Category Archives: Teshuva

Posts that deal with either return or repentance.

Commentary and Change

15 Sivan 5774

So, when I comment on some blogs, I use my Gravatar account, which is linked to my WordPress blog. But that’s fairly new. Some of the places I’m commenting these days don’t use Gravatar or WordPress. They allow Disqus, however.

Your internet history follows you around forever. Yes, you can friends-lock your Facebook, or your blog, but when you make a comment on someone else’s? It’s right there out in the open for everyone to see, nine times out of ten. Such is the case with Disqus.

I’ve used Disqus for a long time as a commenting program on many and varied sites. But as I told the rabbi on Tuesday when I met with him, part of my five years of hard atheism between the death of my father and, well, a few months ago, was picking fights with the religious. I did this on many websites and in many places. I lost a lot of friends, and I said a lot of things I am ashamed of and regret now. I have a lot to answer for when Yom Kippur rolls around.

Some who read my comments that I’ve made on these blogs now may follow my Disqus link back and read all my old comments from then. And they will find anti-religious, atheist, and anti-theist comments among them. And some of them may judge me for those comments, which were largely written in anger and in defensiveness. And some of those may think I haven’t really changed.

But change is the only constant in our lives, and I have changed. The last twelve months, and especially the last three months, have been a period of intense change and growth for me. There was a time when I felt anyone who was religious must not be very smart, and anyone who was theist was fooling themselves. But now I see it from another perspective. I no longer think that empirical evidence is the only “real” evidence – I accept experiential evidence, too. There was a time, not so long ago, that I would have agreed with a very religion-negative commenter on Pop Chassid’s blog, rather than with Pop Chassid. So yes, this is a fundamental change in me.

Only time will let me demonstrate that the change is real. I don’t expect anyone to accept that it is right off the bat. But I hope, over time, most will.

And while I’m at it: To those whom I have offended or hurt by my attitude and statements, I apologize. I ask for forgiveness, and the opportunity to make things right. I was in the wrong, and I know it now.

And that said, I’ll wish you all Shabbat Shalom. I’ll be back on Saturday night.

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Filed under Judaism, Teshuva, Wrestling Matches

Wrestling Match #2: Teshuva

I want to comment on what many converts have said on their blogs: many of us feel that we’re not converts. We are already Jews. We have Jewish souls – yiddishe neshamot – how could we be otherwise?

We are returning after having been separated from our community. How that separation occurred is really irrelevant. The point is, we are now returning.

But it’s hard to express that to people who don’t have to go through this process to be recognized and affirmed by the Jewish community.

I’m a musician first, and always have been. Lately, I’ve been looking into Jewish popular music, and discovered the amazing singer Neshama Carlebach. Her song “Return Again” hit me so hard that I almost couldn’t breathe, because that feeling I’ve been describing as the pull, the feeling I couldn’t find words for – this song describes it completely and exactly. 

Return to who you are
Return to what you are
Return to where you are born and reborn again


That’s what the pull is. It’s a call for me to return. 

I feel drawn to Judaism and I can’t stop feeling the draw. I feel like I have to be a Jew. Like it’s an inevitability, an imperative, like day following night. Like my soul was at Sinai and it just took a while for me to find out that I am Jewish at my core.

But – and there’s a big “but” here – I also feel presumptuous. Less so than I did when I first contemplated conversion, because I’ve spoken with many Jewish friends from many movements and none of them find my need to become a Jew in any way presumptuous – but it’s still nervewracking to just say “I feel that I am a Jew.”

And yet I’ve always identified with Judaism. I’ve identified with Jews, with their struggle, with being both chosen and rejected, with being the social scapegoat. I was a “gifted child” and an undiagnosed autistic in the 1970s, which caused merry hell with my peers; I came out as queer when I was in my 20s; I’ve always struggled with weight, which made me a target – just a lot of other issues that put me on the scapegoat hot seat, I suppose. I attended my first seder this past Pesach, and one of the “regulars” at that seder said to me “What, you want to become even more marginalized and ostracized?” with a wink. 

But when I read about the Jewish experience I identify with it, strongly. Every time I read a book where there’s a Jewish character I understand that person’s views as if they’re mine. When I talk with Jewish friends I get where they’re coming from. I don’t have any better words for why. I just feel this pull, and it’s not going away. 

How else to explain that pull, unless I have a Jewish soul?

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Filed under Conversion Process, Judaism, Teshuva, Wrestling Matches