When a well-meaning friend asked me on Christmas Eve, “Is being at temple tonight hard for you?” they were surprised I said, “No.” I wasn’t surprised at all.
Lessons from my first-ever first night of Chanukah: check wooden matches for cracks; don’t use the match box to put out the carpet; …and be prepared to feel six-years-old all over again.
Saturday after temple in a north side Starbucks, I sat down with a Reform Jewish friend. I had my kippah on and my computer open. As we were walking out, an Orthodox woman sitting nearby turned to a stranger and told him I wasn’t going to be a good Jew. And as you may have guessed, I marched right back in.
The beauty of Reform Judaism is the freedom to adopt traditional practices that speak to your heart. The beast of Reform Judaism is getting the fish eye from Reform Jews who think adopting tradition makes you Orthodox. Problem is, tradition is just what many potential converts–like me and my kippah-covered head–are attracted to.
So. My blog–and I–have joyed out lately. Not to mention Jewed out, compassioned out, and otherwise jumped for happy. And the lesson for me in all of that? That I don’t need to apologize for one sickeningly lovely moment of what, as it turns out, is the time of my life.
Living Jewishly obviously means spending the period from Thanksgiving Day to New Year’s Eve with a different emphasis. This year, I’ll leave my well-known tree fetish behind. But as I ponder all the adult Christmases I’ve kept, I’m realizing I won’t miss that holiday’s sense of joy and wonder…because I’m increasingly finding those feelings to be an everyday part of my new journey.
My synagogue was one of the Yemeni mail-bomb terror targets. It is impossible to write a sentence like that without feeling the worst of humanity well up inside your being. But sometimes it’s when you feel the most hateful of urges that healing the world has the best chance to begin.
I’ve been studying kashrut, the Jewish dietary laws, but in Reform Judaism keeping kosher would be up to my conscience. I never expected my conscience to care. Yet as I begin my conversion journey, I can’t seem to make it past the supermarket checker anymore without taking several of my favorite food items out of my basket and leaving them behind.
Last week, I was concerned my friends wouldn’t be able to accept the idea of me as a Jew-in-Training. But it never occurred to me that some of them might not be able to accept the idea of me as religious at all.
In the grand scheme of things, September 11th is just a day. Yet a day can capture eternity. The days since my 40th birthday have been among the most amazing of my life. I’m finally honoring the past to move forward. And I can’t think of a better time to mark the turning point in my journey.