Tuesday, October 19, 2010

First Meeting with the Rabbi

Wow, a month. That’s bad- even for me.
      I met with the Rabbi almost 2 weeks ago and we had an official conversation about starting the conversion process. On the whole, I think the talk went well. The only touchy part was when I showed him my tattoo. I didn’t want to start this process on the wrong foot; I wanted to be completely upfront and honest from the get-go. This was probably due to previous experiences, but I just wanted to make sure that everyone knew everything.
     So, my tattoo. Shortly before I graduated last June I got a tattoo on the inside of my left wrist. It’s the Tarot card the 2 of cups. One cup has my Hebrew name (Ahava) and the other cup has Adonai spelled in Hebrew. It’s immensely symbolic to me; I knew that I was about to graduate college! I was going to move to New York and either conquer the world or fall flat on my face. I knew myself well enough to know that I can get caught up in the small things, both good and bad. I live my life with so much passion that it’s easy for me to get off track. I wanted something to help remind me of what is really important, help ground me when my head gets so far in the clouds I can’t see straight. At the end of the day, it’s me and Him, for better or worse. I wanted it on the left arm because I have another tattoo on my right leg, and I like to keep things balanced. I also wanted it on my left arm for the same reason that it’s customary to wear a wedding ring on the left hand; the veins in the left ring finger pump blood straight to the heart, so there’s more symbolism there.
      I understand how this can be offensive to people and trust me; that is definitely not my intention. I want to be perfect (unattainable, I know. It’s my thing). The perfect person would not have body art that offends people in places that offend people. I hadn’t really thought too much about my tattoo offending people. I knew that Tattoos weren’t exactly… okay in the Torah and the Jewish community, especially after the Holocaust. The last thing I wanted was to remind people of that horrific event. But my tattoo meant something to me. It might be childish or na├»ve, but it was meaningful to me.
        After our talk I, of course, freaked out. What if I offend everyone? What if it stops me from being able to convert? Should I get it removed? On and on, it’s very exhausting to be me sometimes. Eventually I calmed down, and talked to my roommate who had a very good point; sometimes I will do things that other people will not approve of. It will happen. This will be one of those things. I just have to get used to it.
        So that’s been a huge struggle of mine lately.
        The rest of the talk with the Rabbi, as I said, went really well. I filled him in on my experience with Judaism thus far (basically, everything in this blog) and he helped prepare me for the next step. Ideally, it would be classes but as they cost money and as I was recently laid off I don’t have any money. That part has to wait. In the mean time, I can do other things to start living a more Jewish life. He noted three key things: keeping Kosher, observing Shabbat and performing Tzedakah. I had tried to keep Kosher before, and I had tried to observe Shabbat during college. My problem, as with everything else, is that once I decided to do it I dived in 100%. I tried to follow all the Kosher rules, half of which I didn’t really know. That didn’t last long. I had tried to follow Shabbat when I was a Freshman. I didn’t go on the computer, talk on the phone, anything. By the end of those 25 hours I was focused solely on checking Facebook. Shabbat had lost all meaning.

      This time it’s different. I’m going to slowly incorporate elements of all of these Mitzvot into my life.
      For Shabbat I will not work and I will not clean. Any cleaning project I have I will save for after. Now, in light of recent events, if I find a job that requires me to work on Saturdays, I will take it. I think G-d will understand. If that happens, I will find another way to make Shabbat different from all other days. Maybe I won’t go on the computer for the whole day or make any personal phone calls. I’ll worry about that later.

     For Kosher: I had spent the last year and a half adjusting to my Gluten allergy (I knew that would come up again) which in and of itself is an incredibly restrictive diet. However, I feel that I have a better handle on that. So now I have incorporated the two main Kosher rules I know how to follow: I do not mix meat with milk and I do not eat pork. Those are the rules I am most comfortable with, as they are the most common and, for me, the easiest to follow.

    For Tzedakah; Tzedakah loosely translates to charity. It is in the Torah that the Jewish people give what they can, when they can. Usually, it comes in the form of donating money to charity, usually 10% of your paycheck. A way that the rabbi explained it to me, when discussing giving change to those less fortunate is basically (paraphrasing): I might not agree with the decisions you’ve made in your life, but everybody needs to eat. That, I feel, is essential. Everybody needs to eat.
       Before my current situation, I would give change when I had it. Now however, I am finding other ways to give back. I recently applied to volunteer with the Trevor Project. As some of you probably know, the Trevor Project is an organization that helps LGBTQ teens. They have, among other things, a 24-hour suicide hotline and Dear Trevor letters where people can submit non-time-sensitive questions, sort of like a Dear Abby set up. I still haven’t heard back from them, so I will look into other areas of volunteering. Since I cannot financially give back, I will find other ways to do so.

       That’s the long and short of the last two weeks. Hopefully it will be less than a month before my next update, but I’m not promising anything J