Every now and then, there is an event or a season in which I hearken back to my Jewish roots. It’s not that I shut down my Christian identity, but rather allow a part of me that normally lies dormant to temporarily take the stage.
The High Holy Days in Judaism are one such season. These events – the Jewish New Year and Day of Atonement – are the Christian and Easter equivalent for my family in terms of religious importance. They also mark the anniversary of my father’s death (called yahrzeit in Yiddish).
The passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg marks another season. For my family, my Jewish friends, and everyone who depended on her judicial work to defend their civil rights, this was one emotionally difficult weekend.
The Reckoning that Never Ends
I found myself reciting the Mourner’s Kaddish for her as I lit a candle. I had long FaceTime conversations with my mom and brother about the potential implications for families like ours, if the Supreme Court were to be stacked with conservative judges bent on turning the Land of the Free into a land of Christian theocracy.
In that time, I couldn’t turn to my usual comforts: the reminder that Christ is still King no matter who is president or on the Court, that Christians are not at home in any political party or place, etc. And I probably would have shut out any voices trying to comfort me in that way, for the time being.
Every now and then, there are moments that I must grieve – or simply respond at all – as a Jew. I can’t adequately explain the emotional tug-of-war that happens inside me…one that’s been happening since 2008, when I officially “gave my heart to Christ,” as I learned to call it. Bible verses like Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus,” do nothing but confuse me.
I was – am – a Jew first, after all. One does not simply forget the faith that raised them.
Some strands of Christianity place great emphasis on the well-crafted testimony. There is a clear beginning, middle, and end that takes place: the period of being lost, the grappling in the dark, and the final conclusion where Jesus is realized. Suddenly, almost overnight, everything changes. Your path is set, your confusion evaporated.
I tried for years to mold my story to fit that narrative, and quickly realized that it couldn’t be done. Some of us live our testimonies forever.
There are some things I know for certain, and rest comfortably with. I know that Jesus is Lord, that he died for my sins and rose from the dead. I don’t ever really question that.
But does that declaration of faith erase the impressions from the tradition that nurtured me, grew me, and taught me my first baby steps in this world?
Yes. No. I don’t know.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
Photo by Mike Labrum via Unsplash