Thanks Rachel for contributing to the Mesorah Project in your unique way.
If I had read about this project this time last year, I would probably have thought that I had nothing to offer. There I was, at almost the very beginning of my conversion journey, knowing very little about what I was about to do, other than that I was totally driven towards the day when I would become a Jew and then be able to continue on my journey of constant learning and developing.
Indeed, I still describe myself as a sponge – constantly soaking up all things Jewish. But now, I can see that I am beginning to help others on their journey, whether they are Jewish from birth, or just embarking on their own conversion process. I have a historical knowledge that I have garnered from being a high school student. Studying as I did, modern world history, I have learned things that others have not had access to, for whatever reason. This knowledge, and the ability to absorb large amounts of detailed information (a skill I constantly hone through my work), has enabled me to put my theological learning into context and pass it on where I can.
To me, Judaism isn’t just about the rites and practices – what happens in the synagogue, the prayers we say, the blessings, the Torah, the Siddur – although of course they are absolutely fundamental. Judaism is also about the history of a people. How we have survived through the centuries, despite having to globetrot in order to save our lives. It is also about how we live on a day to day basis, in the world at large and outside our communities. People have noticed a change in me – how I treat others, my approach to charitable giving, the time I spend doing things not for me, but for others. I consider this ‘doing Judaism’ in a most positive way since if asked ‘why?’ it is the perfect opportunity to tell them what drives me to be different.
Perhaps this interpretation of mesorah isn’t the traditional approach – I must admit I am looking at it in a more secular way than some might. This is probably due to the fact that my Torah knowledge is relatively limited compared to many others and my skills at interpreting all the nuances therein are going to take a lot of brushing up, that’s for sure! But I am looking forward to a lifetime of learning, in that department.
So, I guess my viewpoint now is that most people have something to offer. You don’t need to be extremely learned, you don’t need to be born Jewish. You just need to embrace Judaism, enjoy its wonders and pass on your love for your faith and your tradition to the best of your ability. Even if what you know doesn’t fit with someone else’s understanding or theological viewpoint, you can at least enjoy the very Jewish discussions that will follow…
By Rachel of shavuatov.wordpress.com. Contributions are still welcome; just send them to me (firstname.lastname@example.org).