The Grey Zone

By: Hillary Schulman

There is this really interesting blog online called “The Grey Zone Blog.” It is through Columbia/Barnard Hillel, and it is a place where people can write about their experiences practicing this ancient religion not just in black and white but in their own personal “grey zones.” This is one of the many things I love about Judaism. Religion to me is a very personal experience and journey, and one of the really cool things about Judaism is that we are taught and allowed to follow our own journey so that it stays relevant to us even in these times of change.

In light of recent events, I thought about how Judaism would tackle some of our most controversial issues such as abortion, birth control, and gay marriage. These weren’t even concepts to think about when the Torah was written. What we know is that Judaism has underlying common beliefs. It’s like saying that we all understand that vegetables are good for you. However, if you don’t like them or won’t eat them, that’s a personal choice. No one should be coming up to you and saying “you MUST eat these vegetables.” Our parents do though – and that’s annoying. If you don’t want to follow a common belief, that should be your own choice but then you must accept your own consequences.

Take the recent events with Hobby Lobby for example. The common belief is that employers should cover healthcare for their employees. Birth control counts as part of healthcare. In addition to pregnancy prevention, there are many other reasons why women use birth control. These include polycystic ovary syndrome, endometriosis relief, and an at least 40% reduced chance of cancer. So now you have this particular employer that will not allow its employees to take care of themselves if they have these types of problems, some of which are common and can be life-threatening, or want to reduce their risk of cancer. Hobby Lobby took their stance all the way to the Supreme Court because a few people don’t believe in the common belief. Those few people are potentially putting their employees in harm’s way because the employees may not be able to afford any other type of medication or procedure. Just because A FEW don’t believe in birth control doesn’t mean that they should be allowed to push their religious views on something as secular and important as healthcare.

Perhaps even more relevant, though, are the grey areas within Judaism itself that don’t even expand into secular life, such as the differences among denominations and how certain people don’t clearly fit into any one of those denominations. In the blog, there is a post from a woman about davening and reading Torah on the women’s side – not just with the Women of the Wall. She wonders where she fits in as she believes in pluralism and follows all the rules of Orthodox Judaism, but she still wants to be able to read Torah and wear a tallit and tefillin. Her last line is, “This is my grey zone. And I have a feeling I’m going to be stuck here for a while.”

Being stuck in the grey zone can be a beautiful thing and can be full of color. It means you’ve questioned the black and white and made your spiritual and religious journey relevant to you and only you. When you make your religious journey relevant to just you, you are actually more invested because it’s about you. Why should other people judge what you do? As long as you aren’t negatively affecting someone else’s journey, why should they care what you do? You should be yourself – and be proud of that.

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