Not passed over for Passover

6 Apr

I had a fear going into the season of Pesach that we would not get to participate in a seder. Sure, there are the community ones, or we could fumble our way through our own, but I wanted a Real, Authentic Passover Experience. Thanks to the mitzvah of hospitality (or, less cynically, the goodness of peoples’ hearts), we have been invited to several.

This is particularly exciting to me because last year at Passover-time was when I realized that I needed Judaism in my life. I have no idea where it quite came from, but, suddenly, the desire to be Jewish overwhelmed any nervousness I had, something a good friend of mine promised would happen someday.

Matthew wrote a wonderful and hilarious post over at TC Jewfolk about Purim and holidays in general. We each have a different perspective on how to “do” holidays. For the record, I think he’s totally wrong. (No, I’m kidding. Really. He’s wrong about everything else, though.)

The “kosher” experiment

21 Mar

I will not profess to be eating kosher by any stretch of the imagination. I haven’t been eating pork or shellfish (on purpose). I haven’t been mixing dairy with meat (on purpose… mostly…). I have generally been very good at being mindful of those two things.

I shall enumerate my missteps, accidental or non:

  • Days after taking my no-more-pork-for-now vow, I went to a Chinese restaurant and had the most delicious soup dumplings that were very likely full of pork and an egg roll that was very mediocre but also full of pork.
  • At a small diner, I ordered one of the only items on the menu that did not have both meat and cheese  – a grilled chicken sandwich. It arrived on a buttered, toasted bun.
  • The group I knit with meets in a coffee shop, and I had a hankering for a sandwich. I bypassed the sad-looking veggie sandwich for one with roast beef. I peeled off the provolone and ordered my mocha with soy and felt very proud of myself. I took a sip, declaring the soy mocha even better than usual, when a friend points out, “Ooh, I bet there’s dairy in the chocolate.”
  • (I did not, for the record, eat any of the bacon-flavored jellybeans said friend gave me.)
  • I consumed a chicken salad sandwich. On a croissant. After the first, buttery bite, I remembered why croissants are awesome. BUTTER.
  • Today I immediately followed a meal of chicken tenders with some frozen custard, knowing all the while that the meat and the milk would churn together in my stomach.

I’m not beating myself up here. (I know you were so worried.) But the impact this is having on me is to show how difficult it must be to keep kosher, when keeping kosher-style is a challenge. When I plan meals I can no longer rely on many of my old standards, since bacon and I were an item and dairy and meat go together like peas and carrots, in my opinion. We’re eating more vegetarian food because I’d rather give up meat in a meal than dairy.  It is obvious that changing one’s diet for one’s religion makes a huge impact. I definitely have a newfound respect for the practice of kashrut.

But then, I also have a newfound sense of, “Why the heck?” Because, you know, chickens don’t make milk. There’s no danger that you’ll ever cook a chicken in its mother’s milk. The infinite number of possible rules that have been developed surrounding mixing meat and milk in particular make my head spin. Seriously, just look at the Wikipedia entry on the topic. It’s not even like the rabbis agree on this stuff, either. The fact that there are so many rules, and some sort of loophole for almost every rule makes me think it’s all just an absurd practice.

I understand the basic idea about forbidding pork – the pagans sacrificed pigs, so let’s not raise any to eat just in case we’re tempted to sacrifice one – but, at the same time, haven’t we gotten beyond that by now? No one’s sacrificing anything. The temple sacrifices no longer happen because there is no temple.

Obviously, me and Orthodoxy would probably never get along.

And this is not even getting into ethical eating, which is another post entirely.

I am not sure how things will proceed in the future. On the one hand, I love this constant vigilance. On the other hand, it seems so silly when there are other ways I could assert my faith. What matters most to me? I still haven’t figured it out, and imagine it’s going to be ever-evolving anyway.

A Blessing over (Breast)milk @ TCJewfolk!

16 Mar

Tiffany unleashes her new post about how her passions for Judaism and postpartum support collide in a ginormous Jew/Breast EXPLOSION!

…I might be over-selling it… but not by much!

Check it out!

This Kosher thing might be backfiring…

26 Feb

Do to life circumstances, the wife and I haven’t…um…mitvah’d all week.

