Tuesday, July 01, 2008

J Blogger Interviews: Dixie Yid

Well it hasn't been too long since my last interview with FrumSatire. Here is yet another interview with another up and coming blogger making his own impact on the Jblogosphere:Dixie Yid!

JB:Dixie Yid, That's an interesting name are you from the South?

DY:Yes, I'm a bona fide Southern Jew. I was born in Charleston, SC and then my family moved to Nashville, TN, where there are about 5,000 Jews. I lived there all the way through the end of high school, at which point I decided that I needed more of a Jewish education, so I pursued my B.A. at Yeshiva University.

JB:I understand you are a BT, originally coming from a Reform background.What and who inspired you to seek out Orthodox Judaism?

DY:Temple Youth group, I went to an inter-youth group "lock-in" at the JCC for Chanukah. There, I met a couple of people who were there through NCSY. That was my first-ever real exposure to orthodox Jews. We talked all through the night about everything that teenagers talk about, including all of the questions that I'd always been thinking about orthodox Jews but that I had never had anyone to ask. My initial impression was that the explanations they had were so much deeper than any of the explanations from my reform rabbis until then. Although I was very impressed and fascinated and wanted to learn more about it, I didn't want to "convert to orthodoxy," as I put it. It did pique my interest and so when I went to other classes to learn more, I became even more and more fascinated with how deep everything in Torah is. That's aspect of it is really what got me into it.

JB: I noticed you have a lot of posts concerning hasidic themes as your blogs description, are you Breslov, Hasidic etc.?

DY:I am not Chasid, in the colloquial sense of the word. I live, dress, and keep the minhagim of your average Nusach Ashkenaz Yeshivisheh Balabos. The only variation on that theme is the fact that I wear colored shirts. In another sense, though, I do strive to be a Chassid. Really, being a Chassid is not about belonging to a certain Chassidic group or dressing in a certain way. As Rabbi Tal Zwecker wrote in these posts, Chassidus is about a method of refining one's self and growing closer to the Creator of the world, according to the teachings of the students of the Baal Shem Tov. IY"H, I hope to grow so that I could be considered a "real chassid."

JB: Do you believe that "you are what you wear" and if so does your colored shirt make you a colorful person?

DY:What someone wears is both everything and nothing. Inherently, one's external appearance doesn't matter at all when compared to what's inside. However, like you said, how one dresses does inevitably affect how a person sees himself, and by extension, how he comports himself. Now when I say "colored shirts," I just mean to say as opposed to just black and white. We're not talking Hawaiian shirts or anything like that. I initially stopped wearing only "black and white" on weekdays because my wife likes how I look in colored shirts. However, I guess it does have an affect how how I see myself. I don't feel as "yeshivish." My hope is, then, that my spiritual growth will be more internally focused, since I'm not trying to "look religious" on the outside.

JB:What turned you on to the J Blogosphere?

DY:For a number of years I have often had (what I consider to be) insightful thoughts or I have seen ideas in various seforim that really got me excited. When I'm happy and excited about some insight I've had or some great pshat or perspective in a sefer, my natural desire is to want to share that with other people. But unless I had some hapless friend nearby or my chevrusa didn't mind if I showed him something, my desire to share was thwarted. However, when I came across sites like A Simple Jew and Mystical Paths, it gave me the idea that I could channel my desire to share things that interested me and excited me through the blog venue. Essentially, having a blog is a great way to channel my desire to share insights, chidushim, inspiring or funny Jewish music or anything else I wanted to.

JB:Some of your favorite bloggers are?

DY:I think this might be obvious to people who've read Dixie Yid, but I'd have to say that my favorite blog is A Simple Jew("ASJ".) I'd have to say that ASJ is not only my favorite blog, but ASJ himself is definitely my "blogging rebbe." He has given me a lot of advice and he linked to me fairly often at the beginning, which shuffled some traffic over to my site, which let people know who I am and that I was there. His site is also very good because he puts a lot of work into it. His posts are interesting, varied, insightful and personal. He is also a great networker and brings to the table a lot of guest posts from great people in the Jewish world.

