Friday, June 4, 2004

Shalom, Rabbi!

It doesn't look like we're going to be able to come down for services

this week after all.

Some of my Milton Steinberg books have come, so I'll keep reading more

(his nonfiction).

At some point, should we talk about a course of study for conversion,

or just keep doing what we're doing?



I understand your zeal in choosing a Jewish identity for yourself. Enjoy your search and exploration. In time we'll talk about whether this journey of yours is what you really want for you and to impart via personal example to your kids. Better not to rush things too fast. But we'll talk.

Shat Shalom,

" You shall rise before the aged." (Leviticus 19:32)


That was my impression as well, actually, but I thought I would ask

just to find out your thoughts!

Earlier this week I mentioned to a couple of friends that I thought I

should sit with this for a year or so and observe and read. I am

happy to do that.




I understand your zeal in choosing a Jewish identity for yourself.

Enjoy your search and exploration. In time we'll talk about whether

this journey of yours is what you really want for you and to impart

via personal example to your kids. Better not to rush things too

fast. But we'll talk.

Shat Shalom,

" You shall rise before the aged." (Leviticus 19:32)


You are a sincere and thoughtful individual. No "religion police" is preventing you from living as Jewishly as you see fit. In time when the comfort from living in this fashion overcomes the doubts, you'll be ready for "conversion" -- i.e., to assert ceremoniously what you have already embarked on as a way of living. Continue to ask questions, pose "objections" -- a life that is utterly devoid of anything to do w/ Christmas or Easter. This ain't easy. Once it is a part of you -- i.e., life that is guided by the mitzvot -- you'd know that a conversion ceremony is the thing to go through.

Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi F,

I have been thinking about this all morning, and I am glad you wrote

again because I wanted to assure you that I wasn't just backpedaling.

These are some of the things that Dereck and I have been talking

about. It is much easier for me to live a life without Christmas and

Easter than to ask my children to. Actually, they probably wouldn't

notice the absence of Easter much. And I don't have them every year

at the Christmas Holidays.

I have never liked the idea of the Hanukkah Bush-- don't worry! And I

am not sure really how much the tree means to them, anyway. What my

children really look forward to and participate in is making cookies

for Santa, spreading reindeer food on the lawn, and the anticipation

of presents in the morning.

I think that with Hanukkah, we can find ways to substitute the

ceremony and ritual. And they are approaching ages at which the

discussion of Santa can be dispensed.

But our observances of these holidays has been secular. I used to

read the children a more traditional Christmas story, but have stopped

doing so in the past couple of years.

As for family visits during the holidays, there isn't much I can do if

someone else has a tree up in their home. But I can insist when there

is overlap in dates on lighting my Hanukkah candles. And we can begin

to tailor our family visits around Thanksgiving.

But something you said really resonated with things I have been

thinking of too: When I feel Jewish heart and soul and not any part

of an outsider, then the ceremonious assertion will become just that--

because I will already be Jewish.

And I can't say that I have gotten there in these few weeks.

Last night I started reading The Making of the Modern Jew by

Steinberg. I have a lot more study to do.

And I have not yet had personal experiences with anti-semitism (well,

that is not entirely true. I told my ex-husband years ago that a

friend of ours told me he thought I might be Jewish. My ex-husband

said, "I hope not." I was horrified. I said, "Why?" "Because that

would mean that the children are Jewish.")

Well, even if my biology were Jewish, I would still have to convert,

and the children also because I wasn't raised by Jews. But I still

have not had this discussion with him.

My parents are interested in my Jewish studies and would like to hear more.

But I haven't dealt with anti-semintism in the workplace (yet) and my

children have not come home from Boy Scouts yet with tales of hearing

that Jews killed Jesus (no, they bring this home from another source:

videos they have seen).

Through surfing the internet, I am getting my first tastes of online

discussions between Orthodox and Conservative Jews. I read my first

online debate yesterday between a (converted Conservative Jewish)

woman who was celebrating lesbian marriage and what turned out to be

several Orthodox readers who were quoting Leviticus right and left and

chastising her.

