Category Archives: Day-to-Day

Posts about my everyday life.

Six Things Christians and Atheists Just Don’t Seem to Get About Judaism

In the last few months, between writing on Quora and going to my Intro to Judaism class, I’ve been struck repeatedly by people’s beliefs about what Judaism is, and how incorrect those beliefs really are. Most Christians assume that “religion” looks like what they do, and can’t imagine any other way. Most atheists I bump into on this topic either never had a religion, or they came from a Christian background and rejected it, but almost all of them are Americans, raised in the American tradition, which is steeped heavily in Christian motifs, beliefs, and ways of experiencing and explaining the world. So the atheists also tend to assume that Christianity is what all religions look like.

Many of these misconceptions stem from an equally incorrect misconception: that all Christians are fundamentalist/evangelical Christians – and so all religious people are just like them, because that’s what religion looks like. Both Christians and atheists seem to believe this, and the misconceptions that grow in this fertile ground are kind of like kudzu.

Here’s a few specific misconceptions.

1. Jews are just Christians without Jesus/a Messiah. No. Sorry.

To be honest, I’m not even sure what that means, but I’ve found plenty of assumptions stemming from the idea that Christianity is what religion “looks like,” so the main difference in Judaism must be that it doesn’t have Jesus, but in most other ways it’s the same.

Certainly, Jews look for the Moshiach and the Messianic Age, but Yeshua ben Yosef (aka Jesus) isn’t him (or her), and this isn’t it. We aren’t counting on (or living for) an afterlife, and we aren’t really all that interested in making people believe the same way we do.

In Judaism, “Moshiach” is a title given to every secular political king we’ve ever had. It is NOT the title of a spiritual leader. There are a number of reasons why Yeshua ben Yosef is not the Messiah: the Temple has not been rebuilt, we do not have world peace, and the Jewish nation is not all located in Israel – among others.

2. Jews think that their religion is the only correct one and that all other religions should be eliminated/people forced to convert to the One True Religion.

Nothing could be further from the truth. I know that for most people, this is what “religion” means, but it’s hard to become a Jew, and we discourage conversion without a lot of thought and consideration. Compare that to the Christian conversion where you say “yes” and (possibly) jump in the ocean to get baptized, and you’re in.

Judaism isn’t about being better than other people, it’s about having more responsibilities than other people (that’s what “Chosen People” means, you know – not that we’re special but that we’re extra burdened). And as long as non-Jews keep the seven Noahide laws (look it up on Google), they have a place in the World to Come.

3. Jews reject science and proof in favor of blind faith and belief in a vicious, mean, petty God.

If you believe this, you don’t know any Jews. Jews are often scientists. We recognize that science is about “how” and religion is about “why.” Einstein (himself a Jewish scientist) said: “Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.” Einstein also said about God: “I believe in Spinoza’s God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with the fates and actions of human beings.

You don’t even have to believe in God to be a Jew. So assuming that all Jews believe in a vicious, mean, petty God is kind of stupid.

4. Judaism is about belief that has no support in the real world or through science.

Nope, sorry. Judaism isn’t about belief; it’s about behavior. How are you treating people? How are you behaving? That’s more important to us than what you believe. Look at the variety of beliefs across the spectrum of Jews; no two of us experience God the same way and no two of us have exactly the same belief system. The important thing is that we treat each other ethically and respectfully.

5. All Jews believe that their religious texts are literal, 100% infallible, and 100% correct as written for all times, places, and contexts. 

A few Jews do, just like a few Christians do. That doesn’t mean all of us do. For me, the Torah is largely a set of metaphors and fables about how to deal with life, and deal with other people fairly and ethically. This includes the fables where the lesson about being ethical comes out of the story showing you what is unethical. It’s also the stories of fallible human beings doing the best they could in the contexts of their times.