JB:How long have you been blogging for?

DY:>I've been blogging since December 2006. I'm a baby blogger!

JB:What do you enjoy most about Chassidus?

DY:I love the fact that Chassidus teaches you how to go beneath the surface of the superficial Yiddishkeit that it seems so many of us get stuck in. Halacha just becomes a checklist of things we have to get done before we can move onto the things we really enjoy in life. That's not the way it's supposed to be. And Chassidus teaches us how to dig deep within ourselves and within all of our Jewish practices to find the light and the fire that lie within both. Chassidus shows the excitement of Yiddishkeit and teaches you how to enjoy Judaism even more than all of the other ways that even frum people find their enjoyment in life.

JB:What part of Chassidus do you dislike if any?

DY:I can't say that there's anything I dislike about Chassidus per se. However, the same cannot be said about the various Chassidic communities. They have their own issues, just like other segments of the Jewish community have theirs. However, I've never been a big "chassid" of criticizing other Jewish groups. If I'm going to criticize any part of the Jewish community, it should be my own.

JB:Tell us about how blogging has impacted your understanding of Judiasm.

DY:I don't know if blogging has affecting my understanding of Judaism per se. However, being part of the "JBlogosphere" and reading other blogs has definitely affected my outlook on things. I have read things by people like Hasidic Rebel and Six Month Malkie who are very unhappy about their experiences with frumkeit and frum people. Reading these types of things make me more cognizant of the kind of Jewish experience that I am bringing my children up to. Do I want them to be brought up with a Yiddishkeit which is just a bunch of prohibitions and social pressure-related obligations, but with no heart? Or do I want them to experience a Yiddishkeit which is the most exciting thing in the world and where connecting to Hashem is considered more important than what the Schwartzes next door think of us? I think that being conscious of how I bring up my children in Judaism is definitely affected by reading things in the "JBlogosphere."

JB:If you could speak to any past rebbe which one would it be and why?

DY:I think that I would want to meet the Chozeh (Seer) of Lublin. He was known as having a very deep sight into reality and into the people he met. I would be both terrified and grateful if I could meet a Rebbe like that who could just clarify for me what the nature of my "self" is, what I'm supposed to accomplish in this world, and what my true kochos and chesronos (strengths and weaknesses) are.

JB:Tell us about your favorite sefer and why?

DY:I'd have to say that right now, my favorite sefer is Meor Einayim. It's by the first Rebbe from Chernobyl, Reb Menachem Nachum of Chernobyl. He was a student of both the Baal Shem Tov and the Magid of Mezrich, so it's one of the original expressions of Toras HaBaal Shem Tov. Besides it's "earliness," I like it because I like the feeling of being blown off my feet every time some new layer of reality is revealed to me. The Meor Einayim does that for me more than other seforim, like I wrote about in this post . I'm just a glutton for that feeling of being taken down the rabbit hole into aspects of reality that I was not aware of.

JB:What was the most difficult thing to take on as a religious orthodox Jew?

DY:For me, one of the hardest things at the beginning was giving up theater. I was a big thespian in high school and I was very into broadway plays and music. It was one thing to give up acting due to issues of Shabbos and "shomer negiah," but it was even more difficult to get out of the music due to "kol isha," since it was a significant interest of mine. However, knowing and feeling that what I was getting was far greater than what I was giving up, I was able to do it.

JB:If you could give any advice to a potential BT what would it be?

DYI would say not to take yourself too seriously. When your parents or other family asks you why you're doing something, and its seems like it's a hostile question, then just give a silly answer and don't talk about the substance. Like Rabbi Orlofsky said one time, if someone coldly asks you why you're wearing a black hat, don't give some philosophical sounding answer. Say it's because you want to look like Robert Deniro. Also, I'd say it's important to chill out and not try to make your parents religious. They'll likely not be convinced in most cases by the person whose diapers they used to change. If anything is likely to bring them around eventually, it'll be seeing that you have become a better person with better midos than you were before. So focus more on your own midos bein adam l'chaveiro and on kibud av va'eim as your preferred method of kiruv with your parents.

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