Posted on: October 24, 2011
For over a month the Jewish Holidays come one after another. Rosh Hashanah followed by Yom Kippur followed by Sukkot followed by Simchat Torah. The weeks are filled with half work-weeks, food and fasts, joyous dancing and chest thumping. It’s a sort of emotional roller coaster that when you get off you have to stand still for a moment to regain your footing. This is the time of year when we start the cycle of Torah reading again. It is a time of renewal, of new beginnings. It’s a bit bizarre, but then I remember that Jews don’t have just one “new year” we have several. When I think New Beginnings, I think spring-those first buds on the bare trees. But as we begin reading Torah from the beginning we are, in fact, getting ready for the darkest and coldest time of the year.
I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting. Rosh Hashanah marks my official full year of Jewish holiday observance. I’m not really supposed to be here. I’m supposed to be researching and living the next religion on my list-Islam.
I don’t think I’ve mentioned that here before. When I decided to stop fighting the fact that I wasn’t an atheist and that I not only believed in, but needed God I thought long and hard about how I’d find my way to a concept of God that was more comfortable than what I grew up with.. I looked at monotheistic religions; Judaism, Islam, and Christianity and thought that I’d try them all out for a year. I determined that the Baptist faith and church I grew up in on Sundays with my mother was not the answer. Nor was the Catholicism that I lived with each day in school. I didn’t research many other Protestant paths and settled on the Episcopal church-Catholic light-for the structure and liturgy that I was used to, minus that whole ritual cannibalism, homophobia, and sanction to never ordain women.
I attended The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine when I lived on the Upper West Side, and settled into St. Bart’s church on Manhattan’s East Side. When I found that I was eyeing the cute pastor-lady at St. Bart’s when I took communion on Sunday morning and was not really moved by Christianity in any other way I decided that Christianity wasn’t the right fit and I moved on to Judaism. The plan was to try it out for a year, but when I researched the Jewish relationship with God, Jews quest for questions that may not have answers, Judaism’s love of justice I felt like I’d found home. I didn’t look back and instead jumped in feet first. I’m only a two-month old Jew, but I have a year of holidays under my belt. It seems like a huge accomplishment, and it is. At the same time, it serves as a reminder that my Jewish journey is also at the beginning.
In 15 days I will be in Israel. I haven’t really processed it at all. I haven’t started packing, I haven’t secured a cat-sitter, I don’t know if my cell phone will work or if I’ll have tons of fees for removing money from an ATM across the ocean. I don’t know if the dollar is strong or weak, I don’t know what to expect and I’m not even sure where I’ll be staying the day I get there-a day earlier than the trip begins.
There are many unknowns-the start of the year, how we will interpret Genesis this time around, what being Jewish truly means, how I can make an impact on the Jewish community, how I can work towards creating Jewish diversity and inclusion in communities here in NYC and around the country, what I will feel when my feet touch down on the Holy Land. I have a feeling it’ll be like getting of off that roller coaster.