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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.

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?)

The B Word

30 Jan


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 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!

The Journey So Far, Part 1 (My Divorce from Christianity)

16 Jan

My distinguished co-author describes me as a “lapsed Lutheran,” though I’m not sure it’s entirely accurate. I was not Lutheranized by choice so much as under duress. Let me back up a little.

I was baptized in my grandma’s church – a United Church of Christ. We went to services on most Sundays we were at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, which was only occasionally, as they lived an hour and a half away, and on Easter* and Christmas. I have fond memories of Easter in particular, where services were followed by fellowship full of home-baked goods and colored eggs and we’d have egg-cracking contests. My mom, sister, and I occasionally attended services at a Lutheran church in our hometown. We went to Sunday school and had bars and coffee/koolaid afterward.

When I was around thirteen, my parents decided I was going to go to confirmation classes. I hated the classes with the undying passion of a thirteen-year-old. My classmates were boys from my school, which was reason enough to hate the classes, but we also had to do homework and watch silly videos. I remember the boys and I asking questions about why we do this or that and the answer was, “Because it’s in the Bible here,” or “Because God says so.” I was a good kid and an obedient one (if memory serves), but this is one case where I put my foot down. I’d pretend to sleep through my alarm on Sundays so I’d miss church. I’d skip whatever confirmation classes I could. My parents struck a deal with me – get through confirmation and you can do whatever you want.

Really, I shouldn’t have been confirmed, because I didn’t meet the requirements due to my truancy. But one Sunday I put on a nicer outfit than usual and got up in front of the congregation and repeated some words that the pastor told us to repeat – without feeling them one little bit and doing it all the while just to get it done – and I was confirmed. I wasn’t struck down. So that was the end of any hope of Christianity and me, because, as far as I was concerned, any God who cared about this stuff would’ve sent down a thunderbolt and made an example of me and my lying ways.

Throughout high school I was very interested in religion. I’d read world religion encyclopedias and parts of the Bhagavad Gita. I had a penpal for awhile and I remember writing to her about how fascinating this all was, and one notable response of hers further turned me off the Christian path, despite her fervor, as she was talking at length about how she was eager to die so that she could be with Jesus in Heaven. I picked that letter up like it was a dead fish, set it aside, and never wrote her back.

In one of those encyclopedias I read about Judaism. I was fascinated. But, oh, I like bacon too much to give it up.

To be continued in an upcoming segment wherein I discuss how I was Wiccan for awhile, because all 19-year-olds become Wiccan, don’t they?

* One particularly interesting Easter service was lead by a pastor who, as it turned out, was off his meds. We were treated to a very long sermon about how we had to go out and save as many souls as possible before the upcoming nuclear holocaust. There were a whole lot of confused old ladies in the congregation that day and a whole lot of interesting talk over our baked goods.