This morning, my heart was jumping in and out of my throat. I couldn't eat breakfast, I couldn't smile, I couldn't breathe. I got the shul almost 30 minutes early, I sat in the car, I freaked out. The weather was gloomy, overcast and looking as if the sky would drop at any moment. At 10 till, I got out of the car and walked into the shul.
I sat down with the rabbi this morning, to have our first conversation about my eventual, hopeful, conversion to Judaism within Orthodox Judaism. I sat on the couch, he sat across from me. I was hopeful, I was trying to be positive, optimistic. And then? The questions. Why not Conservative Judaism? What are you looking for? Are you keeping kosher? Shomer Shabbos? You live dozens of miles from shul, how do you want to work it so you keep Shabbos? So many questions. And stories about past, failed, regretful conversions of people who just, well, couldn't crack it. The rabbi told me that the neshama is a delicate thing, it's like a light bulb. A rabbi doesn't take the neshama lightly. You can't rush things, you can't force things.
Perhaps the most fascinating thing, that put me at ease, that settled my mind and my soul for just a few minutes, was that he said it wasn't an Orthodox synagogue -- it was a synagogue that was Orthodox. He wasn't an Orthodox rabbi -- he is a rabbi who is Orthodox. I wish more rabbis, more congregations, more JEWS had this perspective on things. There is the synagogue, there is the rabbi. Our way is our own, no?
He suggested I need to start praying every day (I agree), I need to be serious about kashrut (I wish I didn't like eating out so much or that Hartford had eating-out places for observant Jews), I need to find a way to make Shabbos happen. So? He suggested I start staying with a family every Shabbos. Luckily, we know a family that is more than willing to have Tuvia and I in their home on Shabbos. It can happen, and we'll make it happen.
Where there's a will, there's a way, right?
The rabbi said that, the intellectual side is there -- I know what there is to know -- but that he sees that my neshama is hungry, and he wants to help sate that hunger. So? Every Thursday I'll be studying with the rabbi. I'll be at shul every Friday/Saturday.
But I left the synagogue this morning feeling overwhelmed. Kind of distraught, but mostly overwhelmed. I worried about my relationship with Tuvia and my living situation (should I move to W. Hartford? buy a car? rent an apartment? quit school ...?). I sat in the car for a long time, talking to Tuvia, listening to myself. Wondering and wishing for answers.
I do not feel differently about where I'm going, it's how I'm getting there that is difficult and frustrating. If I lived in a city? Things would be easier. Life would be easier. Without a car, without a home near a shul, without being within the community, there are questions that must be asked and answers that must be sought.
But, let's just say, my neshama might be overwhelmed, but it's still hungry.