Quote Expressing My Gratitude and Suprise

“I may have not gone where I intended to go, but I think I ended up where I needed to be.”– Douglas Adams

I am blessed to have the opportunity to keep and remember Shabbat within my community this week, and past and future weeks. I knew this is what I had wanted for so long, but never saw myself as actually being within the Jewish community. As I continue to learn and live Jewishly, I always remember that I did not know I would end up here and I don’t know the exact future events of my life, but Hashem will continually provide me with the resources to be where I need to be and where Hashem need’s me to be. And in a few hours, that will be dwelling deep within Shabbat.

Shabbat Shalom.

 

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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.

Brachot (Blessings)

Judaism has a very special way of acknowledging Hashem’s soveriegnty over everything in the world. Many daily actions, like waking up and eating, and events, like rain and seeing some new, are sancified by reciting a brachah or blessing.

A Jew should recite 100 brachot a day. This may sound like an unaccomplishable goal, but it is not as difficult as it sounds. For example, the Amidah, a prayer recited three times daily, contains 19 brachot alone. Daily prayer and normal activity will easily cover the 100 brachot.

The difficult part, at least for me, is memorizing the brachot and remembering to say them at the numerous moments that call for a blessing throught the day. Each brachah is only a few lines long, but it is overwhelming to be faced with the task of memorizing them all. A friend of mine, who is also converting, expressed the same concern. I figured learning the brachot and saying the brachot must be a stuggle that many people who are converting to Judaism or Jews who are becoming more observant. For that reason, I decided to share my approach to trying to learn and recite the brachot. I am still in the process of learning and it will take time, but at least it is not as overwhelming and has beeen a good method so far.

Each week, I learn one new brachah. I recite the brachah over and over and write it down several times trying to commit the blessing to memory. During the week I do my very best to not let that particular brachah go unsaid. With each passing week I add in a new brachah and use all the brachot I know during the week. It is a longer method to learning, but I found that I am much more consistent with reciting the blessing and actually learn the blessing by heart.

This slow but steady approach has been my approach to instituting many Jewish practices into my life. I hope it is helpful advice for others who feel overwhelmed learning many prayers, practices and blessings in any religion.

“Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost”

I was not lost, but I certainly found.

The famous author of The Lord of the Rings series, J.R.R. Tolkien, wrote the words, “not all those who wander are lost.” This line has become a well-known quote because so many people can relate to the idea of wandering. Throughout our lives, we encounter many moments of wandering. We move from school to school, city to city, and job to job. Throughout the numerous processes of wandering, many of us are fortunate enough to stay rooted by family and friends. No matter how many times we move to a new city, we always have our “hometown.” In these instances, it is clear it see that those wandering are not necessarily lost and retain their roots.

On a deeper level, we wander in our minds, hearts, and souls as we explore ideas of why we are put on this earth and what direction our lives are headed. It seems like the deeper types of wandering happen when you don’t have a clear direction. Even if you are not lost, you are lacking clarity in a meaningful way. Some of us begin to learn more about different religious traditions as we wander through profound questions that either were previously unanswered or not sufficiently answered. With the majority of conversion stories I have encountered, from a variety of religious traditions, the converts describe their experiences as going from being lost to being home. They often begin in a state of little to no religious conviction and make a total transformation when they find their religious tradition and realize life now makes (more) sense. I can definitely relate to the end result feeling. I understand what it feels like to have this new found religion as the home you never knew existed but where you most certainly belong. But the first part, the experience of being lost or without a “home,” I have never felt.

I grew up in a very stable and loving two parent household. My parents, like their parents and their grandparents, created a nurturing, Roman Catholic household.  I had church every Sunday and catechism classes every Wednesday. I participated in many Church activities, like Vacation Bible School, youth days, and Christmas’ pageants. Besides a brief rebellious streak when I hit thirteen, I loved going to church, catechism classes, and all other things Christian. I had a clear religion with clear beliefs in a clear community. I never felt lost. I never had profound moments of doubt or skepticism. I never felt like my needs were not being met. I had the Church and never expected to want anything else.

When I began learning about other religious traditions, in junior high and high school, my study was based on interest of cultural diversity and had little, if anything, to do with theology. I began wandering even though I had a firm conviction in what I believed. I cannot easily relate to the story of other converts who were not spiritually fulfilled before they found their religion, but I can relate to their feeling of finding home, finding more fulfillment then you ever imagined possible, and finding a relationship with God and a community. I have never had a child, but I imagine that my experience is similar to the feeling of a parent. You led a fulfilling life before your child, but then you have your child and realize your life takes on new meaning, experiences, and fulfillment that you never knew you were missing. I never knew I was missing Judaism until I found it, and now I cannot let go. I did not wander because I was lost, but I can not deny that I found significant meaning I never knew I lacked.