Trying to find a place in a new religion and a new culture with no real guide to help you along save periodic meetings with your rabbi and a bunch of books is not easy. It’s especially not easy as a late 20-something coming in of your own accord rather than with a partner to ease your way in, but it is what it is. I’ve struggled, and am still struggling, to try and make myself at home in the community of the Jewish people – I already feel that I am Jewish in my heart and self-identify as such, but it still feels surreal and sometimes a little like I’m lacking an anchor to this faith that I am taking on as my own.
Except for the music.
I am a singer by nature, and someone who picks up melodies and tunes with relative ease. One of the sessions in my Introduction to Judaism class covered Jewish music. As I listened to the cantor sing some of the familiar melodies, and began attending services more regularly, I realized that the melodies I’d been hearing each week had started to seep into my brain. Going back to services this past Friday after a summer-long hiatus made me realize again just how ingrained these melodies are becoming to me, and how displeased I was that one of my favorite songs was being sung with a different tune. The very fact that I have developed a favorite tune for L’chah Dodi speaks volumes to me, because it means that I do have an anchor. Each week I attend services, the melodies, the chants, the words, even the wordless tunes we sing in between verses, they’re becoming a part of me. And given that I’m someone who still remembers songs learned in 4th grade choir, I think it’s safe to say they’re going to be with me for a very long time to come. I’m still struggling in other ways to feel connected outside of myself to Judaism, but hearing the music helps reassure me that slowly but surely, I’ll find my way.