6. Christianity has Jewish roots because Jesus was a Jew, so Christians believe the same things Jews do.

No. Sorry. Here’s a few things that Christians believe that Jews categorically do not:

a. A human god
b. Heaven
c. Hell
d. A need for personal salvation or a “savior”
e. Human sacrifice (sorry, but the crucifixion of Yeshua ben Yosef counts!)
f. The Messiah as a spiritual leader, rather than a political leader
g. “Original sin”
h. “Personal revelation” of truth

And yet I’ve had atheists throw many of those at me as if I believe them. Why? Because I’m a Jew, and Judaism is a religion, and all religions are just like Christianity, right?

Many of the stories that Christians think are definitive and important from the Torah are actually minor blips for Jews. Adam and Eve in the Garden? Relatively minor. For Christians, this is a Huge Big Deal. The Abraham and Isaac story? Important for Jews. For Christians? They’re not sure what to make of that.

If someone’s going to dislike me because I’m a Jew, I’d appreciate it if they’d at least get their facts straight.

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I have no idea what this post will be about.

I’ve been feeling a pull towards good Jewish art lately. I have a touch of the art bug myself, but one of the main venues I used to use to indulge it is no longer available to me (by my decision) so I’ve been a little bit… at loose ends about it. I might come back and indulge that once I’ve looked at more Jewish art. I don’t want whatever I do to be cliché (menorahs, dreidels, hamsas, and Mogen Davids come to mind). What says “Jewish Art” to you? I’m curious.

We’ve adopted two cats this past weekend, and I am happier, although the one we thought would be “my” cat keeps hiding whenever we’re in the room. The other is demanding, social, and apparently believes his job is to make sure I hold him. Like, a lot. This might be why I’m not doing a whole lot of writing lately.

Our Introduction to Judaism classes start on Wednesday – tomorrow. I’ve been waiting for it and now it’s finally here; I can’t quite believe it. My husband is in negotiations with his job to switch his shift next Wednesday as the schedule he has will interfere with our second class. This reminds me that I need to do the filing and locate our receipt for the class. The temple has a deal, financed by one of its wealthier members, that subsidizes part of the cost of the class for people who have been attending and intend to convert.

I thanked my husband for being willing to fight to get that day off, and he said “Honey, I’m doing this for me, not just for you.” Which really means a lot to me. We went to a morning Torah study on Shabbat morning this past weekend as well, and he had some fantastic insights. He didn’t realize it until afterwards, but I pointed it out to him. I’m so glad and so proud that he’s doing this with me and for himself.

Shabbat this weekend is going to be pretty quiet for us. We’re going to go to morning services on Saturday morning, but other than that (and lighting candles on Friday night of course) we don’t have a lot planned. And maybe that’s better. I’m buried in work; prepping classes for this coming semester that starts a week from Monday, so it’ll be nice to have a Shabbat that really is for rest.

That said, I should get back to work.

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Chag Chanukah Sameach!

So last night was my first day of my first Hanukkah ever. (I will be using “Hanukkah” in my English writing and “Chanukah” when I write in Hebrew transliteration. Just sayin’.)

My Jewish best friend came over, helped me get through errands that I couldn’t avoid, made a fabulous dinner (she wouldn’t let me help) AND brought me and my husband gifts.

For him: A Jewish Study Bible (one of the books on our Intro to Judaism textbook wishlist). For me: another of the books from that same wishlist.

She also brought gelt and a dreidel, and taught me how to play. I had bought a set of very pretty dreidels that were also delivered yesterday, as well as a box of dark chocolate gelt. It was very fun.

My husband was blown away by her gifts. And when we lit the candles, we each stated our intentions for that first candle: me for my late father, my husband for one of his best friends who had died recently, and my best friend for my husband – that he is also joining her People along with me. He got teary-eyed. It was sweet.

First Night of Hanukkah

We put the menorah in front of the window. The shamash is the one on the far right (and yes, it’s a little taller than the other candle holders in this menorah). My friend lit it and taught us the song for the prayers – which are in our siddur, thankfully.