We just got home from an afternoon out full of crying babies and complaining three-year-olds, so the kids were banished to the livingroom to watch some G-d awful Barney episode off the Roku, and I settled down in front of the computer with a tasty light plate of cheese, crackers, and summer sausage. Tiffany gives me a kiss before I start eating and idly suggests we have sex.

Yeah, sure. Let’s do that.

What?

Let’s have sex.

We can’t. I can’t even kiss you. You just ate meat with dairy.

…sonovabitch.

See, Tiffany is going kosher, and she’s doing it alone. I mean, why bother converting to a denomination that lets you interpret Torah for yourself, if you’re going to do something as restrictive as not eating cheeseburgers?!

She’s doing it to be closer to G-d. Or to bring G-d closer to her, I suppose. The theory is that the mindfulness one needs to have to live according to the mitzvot will always keep G-d in your mind, thus imbuing every act with a sense of the Holy.

That’s beautiful.

But I didn’t get any.

So that’s less beautiful.

Two posts on the TC Jewfolk

22 Feb

Matthew wrote about Jewish bling.

Tiffany wrote about ketubahs and Christians and cultural appropriation (deep!).

We are reaching an exciting milestone with TC Jewfolk: getting usernames. I think we might have to have a party with the two of us and some of our new organic kosher vodka. (I didn’t get it because it was kosher, but because it was local and organic, but it is a nice extra touch, don’t you think?)

Dear G-d, would you please write me a recommendation letter?

11 Feb

I lost my job this week. It was stupid.

The reason I lost it, not my job.

Actually, my job was stupid, so don’t pity me. It was beneath me.

I’ve had a lot of problems with work over my life. I’m a talented guy, and I can really sink my teeth into work, but I never try going for the things I want. And I never entirely take responsibility for my life and family.

This year has brought a lot of changes. I’ve spent more time with my family, and I’ve joined two institutions that are all about becoming a better person, Freemasonry and Judaism (listed in no particular order for all you cynical types).

In the end though, I don’t know that I’ve got all the self improvement out of it that I’ve been looking for. I don’t blame the institutions, obviously. This is a me thing. You get out of these things what you put into them, and it’s obvious to me now that I haven’t put enough into them.

What also seems obvious is that there is a G-d (or at least a cosmic social worker assigned to my case) and they’re looking out for me. You see, I certainly don’t curse G-d for me losing my job. I had to leave. It was killing me. I knew I had to leave. I was even making half-hearted attempts to find new work, but as long as I had it and it was just barely good enough, and it was a known quantity, and it was safe, I wasn’t going to leave.

My wife cut back her hours and I wasn’t going to leave. My daughter needs to go to pre-school soon and I wasn’t going to leave. We are accumulating debt and I wasn’t going to leave.

And now, through no fault of my own, in a manner I could have never predicted, my safe job left me.

And I’m nervous. I don’t do well with change.

But I have so much going for me. So much support. So much potential. And now I need so much faith, in G-d and in myself, to know that He gave me everything I need to do what I need to do.

It’d be nice if G-d actually did write me a recommendation letter, but if I took some time to think about it, in so many ways He already has.

I should take the time out to read it.

Did you just call me a Jew or a “Jew”?

31 Jan

One of the problems I’ve been having in infiltrating adapting into Jewish culture is the word Jew.

I’m a bit of a retrosexual, and have never been much for political correctness, but I acknowledge that some words for some people are off limits. Obviously racial epithets are out of bounds, but a word that seems to walk the line for some is the word Jew.

I’ve never had an issue with the word personally, but then I’m not Jewish (not yet, anyway). And I see it used all the time on Jewish websites. And yet, there’s this fear among a lot of people that the word “Jew” is so offensive, you’re more likely to get this reaction:

 

WHAT THE EFF DID YOU JUST CALL ME?!

…Now, I don’t mean to offend.

I just want to know the rules.

Is it like the N word where you can say it to each other, but others can’t say it to you? Or is it really how you say it? Some haters spit the word out of their mouth and it’s just tinged with antisemitism. Obviously, they suck. But then they could say the word “toast” and it would be offensive, because they’re offensive schmucks.

Is it 100% about context, or are there certain denominations where it’s acceptable and some where it’s not? Or is it just one of those things that most Jewish people don’t care about, but some do, depending on their personal experience, and I shouldn’t sweat it?

