Utterly confused by Judaism 29 April 2015
It’s hard to connect to a religion that doesn’t speak your language … literally!
Growing up Jewish felt like a set-up to fail.
And synagogue was the main stage … from which I got well and truly pushed.
Sure I got busted for picking my nose and wiping it on my shirt. But that was just the beginning.
What made it particularly gruelling was that all the prayers were in Hebrew – of which I know four words (none worth repeating in a house of the Lord).
After the prayer service, the Rabbi would give a sermon – thankfully mostly in English.
But every now and then – and at key moments – the Rabbi would drop in a Hebrew or Yiddish word, and we’d all be lost in the dark.
It would go something like this: “The pathway to a holy life in the eyes of God – a life filled with blessings and love and meaning – is through observance of shumutz.”
Stop right there! Did that really happen? … Yep!
So the Rabbi would pretty much reveal the meaning of life, and then leave us hanging on a word no one understood.
At this point, everyone in the synagogue would turn around and whisper things like: “What’s shumutz?” “Is it Hebrew?” “I guess so.” “But what is it?” “I can’t believe he said that!”
Now, Rabbis are crafty fellows. And they know when they’re onto something.
So after the service, they’d track you down and push home the point.
Rabbi: “Well, have you found shumutz?”
Me: “What is … ?”
Rabbi: “If you work hard, you will find shumutz. Do you honour your mother and father with shumutz? Do you search for it in your daily life?”
Before I could answer, he’d go on, until my head was spinning with confusion and guilt.
“Do you practice shumutz? Do you do shumutz? Do you strive to bring a feeling of shumutz to your community? You must wear shumutz like your garments. Have you decided shumutz? Are you a shumutz? Have you broken shumutz like one breaks bread in the morning? You must seize shumutz! Are you shumutz? Is your life at one with shumutz? Do you honour shumutz? Do you chew shumutz?
Looking back, grown-up me wants to go back and declare: “Hold on there. You’ve used that word in just about every conceivable grammatical form!”
To which the key-eared Rabbi would respond: “Ah, that is because you are trying to find shumultz when it is trying to find you.”
Like a Chinese finger trap: the more you pull, the tighter it grips.
Sometimes it’s best to let go and take that proverbial fall from grace.
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