I’m getting married in the morning!
Ding dong! The bells are gonna chime.
Pull out the stopper! Let’s have a whopper!
But get me to the shul on time!
I’ll potentially be Jewish before you read this post, but as I write it this is my last night before mikveh, the last few hours of my pre-Jewish life. The slightly abridged version of the above, famous My Fair Lady song has been going through my head all day. God, it’s tomorrow. God, I better not be late. What are you supposed to feel the evening before becoming a Jew, or joining any major religious tradition officially? Me, I’ve had butterflies in my stomach all day.
I know some people who took mikveh day a lot less weightily than I’m taking it. But the closer the date for the official rituals that will make me a Jew drew near, the more I realized the import of the day. It’s like getting married. After all, I’m in love with a tradition and a people, am willing to cast my lot with theirs (which is a weird word to write, since in my heart at this point I really mean “ours”), and am about to make a permanent, lifelong commitment. Conversion has no do-overs. As of tomorrow morning, sometime before Noon, I will become forever after a Jewish man.
I spent a lot of today allegedly working but really Googling terms like “pre-wedding jitters,” just to gain some perspective that a bit of pre-momentous-occasion nerves is normal and healthy (which it is.) It’s hard to pin down just what’s going on inside right now. On the one hand, I’m having to tether myself to the ground so that I don’t levitate from the sheer joy and anticipation of tomorrow. On the other hand, although I am as sure as I can humanly, possibly be about the decision I am making, what if there’s some unknown-to-me level of even surer-than-sure surety that I’m missing?
Then my anxiety goes around in a circle and I return–over and over, because my heart and head keep cycling through my jitters like a broken record–that even if I couldn’t say being Jewish is what I feel my life has been leading up to for 40 years, knowing what I know now about Judaism, I’d still choose it. I’d still be going to the mikveh tomorrow.
Just writing “going to the mikveh tomorrow” gives me pause. There are very few times one is able to say that an event is a once-in-a-lifetime thing and not be exaggerating. I know straight down through the soles of my feet that tomorrow morning will be the most important morning I will have ever lived in my entire life–and may remain so for the rest of my life, no matter what other momentous occasions may follow it in years to come.
And I’m ready. And I’m sure. And my study will continue for the rest of my life, too. But what if there’s more I ought to have studied before becoming “official”? What if I blow the words to the mikveh blessing? What if my fellow congregants realize I’m really just a blowhard pain in the ass where up to now they think they see a very self-sure committed conversion candidate?
What if I don’t exhale enough and I float instead of sinking?
Obviously, I’m committed to exploring every avenue of psyching myself out this evening. When I’m done with doing that–and with writing this post–I’m going to go out on the balcony and have a heart-to-heart with God, which is the same thing I did when my conversion journey began.
Then I’ll attempt to sleep, wake up, and become who I was meant to be 40 years ago. I’m thrilled. I’m scared. I’m full of butterflies. And I am overjoyed to a point I cannot humanly express. Not to mention humbled, and immensely, immensely grateful to have been led to this point.
There’s another familiar song that keeps playing in my head tonight, equally appropriate as the first:
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten
Michael Thaddeus Doyle
I'm a NYC-native, Latino, Jew-by-choice, hardcore WDW fan in Chicago with an Irish last name. I believe in social justice, big cities, and public transit. I do nonprofit development. I've written this blog since 2005. Believe in the world you want to live in.