Urrghh…

I feel like everything I’ve eaten in the last several days is sitting in my stomach in one sodden, undigested lump. If my gastrointestinal tract were a toilet, it would be clogged at the U-bend right now.

Apparently my body’s not taking to this vegan+fish diet regime very well…

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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!

Old Life, New Life

I read a fascinating pair of articles today.  <a href=”http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-life-and-religion/190673/the-lives-we-never-lived”>The Lives We Never Lived</a> is Simon Yisrael Feuerman’s account of pondering a secular life from the point of view of an observant Jew, and <a href=”http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/judaism-and-the-twice-born”>Judaism and the Twice-Born</a> is convert-in-progress Kelsey Osgoode’s brief account of leaving her old, secular, and even self-identified atheist life behind.  I am, of course, in a similar situation.

For me, the articles interest me because they illustrate the tension I as a would-be convert feel in my life between the secular and the sacred, the spiritual and the earthy, and my “old life,” as it were, and the life I’m slowly but surely stepping into.  Contrast that with Shulem “The Hasidic Rebel” Deen, who has written a deconversion memoir about leaving the Skverer Hasid community and religion altogether.  (I used to love reading his blog; it felt like the best aspects of the documentary style of reality television, without the cheapjack sensationalism — giving you an insider’s view into a closed world that otherwise you’d never get to see.)

I think there is a lot to discuss in these articles, and I may write more about them, but right now I’m very close to a meeting at work…

How Did You Do It?

Ask post for any other converts or baalei teshuva out there:

When you first started keeping kosher, how did you do it?

How do you handle things like making arrangements so you could have a hot lunch at work?

What do you do when you’re travelling or out running a lot of errands or something and there are limited (or no) kosher options available?  (This particularly concerns me with airports, because airport security will confiscate many different kinds of food you try to bring with you beyond say, candy and protein bars — which get boring after a while.)

Did you get a Shabbat food warmer, or a blech?  If so, where, and how?

Do you have a water urn?  If so, where did you get it?

What do you do about opening the fridge?  (Some observant Jews won’t open the fridge at all on Shabbat in case opening it causes the compressor to come on, whereas others will wait until the compressor is on first.)

Are there any other issues you can think of that tripped you up or were difficult to negotiate at first?

Thanks!

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?

The Great Kosher Krisis of 2015

So, in my last post, which constitutes my ignominious return to conversion-blogging after months, I mentioned that we’ve been studying kashrut.  This presents me with a bit of a problem, logistically speaking.  Let me break it down (it’s already pretty broken) for you.

One:  I live in a small house — a very small house — which I share with a friend.  We’re friends, but we’re not what you would call cozy.

Two:  The kitchen in my small house is a retrofit; I’m not sure exactly what renovations were done when, but whoever put the existing (I hesitate to call it “new,” because it’s so totally not) kitchen in sort of knew what all the parts of a kitchen should be, but had obviously never actually cooked in one before.  So that means the fridge is stuck in a tiny alcove between my office door and the bathroom door, there is about a grand total of three square feet of usable countertop space, there is only one sink (crammed between the window and the door down to the basement), and storage space otherwise is at a serious premium.  Sinks are also a particular kosher issue, because if the sink is treif, as mine would necessarily be, I can’t soak dishes in it, nor wash them in a sinkful of water without a plastic sink liner (which I would store where?).  And I don’t — obviously — have the counter space to leave soaking pots all over.  I’m a walking disaster area; I do burn food on the regular.

Three:  Snce I share a house with an unrelated person, and we don’t really share food, we each need separate food storage as it is.

Four:  I still haven’t moved closer to the shul, which means I still live quite a ways away from any of the stores in town that sell kosher meat products.  (Just eating dairy or fish is not an option for me, especially since I don’t like fish that much.)

Five:  I don’t drive.

Six:  I’m mildly physically handicapped and deal with fatigue issues, which means I don’t necessarily have the energy/ability to cook from scratch every day.  There is no kosher restaurant in town.

Seven:  I do not own a chest freezer, not even a small one.

Eight:  While I’m once again gainfully employed, I’m on a three-month contract which ends at the end of July.  I therefore have no guaranteed income past the end of July, and no guarantee I’ll easily be able to find another job after this one.

Nine:  Even if I did find another job right after this one, there’s no guarantee it would be in this city.  Many of the jobs in my field are either in the Waterloo region or the Greater Toronto Area.

Ten:  Rental agreements in my town tend to be twelve-month leases.

Conclusion:  From the way it looks right now, I’d be really stupid to try to move right now, particularly since I’ll find out whether or not $Current_Employer will extend/re-up my contract within about six weeks.

Unfortunately, my rabbi, whom I like very much and want to please, thinks I should start keeping much closer to “real kosher” like now, including using separate stove burners, plates, glasses, and utensils to my housemate, and buying kosher-slaughtered meat.  While I genuinely do want to do this mitzvah, and intend to do it to my utmost once I can, I honestly don’t see how I can pull it off without moving house.  I simply don’t have the room or the energy to try to maintain essentially a whole separate second kitchen in the already-overcrowded space allotted to the first one, and I don’t have the storage space to store frozen cooked meals for those days when I can’t cook/am not safe with a knife, etc.

And while I do actually want to move eventually, and was actually beginning the process of looking for a house to buy in the neighbourhood sort of equidistant between my grandma’s house and the shul (two! two! two mitzvot in one!) before I got restructured out of my last job…

…six weeks before my yea-or-nay date on a three-month (to start?) contract is not precisely the time, I think, to be contemplating committing to a year lease, especially since I’ve been here so long I rent month to month.

I know the rabbi would say that I should just organise my life around doing the mitzvot and HaShem will take care of the rest, but I’m much more of a “trust in G-d but tie your camel” kind of person (if I may borrow from the Islamic world for a sec), to be honest.  And I’m sure this is going to delay my first meeting with the Beit Din, which was supposed to happen right after Pesach, but I don’t mind.  One thing I am sure of is that these things will happen on HaShem’s time, not mine.