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Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Must you forsake your identity to be Orthodox?

Daf Yomi Yevamos 59

Alison Josephs, better known as Jew in the City, makes youtube videos showcasing various aspects of traditional Judaism with a clever, modern twist.  In one such video, she honours a number of people who have achieved incredible successes in their respective fields, all the while remaining committed to Torah and mitzvos, including Joe Lieberman, who ran as the vice-presidential candidate and still kept Shabbos. 

In a cute tidbit, Josephs asks Hasidic comedian Mendy Pellin if there’s any occupation you can’t do as an Orthodox Jew.  He responds, “Well, you probably can’t be a pork-taster. . . Is that an occupation?”

The Torah states, “And the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) . . . shall not take in marriage a widow, a divorcee, a desecrated, or a harlot; rather, he must take as a wife a virgin from his people.”

Rabbi Hiya the son of Joseph inquired of Shmuel:  What manner of taking, does the Torah require, one of betrothal, or one of consummation? 
Shmuel responded: We learned in a Mishnah, ‘If a cohen betrothed a widow and then was appointed to be the Kohen Gadol, he may consummate the marriage.’

While the High Priest may not marry a widow, if he was already married to her, he does not have to divorce her when he receives his appointment.  What’s more, says the Mishnah, even if he had only started the marriage process by betrothing her, it is sufficient.  They may consummate the marriage even after he has become Kohen Gadol.

Many people have the mistaken notion that becoming more committed to Torah and mitzvos means losing one’s identity.  Suddenly, they feel, they will have to become this ‘cookie-cutter black-and-white Orthodox Jew.’ That couldn’t be further from the truth!

When you receive the calling to become the High Priest, it’s true that there are certain activities you may no longer engage in – after all, you’ve assumed a new level of sanctity and spirituality.  But that doesn’t mean that you leave your former self behind.  The Kohen Gadol doesn’t forsake his widowed wife now that he has a new direction in life!

The Almighty created you with a unique identity and mission.  That’s who you are!  He wants you to utilize your skills and experience to draw down the Divine into the world.  Becoming a more committed Jew doesn’t mean leaving the past behind.  It means excelling at who you are and being a Kiddush Hashem – a shining light for all to see of how one may be the president and still be committed to G-d!


Don’t lead yourself into thinking that you can’t be yourself and still be committed to the Almighty.  That’s exactly who the Almighty is calling to serve Him.  You!  Take your amazing self and imbue it with the Divine while at the same time sharing with the world your unique personality that shines with spirituality!