Jewish Journey: Mitzvot – by Michael T. Pullen

This is part IV. Read: Part I, part II, part III.

Ah now I am Jewish, all the hard stuff is behind me right? All I have to do is continue on living the way I have always been living? What changed? One day I was a goy the next a Jew. You cannot tell me that the day makes a huge difference.

So why not jump into doing all the halacha? Why not do all the mitzvot at once? Whoa nelly. I do not jump both feet into anything and with this I did not even have an idea where to begin. It is not even something I had ever encountered until a few years before.

So my wife and I (yeah we got married in there somewhere) decided that together we would start incorporating different mitzvot into our lives. (Since she is not orthodox we did not venture down the halachic path.) The first thing we did was to incorporate Shabbat into our lives. We made Saturday the day where our professional jobs were not allowed and we would not watch TV or use the computer. Slowly we added more and more things into our lives.

So now I want you to think of this situation. My family is all Christian or something like that and my wife’s family is a participating assimilated Jewish family who used to attend a conservative synagogue. And we live in an assimilated American neighborhood.

The more we do to incorporate Jewish traditions the more different we look to our families. Why don’t we just follow all of the halachic laws? Because that would and does skewer the relationship we have with our parents, family and community we participate in. We have been warned of becoming “too” Jewish by the Jewish relatives. 

I do not live in a Jewish world. I live in a world that contains a good number of assimilated Jews but it is an assimilated American world. Some would say “ah that is too easy if you really believed you would do it all and become orthodox.” I think that sentiment is not fair and very particularistic.

I am proud to be Jewish and I am proud of the participation and ways of my family and myself. It is perfect for where we are today. As I learn more I try to incorporate what I am learning. I am willing to stand out and be different but I am not willing to separate myself from my family and community as a strict halachic experience requires.

Outside of the orthodox world everything is done by my will power. I am learning everything new. The language, the customs, the rituals, the traditions – everything is new. It is not necessarily better than what I had before. My parents did a fabulous job of raising me. They are great parents and in their honour, do not deserve throwing everything out just because I picked a new way of doing things.

As I get all wrapped and emotional about the expectations of the relentless external eyes questioning “how Jewish are you?,” all I can think of is back off. We are all people. How we do our Judaism is way more important then grey line rules. Living as a good Jew in this world is more important then living as a rule abiding Jew secluded from the rest of the world.

If I can be so bold, don’t make excuses for what you do and don’t do. Just do what you do with intention. Make sure that everything you do is done with the full beauty of Judaism in your eyes. That may mean that you do not live up to expectations of your neighbors. However, the most important thing is your family and the community you surround yourself with. They all should see the beauty of the Judaism you practice.

Peace, Shalom

mTp – With Intention

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