Religion & Beliefs

Survey #3: “because I’m intermarried…I always think that… I’m some sort of fraud.”

Our third Faithhacker Survey comes to us from Jewcy reader "Sara", who describes herself like this… I was raised in an ultra-reform (my Dad let me stop going to hebrew school when I was ten so I could do community … Read More

By / November 29, 2006

Our third Faithhacker Survey comes to us from Jewcy reader "Sara", who describes herself like this… I was raised in an ultra-reform (my Dad let me stop going to hebrew school when I was ten so I could do community theatre). I considered myself a conservative Jew in college, and now I'm married to a man who was raised Baptist and live in a far-flung suburb of Atlanta. Do you believe in "G-d?" If so, what does that word mean?

Yes. I find myself frequently referring to G-d as a male, but I like the idea of the Shekinah. While I'm not sure what the face of G-d is, I do believe that Christians and Jews look to the same G-d… even if we don't agree on the Messiah. I'm not sure if G-d has a hand in our every day lives, but there is no doubt in my mind that there is a Book of Life and that the length of our days is in His/Her hands.

Does this question make you feel uncomfortable at all, and if so, can you explain those feelings a bit? No. I wish that I could explain my feelings better, though. I do get defensive when people question my faith because they know that I'm not "affiliated" and because I'm intermarried. I always think that my answers aren't good enough, that I'm some sort of fraud. Do you believe in an afterlife of any kind? If so, can you tell us something about it?

Hmm. Yes, I believe in Heaven, and there are people who I truly believe are going to be spending time in some sort of Hell (or, at least I hope so.) I don't think of Heaven as a place, per se, but rather the way our souls live on. My Grandma is deceased, but I know that I hear her sometimes (like when I was in Santa Fe last year for the first time.. but it had been one of her favorite places to visit and I was sure that she was with me) and, like the scene in "Fiddler On The Roof", she appears in my dreams along with other relatives. I also think that I believe in "previous lives". I'm honestly not sure what the Judaism has to say about that.

Do you pray? If so… How? When? Why? Try to be as specific as you can… bearing in mind that prayer means many things to many people. I pray all the time. Usually it is a very informal, "G-d, please…." I do always pray in the morning in the shower… but it isn't the formal Morning Blessing. I try to remember to give thanks before I go to bed, but I admit that I don't always remember. It is important to me to have a relationship with G-d. I don't believe that you have to be in a synogogue to pray. G-d knows my intentions and that is all that is important.I do go to synogogue for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. It is one of the few times that I believe in the power of communal prayer. My faith in the Jewish people as a community is always renewed when I go to temple. I should probably go more often. I pray for a multitude of reasons: for peace, for the well-being of my loved ones and for complete strangers, for my students, for strength in the face of adversity, for forgiveness. Even when I feel most disconnected from the Jewish community, prayer reminds me of who I am and what I believe.

Can you tell us something about how prayer makes you feel? Is there an effect on you? It reminds me that I am part of a bigger story. That I am one woman in a long and proud line of Jewish women who prayed before me. It calms me and (usually) restores my faith in the power of G-d. When I am in temple praying the guilt that I frequently feel for NOT spending more time on my faith is lifted. Especially Yom Kippur right after 9-11 and Katrina. I cried during Kol Nidre because the words lifting up to G-d were the same beautiful prayers said every year, but those moments reminded me why we actually say and believe them.

Have you ever had an experience you'd call "spiritual" or "mystical"? When I moved to Chicago after college, I thought that it would be a good time to join a temple. I was visiting different temples to see which one felt right and one Friday night I walked into temple and the Torah reading was about Sara laughing at G-d. I knew it was a sign. My time in Bandelier National Park was by far the most "mystical". It was my first time there, and I wasn't expecting a religious experience. But when we were looking up at the canyon walls and the ruins a ladybug landed on my shoulder. I promise you that it was my Grandma and I could hear her laughing in the wind. I hadn't been planning on climbing up to the ruins, but I was compelled to. I felt such a connection to the world and to flowing time. I know it sounds corny. The ladybug stayed on my sleeve until I came down from the cliffs. When it flew away the breeze died down and the laughter stopped. I felt such peace. Talking with Mom the following week, before I could say what happened, she reminded me that Bandelier was one of Grandma's favorite places to visit when she and my Grandpa travelled the country on their Harley Davidsons. I thank G-d all the time for allowing me that moment.

Do you think that belief in G-d and prayer are important parts of being Jewish? Yes. I don't think it matters how or where you pray, but I do think that it is essential to connecting with your faith. Are these questions important to you? Do they bug you? They don't bug me at all and I think that they are important. One of the great things, I think, about the Jewish faith is that it allows and encourages us to question our relationship with G-d.

Thanks so much for playing, Sara!