I’m in a new place. It’s a place I’ve heard about, but never dwelled within. A place in time. I’ve known it’s been creeping up, have been expecting its tap on the shoulder… and here it is, plunked down and landed at my feet.
Not enough is spoken about this place. I wish more people would engage in conversation about it.
It’s like this:
I grew up ‘baal tshuva.’ That term has been impacting my life since I was in first grade and started to realize the difference between my family and other families at the ‘yeshiva’ (modern orthodox day school) I went to. That term haunted me as a child. I felt less-than, I felt unkosher. I felt, always, that I didn’t belong in the world I lived in.
There are milestones of traumas I went through as a kid in the modern orthodox ‘yeshiva’ system. Being called out in the hallway between classes, by the so-called rabbi principal of my elementary school. Lying about just how we got to shul every week, even as we lived 5 miles away from it. Getting caught not knowing certain terms, not having embedded rituals. In high school, never being ‘religious’ enough for my first love.
Attempting compensation, after compensation, after compensation.
Which is why, somewhere during- and post-college, this became my life ‘philosophy,’ (as Facebook gently puts it):
And it was then, the halachic nod-off post-institutional life, that I entered the next place – the placeless place. The lazy Jew who left home to see the world. Who moved to Israel to be more Jewish, and realized a country filled with Jews can be the most secular place you’ve ever been. The lazy Jew who wants to do more, but has spent too much time picking apart rituals that seem like they just shouldn’t be. The self-labeled community Jew, who, perhaps sloppily, observes the Big Three in private no-matter-what.
And now… Aside from this being an expose on my ‘religious state’ – it’s about my son. And pretty soon, my daughter.
I thought I had ’til age three. That was the magic number; that’s when I’d have choices to make. That’s when we could stop relaxing and start ‘educating’ and ‘leading by example.’ Somehow, our asses would get kicked into gear. Somehow, I’d have the balls to unlazy my ‘religious view.’
But it’s happening for us before three. Last Shabbat, my son asked to wear a kippah. And to humor him, I put it on his head. And then he insisted on wearing it to shul. I figured by the time I met up with him and his father there, it’d have fallen off. But it didn’t. Then he wore it through lunch. Then he wore it all day. Then he went to bed with it on.
And then, it hit me. I’m in a new place now. I’m in the zone. It’s happening, and I have choices to make.
For a kid this small, there’s no lazy or unlazy. There’s doing and not doing. Religious or not religious. Tradition A or tradition B. They don’t even realize until later what the other side is, what they’re missing by being one way.
Birthing my kids, I’m learning, was the easy part. Educating them – I imagine – will be a lot easier when I do the hardest thing I have to do: decide what kind of life I want to show them.