Friday, April 28, 2006

How quickly we're OK with moving on.

I can't really write about the ACES Conference at this point. The only things I need to say, really, are that I spent the greater portion of my time with two boys -- one Daniel and one Niko -- and we drank in the hotel bar and other places. I had drinks bought for me by professionals and I spread my name about like wildfire. So hopefull, come mid-summer, I'll have a phone call from someone who can say "hey, we want to offer you a job" and hopefully this place will be the kind of place someone like me wants to end up.

But what I really need to write about was yesterday. Today was the first day I woke up a Jew, the member of a nation of people who have survived the most horrendous of tests and tragedies as well as the most miraculous of moments. But when I woke up yesterday I was still merely a girl who had never visited the mikvah. So my day yesterday began.

I picked up the rabbi at 7:30 and chatted with his wife, their daughter and played with the new dog, Bandit. We headed into Omaha and got to the Rose Blumkin Home at about 9 a.m. -- the time he said we needed to have me dip into the mikvah. So we said a few blessings, and I went in and did my thing (which I'll write more on in a second). We left the Rose Blumkin Home and headed for Temple Israel around 10 to meet with the rabbi and cantor, but unfortunately, they were back at the Blumkin home waiting for us. So we drive back and come to find out I'm supposed to meet with the rabbis first and then take the dip in the mikvah. So what do I do? I meet with the rabbis (them asking me questions about G-d, antiSemitism, why I should tell people I wish to become a Jew, etc) and then I took another dip, with them in the waiting space hollering AMEN after every prayer. I gagged the last time, on the water, and the rabbi yelled "Amen! Don't drink the water!"

The first time in the mikvah felt incredibly special and personal. It was me and G-d and the warm water. I removed the nail polish from my toes and showered, and then I stepped into the mikvah -- seven steps in -- and dunked. The water was incredibly warm and even when I floated to the top and I was sure my back was still below the surface, I felt no air, only water. It must be what a space rock feels like, bobbing around, like being tossed by gentle, translucent hands. I went up and said the first prayer and took a few breaths. I dunked again, bobbing more and listening to the rushing of the water -- the tank was refilling the mikvah even as I had just gotten in -- and it felt like a stream. It reminded me of in the Torah when it says after being kicked out of Eden, Adam sat in the stream. I came up and said the second prayer and stood there for a few moments. Finally, I went in a third time, bobbing again, light as a feather, and coming up said the Sh'ma. I stood in the water for a few more moments before I ascended the seven stairs and got dressed again. The second time I went in was very similar, but it was less at ease -- more rushed -- and I gagged on the water, of course. Between the morning and the two dunks, though, I showered three times before noon yesterday. When I came out of the mikvah the first time the rabbi said my smile was huge. The second time I came out of hte mikvah, the rabbi from Omaha embraced me and said "Welcome Home." It was the most refreshing, exhilirating, welcoming feeling ever. And now? I am a Jew. I have always been a Jew, but now, now it's "official."

My rabbi told me that he was glad I was his first conversion, because he had no doubt in his mind that I was sure and ready. I was the guinea pig, though, so now he knows for when John and the others convert. No more miscommunication. Our first line of business after the mikvah and bet din was to go get lunch, so the rabbi and I went to Whole Foods for some delicious, delicious sushi (his treat) and then to Border's Bookstore to browse about. It was a good way to spend the after-conversion time, I think.

In other news, while reading this week's parsha in preperation for tonight's Shabbat service, I came across a passage in a commentary from that refers to the "outside," which immediately made me think of Tova Mirvis's "The Outside World" ... so I e-mailed it to my professor because I'm a huge geek.
The forces of evil are, in Kabbalistic and Chassidic terminology, the sitra achra, the "other side." They are what is "outside," what is far from G-d's presence and holiness. They flourish in the realm where He is most concealed and least felt, where there is least holiness. In a place where G-d is least felt, there is naturally more room for "opposition" to Him. And hence, spiritually speaking, what is most evil and most impure in a person is, above all, the assertion of self: one pushes G-d's presence away and creates a void, a vacuum where His presence should be.
My conversion ceremony is tonight, though I know not who will be coming to it. Heather and Annie want to see the slideshow and John is participating in antics. I know Alex is coming, but Cesar may not be coming, ahh well. My family may be coming. Mom said to me "but you know that's when I was planning my thing" which infuriated me. She wants to go paint pots and have a drink. I know this is a me thing, but sometimes it's nice to have people there who ... nevermind. It's pointless to banter about. It's me, it's my friends and community at Temple, and I'm happy with that, damnit!

Anyhow. I'm ready to move on, now.