Culture, Identity, Religion

After All That’s Happened, I Meet God Halfway

This is a guest post by Rabbi Josh Bolton, the Senior Jewish Educator for the Jewish Renaissance Project at UPenn Hillel. You can reach him at [email protected].
I say the Kiddush.
I don’t say the Grace after Meals.
I study the Torah.
I don’t own two sets of dishes.
I wrap tefillin, occasionally.
I don’t ever attend minyan.
I long for the Land of Israel.
I don’t have mezuzot on all my doorframes.
I read the Jewish periodicals.
I don’t mind kindling a flame on the Sabbath.
I give charity to the poor person.
I don’t fast on the 9th of Av.
I like klezmer music.
I don’t prioritize kosher over organic.
I leave my son’s hair uncut to three years old.
I don’t live within walking distance of the shul.
I circumcised my son on the eighth day.
I don’t know, I may get more tattoos one day.
I have a social circle comprised mostly of Jews.
I don’t really care if the Torah was written by Man or God.
I have a prominent bookshelf full of traditional texts.
I don’t always behave nicely with orthodox educators.
I weep in Yad Vashem.
I don’t mind listening to salacious gossip.
I wear a kippah.
I don’t make Havdallah.
I speak Hebrew like a child – but I do speak.
I don’t regard the voices of the ancient rabbis to be more sacred than our own voices.
I hang a picture of Jerusalem in my living room.
I don’t believe continuity for continuity’s sake is a compelling reason for Jewish life.
I prayed at the grave of Menachem Schneerson — at twilight with my brother.
I don’t know how to perform the ritual of Hoshannah Rabba.
I take every opportunity to submerge in the mikveh of Isaac Luria.
I don’t think spirituality demands wearing long skirts or a yarmulke.
I have memorized large swaths of the liturgy.
I don’t believe the Va’ad Kashrut serves the interests of the Jewish community.
I am a devoted student of the Hasidic masters.
I don’t really clean my kitchen for Pesach.

6 thoughts on “After All That’s Happened, I Meet God Halfway

  1. Thank you for writing this. As someone who is going through the process of conversion, I have struggled with many of the mitzvot and wondered how I could be a “good Jew” if I don’t follow every single one of them to the letter. Now I understand better. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  2. Meh. If that’s what you do and believe, that’s swell. But then you should own those beliefs and practices as fully legitimate, rather than calling them “meet[ing] God halfway”, implying that people with a different set of beliefs and practices are meeting God all the way. E.g., I also don’t believe continuity for continuity’s sake is a compelling reason for Jewish life… and there’s nothing “halfway” about that; I don’t think that those who do believe that are thereby doing “more” than I am.

  3. BZ, I think you misunderstand. In all the research I’ve done about the concept of “meeting God halfway,” it means that you must also make an effort. God is not a magic sky fairy who will just magically make everything right for us – we have to put in an effort too. I think Rabbi Bolton’s point is more: these are the ways I am making an effort.

  4. So much to say, but I’ll suffice with this: the second to last one is simply false. Chassidus shows us the beauty of the whole Torah. Picking and choosing is antithetical to the Chassidic masters.

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