"We are your people;and you are our G-d.
We are your children;and you are our father,our mother.
We are the people who serve you;and you call us to serve you.
We are your community;and you are your portion.
We are your legacy;and you are our purpose.
We are your flock;and You are our shepherd.
We are your vineyard;and You watch over us.
We are your work;and You are our maker.
We are your beloved;and You are our lover.
We are your treasure;and You are the one we cherish.
We are your people;and You reign over us.
We offer you our words;and You offer us your,"-The Ki anu High Holiday Liturgy
On September seventh I joined the Jewish people after six years among Jews and a year of study with two mentoring rabbis I joined myself in covenant with the Jewish people for all eternity. Mazel tov to me. This Yom Kippur I find myself reflecting back on this event .It was pretty recent which could be why it was so fresh upon my mind.The time before I met with my Beit Din who had already made the decision that I was a Jew I felt so unworthy. Not exactly the best feeling before you convert still it was my feeling. It wasn't that I didn't feel Jewish enough it was more that the Jews in my life were each treasures as people .They all made some radical profound difference in the world and I myself thought I made little.Yet I was worthy my Beit Din did accept me I was told to get ready for the mikveh before they arrived.What a perplexing joy as I went through the water I did feel a difference.I felt a weight of responsibility as long with an exuberance as when I came out as gay I was meeting me and in meeting myself I also in some ways were meeting the future to come as well as the present call.
That future to come being not to look back if only to learn from the narrative of the past to see it as a foundation for the future. I was a total flake before but in my own flakiness despite whatever faith was in I still had some form of Jewish observance that stayed where everything else was gone Shabbat,Torah Study,prayer in some way was always present.Now that I am a Jew even beforehand these observances were increased and still stay as such. I find much meaning in them even now. I've spoken many times on here on how I find much hope as well as inner strength through davening. More and more do I find refuge in the Torah that narrative both past and present of Jewish life not as an answer to life's issues but a question posed to me on life's issues.Giving me a challenge to answer with the help of community the societal ills of our times. Then there is Shabbat the sweet solace of the week that allows me to stop.To just be.I'm grateful the Rabbi of my congregation always leads us in a meditation on Friday night to quiet the rush the week brings which at times this the first relief of Shabbat to my hardest of weeks.Some have said they think I will be a Rabbi because of my love for all these things but in my own life I think that is far from possible yet I cannot deny that I love these things they continue to empower me when I act upon them. I find much encouragement to the witnesses of my own Judaism that they are. I also fear the stigma of the exiles I have faced in my own life as keeping me from ever becoming some leader in Israel yet in the paradoxes of Judaism who better then my own people to understand how my experiences might bring strength to those experiencing such exiles in their own life.
Despite this very perplexing vision of the future there is the present call of Judaism.The Jewish world is in a very momentous period as I'm learning every period of Jewish history is momentous,In this our time of hearing those words from mount Sinai Progressive Judaism is experiencing the onset of Emergent Judaism which is engaging many Young Adults but is speaking to a New Judaism not confined to a building but through the minyan wherever it may be.More Rabbinical students that happen to be women are within progressive seminaries meaning an a great for women's rights in the movement.As far as the State of Israel the Likkud-United Torah Judaism-Shas-Kulas-Jewish Home Coalition Government better know as the thirty-fourth government of Israel is going against the State's Ideal of fostering the development of the country of the benefit of all its's inhabitants instead choosing to build walls,calling children terrorists,arresting women for just chanting Torah at the kotel and limiting Jews of color to jobs nobody else would want to do. I have to wonder if this part of the part of the Israeli Constitution has been legislated out of meaning to be only taken in metaphor as our US Supreme Court ruled "Life,liberty and the pursuit of happiness" as the rights of every inhabitant of our country.Still despite the actions I find myself as one who has never stepped forth in the country called to that land. I find myself empowered by the Utopian ideals that went behind the founding of the state and I feel they are still possible in my own unbridled. There is also the identity politics that go on that I was even experiencing before where even after some will not claim I'm as a Jew and rather dictate their Judaism upon me as a standard for all. I am at the point where I think identity politics should become at the forefront of conversations within Judaism nobody should think they have the right to dictate or bash another's experience of Judaism.We are all Jewish enough.These are interesting times for the Jewish community with these times though come with the call of the times that being that not only am I a part of these times but every member of the tribe with me.How will we respond to these times together?With compassion or walls?
Alongside the present call and that future that could come I find myself experiencing what most converts I hear experience that being what I call the post-conversion funk. In having the freedom to do so many Jewish things that I could not do before I find myself wanting the freedom from. Such as Torah study after my conversion I have found it very hard to get back into studying Chasidisus and Talmud which were very prominent parts of my life pre-conversion now becoming less wanting seeing them as a lot of work yet I still feel my own being witnessing to me that I am obligated to them within my own Judaism.I find myself missing Sacharit much more often now(Not Minchah or Maariv though) when I did not do such before and in some way as my Rosh Yeshiva says creating a new option three out of the option three I though I already have by reading these texts somewhat devotionally now not translating them deeply on my own(still very much wanting to in some way). My life is also becoming much more demanding I am in the process of getting back into school to finish my bachelor's degree and starting an internship. All which are good things but call me away from these things from which I used to treasure a lot. I feel this is natural and my Judaism will evolve I'm pretty sure over time and this is just a metamorphosis of the moment.Sometimes though I find myself wishing I had a Chaver a study partner to enjoy these texts with alongside as a communal journey.Might be a lot to ask but maybe I should find myself a chaver.
In typing this out I feel so much more empowered seeing the beauty that Judaism is for me witnessing to my own struggles within yet finding meaning within my own questions in this daf of my life that is my own page in Torah. When I presented my essay to my congregation which was by far the hardest part of my conversion I found myself ending in these words "What else can I say,You are my people ! ,You are my people !! and I am now yours" with those words out of my own mouth I witness the joy and responsibility that is with me every day now.
May all be written in that book of life,may the gates of heaven that are the houses of hope that every synagogue aspires stay wide open and may this year empower us all to find the strength within each other. Amein.
Some questions to ponder:
In the Ki Anu prayer above what do you think it means to be G-d's treasure?What also do you think it means that G-d is our portion?
How are you responding to what others may expect out of you and what you see might be only in your capacity to do right now within your life?
How are you writing the daf within the Torah of your own life?
Something I learned in my conversion is that there is no monopoly on Judaism and there are many types of Jew that there is no one way to be Jew. My Judaism will grow in time have it's oen diversity. I celebrate that Judaism with this video.