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Cultural Disadvantage

Friday, 13 May 2011

By Ariaski via Wikimedia Commons

Many of my high school lunchtime conversations centered around religion. And, for the record, I was not the catalyst. From sophomore year on, I ate lunch in the choir room. And a significant percentage of the choir members were active participants in their respective churches. There were a handful of Jews and I was the one who was most knowledgeable, observant, forthcoming, etc.

On this particular occasion, the other kids were speaking about a subject of the most serious nature: Lucifer. I had only been listening with one ear, but as the tension in their voices increased, it became harder to ignore them.

“You don’t seem concerned,” said they.
“Concerned about what?” said I.
“About what? About Lucifer,” said they.
“Lucifer? LU-ci-fer? Are you kidding me?” said I.
{{shocked stares}}
“Lucifer?” continued I, “the cat from Cinderella?”

And that, my friends, is one of the many cultural references that has eluded me because I see the world through Jewish eyes.

This week’s instructions: “Let’s continue on with our prompts based on the Seven Deadly Sins.”

I could not name the seven deadly sins if my very life depended on it. I can name the Ten Great Statements. I can tell you which three mitzvot (commandments) cannot be broken even at the risk of one’s one life. But until today, I had never read through all seven sins and their origins. In fact, thanks to Lawrence Sanders, I thought the Seven Deadly Sins was a series of mystery novels. (Though it seems as though he only made his way through four of the sins.)

The Seven Deadly Sins are as follows:

  1. Lust
  2. Gluttony
  3. Greed
  4. Sloth
  5. Wrath
  6. Envy
  7. Pride

Now it isn’t as if Judaism endorses these behaviours. It’s just that we have a very different view of sin. First and foremost, a sin is a behaviour rather than a state-of-being.

Like so many things in religion, the Seven Deadly Sins of today are not the Seven Deadly Sins of 4th or even the 6th century. It took a bit of reworking before the Church settled on these seven. Since their codification by Pope Gregory I in 590 CE, the Church went to town. Seven corresponding holy virtues were assigned and demons were paired with each of the sins. And the definition of each sin was expanded so that it was as comprehensive as possible.

This week’s specific sin? Gluttony. The only time I ever heard anything remotely related to this word was when my mother would say, “what, are you a glutton for punishment?” I’m guessing it was a rough translation of something in Yiddish, but one can never be certain. BubbeGiraffe’s native language is Yinglish so much of her English sounds as if it’s been translated from the Yiddish.

I look at the word ‘gluttony’ and I think of a character weakness, not a moral flaw. Forget about one’s spiritual health, overeating is not good for one’s physical health. Not to mention that we now know that overeating is often masking something else. It is a symptom of something much more troubling. And its effect on the body can be detrimental.

Magazines aimed at women, both young and mature, regularly run articles on the topic of emotional eating. I used to skim those articles and feel sympathy for those whose emotions dictate what and how they ate. Until I realized, during a particularly stressful time, that those articles were describing me.

Al cheit…For the sin of eating as coping mechanism, God of forgiveness, pardon me, forgive me and grant me atonement.



Red Writing Hood is a writing meme. This week’s word count was 600 words or fewer. Or, in my case, exactly 600. As always, constructive criticism is appreciated.

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21 Comments leave one →
  1. Galit Breen permalink
    Friday, 13 May 2011 11:06 am

    Wow. Just wow. You floored me here, woman! I’m not sure if I’ve ever learned so much in so few words!

    I also have to admit that I had not a clue about the 7 deadly sins. *This* might explain why!

    XO

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Tuesday, 17 May 2011 4:39 pm

      I really think that there are significant cultural differences as a result of the different religions. Even when we think we understand one, we then find out that there is an entire religious history that has contributed to how the non-Jewish population understands it.

      Thanks so much 😉

  2. Friday, 13 May 2011 11:07 am

    Thank you my friend for writing this!

    Of course you know that I also would not be able to name the Seven Deadly Sins if my life depended on it. It is interesting that as a fellow M.O.T., I have not been inspired to writing anything based on these prompts that have been suggested by TRDC – because as you say they are a character weakness based on a short period of time – not a way of life or state of being to us anyway.

    Well done! Shabbat Shalom.