Now. This gives me pause. Yes, there is room for interpretation in

Leviticus. But if homosexuality is truly against the mitzvot, even if

I personally am not gay, then how do I reconcile my support of gay

rights? I cannot just say, "Well, I'm going to ignore that one."

But by the same token, I wear polyester and I don't cover my head either.

So, to some extent, I am picking and choosing among the mitzvot what I

will observe. And some little part of me says, "Well, nobody thinks

we can do it all!" But I recognize that as justification and I am

leary of that little voice.

But yes, before I have studied the Torah with commentary, I can't

really commit to the mitzvot, can I? Fortunately, I have studied and

read the Torah as well as other books in what the Christians call the

"Old" Testament, so I am not coming into this in complete ignorance.

However, I need to read it from a Jewish point of view.

And as for keeping Kosher, I really believe that slow changes over

time that nobody in the household will really notice or object to will

allow us to keep these laws together. It just can't be sudden or

abrupt, or it won't work and we won't sustain it.

I agonized all week about coming down for services this week. Tonight

my son has a baseball game. Some good friends are having a dinner for

the last time before dispersing for summer and it will be our last

chance to see them for several months. I was very torn, but I decided

to have Shabbat at home, and then go and spend time with my sons (who

are with their father for the week) and then our friends.

Last week I really had my first experience with the challenges of

preparing for Shabbat: Fortunately, we got the afternoon off work so

I could shop in the afternoon. Then, we cleaned for Shabbat. And

then I had to run clothes to my sons and watch their baseball game,

and then another friend (the one who had the stroke) had come home to

live from rehabilitatino and wanted to see us.

I was nearly distraught: when would we have Shabbat? How to do all of this?

What we finally decided upon was this: I would take the clothes to

the children, but not stay for the game, so I could come home and we

could have Shabbat at sundown and the go visit our friend.

But even the next morning, dressing for services, I realized I hadn't

ironed. So, I made choices that didn't require it and made a mental

note for next time.

So, I told my friend who invited us for dinner that tonight is Shabbat

and that it was important for us to do that first (they would probably

even be receptive if we brought our candlesticks and kiddush cup and

challah and did it there, but it is not a show I want to perform).

She said she would be happy to see us when we got there.

Shabbat has become absolutely essential to me, to us, and even when I

don't think I can juggle the drive to services, the distance, with my

obligations here, that doesn't mean that I don't observe, that I don't

study here. And tomorrow morning I will study the Torah here, and

work on learning more Hebrew and more prayers.

But I also realize that there will come moments of discouragement and

doubt. My friend Liza said that the book I just read, As A Driven

Leaf, will serve me well during those times. But I was talking about

this with Dereck this morning and he pointed out to me that even as I

may struggle with how to observe, what to observe (my Shabbat services

at home on Friday night do not always coincide with sundown, but they

always occur), that I have found a spiritual home and that is not

easily discounted.

I feel somewhat at a disadvantage being a convert: if I were born

Jewish, then no matter how I observed, people couldn't challenge my

Jewishness. Well, I guess that is not entirely true. The Orthodox

can challenge everyone! But that doesn't really bother me. It isn't

up to people on earth to decide whether or not I'm Jewish or whether

or not I'm Jewish enough. It is up to G-d, and it is up to me to try

to live with as much integrity as I can. And I think that being

Jewish offers me the greatest opportunities to do so. What Dereck

marvels at is the peace I've found and that I'm no longer wondering

what I should be doing. Now, I am doing it.

But I am familiar with converts, and the convert enthusiasm, the

convert zeal, the convert mentality. And I have to laugh at it in

myself, and temper it with the quiet stillness of a lifetime


I would love to say to you right at this moment that I am absolutely

committed and ready to go-- but even if I could say that right now,

neither of us would believe it!

So I just wanted to say that one thing that gives me peace and comfort

is that there is no reason I can see to be in a hurry. I am not ready

to say an aliyah yet-- I am just barely learning Hebrew! And there

are few things that I cannot do until I am a full Jew. And when I

understand the history, the peoplehood, and I am willing to have my

children make sacrifices for my beliefs and the Tradition and the

faith-- when I am fully a Jew, we will know.



No comments:

Post a Comment