Orthodox Week Here at TRR: Rebbetzin Ruchi Koval

Our closer for Orthodox week is Rebbetzin Ruchi Koval, who, together with her husband Rabbi Sruly Koval, serves the awesome JFX community here in CLE.  Rebbetzin Koval, amongst her many other teaching and JFX responsibilities, is the author of Out of the Ortho Box, a blog whose mission is to “unite us through education, respect, and understanding.”  She has made a difference in the lives of so many people, and I am proud to call her my friend.

[I will remind everyone: I expect nothing less than respectful, productive discourse.  No sarcasm, slamming, bashing, snark, or "They don't like me anyway *snif*" comments or you're outta here.  Have a question about or take issue with what they've written?  Ask or say so!  Tell us how you feel!  Share your opinions!  Feel strongly!  Write firmly!  But don't be nasty and no personal attacks.

Remember, this is "5 Things I'd Like You to Know,"  NOT  "5 Things I Think You Should Believe/Do."  Just their 2 cents, and stuff they want you to know about the life they live.  And stuff I think you should know about the life they live.  Gotta make an effort to understand each other in my opinion.  Unity and Understanding start with "U".  As in YOU.]

1. My boss is not my rabbi, my parents, or my husband.  My boss is God.  Rabbis can’t allow or disallow anything; I have free will.  The only one I am answerable to in my behaviors is God.

2. While it may seem that Orthodoxy is characterized by a lot of restrictions (and it is), it is mostly characterized by intense meaningfulness.  The restrictions are an outer manifestation, but it’s the inner purpose that gives me joy and fulfillment each day of my life.

3. Orthodoxy by definition means community.  You’re not driving on Shabbat so the odds are way up there that you’re living within a one-mile radius of lots of other Orthodox folks, so you can all comfortably walk to shul.  This.  Is.  Awesome.  It means my kids can run outside and ride bikes with friends, start a casual game of driveway basketball, or run through the neighbor’s sprinkler.  It means the folks on my block bring me dinner when I have a baby or go out of town.

4.  As an Orthodox Jewish woman, I have never felt misunderstood, ignored, devalued or underrepresented.  I feel that based on the rich educational opportunities I’ve been afforded, and indeed, are axiomatic in Orthodoxy, I’ve been actually given more opportunities for religious expression than I even have time for.

5. Orthodox people take Jewish law very seriously because they understand it to be the literal word of God.  When others seem to treat it cavalierly, it hurts.  Conversely, every Jew is viewed as a brother and sister, no matter what his/her observance.  These two bookends of belief can often contradict or conflict with one another, and we strive mightily to figure it out.  When we fail or falter, please understand that we’re trying.

25 thoughts on “Orthodox Week Here at TRR: Rebbetzin Ruchi Koval

  1. So great seeing you two together here. I’m jealous you can hang out in person. (You know, in all your free time.) ;)

    Ruchi, You always do a wonderful job representing Orthodox Judaism with pride and without ever coming at it with a defensive tone. Jews on ALL sides would do well to take your lead!

    Leah, wonderful series here!

  2. Ruchi, great post-very insightful. I do have a question about number one, though. Considering that Judaism does have Rabbinic law in addition to Torah law, isn’t it a bit misleading to say that the Rabbi’s aren’t your boss when they have created some pretty major laws followed in Judaism today (some I can think of off the top of my head include: labeling chicken as meat, shomer negiah, wearing a kippah, women not dancing or singing in front of men etc.)

    • Hi Beth,

      I wouldn’t say misleading exactly, but maybe knowingly provocative :)

      Two distinctions I need to make in this regard:

      1 There’s a big difference between rabbis who lived at the time of prophecy and of the formation of the Talmud, and rabbis
      who are our mentors now. While the former did indeed impact all future observance with their interpretations (see #2) neither they nor my current rabbi in 2012 have any practical power over me. I am free to do whatever I wish. (Yes, I believe there are consequences for those choices as enumerated in the Shema prayer.)

      2 The verb you use for the role of the Talmud-era rabbis is “create.” I would substitute “interpret and protect.” I think this is an essential difference.

      Thanks for the question and for your kind words.

        • A simplistic government analogy: Talmud rabbis were legislators. Nowadays rabbis are your attorneys (that you hire to explain the law to you so you don’t goof) as well as admirable patriotic figures and role models that remind you why you love your country.

          Neither are traffic cops.

  3. Oh my gosh, how did I miss Orthodox week?!!?? I suppose the whole “new baby” thing is an acceptable excuse, but still… What a nice series. :) #3 is something that was a big draw for me when I was contemplating Orthodoxy. I find the idea of people knowing, caring about and regularly interacting with their neighbors very comforting, and a nice throwback to values of an older generation.

    That said, since these neighborhoods tend to be exclusively Orthodox, it can be challenging for kids to meet people of other stripes, and for people of other stripes to see us Ortho-folk.

    Thanks for sharing, ladies, you’re both fabulous!

  4. I’m not Orthodox, precisely- actually, I’m a Conservative rabbi (married to an Orthodox rabbinical student, so you see how I need to qualify things), but I could happily adopt this list with very little variation to explain observant Judaism, whether labeled “Orthodox” or not… Excellent work.

  5. Dear Rebbetzin,
    This is a private question to you on a totally different subject: I am confused why you would use the character of Holly Golightly from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” as your profile picture. After reading about the making of the film and her character’s development, then watching the movie itself, it “seems” that your choice of Holly is very unrebbetzin-like. Is there an insight that I’m missing? Just asking…

  6. Belinda LOL!! I confess . . . it’s not Holly Golightly so much as Audrey Hepburn! While I do love the movie, it is certainly not what I try to emulate in my own life :)

    I love this picture because Ms. Hepburn is so elegant – she was so beautiful – and OH the pearls! And in real life, tough as nails, a real class act, and a great humanitarian. I just liked the thought of that – classy, tough, and a person whose heart was full of chesed. So that’s the reason :)

  7. I love your blog and hope to see more of it. I saw your first episode on modesty and hair covering before I got married. You made it acceptable for me to become frum and I am now happily married with 2 beautiful kids. I cover my hair all the time, something I never thought I would do. Thanks so much for your blog and explaining orthodox life in everyday language.

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