologies to all. I’ve fixed it. 🙂

  4. Yael

    LOL I think Rabbi likes making people nervous :>) Anyway, he said he wasn’t reading blogs anymore so if he reads this, it’s his own fault for not sticking to his resolution…

    I understand your hesitation about commenting on that blog. I have the same reservations. I’m looking forward to having liberal Jews for neighbors when we move instead of the black hats we have now. When we moved here, one of the neighbors told me Conservative Judaism is wrong. That was our welcome…

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