(Not) Keeping Shabbat

As a non-Jew, I am suppose to do some small, private act of “work” in order to not keep Shabbat. An example of this would be carrying something in your pocket from private to public domain without anyone knowing. But this past Shabbat I went beyond this small requirement and drove 4 hours out of town to visit family on Saturday afternoon.

I can’t justify my decision to drive on Shabbat using halahkah, but I did obviously believe in my decision enough to choose to drive. My mother’s birthday was this weekend, and to celebrate my family was having a nice dinner Saturday night. Spending time with my family is really important right now because in a few months I am moving for school and won’t be able to share any holidays or special occasions. The dinner itself in no way distrupts Shabbat, but yet I still didn’t keep Shabbat. In my mind, the options were as follow. I could drive to my parent’s house on Friday, before Shabbat, and keep Shabbat there. I would be able to keep Shabbat and go to the dinner after Shabbat. The problem with this solution is that there are no synagogues or Jews even remotely close to my their home. I would be all alone for Shabbat. The other option, which I chose, was to attend my shul Friday night and Saturday morning and leave right after Musaf service to drive in order to make the trip in time for dinner at night.

I understand I made the “wrong” decision according to Jewish law, but in the process of conversion, it seems like the right decision. I look forward to Shabbat services each week. It is really the only time each week when I get to be in community with Jews. It is a chance to learn and grow in ways that a guide or conversion book just can’t provide. I love to pray alone, but there is a new dimension gained when I am in shul praying and singing along with others.

Laws are always important, especially when you are learning in order to convert, but I do feel like in some of these instances community is even more important. Shabbat is beautiful even when I sit in a room alone eating salad, praying and studying, but when I do the same things in the context of a Jewish community, Shabbat becomes even more magical. Community plays a very special role in Judaism and is extremely important when trying to enter the larger Jewish community. At this point, I  feel it is important for me to do anything I can to spend time within my Jewish community.

Video: “So, You Want to Go to Rabbinical School”

It is true. I am thinking about the possibility of one day going to Rabbinical school. It seems crazy to be thinking about becoming a rabbi even before I am Jewish, but it is something that has been on my mind since very early on in my relationship with Judaism.

While I obviously have time to think over the decision, especially since I am not yet Jewish, it is a question that keeps preoccupying my time and energy. And for good reason, it is a big, life changing decision, just like becoming a Jew.

I came across this video from You Tube and could not stop laughing (and almost crying) because of the dialogue that for the most part rings true. The dialogue for my own conversation about wanting to become a rabbi would be different, but the overarching concerns remain consistent and seem to be universal, especailly for women.

Tu B’shvat- The New Year of the Trees

Hag Sameach!

Tu B’shvat, the New Year of the Trees, just began a few hours ago. This is the first year I celebrate Tu B’shvat, and I was lucky enough to attend a seder for the holiday at my synagogue.

I spend my work week studying Judaism with my academic hat on and especially lately, have been analyzing liturgy. Of course, there is some intersection and overlap between my personal religious life and the material I read and write academically, but it is easy to get distracted by the academic questions.

Tonight, with the beautiful poetry and symbolism in the Hagaddah, I was able to let the visions of peaceful trees and nature take over me. More than once, I got caught up in the beautiful feelings and lost track of what was going on around me as I focused on one word or idea that had significance for me in that moment.

It is those moments, when I just lose myself, that I know I am in love. I know I love Hashem. I know I love Torah. I know I love Judaism. And I know I love all the people of Israel and cannot wait to be one of them.

The intensity of the feeling, like all feelings, passes or fades, sometimes even as quickly as it came. That does not mean that the love is no longer there or that I can never have it back. Our relationship with religion is like any relationship. We have cycles with highs and lows. We have days we want to give it our all and days we just want to hide in bed. That is okay. It is more realistic, and healthy, to not ignore any emotion but feel them for what they are and honestly acknowledge their presence in the moment. Judaism teaches that each new moment is full of new potential. Do not dwell on moments past, but be fully present in this moment so that it too can pass and you will be given a brand new moment, a brand new breath full of possibilty.

In this moment, I want to thank Hashem, the Source of all, for giving us the wonderful trees and plants of the earth to shelter and nourish us. May we continue to be inspired by the ever changing seasons and renewal of the trees that show us that new seasons, new days, and new moments bring new possibilities for renewing our whole selves.