Dreidels and gelt.

That’s the dreidel that my friend brought, up-a-top. The similar-sized one from the set I purchased is lying among the gelt. (Note: we have silver gelt and gold gelt both – the silver is the dark chocolate type.)

We have holiday plans for Friday evening; friends of ours who are chosen family (including my Jewish best friend) are coming over for Shabba-nukkah (Shabbat during Hanukkah?). I have a brisket waiting to be cooked with apples and red onions in the slow cooker; my husband is planning bread pudding with gluten-free artisinal bread we got from our local gluten-free (and Jewish!) bakery; apple fritters; challah from that selfsame bakery; brussels sprouts with capers and lemon juice – it’s going to be a good feast. I’m hoping that my friend will also make us latkes; we’ll have sour cream and applesauce for them, for sure. Sufganiyot won’t be possible this year because the bakery doesn’t yet have the deep-frying ability to make them, but hopefully by next Hanukkah we’ll have those as well.

I also plan to (and resign myself to) gaining ten pounds over the next few days. Hey, it’s the holidays. I’m allowed.

We’re also having to take the husband’s car in to the shop to get the window repaired – it stopped working yesterday, which would have been fine if it had done so when rolled up. Doing so when rolled down was less-good (it was pouring rain last night). We are also going to go get our new cat, we hope, tonight. Our previous fur-kid died in early February, and it took a while for both of us to be ready for a new one.

In the meantime, I have a few more grades to finalize, a house to clean up, and students to manage in a wintertime class. If you’re so inclined, keep a good thought that I hear back positively from the job I had a second interview for a week ago. They said “late next week,” so that’s now “late this week.” I can hope they’re going to call today or tomorrow, right? And in the meantime, I’m not going to worry about it.

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Copied from a comment: The Unthinking Retailers at Holiday Time

In response to another person’s blog asking why retailers carry almost nothing for us Jews at this time of year, and whether they were thinking or not, I had this response.


The old saying is, “Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity.” Which is true, but… my argument with this aphorism is that there is a space between stupidity and malice. That space is thoughtlessness. That’s where the retailers are.

They don’t think, because we’re a numerical minority. Unless they live in one of the big urban areas near one of our small urban enclaves, they’re not really even aware of us. They don’t realize that not all Jews look like the young Mel Brooks.

They don’t think, because we’re not like them. Our holidays have weird names in a non-English language and they don’t stay put on their calendar. We don’t put up trees or lights (unless they’re blue and white) or say the holiday greetings that they say. We’re not interested in sitting on the lap of the fat man in the red suit (or in letting our kid sit on his lap either). And the fat guy? He’s probably just wishing that all these screeching kids and drunk adults would go home and let him go get a coffee or a brandy.

They don’t think. They don’t have to. They’re on Holiday Autopilot and it would never occur to them that other people have holidays they don’t understand. They think of Hanukkah as “Jewish Christmas” and wish us “Molotov!”, believing that they’re doing something “inclusive” by doing so.

I’d almost prefer stupidity to the proliferation of “Hams for Hanukkah” and “Want your menorah to arrive by Christmas? Just pay for ultra-fast shipping at checkout and we guarantee it’ll be there by December 24th!” I would almost prefer malice to the absolutely braindead non-thinking Holiday Autopilot.

I don’t have a Hanukkah bush or an Eitz haMoed. Instead, I have a bouquet of cut flowers with juniper sprigs mixed in on my dining table. I have a menorah waiting for me on my bookshelf for when I can light its first candle tomorrow night. I have dreidels on the coffee table and gelt making its way to me from a fair trade company through the mail. I have a feast planned for Shabbat, when I will have my children and my husband and my chosen family with me, and I plan to be as Jewish as I can be that night and cook for armies. When I think of the winter holidays now, I think back to last year, when my Jewish friend hesitantly asked if she could bring a travel menorah on the night she was visiting, and how I watched in awe and wonder while she sang the prayers over a lit birthday candle in a menorah smaller than my wallet.

