The past few days I have been talking to my kids a lot about religion. I asked them what they would think if I adopted Judaism as my chosen religion. They wanted to know why I would do that. We haven’t really talked about it seriously because at this point it is only a thought that has come up a few times recently, but I gave them some answers that weren’t serious. I feel like I need to correct that because I actually do take religion very seriously and the decision to declare a religion for myself is a big one for me.
What I eventually told my son last night, at the very least I want to know about Jewish mysticism. As I explained to him, in my studies I have come to see that the mystics of each religious tradition are the ones who are all saying the same thing. It is at the consciousness level of the mystic that we will all understand unity some day. The mystics are the amazing ones who see, hear and speak of all-pervasive beauty and love.
Why then would I think about joining a religious group? There was a time when I thought I would never belong to another religious congregation. And it’s not that I seek to adopt a belief system to the exclusion of all other belief systems. It’s just that I need some structure in my life. And going to religious service has always felt really good to me. It is very soothing. I feel very supported as a member of a congregation of religious people most of the time. I am very much a fan of ritual and tradition also. It is very comforting.
Knowing nearly nothing about Jewish beliefs, my reasons for considering this religion have more to do with the Jewish people than they do any particular belief about the things that distinguish Jews from Christians or Muslims.
My entire life I have had a very high regard for Jewish people. But I have known very few of them personally, so I don’t know if my regard is based on stereotypes, but it feels genuine. I’m a history nerd to begin with, but I am drawn to Jewish history and there are a couple of things I strongly identify with.
The Jewish people are a resilient people. My ethic background is Native American, so I feel like I also have it in my DNA to understand persecution, endurance and survival. I know it on a personal level as well because I’ve had to be a strong, resilient person to get this far in life. I have endured as gracefully and peacefully as I have been able. That’s the best anyone can do and I feel good about it. Overall I have made good of my experiences.
The other thing that interests me is that the Jewish people are intelligent, thinking people and seem to be able to question many things. I respect that. I am an analytical thinker and I like to apply logic to things. It’s fun for me. I read a lot and I ask a lot of questions. I like that I am that way and I would love to be a part of a group of scholarly people who are also that way.
Finally, I am looking for a group of people who take some really important things very seriously, but don’t take most of life or themselves very seriously at all. I am very serious about my purpose in life and I will not be distracted from it, but I still have a sense of humor about that and everything else in life. I’ve seen too much to worry about minutiae. Life is way more comedy than tragedy in the long run. People who have experienced misfortune understand this on a level the average white American does not. It’s hard to worry about little things after you’ve worried about big things. Big things put the little things into perspective.
Overcoming adversity brings great gifts of insight into one’s life. It makes life a lot easier to live in many ways. You lose things like expectation and judgment and gain things like acceptance and open-mindedness.
I’m not sure where I am headed spiritually or with regard to religious affiliation, all I can do is keep my mind and heart open, read the things I am led to read and make the decision that feels right when the time comes, if ever.
I do know that wherever I end up, I will be reading the words of the mystics, from all traditions, for the rest of my life.