I converted to Judaism about three years ago. I think. It was before my youngest daughter was born, and she’ll be two in April. So about three years ago. My spiritual background is somewhat challenging to explain, because I’ve explored a lot of different spiritual paths. I was born into a nominally Catholic family. We attended CCD, and church, but I never really felt at home there. Catholicism is about faith, and I questioned. A lot. And by the time I was a teenager, I had really lost a lot of my faith. I was exploring New Age religions, and for a while, was very attracted to Wicca. But it had a lot of rules, and I was honestly never exactly sure how to cast a circle or call down the moon. It was at that point that I met my husband.
Marc was the first Jewish person I’d ever met. I knew literally nothing about the faith. Other than it was different from mine, whatever mine was. And Marc and I were one of those couples that from the moment we met, it was just a foregone conclusion that we were going to be together. It wasn’t that coming from a different spiritual path was going to stop us, it was something that we had to work out together. Because there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that I loved this man, and that he loved me and we were going to raise a family together.
So we worked on it. We discussed and debated and agonized over it. We explored the different Jewish denominations, and have, at one time or another over considered joining a reform temple, a chabad synagogue and finally ended up at the conservative one that my husband grew up at. We’ve looked at religion and belief systems over and over again, and what we concluded was that we, as a family, were going to be Jewish. My husband was obviously always Jewish, and at least according to a liberal reform temple, so were my children, because he was. But I wasn’t sure that I would be.
Organized religion was intimidating to me. Still is, in a lot of ways. But the theology behind Judiasm is so beautiful and so true for me, that once I got past my initial resistance to joining any group, I found that it was a perfect fit. It was very easy for me to convert to Jewish beliefs, to worship according to Jewish tradition. In fact, in a lot of ways, it’s almost easier for me than it is for my husband sometimes. I have no history with it, I chose this lifestyle and making it a priority is a no brainer. Converting to Jewish culture is a bit harder. The food is different, the holidays are different, the customs are different. It doesn’t come as naturally. Keeping kosher is something I still struggle with, and I’m not even close to doing it the way I suppose I should.
But Shabbat is my favorite. It just is. It was the first thing that made me want to be Jewish, and still my favorite way to really celebrate my Judaism. No computer, no television. We’ll drive, but only to something that we are all doing together as a family. My husband and older children all attend services (my toddler and I usually stay home) and then the afternoon is filled with some sort of activity that we all share in. Sometimes it’s just hanging out at home, playing board games and building worlds out of barbies and army guys. Sometimes it’s a trip to the beach, or a museam, or over to a friend’s house for the afternoon.
My real favorite though is the night before. Friday night. I’m working at getting everyone to sit down together every night for dinner, but am not always successful. Friday night, though, I can always guarantee it. I make a big dinner, make homemade bread, sometimes it’s challah. Today I’m making just a standard white bread – off of the barefoot kitchen witch website, to show that I haven’t forgotten my roots :-). We light candles, saying the blessings in Hebrew and in English. My husband kisses me and we tell each other how much we love each other. We bless the children, one at a time, and pray for their peace and happiness. We thank God for the food in front of us, for bringing us to this day. And then we eat.
It’s a lovely little island in time, a whole night and day devoted to being grateful for all that we have. It’s the cornerstone of my family, it’s the highlight of our week.
Shabbat Shalom, everyone. Hope your Friday/Saturday is as lovely as mine is.