MBA Mommy

Part MBA, Part MRS, Part MOM…..All ME

Return Again

Posted by mbamommy on October 10, 2011

As I believe I’ve mentioned, I’m Jewish.  J, Z and S are all Catholic.  This was a decision J and I made before we were married.  I’m not exactly sure when we made the decision, it was a 6 month process…..somewhere between dating/living together and being engaged.  It was the most difficult, soul-searching decision I had ever made in my life.  And one that I think about almost every day, even now, almost 10 years later.  J and I believed it would be the most difficult challenge we ever faced in our lives….the most difficult thing we’d have to confront together.  Z’s Asperger diagnosis certainly blew that one out of the water, but it’s still a big one.

Maybe someday I’ll write a full post about that time.  Maybe.  But not now.  I don’t think I’m quite ready to share all of that just yet.

What I will say is that it was the right decision for J and I.  And, it was the harder decision for me.

My relationship with Judaism…and organized religions in general….has always been somewhat spotty.  Nothing fit quite right.  I remember going to High Holy Day services as a kid and I not enjoying it.  The first thing I would do was check to see how many pages the service was so that I knew how much longer I had to sit there.  I never felt comfortable speaking all the “Thank you Yahweh” stuff.  I just didn’t feel it.  I did love the songs though.  I’ve always loved singing the Hebrew songs I grew up with.  And the one highlight from services as a kid was the moment that I’d catch my Rabbi’s eye.  And, he’d wink and smile at me and I’d smile back.  That always made me feel special.

Through college and beyond I rarely went to services.  Some of the time, I’d completely forget that the High Holy Days were upon us and be surprised when my Jewish co-workers were out of the office.  Whoops.  Bad Jew.

Even in recent years, when it’s become so much more important to me to go to services, I still dislike going. But I am the one who will introduce Judaism to my Catholic children.  I’m the one responsible for what type of relationship they’ll have with their mother’s religion. I’d guilt trip myself into going to either the evening or morning services….drag J along and then feel uncomfortable with all the “Yahweh” stuff again.  I’d rarely stay for the whole service and I’d rarely fast on Yom Kippur.  Bad Jew.

And, the negativity I’ve felt.  The disappointment I’ve felt from other Jews because of my decision to raise my children Catholic hasn’t made it any easier not to be a Bad Jew.

At least until this year.  This year, I found an organization here in Denver called Judaism Your Way.  It’s not a temple, but they hold services throughout the year and do life cycle events.  The Rabbi was trained in the Reconstructionist movement, which is new to me (I grew up Reformed).  It’s extremely open to anyone and everyone: jewish, non-jewish, interfaith, straight, gay, old, young, super religious, super atheist and anyone in between.  Their motto is “Wherever you are on your Jewish journey, we’ll meet you there.”  And, they truly do.  The services are free and open to anyone.  The Rabbi was more than happy to sit down with me, discuss my situation and offer advice and resources that he thought would help me.  He accepted me, my decision and my family for what we are.  And welcomed me to join.

So, I went to services this year.  My plan was to go to the evening service and then the kid’s service the following morning.  I figured that’d be enough religion for me for the year.  And, I’d be including my kids into an easy to digest, fun way of participating in the High Holy Days.

What happened was just short of amazing.  I enjoyed going to services.  Let me repeat that.  I enjoyed going to services.  I didn’t feel uncomfortable speaking the words along with the rest of the congregation because they weren’t all “Yahweh this and Yahweh that.”  There was some of that, of course, but it was much more focused on the spirituality of the religion.  Of using religion to understand yourself.  The songs we sang felt like a comfortable, soft,  well-loved blanket.  They brought me to tears.  They fit my mood.  They lifted me up.  I loved the rabbi’s sermons.  They actually put on a performance the morning of Yom Kippur instead of strictly reading from the torah.  They brought it to life and made it relevant.  Yom Kippur services were 2.5 hours.  And it went by in a flash.

That has NEVER happened before.

I had planned on only going to the evening services and kid services.  I wound up going to the evening, kid and morning services.  Both S and Z loved the kids services….we sang “L’shana Tova” for the rest of the day after Rosh Hashanah services…all while picking berries at a local farm (we couldn’t find apples….but, it was the same general idea).

It was a wonderful High Holy Days experience for me.  The first I’ve thoroughly enjoyed in a very long time.

There was one song that they opened each service with that resonates enormously with me.  It has a haunting melody and I can’t seem to get it out of my head.  Because, again, instead of focusing on God, it focuses on the individual, on knowing who you are and where you are in your life.  I’m pretty sure there’s a Hebrew version of it out there somewhere, but, true to their goal of being as inclusive as possible, they sang this in English. As was a vast majority of the service.

Return again.  Return again.  Return to the home of your soul.

Return to who you are.

Return to what you are.

Return to where you are.

Return again.  Return again.  Return to the home of your soul.

Now, here’s the thing.  Two weeks ago was Rosh Hashanah.  This past weekend was Yom Kippur.  Next weekend I’m going to a weekend yoga and meditation retreat in the mountains.  And I feel like all three events will speak to me in similar ways.  And I feel like I will gain something out of each and every one of them.

At the end of the day, I am Jewish.  It’s as much a part of me as my hair and eye color, the shape of my body, and how my mind works. It’s a piece of me, although not all of me.  And, I feel like I’ve finally found a place where it fits quite nicely.

And this, my friends, is what I want to pass along and how I want it passed to my children.

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