Jewish Journal

A Timeline of Myself and Judaism

by Beit T'shuvah

February 20, 2013 | 1:44 pm

By Ben Spielberg

Age .2: I have just been circumcised for no apparent reason. A bearded man prayed to me. I cried throughout the night.

Age 4: I have begun to notice that there are other people in this world known as “Christians.” My favorite television shows all have specials during this time of year. I don't understand how that tree got inside those houses. I learn about a “mistletoe,” which is an evil contraption that will make any girl kiss me. I carefully plan how I could use a mistletoe, should I ever find one.

Age 5: My classmates have started talking about an elderly Caucasian man known as Santa Claus. I ask my mother who this obese man is, and if he will come to our house bearing gifts. She tells me that he's not real. I smile and think about this secret; only my mother and I are aware of the foolish beliefs of the rest of the world. I wonder what eggnog tastes like.

Age 6: It's some Jewish Holiday, which means that I have to read aloud, as I am the youngest of the group. My sister begs my father to let us “find the matzah,” which is a hidden piece of stale bread. The yeast-less substance is always behind the oven, and my father very socialistically gives each of us a $20 bill. I make sure to remind my siblings that I found the matzah, and I take note that it tastes delicious when smothered with peanut butter.

Age 7: My brother has something called a Bar Mitzvah. He is 13 years old and now considered a man. He reads in a foreign language and discusses the Holocaust. I become even wearier of the German-sounding Santa Claus.

Age 8: My family has recently moved to Los Angeles and made friends with a Christian family. We are invited to church. I spend the next three hours thinking about my next move in Pokemon. I learn that my mother accidentally drinks the holy water.

Age 9: I feel uncomfortable sitting next to a German girl in school. I wonder if her parents are Nazis.

Age 11: I grow angry and fed up with religion. My thoughts of God have become dark. I read my first Bukowski novel. The idea of God seems stupid. I brush off the thought of planning for my very own Bar Mitzvah, despite the large sums of money my friends have accumulated.

Age 12: My father sends me to Stephen S. Weiss for one year and I am miserable. I don't understand the Friday morning prayers. The uniform is uncomfortable and the grape juice too sweet. I began to exercise silence during the “Under God” part of the Pledge of Allegiance. I spend much of my time in the principal's office.

Age 13: I make it clear to my father that I will not have a Bar Mitzvah. I grow embarrassed of my Jewish ethnicity and decide to change my last name. I ask people for change at school and they call me a Jew. I hate my nose and try to find the best angle for photos of my face.

Age 14: My parents are talking about the Israeli-Palestine conflict and I tell them I don't care. They are shocked and disappointed.

Age 16: I tell myself that people believe in God because they are too weak to believe in themselves. This idea comforts me and I feel superior to most human beings. I debate becoming a Satanist, opting instead for the sanctity of atheism. Later, I decide instead that I will simply have no religion.

Age 18: Heroin.

Age 19: I am dope-sick and I go to my first meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. They talk about God and they hold hands. They are weak. I pop Imodium until the prayer at the end. I don't know the words and I stay silent, just as I had during my years at Stephen S. Weiss. I swear off AA for one year.

Age 20: My father gives me an ultimatum. I can either go to temple for Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, or I can find an alternative place to live. I have been kicking dope for two days and I go to temple. My stomach is churning and there are families everywhere. I think about the hidden track marks on my arms and begin to weep next to my mother. My anxiety skyrockets and my sobbing becomes uncontrollable. I tell my parents I am going to use the restroom, catch a ride to Highland Park, and get high. I ignore the phone calls from my family for the rest of the day.

Age 21: I have been inserted into a Jewish-based rehabilitation program. Shabbat services are not unbearable, even though I still don't know the prayers. I enjoy a respectable 50% of the things Rabbi Mark discusses during Ethics. Somebody gives me change and says it's a “mitzvah.”

Age 22: I recognize that there is nothing inherent in Judaism that I am ashamed of. The Torah, just like the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, is filled with stories that are meant for us to be good and righteous people. I am still filled with anger at the thought of stereotypes and religious fanaticism.

Age 23: I work at a Jewish rehab and am educated at a respectable Jesuit university. I have generally abandoned my 16-year old thoughts of Godlessness and instead opt for a balance between my yetzer h'ara and my yetzer h'atov. Religion no longer makes me cringe, and I no longer feel shame in Judaism. I am proud of the fact that I was brought up to wrestle with different ideas. Still, I deny my father's pushes for a Bar Mitzvah.

Tracker Pixel for Entry


We welcome your feedback.

Privacy Policy
Your information will not be shared or sold without your consent. Get all the details.

Terms of Service
JewishJournal.com has rules for its commenting community.Get all the details.

JewishJournal.com reserves the right to use your comment in our weekly print publication.




This blog will be written to give our readers a sampling of our philosophy of recovery and to offer a behind-the-curtain look into the minds of the leaders of our community. ...

Read more.