Sunday, December 03, 2006

Swimming in the Jewish Pool

The Beit Din for my conversion consisted of two of my congregational rabbis and the third was the director of education.

I prepared for the questions like an interview. Here is a list of questions I thought they’d ask, complete with the image of a 1,000-watt light bulb trained on my perspiring face:

1. What’s your favorite story in the Torah? Or, in a slightly different take, with which character did you identify? My favorite story? That’s a little tough, as Torah study has only introduced me to a few, and they’re in Judges. And most of what I found were pictures of human weakness, not people I admire, although there are qualities I admire in these very human characters. I chose Miriam for this anticipated question.

Did they ask this? No.

2. What would your house look like on Shabbat? Or, conversely, and I have to say I love this one, what would your house be like to a blind man or woman if they’re entering your house on Shabbat? I really thought about this one a lot, and, kind of after the thought, tried to make my home resemble this mental dream.

Did they ask this? No.

3. What do you like about Judaism, and what do think you dislike about it?
The answer to the first part of this one is in my essay as to why I chose to make this journey, so I didn’t really have to prepare for this one.

Did they ask this? In a way. The second part of the question was reformed to: What issue concerning Judaism do you struggle with? Is there anything you’ll miss?

My answer to the first concerned Jews fighting Jews. I will never understand that. And the second was: Christmas music. One of the rabbis, hysterically, agreed with me, not that he missed it but that there was an incessant song in his brain this morning that wouldn’t go away.

That’s pretty much what I prepared for. I had several questions about my story, how I came to Judaism. One particularly pointed question about passion, where my passion lay. There were other questions, but the rest is a blur.

Speaking of the Jewish pool, let me make one point about the mikveh: it was not at all how I pictured. The rabbi is nowhere near you, as the stairs leading down go away from her. But it was warm and pardon me for saying this, very womb-like.

Was I nervous about the court? A little. I tried to focus on the three of them, engaging them in an enjoyable conversation and not make my answers too long. I think I failed on the passion one. Too much passion.

I think when I go to synagogue in the future I look forward to a discussion very much like my beit din. An engagement of minds and exploration of ideas. Only this time, I’ll be a member of the club and not nervous at all.

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