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Tuesday, 17 May 2011 5:06 pm

      Thanks. We’ve got another deadly sin this week. I hope we’re not going to have to write on all of them. Although, I must admit that these prompts are forcing me to go outside my tiny box 😉

  3. Friday, 13 May 2011 11:24 am

    As another MOT, thank you for this post! I laughed out loud when I read the part about Lucifer/Cinderella because my twins are 5 and love that movie (and all things princess). Love how you took this prompt in a different direction, and especially the bit at the end–about the magazines and stuff…I think a lot of other women can relate to the emotional eating stuff.

    Wonderful post!
    Shabbat Shalom!

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Tuesday, 17 May 2011 5:15 pm

      Thanks, Erin. I wish I could say that I set out to write a post that went in a different direction. I’m a new writer and find that my writing goes where my writing goes 😉

  4. Friday, 13 May 2011 1:53 pm

    It’s always nice to hear a different take on things. If more people followed their own inner prompts I think this world would be better educated. .. provided those inner prompts aren’t initiated by the voices in someone’s head … ANYWAY, thanks for educating us 😉

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Tuesday, 17 May 2011 5:19 pm

      Frume Sarah is ALWAYS looking to educate folks. That’s why I”m here 😉

  5. Friday, 13 May 2011 6:24 pm

    You know, I think I would struggle to name all 7 deadly sins and I was baptised Catholic. Ooops.

    I loved this. Entertained AND informed? What’s not to love?

    And I think I had the same reaction reading about emotional eaters…until the penny (Crunchie wrapper?) dropped.

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Tuesday, 17 May 2011 5:20 pm

      Correct me if I’m wrong, but baptism doesn’t just zap all the info into your head. Weren’t you pretty young when you were baptized?

      Of course, you probably should have learned them along the way…

      SO glad you liked it. And could relate to it 😉

  6. Saturday, 14 May 2011 9:39 pm

    I’m Jewish too and the only reason I know the Seven Deadly Sins is because of the movie “Seven”.

    Also— have you read the book Kvetch? It’s a fascinating look into the origins of Yiddish and you would love it.

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Tuesday, 17 May 2011 5:21 pm

      Is that what that movie was about?

      And of course I’ve read Kvetch! I love Yiddish!!! I used to have an ongoing adult-ed class called “Mentch, Bentch, and Kvetch.” One of my favourite things to teach!

  7. Sunday, 15 May 2011 5:54 am

    I totally relate to this! I grew up in a mostly Jewish suburb of Chicago so I didn’t even have those references to face until the most ten years when I’ve lived in a not-at-all Jewish suburb of Minnesota. And I’m constantly throwing around Yiddish, thus confusing my neighbors. We all get along splendidly though. 🙂

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Tuesday, 17 May 2011 5:29 pm

      I can’t tell you how many funny stories I have about using different words that I didn’t realize WEREN’T English until I saw the confused look on the faces of the non-Jews. Oy!

      BTW, perhaps ya’ll get along so well b/c of, and not in spite of, the Yiddish 😉

  8. Sunday, 15 May 2011 9:19 am

    I only know what they are because of their frequent reference in various places of my world, I suppose. And yet I don’t know all of them, I just recognize them in their individual “right” (so-to-speak). Sloth is a sin? I don’t even know what that means! Is it lazy?

    I love your take on this post, and the ending most of all, but I laughed out loud at Yinglish! AND at this line: “what, are you a glutton for punishment?”

    Most excellent and something I know so well. 😉 Thanks, as always, for sharing so much of yourself this way.

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Tuesday, 17 May 2011 5:39 pm

      Sloth is THIS week’s sin, my friend. I thought it was an animal on Go, Diego, Go.

      She seriously talks like that. As if she’s translating. Subject and object in the wrong place…and yet we always know what she means.

      Glad you enjoyed!

  9. Sunday, 15 May 2011 10:16 am

    How have I not read you before … I am going to be here all day now lol
    I attended Bible study every morning thro High School, a Mormon bible study while attending a Jewish High School – really, not kidding.
    Either way, I still had sex at 17 …

    and there is no better way to insult your husband than in Yiddish – evah …

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Tuesday, 17 May 2011 5:42 pm

      Maybe it was the religious overload that did it?? I’d love to hear the reasons behind your rather ecclectic youth.

      There’s no better way to insult ANYONE than in Yiddish. 😉

  10. Sunday, 15 May 2011 7:43 pm

    When you are called Lucifer you learn what it means and what the reference is. Good times, let me tell you.

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Tuesday, 17 May 2011 5:43 pm

      See, they weren’t so clever down here. “Devil Spawn” was the most creative, as I recall.

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