A friend of mine in medical school decided, at 40 years old, to convert to Orthodox Judaism. As a previously nontheistic woman enjoying the gender equalities that afforded her access to an MD degree, and as a doctor with a 7-day clinical schedule, it seemed a particularly strange choice. I have always thought it stemmed from a profound internal self-hatred, provoking a desperate need for approval, for doing things "right" and thus amending the tragic abuse of her childhood (which she unwittingly took the blame for). The number of rules she suddenly adopted, with intense fervor and dedication, was astounding and astoundingly inconvenient. What educated person expects a medical school class to give her every weekend off because although she can thread a catheter into a dying man's heart,  perform surgery, and deliver babies, she no longer knows how to use a simple phone, pager, or light switch on Saturdays. How can an educated person decide, one fine day, that switching on or off a light or answering a phone on Saturday will burn down or blow up a temple in a desert over 1000 years ago? One day, electricity was a good thing. The next, and for the rest of her lifetime, blasphemy... but only on certain days - days of man-made calendar that had been adjusted over millenia to suit, uh, mankind. She and I have never been able to see eye to eye, since her conversion and subsequent marriage to a strict Orthodox man. I suffered a medical conference with her in an 18 story hotel, over a weekend. 6 suitcases - 5 of which held kitchen utensils and food that she took to the hotel's poor chef with strict instructions on how to cook/serve for her. I found her sitting against the wall by the elevators or our room, time and again, waiting for someone else to do the dirty deed and flick the switches, use the key card, etc. Utterly pathetic, in my mind. This once-educated woman rendered brainless and brain dead by fairy tales. She invited me to visit her new home in NYC, with great enthusiasm. How could I? She wanted me to come "celebrate" the Sabbath with her. What about a man-made prison of the mind and body is there to celebrate? Life is short enough. 

Tags: Judaism, Orthodox, Sabbath, conversion, friends, light, religious, switches

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