This week’s Friday Food Day is dedicated to a dear friend who took her last step into becoming a Jewess. She took her final dip in the Mikvah, promised to die for the Torah, swear to send her kids to Jewish day school, and never celebrate Halloween again. No more cheeseburgers, shrimp scampi, or Red Lobster for her.
This right of passage was not an easy journey. She spent years studying, practicing, learning and finding a way to connect with a group who’s collective consciousness echos years of tyrannical abuse, decades of mother’s guilt, and centuries of prejudicial racial isolation. She has sworn to uphold 606 more laws than the mere 7 she was born into giving her a total of 613 do’s and don’t to live her life by. I often wonder, what would bring a person to change their entire lifestyle willingly and adhere to a strict diet voluntarily? (obviously it’s not for the food). Maybe there is a greater lesson we can glean from this woman’s journey that will help us get a glimpse of why she chose this sometimes seemingly challenging lifestyle.
For the past several weeks, since she had made her Mikvah date, this woman has had a plastered smile on her face radiating joy, jubilation, and triumph over her accomplishments and her impending evolution. Last night, after her dip, she was embraced by a halo as her face glowed with a sense of purpose, a clear defined path, and a sincere feeling that she belongs to a group who has sworn to be the conscience of the world.
A young woman once approached me with this honest question:
“How can I be the conscience of the world, if I am haunted with resentments towards human beings that ruthlessly slaughtered my grandfather’s family in Nazi Germany?”
One woman has yet to find her conscience and the other has worked forty years to hear it speak to her. The woman who converted will teach a profound lesson to those of us born to Jewish women. The new convert will teach us to let go of our past and to honor our future. Just as she spent the last forty years taking one baby step at a time towards her ultimate goal, so must we put one foot in front of the other in realizing our potential. Just as she will spend every day getting to know her new role as a Jewish woman and honor it with vitality and excitement, so can we do the same.
Every one of us has a past. Some of us use our past as an excuse, while others use it as a springboard to create contributions that are meaningful and worthwhile. The convert may not share the same depth of emotional scarring as the young descendent who’s family was senselessly murdered, but the gift she does carry is the ability to inspire those who have been affected by the ghosts of their past because she chose to be part of a perplexing collective history that now defines her as well. The convert has the ability to expose the light we need without the baggage, and with a new untainted perspective we all yearn to have in our lives.
This woman who has converted, who has sworn off bacon, ham sandwiches, and clams will be the person who reminds the rest of us how sacred and holy our mission is, how blessed we are to be born into the very confusing, and sometimes frustrating journey she has faught so hard to join, and why? Because she too wanted the mission of being the conscience of the world.