a gay black woman's discovery of her jewish self

What’s in a Hebrew Name Change? Let’s hope I Picked a Good One!

Posted on: July 30, 2011

It’s really happening.  In 19 18days I will join the covenant of the Jewish people.  Let me just say it-it’s a bit scary but, at least I’m not a man 😉  All joking aside, it’s becoming so real and I’m having all sorts of panic and anxiety.  Not about my fate of Becoming Jewish, but of what happens next.  This chapter of becoming Jewish is drawing to a close with each day and the next chapter of being Jewish is on the horizon.  What kind of Jew will I be?  Hopefully a good one. 

Anyone who knows me well knows that I am obsessed with Sex and the City.  It’s a little obscene.  I know nearly every line of every episode.  I own the Deluxe Edition box set.  I own the first movie and have enough sense not to have watched the second.  I’m an SATC girl.  Because of this addiction lines from SATC often come into my head.  For instance, the scene when Charlotte goes to help Miranda prep her house for the baby.  She’s talking about covering outlets, pointing out pointy ends of tables and starts grilling Miranda on what kind of mother she will be.  Miranda, ever sarcastic is actually shaken by Charlotte’s line of questioning and replies, “I’m going to be a good mother.” She says it but Charlotte knows and we know that she’ll need a little work.  That’s sort of where I am.

There is still so much to do and it’s starting to make my head spin.  I have yet to start my personal statement, I’ve not yet found a shul, I’m having a Shabbat dinner with 14 guests (so far) of varying observance and am starting to wonder how the traditional Jews will get home on Shabbat.  I still don’t have an answer to my mezuzah question, which means I’ll either need 1 or 4 more mezuzah.  I’ll probably need to buy at least 10 more benchers for Shabbat-not to mention seeing about renting an AC for the night.  And these are just the logistical questions of a party not actually being Jewish.

Last night after shul I came home to light candles and eat some dinner.  I turned on the stove (bad Jew) to cook and turned on and off lights (bad, bad Jew!) and went online to check my e-mail and Facebook, etc., etc.  As I finished my hummus I wondered what a Shomer Shabbat Jew would do.  Just for the record, this blog is not Shomer Shabbat, as evident by this post on Shabbat, although, it hopes it will be…

The issue of finding the perfect shul is still some what lost on me.  I’ve been to wonderful shuls, but none of them are close to my home which means I’ll either have to join an ultra Orthodox shul in Crown Heights (nope) or I’ll always have to take a bus or subway to shul.  I could always just move so that I’m closer to a shul that I like, but let’s be real.  Moving in NYC is a pain in the ass.  I live in an amazing apartment with an actual office.  I refuse to leave.  Ever.

Luckily, the fretting over choosing the “right” name is over.  I’ve chosen my Hebrew name and I’m elated. I will not reveal my new name until after the 17th. You know, just in case I change my mind again.  In terms of finding the right shul, again SATC comes to mind, but my conversion rabbi did the referencing this time.  Sort of like Stanford Blatch and his shrinks.  If you recall, he had 3; one for when he wants to look at really beautiful man, one for when he needs coddling, and the other when he needs tough love.  I want to find a shul that suits my basic needs; close to home, inclusive and diverse, active and engaged community-my home base.  The other shuls I like, but are across Brooklyn and at the top of Manhattan will be my visiting shuls I go to when I’m in need of other things.  It’s just silly for me to schlep all the way uptown every Friday night for shul.  The last few weeks I’ve been attending Saturday service as well and the idea of making a two hour round trip for shul just sounds crazy.

So I’ll ride the subway to go to service and try my hardest to observe Shabbat laws in other ways was the conclusion I came to with last night over dirty dishes.  Then I wondered, could I wash dishes on Shabbat?  While I fretted about how a Shomer Shabbat Jew handles dirty dishes on Shabbat, how they handle walking home from shul in the rain/snow/blazing sun I wondered how I’d make myself a “good” Jew.   613 mitzvot is a bit daunting and if I’m being brutally honest with myself I don’t really think there is such a thing as a “good” Jew and a “bad” Jew.  I think it’s about intention as well as working with what I have.  Do I have all of the ritual garb “needed” for Jewish prayer, no but I will in time.  Do I have the proper number of mezuzahs on my doors in my apartment, no but I will in time.  Do I know every blessing for every occasion, do I remember to say Sh’ma at night and Modeh Ani each morning, is my kitchen kosher, do I think and act Jewishly on the street or just in shul or my home, the list goes on and on, but I don’t need to answer in the affirmative today, tomorrow, or even next year.  The point that I want to focus on in this next chapter of Being Jewish is being the best Jewish person that I can be.

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