I am trying to ignore the proliferation of green-and-red-and-white light displays and ostentatious (and tacky) inflatable snowmen and the awful music pouring out of the grocery store speakers. And mostly, I’m successful.

But yes. I get it. You’re not alone.

Shall we sing along with the Maccabeats to drown out the unthinking noise?

Chanuka Sameach!


Now I want to make something clear: if you have an Eitz haMoed, I have nothing against that. It’s your practice, and it’s your tree. No skin off my nose.

I just get tired of the non-Jewish expectation that I’ll still celebrate a holiday that has nothing to do with my religion, or that I’ll go along to get along. It annoys me. Always has, always will.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have grades to finalize and a tzedakah box to plan a paint scheme for.

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Friday Feature: What are you thankful for this week?

13 Kislev 5775

It’s time for the Friday Feature again, where I ask you what good things happened to you this week. This is direct from Telushkin’s Book of Jewish Values, Day 69.

This is supposed to be a regular Friday morning feature for this blog. Telushkin intended his book to provide topics for Shabbat discussions for at least a year, as each “week” is composed of six values (one per day) and then Shabbat, where he encourages us to talk about those values at our Shabbat dinners and services. I feel that the idea of gratitude is so central to Jewish practice that we should be reminded weekly of what we might be grateful for.

While I know that this might seem a little self-centered, I’m also doing this so that people will have some food for thought for their own Shabbat dinners about what they might be thankful for. I generally talk about the following areas of my life: work and career; family and friends; health; household; my conversion studies; miscellaneous life; and the wider world. Feel free to add or subtract as necessary for your own use.


I’m thankful for my husband (married 35 days as of today). I’m thankful for my kids, who spent last Friday and Saturday with us (we had Thankshabbat on Friday instead of having Thanksgiving on Thursday; my husband had to work on Thanksgiving and my kids couldn’t be here on Thanksgiving).

I’m thankful that my husband has told me he intends to convert with me, after taking the Taste of Judaism class. We’ve already registered for the full Intro to Judaism class in the spring. This excites me very much. Now that the school semester is winding down, I should have the ability to get back to my blog here and to my Judaism and Hebrew studies very soon. We’ve bought a menorah and candles for it, and my best friend gifted us Our First Dreidel. Now I just need gelt, and we’re good to go for Hanukkah. 😀

Menorah

I’m thankful that my teachers’ union was able to get us a raise, which should go into effect either this month or next month, and has some retroactiveness to it.

I’m thankful that I had a great interview for a full-time position yesterday. I’ll know by Monday whether I get a second interview. I’m hopeful. Even if I don’t get this job, I still have a full schedule of classes lined up for the spring, and a winter intersession class that I’m going to finish regardless of whether I get the full-time job or not. (Income is good.)

I’m thankful that my husband has Saturday off this week so we can go to temple for the first time in two or three weeks (sometimes his schedule doesn’t allow him to be home, and it’s hard to go to temple by myself when I’m stressed out about other things; his presence is calming for me).

I’m thankful that my friends are open to me converting and are willing to come over to Shabbat dinners on Friday nights. Our next planned one is the Friday during Hanukkah.

I have a lot of work to finish – student papers and homework to grade, so that next week all I have to deal with is their finals. So today, I’m going to be working on that while I bake challah and clean up in between stints of paper grading. But I’m also thankful that I have this work. It’s meaningful to me.

What are you thankful for this week?

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New Music: Eric Komar, “Justice, Justice”

It’s no secret that justice is a big deal for me. I have the quote from Micah right there on the front of this blog:

He has told you, O man, what is good, and what the Lord demands of you; to do justice, to show mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. – Micah 6:8

That’s sort of in-your-face, wouldn’t you say? If you needed a commandment that sort of encompasses the idea of tikkun olam, I can’t find a better place to start.

