It’s a central concept to the Jewish people; the eternal quest to return to the land of Israel, to return to a home not seen for generations, a home that existed in memory only. Yet, as soon as I saw this word on the #BlogElul challenge, my thoughts immediately went in a different direction.
Yesterday, I sat with two dear college friends catching up after months of not seeing each other. I am “out” to both about my conversion process (which remains a fairly closely held secret, partly because I don’t really feel like having a conversation with everyone I know on Facebook about my decision, and partly because I’m not sure how the news will be received by many of my friends who grew up Jewish. There’s a lot of politics involved in deciding to convert to Judaism at times, and it’s not something I feel ready to delve into yet. Those who matter know, and that’s what counts.)
As the conversation took different twists and turns, eventually one of the friends asked “so, how are you enjoying being a Jew?” I didn’t quite know how to respond at first because I had to take a moment to adjust to the different phrasing (usually I’m asked how my conversion process is going). And then I smiled and said that though I wasn’t officially a Jew yet, it was going well, and it still feels like the right decision.
One of the reasons I took this #BlogElul challenge upon myself is because my rabbi asked me to prepare myself for Tishrei by reflecting, and writing is one of the best ways for me to engage in reflection. But I’m also excited to do this because this is the first year of being Jewish where I will celebrate an entire year, from Rosh Hashanah onwards. And part of that excitement stems from the fact that from the moment I walked into my rabbi’s office for my first meeting, I have begun to mentally feel like a Jew. I’m still learning what that means, but it can only be described as a return, a coming home. After years of religious searching, I finally feel like I have returned to the place my soul always needed to be.
I once read (in the sadly now locked archives of The Kvetching Editor) that Judaism has a concept where the neshamas of all converts are those that somehow got lost along the way from Judaism, but that all the souls of all Jews ever were present at Mount Sinai when the Torah was given to Moses. That is how I feel. It’s like my soul always knew I was Jewish, it was just waiting for my brain to come to the same conclusion and allow me to return. There is a fundamental sense of rightness in this decision, and as I prepare to begin my first full year of living as a Jew who has returned to something I possibly once knew before, I am eagerly awaiting the richness my Jewish life will bring.