I’m realizing that sometimes it’s hard to negotiate my desire to live fully in the mainstream (Jewish) America while also dedicating my life to the Jewish tradition. Maybe some dear readers have known this for ages, but as a self-described baalat teshuvah, I only became observant and Jewishly learning about six years ago. I have these various visions of myself, and I want to say, “Yeah, totally, let’s go to that punk show on whatever night, Friday is fine, I’m not some looney religious person” which is partly a past voice, and also I want to say, “Hey, I’m going to be hosting a post-havdalah new moon drum circle in my house and chanting some prayers and melodies, let me know if you’re coming early so I can leave the door open so you don’t have to buzz up before Shabbat ends…”
For example, not so sure about finding someone on JDate in Boston. With all appreciation and awe for Ruby-K and General Anna, and with thanks to my mother for recently purchasing a three month subscription to JDate for me and then checking in with me incessantly about it (“So… meet anyone new lately?”), I’m just not sure this is going to be a goldmine for me looking for the specific subset of Jewish man who digs religion, intelligent women, feminism, humor, and fruitiness. (Ugh, this is starting to sound like my profile… Hey, if you fit the above description you can leave me a message here and you don’t even have to pay a membership fee!) It’s the religion part I’m thinking about tonight.
Some examples of philosophical/theological disconnect from my JDate tonight:
He: “You know what I find really ridiculous, is one time I was on vacation with my family and we were at a hotel and there was this really Jewish couple pacing in front of the door with one of those magic eyes, you know that opens the door? and when we walked through, they walked right in after us so they wouldn’t be ‘working’ to open the door.”
He: “You don’t think that’s pathetic?”
Me: “Well, no. Actually, a lot of my friends do that.”
He: “It’s like with microphones in synagogue; the rabbi uses it during services, but then there’s always that one person who like runs the Hebrew School parents committee and has to do announcements and refuses the microphone and then no one can hear her. I mean, it’s good enough for the rabbi!”
Me: [When do I tell him I'm shomer shabbat? At this point he already knows I am a rabbinical student...]
He: “It’s not even the same thing. Fire is work because you know how much work it takes to make a fire with all that wood? But turning on a microphone, that’s not even working.”
Me: [Should I go with an explanation of the 39 milachas in my response or just nod?]
I mean, if I weren’t one of those people who identifies with the pacing electronic door couple (even though that’s not my practice), there would be a much larger pool of people to potentially partner with, right? …er, hmm…
It’s like a conversation I was having with my teacher-advisor-rebbe. I was saying how sometimes I wish I could just blend in with the crowd, go back to being a “normal” person, that with all this learning and observance and rabbi-ing, I am realizing it gets lonelier and lonelier when there are fewer and fewer people (I don’t just mean romantically) with similar knowledge about Judaism or simply who like “get” what I’m doing with my life.
He shared his more recent theory (a move away from his radical egalitarianism) in which all communities need “householders,” the regular folks, and then a few people who sacrifice to hold the community space, to be the pillars on which householders lean, to devote themselves to learning so as to provide that knowledge base to the community and to translate it (not stam linguistically) for them to make it relevant and accessible. But for those few pillars, it can get lonely, and we must seek out other pillars for support and strength, but our life work is really to be of service in that way, and yes, it might feel lonely at times.
I want to be of service. And I guess that means it’s harder to have a beer with just anyone. Ah well, so be it.
[With apologies to my date from tonight, whom I do not mean to offend but rather think that we had some funny moments of miscommunication, and with whom I really did have a pleasant evening and was wowed by his trivia knowledge... I really hope you enjoy the blog if you have stumbled upon it from my description, and thanks so much for the drinks and company.]