Ger Tzadik (Sorta)

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Would I Still Convert If I Were To Be Dumped?

The simple and true answer is “Yes!” The more nuanced response would be to ask another question: ‘When?’

The reason ‘When?’ is matters should be obvious. After all, I haven’t always known what I know now. I haven’t always had the experiences I’ve now had. I haven’t always cherished memories of Israel in my head. ‘When’ is very important indeed.

If you had asked a year ago, the response would be different. I had just barely scratched the surface at that point. I felt the tug, caught glimpse of the gleam, heard the music from afar…but there were more questions than answers. There is no way to guarantee that I would convert without the love of another as my backing force!

For the record, she knew all that as well. She never told me I needed to convert. Never suggested it as an option. Never even hinted at what I might do if I were interested. I took those steps myself. What she did do is discuss the topics I had questions about: Marriage, life roles, expectations, oddities the average non-observant Jew wouldn’t know, etc. Given that information, I could obviously put two and two together: If I wanted a life with her, I would essentially be a bystander at best, a pariah at worst.

My first decision was not “I shall convert” but “I shall find out more about this on my own.” This was easy to do, because as I have mentioned, she lives thousands of miles away. (A topic for another post.) So if you’d have asked me The Question at that time, the answer would certainly have been: ‘No.’ But my goal was not to convert instantly and ride off into the sunset. It was to figure out what I really thought, and what this could mean for me and my ephemeral spiritual world. I couldn’t refuse God if this was his way of coming to look for me, could I?

I began by searching for whatever teachers, wisdom, or knowledge that could be found. As my learning grew, my love for Torah, Mitzvot…heck, EVERYTHING, grew. As with any growing processes, there were some rough spots and transition points. For awhile, if asked, perhaps you would have gotten a ‘Maybe’. I was now convinced this is what I wanted to do…But there was some comfort knowing I could back out should it be necessary. Maybe some requirement would prove untenable to me. Or perhaps if I got dumped I might have a change of heart. Ah, the guts of this post, and the naked truth, for a period of time. This is what the rabbis so desperately want to avoid when they grill you, and I understand. It’s their responsibility to make sure God is served, not me.

Keep in mind that it is hard to give an answer about your mindset in the past, and in a situation that did not arise, yet still call it 100% fact. No one can detach their rational minds entirely from their emotions, and I know that I wear colored glasses here. Still, I honestly believe I would have at least continued to learn, but at a less urgent pace. Take that for what it’s worth. (Not much, but more than nothing.)

The transition point to the resolute “Yes” I stand behind now began when I really started making observance part of my day to day life. Going through Chagim. Consistently keeping Shabbat. (Or as close as I could manage.) Making it to minyan on a regular basis. Seeing the same people and rabbis all the time. In essence, feeling like I’m growing into part of the community. Seeing how the Torah has made this community something that I so desperately want to be a part of just cinches it! That is why I am 100% convinced I am on the right path, independent of anything that happens or doesn’t happen in my relationship. At the same time, my sadness would be greater now than ever before without the relationship. Each new day I get a new appreciation for what an amazing woman she is, an appreciation I couldn’t have without Torah.

Now I just hope I can communicate my conviction clearly to my rabbis. My writing skills eclipse my speaking skills when I am nervous. Please, as Joe Schick did so wonderfully yesterday, ask the hard questions if you have them. You can’t hurt me, and I think it’s good to evaluate myself and my motives. Others have insights that I can never have.

Footnote: This was a hard post to write. It took me over 2 hours, whereas the rest have been ~30 minutes. I have so much to talk about here that being concise (something I value) was brutally hard. I also always feel I have to evaluate my thought process to see if I am trying to convince others or myself. Not an easy task. I did get ideas for at least 3 more posts though.

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