Well, in the last few weeks, I’ve been expanding my Jewish-and-Hebrew music collection. In a search for recordings of the Shehecheyanu, I discovered Eric Komar. Unfortunately, his music isn’t available on YouTube, but you should definitely look him up on his own page at http://www.komarmusic.com/merch.html, or at iTunes or Spotify. And the first song of his you should look for and listen to is “Justice, Justice,” from his album Two Life.

I’ll just put the lyrics here.

Justice, Justice
Eric Komar

Too many hungry families sleeping on the street
Tirdof tzedek, tzedek
Too many addicts trying to get back on their feet
Tirdof tzedek, tzedek
Too many tyrants wreaking havoc on their lands
Tirdof tzedek, tzedek
Too many helpless victims of destructive plans
Tirdof tzedek, tzedek

(Chorus)
Do justly, love mercy
Walk humbly with your God
Justice, justice shall you follow
Tzedek, tzedek tirdof

Too many jobs denied because of greed or race
Tirdof tzedek, tzedek
Too many laws defied; the wrong side wins the case
Tirdof tzedek, tzedek

Do justly, love mercy
Walk humbly with your God
Justice, justice shall you follow
Tzedek, tzedek tirdof

Too many young and feeble heartlessly snuffed out
Tirdof tzedek, tzedek
Too many old and sick nobody cares about
Tirdof tzedek, tzedek
Too many selfish interests trump the common good
Tirdof tzedek, tzedek
Too many messages not being understood!
Tirdof tzedek, tzedek

Do justly, love mercy
Walk humbly with your God
Justice, justice shall you follow
Tzedek, tzedek tirdof
Do justly, love mercy
Walk humbly with your God
Justice, justice shall you follow
Tzedek, tzedek tirdof
Tirdof tzedek, tzedek
Tirdof tzedek, tzedek
Oh… justice, justice!

Tirdof tzedek, tzedek.

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Coming Up For Air

So, a few things have happened since my last post.

1. I got legally married. My husband and I planned very carefully to make sure we could get married on a Friday without violating the Sabbath. We got married about ten minutes before sundown on October 31st, surrounded by friends. It was lovely.

2. There’s a very good chance that we will reprise the wedding next year as a religious wedding, with a huppah and everything. The other night my husband told me that there’s a 99% chance he’s going to convert with me. We’ve started attending the Taste of Judaism classes at our temple, and we’re definitely taking the Introduction to Judaism course that starts in January. There’s a very good chance we’ll take our mikveh dip at the same time.

3. I have purchased our own copy of the siddur used at our temple – the Mishkan T’Filah Reform Siddur. Last night we did Havdalah together and included a few readings from the siddur as part of it. (I wish I could find a recording of Elana Jagoda’s Havdalah song that was available as an MP3 instead of only on YouTube, though.)

4. There is no fourth thing.

5. I have been overwhelmed with work and other issues, which is why I haven’t been posting. I’m sure that “getting married” counts as something overwhelming, doesn’t it?

I’m also working on my antipathy towards the fundamentalists in my own faith. I have to get past this; it’s making it hard for me to practice tikkun olam. Reading part of Spiritual Activism by Rabbi Avraham Weiss (an Orthodox rabbi who calls for unity among all Jews and does not judge non-Orthodox Jews – for the most part) helped. I may talk about that in a few days.

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Sim Shalom – Steve McConnell Arrangement

I’ll just share this here. After this past Shabbat morning, where I went to a bat mitzvah and the entire b’nei mitzvah class sang “Sim Shalom” to the tune of the round, “Dona Nobis Pacem,” I have had the song in my head. I have always loved the music (and frankly, the words) of that round; I sang it for years as a child and adolescent, and I know all three lines to the round.

But this arrangement of Sim Shalom… well, it blew me away. I found myself singing along before the first play-through was half done, and harmonizing on my second time around, without thought. It’s simply one of the most simple and beautiful arrangements of a song I’ve ever heard.

