Where Did I Come From?

March 27, 2014

BH

First I had to overcome that it sounded like blob, as in,”The Blob,” still the scariest movie I ever saw.

But now, I love the word because I love to blog.

There was writing, and there was talking, and now there’s blogging, which is the best of both worlds. It’s written, so I can think about it, edit it, make sure it’s worth putting out there. Yet I get to break all the rules that were so stifling to me every time I had to write anything “expository.” I don’t have to ask, to whom am I exposing myself?

Now, with my blog, I can write it as I would say it. Who am I exposing myself to?

And now, I know that the answer is, You.

So thank you for reading this and for your valuable time; I know you could be reading a lot of other things.

If you’re like a lot of Jews, you could be reading about Passover. The cooking, the customs, the cleaning, the meaning, lots of good stuff.

My blog about Passover is a little different.

Because, while I have a lot to say in my ongoing blog, it is only after almost thirty years since I became observant that I want to share everything about the journey.  I had been encouraged to write about the process as soon as I started, but if my first piece is any indication, it’s a good thing I waited all these years.

It was called The Pain of Passover.

I don’t even remember who asked me to write it or what became of the piece. I tried looking for it on my computer yesterday, but couldn’t find it. It’s probably better that way.

My first Passover, make that Passovers plural, were nothing short of traumatic. They call it a ba’al teshuvah phenomenon but it passes over to the obsessive-compulsive realm; my rabbi told me to clean my house for chometz (leavened grain products) and I was terrified the forbidden stuff could be anywhere and everywhere– the cracks of my wood floor, the bindings of books (one in a million chance they were opened is still a chance, right?). At stake was my rightful place as part of the Jewish people, or some huge punishment I can’t remember anymore but one that must have loomed very large.

I was a little crazy but not totally. Play-doh was banned from the house forever (it’s total chometz) but Cheerios were my kids’ major source of sustenance. As much as they survived on Cheerios, I survived on their surviving on them (as in, don’t cry, here’s a bag of Cheerios) and I was correct in my assessment that one could drop and roll anywhere, and I mean, anywhere, in the house.

But the real pain wasn’t the cleaning or even the cooking. (That’s a whole other story.) The pain of Passover was an indescribable, overwhelming feeling of sadness.

Passover was so hard because I felt abandoned by my ancestors.

Who was to blame for the fact that I knew nothing about the cooking, the customs, the cleaning, the meaning?

Now, twenty-seven Passovers later, I understand better that “blaming” is futile because nothing happens unless G-d wants it to. I will never know the who, the how, the when, and the why and it doesn’t matter anymore.

Because now, twenty-seven Passovers later, make that twenty seven Pesachs later, with G-d’s help, Bubbe and Zeidy are the new and improved ancestors.

I was at a beauty salon recently and the esthetician moved my sheitl away from my face. “It’s a wig,” I told her. “I wear it for religious reasons.”

“Really?” she asked. “Do you mind if I ask what religion you are?”

I said I was Jewish.

“Wait a minute, I don’t understand,” she said, totally dumbfounded. “I have lots of Jewish women who come to me and none of them wear wigs. What are you talking about?”

I laughed to myself. How do I explain the story of the American Jewish experience in the course of a fifteen minute appointment?

“It’s a long story,” I started.

She told me she wanted to know how it all happened so, of course, I told her to check out my blog. She made me feel like she couldn’t wait to read it and talk about it with her Jewish clients.

“One thing I know,” I told her as I was leaving. “All of your Jewish clients had ancestors who were observant.”

For me, this fact was a turning point as my husband and I considered observant Jewish life. This was where we came from.

We couldn’t come up with a good enough reason not to return to it; the only reasons for our non-observance were circumstantial.

The pain of Passover wasn’t about sadness; it was about the challenge of picking up where my ancestors left off.

 

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