Thursday, December 27, 2007

Bad Jew, Good Jew?

Lately, I have been wrestling with the question of religious identity. I'm sure it's because of the holidays and year end contemplations. I have been officially Jewish for the last 8 months. Have I been going to temple regularly? No. Have I even been observing Shabbat? No. Am I still paying temple dues? Yes. So does being a Jew for me just mean that I celebrate new holidays?

The mental tug of war about whether I attend Shabbat service begins on Monday. Mondays, I'm gung ho. I'm going to do it. Yup, definitely. It will be nice to see everyone. By Thursday, I'm considering skipping with the excuse that I'll defintiely go next Friday if I skip this Friday. The same pattern repeats week after week. It's very odd that service has become such an obligation when just a year ago I happily went to dozens of different temples to test out their services. The more I think about it, I think my disconnection to my temple community is feeding my malaise. As the malaise grows, the less inclined I am to go to temple. Also, I became a Jew just as my grandmother began to slip away. I was a bit shy in my temple and decided not to stand for her when we prayed for healing. The logical part of me says that Grandma was going to die no matter what but on my spiritual side I feel guilty that I didn't ask for a healing prayer for her. Every time I stand for the kadish, it hurts. I haven't even made a dent in my Judaism book collection. "As a Driven Leaf" has been sitting unread on my nightstand for weeks. My big plan for taking a Hebrew class was put on hold due to being laid off.

I do enjoy the feeling of being separate and the Other. Complete strangers are informed that I'm Jewish when they wish me a Merry Christmas. It is kind of fun being Jewish around Christmas. We get the days off and less stress. In fact, it isn't such a big adjustment for me since my family always celebrated Christmas early and Christmas Day was for sleeping in and playing with toys. As I was informed in first grade, "You celebrate Christmas wrong." You see? I was already separate and the Other as I grew up. Weird last name, weird family traditions, and different languages spoken in the home. So, the easy part of being Jewish is all set for me. The tough stuff is still a struggle.

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