I hope that it will hit you as hard as it hit me.

Sim Shalom (Steve McConnell Arrangement)

Sim shalom, sim shalom
Tovah uv’rachah chaim
Sim shalom, sim shalom
Chen vachesed verachamim

Vetov yihyeh be’eineicha levar’cheinu ulevarech
Et kol amcha Yisrael
Bechol et uvechol sha’ah bish’lomecha
Uvechol sha’ah bish’lomecha

Sim shalom, sim shalom
Tovah uv’rachah chaim
Sim shalom, sim shalom
Chen vachesed verachamim

Father, may you find it to be pleasing in Your eyes
To bless all of your people Israel
Bless us with peace each moment and in every hour
May Your peace be with us in every hour

Sim shalom, sim shalom
Tovah uv’rachah chaim
Sim shalom, sim shalom
Chen vachesed verachamim
Chen vachesed verachamim
Chen vachesed verachamim

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Friday Feature: And Now For Something A Little Different

16 Tishrei 5775

I want to talk a little bit about responsibility. Specifically, personal responsibility.

During Yom Kippur, I had some guilt and shame about what I had done to my fellows, but by and large not much. To myself, on the other hand…

In the Maccabeats’ “Book of Good Life,” which I’ve linked to many times in the last few weeks, one character’s mitzvah seemed, to me, to be something I would never be able to do. This character in the video wakes up, rolls out of bed, throws on his kippah, grabs a slice of cold pizza from the fridge, and goes out to do whatever he does. But taking care of his body is not one of those things. Later, after he’s had a chance to consider his actions, he ends up at the gym pumping iron – caring for his body, in other words.

Jewish teaching is that caring for the body is a mitzvah. That’s really hard for me to believe or accept because I have always lived in my head. My body is just what I ride around in. But if it is a mitzvah to care for the body, then I must accept that.

I’m a diet-controlled diabetic. I am overweight. Severely so. I low-carbed for a long time, but this summer, with the heat and the heat and, well, the heat, I succumbed to the siren songs of ice cream and frozen yogurt and fried rice and many other things I’m ashamed of now. I gained 20 pounds between my doctor’s appointment in June and the one I just had today.

Obviously, this can’t go on. So I am making my New Year’s resolution: I am going to treat my body better than I have been. It’s back on the low-carb diet, hopefully for good this time. This means that I will get one small piece of my gluten-free challah and one SMALL cup of grape juice on Shabbat, and that’s it in terms of carb intake. Everything else is going to be the ketogenic diet that brought my diabetes under control for the first time in my life. I have too much to lose now. I’m aiming to keep myself below 100 g of carbs per day, and eventually below 50 g of carbs per day.

My partner supports what I need to do. He needs to do it, too. We’re getting married on the last day of the (non-Jewish) month, and we both want to be around for each other for a long, long time. So we are changing our ways. Low-carb, and going to the gym to lift weights regularly. More activity, and less sitting. More paying attention to our bodies, and less denying that they matter.

So today, I am thankful for something. I’m thankful for a change in my attitude, as well as my partner’s support in that change.

Shabbat shalom, all. I’ll see you again after Saturday night is here.

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Community and Hallelujah

27 Elul 5774

It’s almost Tishri, and I find myself thanking God for that.

It has been… a rough couple of weeks. Although last Friday I managed not to set the oven on fire while baking, I still managed to forget to bring the loaf of grain-free challah I’d specifically made for kiddush after services to services on Saturday morning. I’ve been facing a lot of whelm (as in, overwhelmed) at work and outside of it, even though positive things are happening. Depression – the clinical kind – has been an inconsistent, but constant, visitor. It’s been hard sometimes to keep my mind on what I’m heading for. 2014-09-19 at 18.38.53

See? And I felt so bad, and so idiotic, for not remembering to grab it on my way out the door.

