Furtive, Part 2

You may have noticed that the word “furtive” has disappeared from my slugline.

I finally managed to tell my family.  My mom said, “I’m surprised you didn’t tell me this earlier.”

*sigh*  Well, I’m glad it went the good way of the two possibilities I thought of.

On a completely unrelated note, I believe you could (if you felt so inclined) sing “Adon Olam” to the tune of “Amazing Grace.”

I’m not sure if that’s funny, offensive, blasphemous, or all of the above, but it does in fact demonstrate the wonders of common meter.  See, a degree in English is useful!

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Kryptonite

Have I mentioned that food is a particular weakness of mine?  (This is why I’m portly instead of puny.)  Keeping kosher outside the home is going to be a big struggle for me, I can tell, because bastard smell molecules waft into the air like they own the place and make me hungry for things.  Today it was fries with gravy.  These may be the last fries with gravy I eat, given that I don’t have a deep-fryer and you can’t get decent fries in Israel unless an Arab makes them (Israelis seem to think cold, soggy fries are tasty, for some inexplicable reason; I blame knee-jerk rejectionism of anything British), and I’ve never seen fries with gravy available in Israel anywhere.

Which sucks, because they were bad fries with gravy, really.  But as long as I keep working here, and I keep having to go into the staff cafeteria to get cutlery to eat lunch (I’m fairly ideologically opposed to using plastic cutlery on the regular), this is going to keep happening.  I guess I’m going to have to start carrying cutlery back and forth with me in my work bag.  And hoping that rogue smells don’t ambush me.

Not a Farmer or a Gardener in Ten Generations

I just found a blog by a writer named Yonassan Gershom, who identifies as a Breslover Hasid, and lives on a farm in rural Minnesota. It’s so good to see a rural observant Jew! Not that I’m not a city person, but I’d go absolutely mad without some kind of access to green space, since I grew up roaming around a semi-rural area and in a provincial park that spans part of the (Canadian) Thames river.

In his post, “Nature Deficit Disorder,” Gershom writes about how excessive urbanism has cut a lot of Jews off from appreciating vast parts of HaShem’s world — including, may I say, the odd green vegetables

He writes

I was very lucky, in that I grew up in an area where I could go play in the woods –and my parents let me do it. This was not wasted time — it was learning in a very different way. It enriched my understanding of Torah in ways that my nature-deprived urban brethren often cannot grasp. And it ultimately led to me becoming a Breslov Hasid, because of Rebbe Nachman’s teaching about hisboddisus — the practice of spending an hour alone with God each day. He recommended doing it in a forest or field because, he said, the plants and animals would join in our prayers. And he meant that literally.

Breslovers still try to do that today, although in a city it is hard to find the solitude. But at least they have the teachings about spending time in nature, which many other groups do not. In fact, mainstream Jews have sometimes considered the Breslovers crazy to go wandering in the woods.

I’m certain that I wouldn’t like being a Breslover Hasid, but I do like nature, and I feel strongly attached to the mitzvot to be kind to animals, and to respect HaShem’s world. I’m also a gardener, and spent a lot of time on farms when I was growing up; I rode horses for twenty years, and spent enough time pitching hay and mucking out to be really unbothered by nature generally. And this is one area where I really seem to differ with my rabbi, alas, and most of my kehila, who seem to treat both living animals and plants generally with some vague suspicion. One of these days, I really should wander into the woods and daven, just to do it.

EEEK! The Clock Really Starts Now!

I just got an e-mail from the rabbi; he has called the Beit Din I’m going to be under, and they have sort of tentatively agreed to see me at their next meeting.  I say “sort of tentatively” because the supervising rabbi says they already have fifteen candidates on their docket (!!) and feel like they don’t need one more, but that I should go ahead and submit my application package anyway.

I note that they do want to have periodic “progress meetings” with candidates, and also that they require candidates to live a fully observant Jewish life for a year before they’ll consider conversion.  They said they might not be able to see me until after Rosh Hashana, and then another year after that!  Yike.  At least this seems to give me some space to get my living arrangements sorted…

Now I should get back to work, so I don’t wind up losing my employment or jeopardising the chances of having my contract extended…

Wait, and Hurry Up?

I’m now in an awkward situation vis-a-vis my conversion, in that I waited a pretty long time to even start studying with the rabbi, and now, it’s six months, give or take a little, and he’s already expecting me to make major lifestyle changes — and I know this will only increase once we start learning about Shabbat.  Not that I don’t already try to observe Shabbat as much as possible, but it’s still a logistical challenge at this point.

On top of that, everything I’ve read about conversions indicates (although my friend RH didn’t seem to think this was so) that the Beit Din usually likes to meet with the candidate multiple times over the course of their study and practice process, basically to assess their sincerity and gauge their progress.  I imagine some spot-quizzing and Hebrew reading demonstrations are also required.  I was also under the impression that they generally liked for prospective candidates to go through at least one year of observing Jewish holidays, which I have not done (see “I’m BAAAAACK!”, where I talk about doing Ta’anit Esther/Purim as my first real Jewish holidays).

Now it feels almost like I’m being rushed into living completely Jewishly before I’m actually ready.  I honestly wasn’t expecting us to be this far along in the course curriculum by now; many, many, many people I’ve spoken to in person about conversions are of the opinion that it usually takes years (although, to be fair, I did come in with some knowledge of Hebrew, and a relatively high amount of Jewish literacy for a non-Jew).  I also don’t really feel I’m ready to take these steps yet, as I’m still struggling with remembering to say the brachot, and various other things.

On the other hand, there is part of me that (I can’t deny) just wants to drop everything, find a nice apartment near the shul like, tomorrow, set up my kosher kitchen immediately, and begin my new Jewish life as soon as possible.  My pragmatic, risk-averse, hard-headed (read: stubborn), raised-by-Scottish-people-money-watching side disagrees, however.

What am I gonna do?

I’m BAAAAACK!

Boy.  So much has happened since January.  I’ve nearly completed apparently all of my rabbi’s conversion course curriculum (already?!) — we are just finishing kashrut now and we’ll be moving on to Shabbat shortly, probably, which is bringing with it its own set of challenges and problems…not least of which is that I only just got another job about a month ago, and it’s only a contract job (at least it’s still here in town), and my contract is up in August, so I’m — still — reluctant to move closer to the shul…

I did my first holidays “on the books,” as it were — Ta’anit Esther (the Fast of Esther) and Purim.

I discovered that I like sweet(ened) Concord wine.  I may be the only person in the world who likes “yayin patish,” but to me it tastes like what wine should taste like, that is, alcoholic grape juice, instead of, say, chewing on a teabag.  (I don’t like tanniny flavours.)

I SURVIVED PESACH!  This is not as uncomplicated as it sounds, as the rabbi wanted me to make a “dry run” at kashering my kitchen, and I can’t eat dairy products, so giving up pretty much all grain products (chametz) as well as pulses (legumes and seeds) and rice (kitniyot) on top of my already not eating dairy products, and I was in a world of hurt.  Then I came down with bronchitis in the wee hours after my very first seder, resulting in my making the decision to break Shabbat in a big way and go to the hospital, because I wasn’t breathing well.  The lack of oxygen in my system meant approximately zero energy, and an unwillingness to cook much of the lovely meats and vegetables I’d laid in to tide me over.  Net result, I lost several pounds in the most unhealthy way possible.  Let’s not do that again this year…

On the upside, I think I’m doing relatively well.  I hope.  As my friend RH reminds me, in a timely manner, practice matters.