Today is the 11th of Elul, which is less than 24 hours from when I officially join the Tribe and become a Jew. Tomorrow, I will no longer be a ger or a convert or a person who wants to be Jewish; I will simply be a Jew.
Today’s theme is “Trust.” And hooboy – this isn’t asking for much at all, right? Riiiight.
Trust has always been enormously difficult for me. Part of this is because I am autistic. Do you know how much trust is established by nonverbal, non-worded means like soothing tones of voice, facial expressions that just “look” honest, and body language? Well, I don’t have access to any of that. For me, the world is worded, and if it can’t be expressed in words, it’s hard to take it seriously or believe it exists. Or, for that matter, trust it.
There’s also the issue of trust being context-dependent, which, again, is hard for me to understand. But in the last few years I’ve finally learned that someone you can trust with your ideas may not be someone you can trust with your car (or vice-versa). Just because you can trust someone to check on your cats while you’re away from home doesn’t mean they’d be a good babysitter. You can trust someone to pick out amazing food at the restaurant, but you wouldn’t trust them to boil water without burning it.
So trust is one of those hairy things for me that I’ve never really been able to deal with in any satisfactory way.
This, of course, raises the question: if you can’t trust, then how exactly do you believe in God, or in what Judaism teaches?
Well, because trust is only part of it. It’s not all of it. And it’s not blind trust. It’s informed trust.
One of the things that allowed me to believe in God again was when I learned that yes, my emotions were a trustworthy source of information about certain kinds of phenomena. That took a long time to learn, but when I did learn it, and finally “heard” what God was trying to say to me, Judaism was the natural outcome of that lesson. Because only Judaism gives me a framework for my trust. And only Judaism allows me to say that sometimes I am going to doubt and be worried (which means not trusting in that moment) without being penalized for it.
But I trust myself more than I used to, too. I stopped judging my behavior so much by social standards that I could no more live up to than a person with no arms could do the butterfly stroke, and started judging it by the standards that I am able to live up to. And you know what? That allowed me to trust other people a little more, too.
Trust is not an all-or-nothing thing. It’s okay to trust a little, or not at all. It’s okay to say “I don’t trust that.” But it is also okay to say “I do trust that.”
This is just one of many lessons I have learned on my journey into Judaism.