The Hasidic Way MAG

December 20, 2009
By Anonymous

The crisp air surrounds me; it almost becomes me. Chicago winters are known to be brutal. Yet somehow it isn't the worst thing right now. I walk in these heels, the ones that looked so beautiful before I began walking. But isn't it always that way. How it looks versus how it feels. Always contradicting each other. It's like this religion that I find myself a part of. We dress and eat and speak and act differently, but in the end are we really all that different?

“Do you remember that time we played basketball together? Hello! What's your name again?”

I snap back to the present. I look ahead and see my friend walking with the other guys, leaving me with this one. He's drunk and I never told him my name to begin with.

“No, I don't.” I make a mental note to yell at my friend.

He's walking into me now. “How much did you drink exactly?”

He seems not to have heard my question, but now we have caught up and are parting. His friend wants to hug me good-bye.

“Whoa there, big guy. I don't think so!” I say as I push him off.

He knows as well as I do that we have rules against this. No touching boys. Hanging out with them is frowned upon too.

“Well then, ladies, have a lovely night.” They spin around a few times before we point them in the right direction. We turn down my friend's block and finally reach her house. My feet are killing me. I kick off my shoes and fall onto her bed as she talks about his gorgeous eyes. I've already forgotten which boy she's talking about.

I don't hang with guys. I go to an all-girls school, and after I was kicked out of my last school for hanging out with a guy, I've pretty much kept to this policy. Our community is tight and everyone knows everything about everyone. Word gets around fast, so if I've been seen with these guys, I'm dead. Considering it's 1 a.m., I think I'm safe.

I picture them walking away, with their black hats, tzitzit hanging down. You see, we are Jews. Religious. Orthodox. We are chassidim. Lubavitchers.

Not talking to boys is only one thing that makes me different from most American teenagers. I take 15 subjects at my school, and our day starts at eight and ends at five. We spend our Friday nights in our homes with our families, and our Saturdays praying. Sunday mornings we have school and into our community to help and do kindnesses. The Hebrew word for kindness is chesed. We do chesed.

We have our Torah. We have 613 laws that we live by. The one I mentioned about not touching boys, it's called shomer negiah. As with all religions there are different levels of observance. Considering where I go to school and where I attend synagogue, the fact that I don't leave the house without my legs covered, and the fact that since that night I haven't been friendly with any guys – considering all that, I would say I'm pretty religious.

My father has a long white beard. He wears a yarmulke and tzitzit every day, as does my brother. Ever seen us walking down the street? Maybe on the way to synagogue, maybe to the store. The way we dress screams that we're different. We don't eat in the same restaurants as you. We buy only kosher food. We, as women, wear skirts that cover our legs and high-necked, long-sleeved shirts. We pride ourselves on being different. And we are.

I have never known anything else. And I love it. But while we walk down the street with these guys, I think about that law that clearly says do not have physical contact with a guy unless you are married to him. I think of this as my friend hugs her boyfriend good-bye. And I wonder, while the previous generations truly believed, what's happening to us? Do I believe because I believe? Or because I was raised to think this way? Our hypocritical behavior makes me wonder.

The author's comments:
Any questions on the Jewish vocabulary let me know. I tried to be as clear as possible.

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