A New Year, a New Inspired and Love for Judaism
Just two Saturdays ago, I was lying in bed, so fed up with the fact that I could not drive to the beach because it was Shabbat. I could not go out shopping, I could not eat at a restaurant, I could not watch a movie.
I’ve been an Orthodox Jew for more than two years, but I was observant before I converted to Judaism in 2015. And I still have those temptations from my “past life,” before I discovered Judaism and observed Shabbat and ate kosher and studied Torah and prayed and did everything that comes with this lifestyle.
Even though I am observant, I’ve found that I can’t just “be” this way. I have to actually “do,” meaning I have to learn more, take on more, or else I will stall in my growth, and at some point, go backwards. It’s like I’m driving up a hill, and if I stop the car, it will go in reverse and I will be back to square one. But it’ll be much worse than square one from before I was observant, because I will know what it is like to be near the top of the hill. I will know what it is like to really be into Judaism, to love Shabbat, to feel holy. I can never go back to being an ignorant person who has never experienced this amazing beautiful lifestyle.
For the past few months, I have been going downhill because I stopped learning and felt so disconnected from other observant Jews. It started with the overall Orthodox support of Donald Trump, a man who cheated on his wives, sexually harassed and maybe even assaulted women, speaks before thinking, and chooses money and greed over kindness. I get that he has been, on the outside, good for the Jews because he is conservative and said he is going to move the embassy and freed an observant Jew from prison. But he is not a righteous person. He has bad morals that do not align with Judaism. I cannot get behind the Orthodox community’s support for him.
I’ve also eaten at high-end kosher restaurants, where I spend more than $100 on a meal, and get lousy service and barely any effort put into the food in return. We are treated badly because we chose to keep kosher, to be religious. I feel taken advantage of in these situations. Not only is the food and service terrible, but you get to pay double or triple for it. It’s shameful that restaurant owners feel they can get away with this.
I heard from more than one person in the Orthodox community that the Holocaust happened because of non-religious Jews. I was extremely disappointed one time, because it came from a person I highly respected and thought loved all Jews.
I also felt like I was in a bubble, one that is an echo chamber, and we don’t listen to opinions from people not in our Orthodox world. We are all speaking to each other, affirming one another’s beliefs and opinions, and not bothering to speak to non-religious Jews or liberals. We should love our fellow non-religious Jew, and even non-Jews, and treat everyone kindly, even if they are different from us. One article posed the question: If Sholom Rubashkin was a reform Jew, would Orthodox Jews care so much about him? Would we defend him? Probably not. That saddens me.
I got into Judaism because I saw that it could make me feel better and be a better person. Since I decided to convert, I have become much more at peace and happier. I have learned how to be grateful and part of a community. I have learned to stop worrying and trust in a higher power.
And then, all of those politics and negativity and human errors got in the way.
My wise husband Danny saw that I was getting more and more depressed over all of this, and he suggested that we press the reset button, and get back to those warm feelings. “I just want to feel like I did when I was in seminary in Jerusalem,” I told Danny. “How was that?” he asked. “At peace… holy… calm… like it all made sense.”
After the New Year, we decided to get back “on track” and try to find our place again. So far, it has been incredible.
We spent this past Shabbat with friends who are new to all of this, and they seemed to like it. It reminded me of my introduction to Judaism and how amazing it was.
I started learning with a teenage girl, because children and teens are typically more excited about Judaism and not as jaded as adults.
I went to a kosher restaurant that is also vegan and sustainable. This year, I’m trying to exercise kindness to animals and my body by only eating meat and chicken on Shabbat. I’m glad that I have a vegan place I can go to that is on the same wavelength as me.
Danny and I hung out with dear friends, a man and his wife, whom we aspire to be more like, because they are so friendly and peaceful. We were crying telling them about all our misgivings lately, and he said he also had a tough time a few years back. Then he realized that it’s not about whether or not his family is into Judaism, or his community, or anyone else. His connection to G-d was the one that mattered, the one he should be focused on.
I’ve been trying to think that way, and stop worrying about everyone else. Just focus on myself, my love of God, and get back to that pure place.
Happy 2018. I hope you have a spiritually fulfilling and uplifting year, and only continue to go up that hill.