Friday, June 21, 2024

What’s your primary identity?

Most people assume multiple identities in their lifetime. There is not necessarily anything inappropriate or contradictory about it. For example, a person may be a son, father, husband, lawyer, pickleball enthusiast, etc. People usually make important decisions and prioritize their time (life's most precious resource) based on how they view their primary identity. Many people struggle with this, especially as they transition throughout their life journey. For example, once a person gets married, he cannot spend as much time with his parents as he now has a new identity as a "husband." The parents or in-laws who tend to be "clingy" struggle with their child's new primary identity. A young husband may feel that when his wife starts paying attention to her new infant, he feels left out of the love triangle. I have been pondering how people rank their "Jewishness" within the list of all their identities. This question really determines what kind of Jewish life one will lead. For some, their being Jewish is near the top or the actual top identity. For others, it may be somewhat secondary or rather a peripheral identity. This is not to suggest that being Jewish is not important to them. It might be important, but against other priorities, it comes in second or third. For example, someone once told me they don't prioritize buying kosher food as they prioritize buying organic food, and they can't afford both kosher and organic, so they have to choose between what's more important to them. Or someone may say I would love to provide my child with a Jewish education, but I cannot afford it. That person may clearly value a Jewish education, but it may not be their top value. Since October 7, many Jews all over have woken up to a new reality. For years, their Jewish identity was somewhat secondary and peripheral and might have caused them to change their work schedule for three days a year. All of a sudden, other people were reminding them of their Jewishness and how important it is to their identity. This was true for thousands of Jewish students in the university. They previously defined themselves in so many ways that being Jewish was near the bottom of the list. Other people, including Hamas sympathizers, were confronting them about their Jewishness that was making them uncomfortable. If they were hated because they were Jewish and their association with Zion and Israel, perhaps they should take a deeper look at what it means to be Jewish. It's hard to be despised because of an identity you do not understand. If there's a silver lining in the post October 7 reality, it's this: thousands of Jews are awakening to reexamine their Jewish identity and roots. If you're witnessing this, I urge you not to be a bystander. It's our collective responsibility to provide nurturing support to our brothers and sisters who are rediscovering themselves. Let's foster an environment of understanding, outreach, and empathy where everyone feels safe to explore and embrace their Jewish identity. Have a Peaceful Shabbos, Rabbi Yaakov Fisch

No comments:

Post a Comment

Most Destructive Word in the English Language

I have always been intrigued by the “word of the year.” This last year of 2023, Merriam Webster designated “authentic” as the WOTY (word of ...