Ger Tzadik (Sorta)

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

But What About the Kids?

This has been one of the questions in the back of my mind since early adulthood. For a very long time, I was able to keep it there. After all, I had a career to worry about, fun to have, responsibilities to juggle, and a life to live. Sure; how I was going to raise a family was on the list, but it didn’t have any urgency to it. Given how few and far between I typically went between serious relationships, and how slowly they progressed, I figured I’d have plenty of time to deal with that problem when it got to me.

By “how to raise a family”, I mean how to effectively transmit my values and life lessons to children in a satisfactory way. The way of my parents was straight out. It’s not that it didn’t work. My parents and my religious upbringing raised me to know what was right from wrong. What it didn’t do was convince me there was an intellectual attachment to those teachings. I read the works of Jesuits and other Christian scholars. I know there are places these ideas are debated. I just didn’t see a place for myself there. (Plus: Celibacy? No thanks!)

So I ended up feeling I couldn’t walk into a Catholic church, every Sunday, and participate in sacraments like the 3 C’s: Confession, Communion, and Confirmation. Not only would I feel phony, but I don’t think going through the motions does children as much service as being able to teach them about your faith from your heart.

But how do I communicate my faith to my kids? My journey was long and introspective. I read a lot about the world’s religions, about philosophy, about history, and about battleships. (I didn’t say I was single-minded. Give a nerd a break.) The conclusion I finally came to was: There is an unknowable God. I don’t know what he wants from me or the world, but right and wrong exist because of Him. I think the Judeo-Christian value system more closely reflects His kindness and will in the world than any other. I wish I knew how to worship Him. Intense, huh? Did it shake you to your core? I bet your lips are quivering and heart is racing. I'll give you a moment to collect yourself.

Ok fine, it’s not exactly Rambam, but no one has ever accused me of being a Rambam. (I was once called Rumbum…I think. That night is kind of hazy. Anyway…) That simple set of value statements served me well! It kept me searching for some kind of faith system that would ring true. Enter into my life the woman who I didn’t think could exist, and now here we are on my blog.

Once I started learning how central to Jewish life the family is, how critical learning is, how important a parent’s role is required to be in a child’s life…I knew I had found an answer to that question that had lingered for the last 10 years at the back of my head. Now I just had to begin soaking up that knowledge as fast as my brain would let me.

When talking to the rabbis who I wished to have help me convert, this is one of the (many) reasons I mentioned for my interest. They made sure to mention, quite correctly, that Judaism and the Torah weren’t just meant to make nice families. While obviously true, they didn’t do the topic justice either. The Torah and mitzvos have their own purposes, but one of the results of them is the undeniable success of the Jewish family. It’s very hard to argue against 3,000 years of unbroken tradition. I feel much better knowing that my children will be part of that tradition, instead of the one I made up in my head in a fit of existential panic.

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