It’s 4 o’clock in the afternoon, the sun is high in the sky and the wind from the hills is starting to pick up strong. I am sipping my coffee on the terrace and I hear nothing, but the noise of the leaves swaying in the wind. No kids crying, no mom’s yelling at them to stop crying, no car wheels on the streets, no stove beeping, no doors opening, no people walking. It is so quiet that I am mistaking day for night.
Every Saturday the same story. Every Saturday I am forced to be in this quiet space. Every Saturday I am pushed to be still like every other Jew out there in the world. Every Saturday since I have been in Israel, I am reluctant to the stillness to in the end find it rejuvenating and even pleasant. I came here two months ago to find my Jewish roots once again through the stories of Jewish women. I came to the Holy Land to explore what it means to be a woman of Jewish faith here and what would speak to me of such endeavor. I am here now, in one of the holiest sites in Israel, the town where the Kabala was invented, and yet I am still struggling with understanding why I even stepped into such territory if my thoughts are still so confused and scattered.
My mom was NOT born Jewish and she is my mother, my same blood and the one who taught me the Shema` at night and the one who taught me to be a good human being to others, but by the laws of the halacha she is NOT Jewish because she never LEGALLY converted. I was born non-Jewish, I was a Gyoret, converted at birth by the main Rabbi of my synagogue through the ritual of a Mikve. Yet, again, according to the Jewish Law, I am also NOT Jewish yet, because I am supposed to go forth with a REAL conversion.
For years I have dwelled on this question on whether or not I was Jewish, although I did my batmitzvah, my exams and I was raised Jewish, not religious or neither conservative, but I have always kept Yom Kippur, Pesach and the other Mohed days and ever baked challah with my grandmother on Shabat. Yet, I have always felt the need to re-define myself as not ONLY Jewish, because my roots come from a mixed marriage where my mother was indeed baptized although she never really followed her creed and when she married my father, she was the one in the family to keep our Jewish traditions alive more than others.
Then why will I still have doubts at 29 of who I really am?
I am a Jew who was born in Rome and who believes in God, but who does not need to define herself like a Shomer Shabat Jew or a Secular one, I am just another patch-work of a Jew from Spain whose family has the name of a Sephardi city in the middle of the country where Jews were ostracized and persecuted for years during the Spanish Inquisition.
I am a Jew, but then why do I feel uncomfortable among my people in Israel? Why do I never feel at home with neither the secular kids nor the religious families? Why do I rebel constantly to recite prayers to God in a synagogue like everyone else? Why does this method not speak to my Nashama? What does this mean?
How am I a Jew if I do not feel a connection to the women around me craying for the Bet Amigdash that was destroyed by the Romans thousands of years ago? I am unaffected by it and strangly even a bit frustrated to the fact that Jews often always look back and not forward or to the moment they are living in.
Why do we need religion? Is it just a frame work for peace of mind? Or did we invente religion because we needed to believe to something higher than us to survive life’s challenges? Why so many rules? Why so many rules that impede men to be their “animal self?”
Why making Jews men of constant sorrow? Why not men of constant happiness and fulfillment and why making them fearful of God and not grateful to him?
I guess I am a Jew because I doubt. I am a Jew because I question my belief daily and because I ask questions and I do not just take things for granted. I am a Jew because I feel a very strong attachment to my deceased family and my current one. I am a Jew because when I am walking in the quiet streets of Tzvat with no one else around watching, I can feel a strange feeling of peace and quiet inside a very pleasant feeling of belonging to a universe of souls and not just bodies, but these souls are not ONLY Jews, they are human souls of people who have found their way inside and discovered the other part of existence, the spiritual one.
I am at peace with myself when I know that I do not have to define myself as more than a human being who believes in a higher form of existence and who has a heighten sensitivity to life’s divine plan. I do not have to call me a Jew, or even a ½ Jew. I can call me a Nashama and that is all I am and ever will be. It is not important to me to call me a Jewish Nashama as far as I love others like I love myself and I respect the divine plan of existence and thrive to be a better human being daily.
There is no fear of God if I drive on Shabat, there is no shame if I decided to have premarital sex, there is no sense of guilt if I can’t feel a connections to the divine by reading the Tefilin. As far as I know I am a drop of God in the world and that everyone else around me is the same, then I think I am respecting His will and that is what we should all care to fulfill because we were all created with a material and a higher purpose in life, the whole point of living is to use the material one to discover which one is the most spiritual one and try to achieve both.
Amen and Good Shabbos from Tzvat ☺
Tzvat stands still on Shabat