Kind of torn and full of mixed emotions today…. It is the eve of Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish Year, and I am filled with awe and respect for the most respectful of adherent Jews around the world, who spend the next 24 hours, starting at sundown, deep in prayer and self-reflection.
I, however, as a Jew raised in a non-religious home, will spend the day like any other, but not for the reasons one might think. My lack of observance has nothing to do with my upbringing. For my family, Judaism was cultural. It was language and food, and culture and tradition. It was not a series of written rules and behaviors. I have long thought about the differences, and over the years, I have reconciled the differences and lack of stringent adherence to the fact that I am a good person.
I am charitable.
I am generous with my time, and my emotions.
I am a good parent and was a selfless daughter, caring for my mother in my home, until her passing.
I have true friends of different colors and religions. I see kindness, not color.
So why do I struggle here? Why is this day different for me?
I am stuck with the indigestion of the fact that I tried to be an observant Jew in my first marriage because it was deeply important to my husband. I learned, and studied, with all the heart and love of a newlywed and devoted student.
Where did it get me? Cheated on, and he remarried a woman of a different faith. All fine and good. My dilemma comes from the clash of ideas in my head with regards to my children.
The word hypocrite comes to mind. I refuse to be one. I mean what I say, and I say what I mean. Further, I am consistent in my beliefs and my actions.
My faith is my culture. I am who I am. I have a New Yawk style accent and am proud of my heritage. I do, however, have great conflict over the belief in a superior being. I still cannot write the word G-d. I must drop the “o”.
My lack of observance puts me in a place where I am challenged with my need to be honest, and my desire to let my children make their own choices about religion and spirituality.
I would be a deeply happy person if I could see my own children experience the satisfaction that deeply spiritual people experience. I don’t disbelieve. I want to believe, but see little evidence in the world of the greater good. Too much suffering going around to believe. I look for signs of hope, and try, with all my heart, to keep my feelings my own.
My children believe that I do not attend religious services due to various reasons. They attend with their father, and I do my best at home to celebrate and adhere to study and celebrations.
I am conflicted. I do not wish to cheat them of something that could be beautiful. It just did not work for me.
I believe in the choice to be a good person every day of the year. I honor those who go about it in a different way, but I struggle with the conflict. As each child grows, they get to hear a little more about my experiences and my struggles.
Ideally, they have learned the most important lessons, consistent with every religion.
Faith is a hard issue with raising kids… two people, different ideas that may have even started out similarly. People grow; life experience changes them. People marry out of faith and race, and issues arise.
Honesty and kindness must prevail. Give the knowledge and attempt to remember the choices made when you first had kids. Those ideals must remain consistent. My internal struggle continues, but my goals and wants for my children have not changed.
As we dipped the apples in the honey last week to commence the Jewish New Year on Rosh Hashanah, I shared in the beauty of the wishes we gave to each other.
I was surrounded by my children and oh, yes, GF to Son #1. Happy New Year to all… let’s be kind to each other. Let’s remember what caused struggles in the previous year, and reflect on what me might do to bring about a different result. The ideals are the same, G-d or no G-d.
I offer them the opportunity to do better than I did, and as always, with tools in hand, knowledge, the ability to love and be kind. I pray ( to something??) that I have done the right thing.