I suspect Jews don’t take offense at being called  a Jew as long as it’s said nicely. The only ones I’ve ever seen horrified by it are horrified by a lot of things and words, and that makes me think they view the world as a horrible place with horrible people in it.

I probably shouldn’t worry about it.

The B Word

30 Jan

Bacon.

Bacon stopped me from pursuing Judaism long ago.

Bacon now makes me feel guilty and just does not taste as good as it used to. I may lick the fragrant, smoky, salty grease from my fingertips, but I do not enjoy it.

Bacon and I had a last fling the first couple of weeks of the year of 2011, and since my heart was no longer into it, I was left feeling more empty than full. Dirty in ways beyond having lips rimmed in fat and splatters on my shirt.

Bacon and I are breaking up. The rest of the pig and I are breaking up, as well. And I am trying my darnedest to keep milk and meat separate. Shellfish and I have also called it quits. My attempts at being a good Jewish person are leaving broken hearts in my wake.

Bacon is the easy part. It’s easily identifiable, though I’ll need to be aware of bacon stealthily inserting itself in places. Our mutual friends – mayo, vegetables, eggs – will have to decide if it’ll be me, or bacon. It will be harder to keep an eye out for those little bits of dairy lurking in places such as bread. (For example, I made buns intended for hamburgers – note that I did not say cheeseburgers – and had to think to omit the milk in the recipe.) I will need to be vigilant and steadfast. While I will be tempted by such combinations as chicken, bacon, and cheese, I need to remember that we had our fun together. It was good while it lasted, but I’ve grown beyond it.

Bacon, as Sarah said to Jareth in Labyrinth - you have no power over me.

Bacon, we had a nice run of it. I’ll remember you fondly, and no one will ever take your place in my heart, though I may eventually take some sort of anti-cholesterol medication to eradicate the last sediments of our life together.

The Journey So Far, Part 2 (Witches and Other Stories)

21 Jan

I remember clearly a night – Christmas Eve – in 1997 when I was chatting with a boy from Kenosha, Wisconsin, on WBS. (If you never experienced WBS, you did not truly live.) We discussed many things that night, and he told me, as an older and wiser sophomore in college, that my religious beliefs sounded like a Wiccan’s. He knew, he said, because he just took a world religions class.

I filed this tidbit away for later. The next summer, I spent midnight to five a.m. frying donuts and stayed up for another few hours typing up a website in Notepad. It was called The Melody of Magick and I sure wish I could dig this gem up on web.archive.org to share with you. It was a one-stop source for candle magick, tarot layouts, and more! I considered myself a full-fledged Wiccan. I think I read a book or two. Sometimes I’d burn candles and herbs and pretend I knew what I was doing.

This phase was characterized by purchasing lots of incense, visiting Magus Books on a regular basis, and attending the occasional Pagan-oriented event – such as a bonfire for Beltane during which, (un)fortunately I didn’t get to partake in any naked frolicking – where I felt out of place for many reasons, and despite having a rather attractive, mass-produced pentagram necklace. I was very anti-organized religion and debating topics such as the Bible whenever I got the chance.

I found my box of “magick supplies” while cleaning out our basement. I opened it up and it smelled like naivety.

My first husband and I were wed in a ceremony officiated by a pair of witches. Later, I fielded many questions about whether it was legal. It was, despite also being medieval-themed. (That sort of thing should be illegal, I say.)

For some reason, all of that fizzled out. If I had to take a stab at what happened, I’d have to say it was my inability to suspend my disbelief about many things. I also never seemed to quite fit in with anyone, even if they were also on the fringes of normal society. I kept with me my reverence for nature and a belief that everything is interconnected, even if in a small way. I have a tattoo of a spiderweb that I got to remind myself of this, and also because tattoos are cool and having one makes me a badass, right?

And here we enter into a period of dedicated agnosticism, with a healthy glug of jealousy toward anyone who had faith. I envied people who knew what they believed, and who lived those beliefs. I wanted that badly. And, what do you know? It appears I got it.

A lovely and wise friend of mine told me once that I would know when the time was right to begin pursuing Judaism. The time has come. But you will need to wait to hear about it in Part 3.

Oy Betcha on TC Jewfolk!

18 Jan

Oy Betcha has premiered on our local jewish culture site, TC Jewfolk, with a column by Tiffany discussing the dreaded QUESTION that all converts get: What made you decide to convert?

Check it out!

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