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From my Shiksajourney Journal

It has been forever since I have posted in here, and I feel shamed for it. Rosh Hashanah is coming up, as well as Yom Kippur. I have been asked to give a reading for my synagogue on Yom Kippur on Sin. That will be interesting, but I am so proud I was asked by my congregation to read :)
I was a little bitter about the fact the Jewish Writing Circle I had tried so hard to promote and get into action sort of didn't happen. I tried having a meeting and only 3 people came, and no one else seemed interested. I tried getting involved in the younger Jewish community in the Capital region and felt kind of rejected. I've found them very uncooperative and snobby to be honest. It hurts, because while I love my shul, my husband and I aren't even 30 yet an d haven't started a family yet either. Our shul is mostly families and older folks. I love my shul and I will never leave it, but it gets a little lonely there from time to time. I also wanted badly to be more involved in things like the Bulletin which is our bi-monthly newsletter, and work has just about swallowed me up whole in my time and energy to be able to do that. I'm afraid to even talk to my Rabbi anymore because I feel like I've been just a really bad Jew lately. I haven't amounted to much in my community and I take the blame for some of that.

Be that as it may...

Things have been sort of low-key in my Jewish life as of late. All facets of life have their ebbs and flows. I am always Jewish, but some months I am more active in living a Jewish life than others. I am always thinking about it though, and every Friday even if I'm not at Shul, I am reflecting on Shabbat, I wear my kippa with pride, and I pray.

I want to take another Jewish-related class, I always feel more intellectually stimulated when I am surrounded by other people exploring this spiritual and emotional journal that I am on. I really miss Faye and the Introduction To Judaism class I took about this time last year. I cannot believe it's been an entire year! I miss my classmates and seeing them each week and talking about our studies. When I am doing something academic I am forced to really immerse myself in things better. Don't get me wrong, I still read and study and pray and all of that. But I felt like I was moving FORWARD more when I was studying. If ONLY I could go to Rabbinical school now :(

Tonight as I soaked up the Judaica section of Barnes & Noble, wishing I could make myself more Jewish through osmosis, and knowing it doesn't work that way, I kept thinking this thought over and over: I have a thirst for G-d.

It is intangible and it is overwhelming. I have always had such an incredible thirst for G-d once I made a connection with my higher self to a Higher Power, to Adonai. My friends have chastised me for exploring so many different roads of faith. They think sometimes I am fickle and can't make up my mind, and that I don't treat religion seriously. But that's absolutely not the case. It's quite the opposite. I take religion and spirituality (which are not the same thing, and that distinction is important here) very seriously. I love all roads that lead to a deeper understanding, or at least, a better relationship with G-d. But when you are raised to religiously find your own way (as long as you find a way, not become an atheist, which I was for quite some time), it is very hard to find a religion you feel grounded to, that takes roots. My Mom rejected Catholicism early on and instead did not raise her children as any specific religion, she let us find our own paths. That made us both very open-minded to religion in general, but it made it very hard to find the right paths for ourselves. It's hard when you weren't raised with any fundemental beliefs in G-d. It is one of the reasons I so strongly want to make sure my children when I have them have a substantial religious and spiritual Jewish upbringing. It is important to me that they have a foundation to start on when their relationship with G-d is just starting. I don't blame my Mother, I admire her ambition to not saddle her kids with beliefs they might not want. But I wish I had been schooled in SOMETHING more solid, more grounding when I was young. Then I might not have been such a spiritual nomad when I was growing up and into my early college years.
I have written extensively about my Jewish journey and how I have always felt it pulling me closer, since I was 5 years old. I know Judaism was meant for me and I for Judaism. It is my link to Hashem, my theological b'asharet. But what of my other religious roots?

My pagan roots, which I am not ashamed of. I still look back on my Celtic wanderings with fondness and love. I still listen to Gwydion (a long-dead pagan folksinger) with love. I will always feel a kinship with Wicca and the Old Religion, always. I never felt grounded with it, which is why I did not stay with it, but I always had a love for it. It has deep roots with my genetic makeup: I am a Celt at heart, and pagan doings were the ways of the original Celts. I could never get into the multiple G-ds and G-ddess thing, but I still strongly respect its system. It is a loving belief structure with great respect for the earth and all that dwells within the earth's walls.