But… I also got to talk about what this last Shabbat’s Torah parshah (Nitzavim – Deuteronomy 29:9 – 28) meant to me in Shul that morning. I’ll just quote the part that the rabbi had us read, and then talk about the Torah study that our rabbi makes a regular part of our Shabbat morning services, in lieu of a sermon.

 “You stand this day, all of you, before the Eternal your God – you tribal heads, you elders, and you officials, all the men of Israel, 10 you children, you women, even the stranger within your camp, from woodchopper to water-drawer — 11 to enter into the covenant of the Eternal your God, which the Eternal your God is concluding with you this day, with its sanctions; 12  in order to establish you this day as God’s people and in order to be your God, as promised you and as sworn to your fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 13 I make this covenant, with its sanctions, not with you alone, 14  but both with those who are standing here with us this day before the Eternal our God and with those who are not with us here this day.

I had tears in my eyes, reading that, for two reasons. I started out with a copy from a website, and then I went and got my copy of the Torah and copied it out here, because the wording matters.

“even the stranger within your camp” and “with those who are not with us here this day” was what brought me to tears that morning. All people who want to be part of it can be. Anyone who wants in, can be in.

I want in. I said that back at Pesach, didn’t I?

Everyone in the shul that morning who heard me say that for me, this was God saying to the stranger and the not-yet-Jew, “You are also part of this covenant,” told me that they were happy I was there and part of their community.

I’ve been going for two weeks. Then I missed a week due to the oven fire. And still, they already see me as their community member. As part of what they are doing and who they are.

I can’t express what that means to me. To already be accepted. To already belong. To be, in some small sense, already a Jew in their eyes.

This part of this parshah also speaks to me as a ger, because those who are not there in body may still be there in soul – as at Sinai, nu? And my soul is being braided into this community, into this place, into these people, with every time I go to shul.

God is in this place, and how could I not know?

Afterwards, I got to talk to J, the man who usually leads song, and asked if he could teach me some of the songs so I could maybe lead sometime when the rabbi asked. He was more than happy to have another singer in the group.

Again, belonging. Perhaps someday, mispachah.

2014-09-19 at 11.43.37

Front of Havdalah candle holder.

I also had my first-ever Havdalah this past Saturday night, and it was more special than I thought it was going to be. I made my own havdalah candle holder and my own bisamim box from crafting materials and acrylic paint over the past couple of weeks, and on Saturday night, they were ready to use for Havdalah. I’m trying to create these items just like my father created so many of my family’s holiday decorations that were so important to us every year.

Back of havdalah candle holder.

Back of havdalah candle holder.

I can’t honor my father in most ways that are religious (although I bought a yarzheit candle for him so I have one when January rolls around), but I’m going to make as many of my own ritual items as I can, and what I can’t make, I’ll purchase carefully.

2014-09-19 at 11.44.07

Bisamim box.

I plan to at least make a hanukkiah and a kiddush cup (I just have to find an appropriate cup). I may draw the line at a Seder plate, though.

I stumbled sometimes, and stammered, and I admit that I didn’t have all the prayers down, but this production from Moishe House Rocks helped me a lot (the song is also really catchy):

I’ve been thinking about Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur coming up much faster than I thought they would. For Rosh Hashanah, I can only point to this rendition of Psalm 150 (Hallelujah) by Hillel Tigay and the community of IKAR, in Los Angeles, for the joy that the thought of Rosh Hashanah fills me with.

And finally, although I know I’ve shared it before, sometimes music just speaks for me more than words can. So once again, I give you the Maccabeats and their amazing Yom Kippur song, Book of Good Life.

I am thankful for all these things. I am thankful for you who read my posts. I am thankful for my life and for the people who sustain me.

On Rosh Hashanah, that’s part of what I’ll be singing Hallelujah for.

And as Yom Kippur is coming up very soon, I ask forgiveness. If I have wronged you in the past year, please let me know. I will do whatever is necessary to make amends.

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Filed under Conversion Process, Day-to-Day, Jewish Practices