Religion & Beliefs

Becoming Jewish: Conversion Conflicts

When you’re converting, the first thing that happens is (hopefully) the warm welcoming from the Jewish community. I think I’ve focused mainly on the community aspects of it because, quite frankly, how I feel about G-D is complicated, as it should be. Read More

By / August 9, 2011
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Thanks to a comment on my previous column, I’ve come to realize that I haven’t delved into spiritual aspects or G-d in my writings as much as I should. There are a few reasons for this. When you’re converting, the first thing that happens is (hopefully) the warm welcoming from the Jewish community. I think I’ve focused mainly on the community aspects of it because, quite frankly, how I feel about G-D is complicated, as it should be.

One of the reasons I love Judaism is that you can ask millions of questions and learn about different interpretations and still have more to talk about. I grew up under the impression that G-D existed, and that was that. There was no questioning. I prayed to do well in school and to get what I wanted for Christmas and for G-D to make me into the next Britney Spears (Still working on that I see, G-D). It wasn’t until I was 13 that an acquaintance told me she didn’t believe in G-D to make me realize that I didn’t either. The idea of one thing up there in the sky controlling everything was like a fairy tail. Not to sound cliché, but I compared G-D to Santa Claus. Still, all those years, I believed things were meant to happen and that there was a rhythm and a circle of life that I couldn’t explain. I wasn’t satisfied with being an atheist, I realized, after I began studying Judaism. Atheism didn’t provide me with the kind of happiness and understanding I receive when I learn about Judaism.

I have a lot of problems with the Torah, too, which is why I am reluctant to always share my feelings. I am a bit on the edge about divine retribution. Sure, it’s nice to think that there is justice in the world and G-D is taking care of it all. But it’s hard to think that when bad things are happening to me, and I think I’ve been righteous and trying my best. And of course, there’s always the classic, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” question. Why did my aunt, who never smoked, drank, and led a healthy lifestyle get cancer and die at a young age? Why does any young, innocent person get cancer? How come we thank G-D after Kiddush for our meal and it talks about G-D not letting anyone in the world starve? Hello! Kids are starving every day!

One explanation that I can live with is that cancer and starvation were caused by man, and man will eventually find ways to fix these problems because G-D gives us the power to do so. Like all the other illnesses that have plagued our society, we’ll find solutions. It’s hard when I haven’t been in such a dire situation to say whether or not I’d still be this faithful. It’s a hard thing to think about. I’ve had a pretty good life so far, so I think it’s easier for me to be faithful than others who have had hardships. But, maybe, someone with a better life than me is thinking that about me.

Another reason I am not so open about my religious opinions is because, honestly, I don’t want to come off as a zealot. In our society, deeply religious/spiritual people are not always looked upon favorably. I always wonder if people are thinking if I sound like a crazy person when I talk about the warm feeling that hearing the Torah read in Hebrew gives me internally. I can’t even understand what is being said.

For example, people who are devout Muslims or Catholics are very harshly looked upon in our culture. I just think how different people might view my boyfriend’s family if they had crucifixes with Jesus all over their house as opposed to mezuzahs. I know that I might think that’s a little creepy, but that’s just the way I’ve learned to think over the years.

I love the Torah stories, and I believe that the Commandments came from a divine being, but I have problems with a lot of what I’m taught. It’s hard for me to fully express my frustrations since at this point I still consider myself pretty ignorant as to what Jews fully believe. I just know that the more I learn, the more I feel like I’m coming into myself and discovering the person I’ve always been. There is no way that man is alone in this world. I believe there is a force behind it all, but I’m human so I can’t comprehend it or understand it. I call that force G-D. I don’t want to call it Father or ascribe any human characteristics to it. I simply believe that everything has a reason behind it, even if that reason is mysterious to us. But through reading the Torah, I know I’ll find more answers and hopefully, by the end of my conversion process, be able to give my thoughtful readers a little more clarification about my spiritual feelings.