Tiny Coconut

I have things.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

A Student Again

Baroy eyed me suspiciously as I sat curled up in my favorite chair, my legs pulled up underneath me, my book--what many people call The Book--open on my lap.

"You're not going to become one of those Bible-quoting zealots now, are you?" he said. "Because I don't think I could deal with that."

It was meant as a joke. Except I know, and he knows, it was also a serious statement. Maybe even a vague, unformed threat.

Over the past year, I've found a community at our temple, which is sort of the quintessential Little Temple That Could--tiny in size, overshadowed by bigger, wealthier congregations on all sides, fighting for survival (and new members). My kids adore the place; N actually threw a fit a couple of weeks back when I decided I was too tired to take the 20 minute drive on a Friday night to attend a potluck/Shabbat service. Even Baroy has made friends--in particular, our rabbi, with whom he shares a rabid interest in all things leftly political. We all look forward to spending time there. It's hard to ask for more than that, isn't it?

But I want more. I want more than a sense of community--I want to actually belong. And to do that, I need to be able to do more than mouth the words without understanding what I'm saying, what I'm feeling, what I'm pledging. And so I took advantage of an offer the rabbi made to teach a class to those of us looking for 'more' out of our experience of our religion.

This class, called Reintroduction to Judaism, will be meeting every couple of weeks throughout the year. There were about a dozen of us at the first class; we'll see how many keep coming, how many join, how many drop out.

The first thing Rabbi told us when we sat down--before he went over the syllabus, the books we need to buy, the dates we'd be meeting--is that he believes that being a Jew means questioning. That the only way to have a relationship with God is to question.

I don't know what kind of relationship with God I want, if I want one, or whether I will ever have one. But I am finding the class fascinating, even just the introduction. I am reading a "study bible" for the first time--not just a biblical translation, but a detailed commentary on the meanings and questions about the text--when I'd never read any bible at all. I am reading a fascinating book called Jewish Literacy, by Joseph Telushkin. I am studying. I hadn't realized how much I've missed studying all these years. I hadn't realized how much I missed being a student. I hadn't realized how much I missed learning. I hadn't realized how much I missed questioning.

So when Baroy challenged me, however lightly, I laughed, but refused to back down. "I make no promises," I said lightly, then sobered a bit. "I'm enjoying this right now. It's something I want to do. Please don't make it difficult for me."

He laughed it off, but I think there's more of this sort of discussion to come. And not just with him, with any number of people, depending on where I go with this, where I take it. I don't expect to become religious in the sense of seriously observent. Right now, this is more intellectual to me. But it also speaks to me on a deeper level, all of the ritual and the optimism and the positivity of blessings and prayers. So I don't know.

All I know is, I can't make any promises. Not even to Baroy.

And that, I think, scares both of us, if only a little.

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