Friday, May 6, 2011

Living Faithfully

I’ve always wondered what high school would have been like thousands of years ago. If my friends and I had just witnessed the powerful revelation on Mount Sinai, would we be inspired? Would we immediately remove every kid from its mother’s milk? Would we immediately bind the words of Shema to our doorposts and wrap them around our left arms? Would we still have to take our assigned Chemistry test that week or could the national revelation get us off the hook? While I cannot answer any of these questions on behalf of my 21st century generation, I know for a fact that thousands of years ago, we’d all be a bit more pure. Since the first group of teens in the Bible to the ones living today, there has been a drastic decrease of not only biblical orthodoxy, but also genuine purity.
Obviously, as humans, we are expected to sin. Perfection has never truly existed among anyone on earth; promoting a flawless generation would be slightly unrealistic. I do believe, however, that the kind of purity described in Scripture thousands of years ago is not out of reach today. Our forefathers, too, suffered from extreme temptations, but did they really have more self-control than we do? Of course, they first-handedly experienced the receiving of the Torah, but as united 21st century Israelites, couldn’t we try a little harder to connect to the biblical purity that is expected of us?
Genuine purity does not have to be as extreme as that of the sheep-herding days. We, as the most evolving generation in the world so far, could preserve the simple forms of innocence through something as basic as our attire. Every influential woman in the Bible dressed comfortably and colorfully, but traditionally abided by the “modest is hottest” standards. No one told those women that exposing more skin would help them be better people. No one teased them for being naturally innocent, and virginity was not borrowed or traded for a higher social status. Unfortunately, things have changed throughout the last thousand years. Today, quite a few teenaged females confuse underwear as shorts and shirts as dresses, with virginity and innocence as exchangeable side accessories. Perhaps if we all dressed with some degree of modesty, we’d realize that we can still ameliorate the world-- without exposing one too many inches of our sacred bodies.
 In the days of the Bible, young female virgins, though considered beautiful, were fairly common.  They were not pressured by any means to lose their purities until their respective marriages. Today, to find young women with an innocent mind is rare. Whether she chooses to wait until her second date or just succumbs to the first, the average female student gives up her internal purity far too easily. I’ve been told more and more stories of high school couples “going all the way” during their prom nights, if not before. Losing something as valuable as God-given innocence is more than just exposing yourself to pleasure, exhilaration, and whatever else your friends describe. Risks are taken, mistakes happen, and the consequences unexpectedly appear. Statistics present us with the inexorable reality: Since the Bible’s formation, there have been a few more teen pregnancies than suspected. Thankfully, MTV took note of that and created one of the most popular television shows, “Teen Mom.” There are now television shows to view the dangerous potential outcomes of losing a beautiful purity that can never be replaced.    
As a faithful Jewish teen, I still believe that our generation has hope. While we obviously cannot give up our skinny jeans and return to the trends of long robes and sandals, we can at least become aware. We can become aware that wearing a little more clothing is not only expected of us from our faith, but also the professional world. If we just tried a little harder to cover the parts of our bodies that are meant to be covered, it would be much easier for the world to focus merely on our words and actions. By dressing both fashionably and modestly, we could still look good while staying true and pure to our faith.
I don’t pray for our generation to return to the original traditions of the Bible; I just hope that one day we can value the ideals of purity written in the texts of our faith. Through awareness of our potential to be as pure as our forefathers once were, we could reexamine our own lives. We can think twice before exposing ourselves to negative social experiences. While it is encouraged to become aware of the risks that can change our lives, there is absolutely nothing wrong with facing social pressure with a biblical attitude; it’s ok to step away from the things that feel uncomfortable.
I’ve realized that it’s ok to be innocent among the high school students of this generation. I’ve accepted that I will never be a walking “Urban Dictionary” and my body will never be exposed through sheer, mismatched clothing. I respect the eras in life where both men and women were expected to dress modestly and live conservatively, but I truly admire the people today who choose to live that way. Obtaining the rare innocence that is lost in our generation is never easy, but I will strive to accomplish this challenge.
I pray that our generation will only grow closer to the roots of our faith by valuing the innocence we’ve been given since birth. I pray for the high school students of this generation to one day learn the joys of being new and innocent in life, rather than pressure to be the most experienced at living. I pray that there will soon be more conversations that do not revolve around the impurities that surround us, but rather the optimism we’ve created by living closer to our faith.
I still do not know how my friends would handle the life-changing revelation at Mt. Sinai, but I do know that we could connect to our ancestors and live like they did. We can be the leaders of today’s Mt. Sinai, or high school, without deviating from the foundations of our beliefs.
Through awareness, I can prevent my purity from being lost at far too young of an age. Through faith, I can live innocently and purely—alongside my forefathers and mothers. I invite you to join me.