With my parents religion; Ifa, I thought I had found the perfect religion for me. It is an amazing belief system, highly inclusive and egalitarian, and I have a high respect for it still. It is monotheistic, it believes in Oldumare, the One G-d, and then there are Orishas, spiritts that do G-d's work on earth, kind of like Angels or Saints. But like the Native Americans believed in everything having a spirit, Orishas embodied many earthly energies. It combined a sort of paganistic worship with a monotheistic mindset. The problem with Ifa for me was never its belief system, but its form of worship.
The ceremonies are very long, very emotionally draining, and intense. It became almost a dread for me to attend them because I just couldn't handle the dramatic and sometimes overwhelming ceremonies. I wanted something more calm, more down-to-earth, and frankly, not to sound mean, but a little more NORMAL. At least normal for me. I am not knocking Ifa, I still have a love for it and my family both blood and non-blood who practice it. But it wasn't making me feel good when I had to devote entire weekends to this energy-draining form of worship, and I began to resent it, and resent the responsibility that came with being obligated because my family was a part of it. I feel more comfortable being a part of something I chose for myself, not followed because my parents were a part of it.
I chose Judaism just as much as it chose me. I went into Ifa because my parents practiced it, and while I loved it, I also felt handcuffed to it, trapped in a way that wasn't healthy for me. And I don't blame the religion, I blame myself for being such an introspective person that I couldn't handle something so very intense. But that is what was meant to happen, and that is why I parted ways with Ifa. I still go to the house meetings (just informal gatherings to see each other, it's primarily a social function, not a religious ceremony) to see the people there because I still love them. I will never not be a part of their lives simply because my religious path has changed. But I had to do something different with my heart in terms of how I wanted to let it beat to a Hashem-based rhythm that didn't make me sweat and make me anxious.

When I briefly dipped my toes into Christianity, primarily Catholicism and Episcopalianism, I gained a greater insight into what makes Christians tick, and how sincere their love for Jesus Christ is. I used to be incredibly anti-Christian, I was downright prejudiced against them. I grew up in a small podunk town that looked at someone who dressed like a Hippie and rejected monotheism altogether as some kind of freak. I don't know what bothered them more, when I believed in multiple Gods, or none at all. While I loved the ritual of Catholicism, and the relative liberalness (within a Christian mindframe) of Episcopalians, I did not enjoy the judgmental atmosphere I almost always reached whenever stepping into a Christian dwelling. I personally found it very hypocritical that many of the Christians I met only wanted to "save" me, instead of just let me find my own way.
I began to reject and resent the patriarchal theology surrounding all branches of the religion and realized quickly that while I think there are some lovely concepts in Christianity, it is one thing to appreciate it, it is another thing to wholly embrace it as a way of life. I chose to remove myself from that field. But even having left it, I still have an appreciation and a fondness for Catholic ritual, and I do now respect the Christian people I know for their honest devotion and sincere desires to be good people in the way they were taught how.
One of my very best friends; SarahBeth is a devout, lifelong Episcopalian. I admire her faith, it is a beautiful thing in her. She is everything that is GOOD about Christianity. She represents to me, what the religion strives to accomplish, but to me oftentimes fails to become altogether. She is incredibly open-minded about religion, and she has ALWAYS been supportive to me no matter what path I walked along in my constant search for G-d that I could feel at home with in connecting to Hashem the way I wanted to.

Judaism for me has a wonderful multitude of things I was so desperately looking for in my spiritually nomadic road trip. It interwove a way of life, a way of seeing the world, a sense of humor, an open-mindedness, and a gift for arguing with not just each other but our Creator, as well as a straight-forward method of connecting to G-d, talking to G-d, joining together as a community, and in asserting a responsibility as a people to the world in which we live. Judaism teaches compassion, forgiveness, love, kindness, respect, questioning everything, and a lifelong thirst for knowledge and change. It does not center around the worship of a person, or people. It does not center on having to only devote yourself in your religious center, and it does not focus on assimilation of any kind.
In fact, Jews argue with other Jews about how to be a Jew in the first place. And while that can be frustrating since it creates an insular prejudice against each other which hurts our community and people, it also allows for different concepts and methods in which to live a Jewish life. There are Jewish agnostics and atheist. There are traditional Jews who live Conservative and Orthodox, and Conservadox lives. There are the more progressive and left-leaning Jews who like Reform. There are the out-there Reconstructionalists who refuse to assimilate even within the unassimIlated. But we are ALL Jews and we all share a common bond: we are The Chosen, and that means choosing for ourselves as well as for G-d.
I love this. I feel like even though my lifelong thirst for G-d will never be quenched (I don't believe it is meant to be in this life), that it has found a solid home, a foundation, an olive branch if you will from which to really talk to G-d on an intimate and joyous way.

There are some days where I feel I am just not Jewish enough to be a real Jew. There are days when I sometimes still feel like an impostor/intruder. There are days when I feel my Rabbi doesn't think I'm good enough to represent my community in a Jewish way, that she doesn't even like me. I feel that sometimes I just am not educated enough to be a real Jew.
And I know those are falsities. I know deep down in my heart I am a daughter of Israel forever. The day I went in that mikvah was a core-shaking, life-altering event that stays in my heart wherever I go. I am a Jew. I wander for G-d like we did in the desert. And G-d is the compass Moses had, Miriam had, Rivkah had, Zipporah had.
This Zipporah bat Avraham v'Sarah knows where she belongs now: in a Jewish home, in shul, in the Judaica section of the bookstore, in a Jewish class. I may not ever become a Rabbi (though I still hold on to that someday dream), but I will strive always to be a more learned Jewish woman.

G-d calls me to it, and there are days I falter, and days I am not up to that task.
But there are more days to be had, more books to be read, more candles to be lit.

Hineni Adonai. I am here.

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