Why Being A Jew Works For Me
I've often said that since I was raised Jewish and it's all I've ever known it's a little difficult to imagine myself and my family as anything but Jewish. And as the Jewish New Year begins and I find myself reflecting and preparing for Yom Kippur I can't help but be very thankful that I was born a Jew, am a Jew and so here's why being a Jew works for me - Don't Get Me Started!
I think my thoughts went to this topic when last week I had a banter back and forth with a woman who commented on my blog regarding the Vice Presidential candidates speeches about gay marriage. She quoted the bible to me and wrote about my being judged when my life ends, etc. All the typical stuff you can imagine. I began to think about this woman and how sorry she felt for me for being a homosexual and assured me that if I were just to take Jesus into my heart I would be absolved of my sins. The thing is that I <looks right, looks left> don't need Jesus. I know, I know it will be difficult for many to believe but I don't need Jesus, there I've said it.
I don't mean that in a nasty way at all. I fully respect the people who carry Jesus in their heart and use the teachings that were written about in the bible to guide their life but it's not for me. One of the things that I find most amazing about Judaism is that it encourages you to ask questions, to begin a dialogue with yourself as well as your rabbi and your community. Sure there are absolutes in the religion but it still encourages you to ask the questions, to listen to someone else's interpretation, respecting one another's opinions and understand that it is just that, an "interpretation" as that person understands it.
At an early age I found myself going to a lot of funerals for members of my family. I don't know that I fully understood what was going on (even though some of the funerals were when I was in my twenties) but I understood about sitting Shiva. That period of mourning reserved for sitting in a house and reflecting back on the person's life that had passed. Twice I sat in my father's parents' house, first for my grandfather and then for my grandmother. The entire family was together and as we sat there sharing stories, having people stop over to visit we found a way to remember the good times even though we were going through some of the worst times. That's another thing about Judaism that appeals to me, the sense of balance. The remembering good times during bad times and vice versa. It allows us to stop and take stock in those high and low moments in our life and understand that there is more out there, more than just this moment, more than just us.
Although I wasn't raised in the most religious household in the world, I was schooled in the Jewish holidays (well, most of them) and I certainly knew when Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur were. You see the Jewish New Year is different than party hats and drunken people in the streets when a ball drops in Times Square. It's a time of great reflection and introspection, a time for you to take stock of what you've done the past year and how you want to move forward for the coming year. I want to be better at a lot of things. I want to be more patient with my parents. I want to have as much an eye for detail when it comes to my partner as I do at my job. I want to be better in a lot of ways. I also want to not be so hard on myself. Whether it's making sure this blog is updated every day to wondering if anyone is reading it and hoping people "like me, really like me" I want to let go a little.
I know that I tend to "make fun" of religious zealots in my blog but I have great respect for them. I respect that they feel so full of the "glory of God" that they have to share it with everyone (as much as it gets on my nerves) but I'll never understand their lack of consideration when it comes to people with different views than their own. This intolerance is intolerable to me.
When I was six a couple of brothers that we played with in the neighborhood told my brother and I that they couldn't play with us anymore because we were "dirty Jews" (according to his father). When I was in high school I was called "fag" every day (sometimes more than once a day, many more times than once a day most of the time). I fell in love with a black man who in his own lifetime experienced not being able to drink from the same water fountain as white people. All this to say that I know a little bit about persecution for my religious beliefs as well as my lifestyle from more than a one or two time experience.
But I also know the joy of never going a day without knowing how loved I am by my entire family (no matter what I was doing or who I was doing it with). I know the joy of finding someone who loves me with all my flaws and my abilities. And so as I take time to reflect on the past year this Yom Kippur I'll look even further back than this past year at both good and bad times. And I'll be thankful for all of those times because they have shaped me into who I am today. Can I be a better me? Yes. Are there things I've done wrong? You bet. But in my heart of hearts I realize that I'm a good person who has the good fortune of being loved and been given the ability to see humor in so many things that could have been crushing blows to me. All in all it's been a good year and it'll be an even better New Year especially with what I've learned and continue to learn about myself. So L'Shana Tova to you all...and to all a good night.
Read More Scott @ www.somelikeitscott.com