Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Tonight while davening at shul, I had a peculiar flashback to High Holiday services long, long ago. Probably in 2005, in Lincoln, Nebraska. Was it Rosh Hashanah? Or Yom Kippur?
My mom had purchased something for me for my birthday that year, around the High Holiday season, that meant a lot to me because it was an acknowledgement of where I was going, who I was becoming -- a large black star of David on a really long black beaded chain. It was, essentially, a Jewish rosary. I forgave my mother the weirdness of its composition, put it in my jewelry box, and didn't think much of it.
And then, while I was getting dressed for holiday services one day, I pulled out the necklace. "Should I wear it?" I questioned myself, staring at the long black beaded cord, looping it around and around to a length that was doable as a necklace. I placed it around my neck, the star falling between the sides of the color of a royal purple shirt I had on. The weight of the star caused it to float downward, into my shirt, showing only the beaded black portion of the strange piece of jewelry.
I took it off.
I finished getting ready, all the while thinking about whether it was kosher for me to be wearing this Jewish symbol, especially to synagogue, especially on the high holidays. Was it sacrilegious? Sinful? I didn't have time to question the internet or call a friend, and surely there are plenty of people in the world who aren't Jewish who wear the star of David, right?
I put the rosary-themed gothic-style star of David necklace back on. I went to shul.
I remember worrying the entire service about what if someone saw me with the necklace on, knowing that I was going through the (Reform) conversion process. What if I was accosted? What if the rabbi saw it and scolded me? The heavy star of David slipped down with its weight, slowly, and I played with the beaded chain the entire service, trying to make the star fall further away from sight. I didn't want anyone to see it. I wore it out of pride, but ended up being embarrassed and actually ashamed that I'd put it on and worn it to shul.
I remember nothing about what was said during that service -- by the rabbi or anyone else. But I do remember my exact outfit, and that necklace, and how embarrassed I was that I wore that necklace when I wasn't "officially" Jewish.
Now, I wear a star of David every day. In the eyes of halakah, well, I'm still not halakicly Jewish. But I feel naked without my star. It screams to the world "Jew here!" But it's more subtle than that one I wore all but once those many years ago. That big, black star of David done up like a rosary. No, now it's a small, shiny piece given to me by Tuvia. I have various other necklaces adorned with the magen David and other Jewish symbols. I'm no longer embarrassed or worried or frightened that I'll be reprimanded for wearing this symbol of Judaism that, to be honest, was a late incarnation of Jewish symbols.
Either way, my fear of what others think of me, how they read the most subtle of clothing choices and jewelry adornments, has changed over time. Confidence grows, worries subside, and in the end a small little star of David is but one millisecond in the scheme of things.