Shabbat (the Sabbath) was much like other recent Shabbatot: a mixture of shul (synagogue) and home stuff.  The home stuff was OK; the shul stuff was mostly OK, but I still missed Shacharit (Morning Prayers) again due to social anxiety.  I think trying to “build up” to morning shul isn’t going to work because the problem is more complex than straightforward social anxiety.  On a fundamental level, I’m scared of rejection in this community, partly from my mental health issues and autism (cf. the person who was dismissive of my explanation for not attending shul), and partly because I know my religious level is not completely right.  At the moment I can put up with things, but I worry how people would react if the “real me” came out, either through sending out some of my devar Torah (Torah thought) emails to people and seeing how they react or through something bigger.

I could have put myself forward to lead Mincha (Afternoon Service) today because no one else was willing/able, but I was too scared and in the end they got someone else.  I think no one actually believes I could do it.  It would be nice to prove them wrong, but I am too worried about shaking.

A different, scarier, way that the real me could come out presented itself today.  There are weekly devar Torah sheets in shul.  One is a weekly halakhah (Jewish law) digest.  This week the topic was separation of genders.  This is a big difference between Modern Orthodox and Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) communities.  In Modern Orthodox communities there is division of men and women during prayer, but generally not in other events (Torah study events, shul social events, wedding parties etc.).  In Haredi communities gender segregation is the norm absolutely everywhere from fear that “immorality” will result from social contact.  If you get invited to dinner at someone’s house you will often find men at one end of the dining room table and women at the other, although this is not an absolute rule.

This halakhah sheet was very strict, probably more so than my shul, which can be a bit half-hearted, so at kiddush (refreshments after Shabbat morning service), men stand one side of the table and women on the other, but people talk across the table and not just to their spouse, which I find sillier than complete mingling.  I guess I worry what will happen if I get married.  I don’t really want a gender-segregated wedding, as I find it halakhically unnecessary and my friends and family would find it weird and disconcerting.  My understanding is that forty or fifty years ago even in the most ultra-Orthodox weddings there was mixed seating at the party and no one had an issue with it; the sexualisation of Western popular culture in the last half-century has prompted an extreme movement in the opposite direction in the Orthodox world and as is usually the case, both extremes are problematic and the best course is in the middle.  But then, would that mean that I couldn’t invite anyone from my shul to my wedding?

(Of course, first I need to sort out getting married…)

So that was Shabbat.  After Shabbat I spent about an hour working on my novel, with a bit of procrastination but not too much.  I wrote about 500 words again.  I spent some time researching self-publishing for my Doctor Who non-fiction book.  I’m now tempted to go with Lulu.com as I think it will be cheaper than IngramSpark, although it’s hard to guess how costs will mount up.  I’m worried that I have zero skill for graphic design (for the cover) and marketing, which will be major factors in making sales, but this has really turned into a vanity project and I just want to get it out there now.

And that’s about it for today.  Going to try to go to bed soon even though I don’t feel tired in the hope I might get up earlier tomorrow.

2 thoughts on “The Real Me

  1. Gender segregation within religious communities fascinates me, regardless of the specific faith. From an outsider perspective, it suggests a lack of confidence in the moral fortitude of the community. If people can’t sit on the same side of the table as someone of the opposite gender without their moral values flying out the window, that might suggest some deeper issues going on.

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  2. I think it depends on the situation. I have no problem with separation during prayers because I know I would be distracted if I was sitting next to a woman (I mean, I get distracted sitting next to men, thinking that they’re too noisy or whatever… I’ve never been too comfortable with the whole communal aspect of Jewish prayer). But I would agree with you regarding other situations. Although I think a lot of it is to do with fear than anything else. As I mentioned in my post, I think a lot of this is relatively new and is an over-compensation for things that have happened in the wider world.

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