Tuesday, 29 March 2011

The Problem with other peoples festivals.

On Sunday in England it is mothering sunday. This is a Christian festival in its origan - people used to return to their home - mother church at least once a year, so each year in the middle of lent the return would be made. For those living away from home this would probably involve visiting home and as such seeing parents. For many mothering sunday is now just a time to remember and celebrate the role of mothers.

So should 'we' as an increasingly Jewish household mark mothers day? Along with Passover , easter approaches, and spring in general. A secular organisation is doing a walk in search of soft toy chicks - a day for young children - they are calling it an Easter event - should this cause us to shun the event?

I find it very hard working out what is and isn't normal and okay as a convert. I think the issue is probably far less pressing for those who grow up in Jewish homes - but for those coming to it a knew - we simply - I simply dont know what most Jews do about this stuff.


I have a lump. I discovered it a few weeks back, and full of fear went to the Doc. After a rummage around my nether regions he informed me that as the lump is not attached to my balls, but is free moving its unlikely to be cancer. I do however need to return to the Doctor in two weeks time, and get it checked again to see if its shrunk or grown prior to going for a scan on it.

My days seem to be rather obsessed with concern about it at present. In theory its all fine - but i am not a great fan of having a lump somewhere it shouldn't be.

Friday and the Weekend

As I it seems that I am trying to describe my week – let me carry on from where I left of. I don’t work on a Friday. Instead I get up a little bit later than normal, and head into town for coffee. I plug in the laptop, and work on my Masters discertation. I keep working till about 3.30pm, drinking far far more coffee than is good for my insides.

I then head back home, pick up my daughter, and head back out for a cup of tea with her. We sit and I attempt to chat with her about how her week has been. We then head home again and have a bath and change in preparation for Shabbat.

In Judaism a new day begins with nightfall as opposed to sunrise, Shabbat begins when 3 stars are visable in the sky on Friday night and ends an hour after 3 stars are visible in the sky on Saturday night. This makes Shabbat 25 hours instead of 24, an 1 hr is stolen from the week. We start Shabbat in the summer earlier still – lighting our Shabbat candles prior to going out to synagogue.

The candles are lit, the prayers are said, we give thanks for the wine and the bread – and then head to synagogue.

After synagogue we have a meal with my mum and step dad.  The long suffering wife does the food prep before candle lighting, and any cooking or turning of ovens needed for the rest of the prep is done by my mother after candle lighting. This Friday my mum and step dad wherent free so we had chicken and salad so that we wouldn’t have to cook.

After dinner and coffee (by now 9.30pm) the wife puts our daughter to bed.

We then sit down on the sofa and watch a film together.

At this point those who have an idea of Jewish law may be hearing alarm bells ringing. There are 39 forms of creative activity which are forbidden on Shabbat – included in this list is kindling a flame (which many view as being breached by turning on or off any appliance). The second issue is that its forbidden to be involved in mundane ‘weekday’ activity – Uvdin D’Chol as this goes counter to the intended spirit of Shabbat.

For us we tend to believe that the prohibitions around Shabbat are intended to make sure that this is a special day and a peaceful one.  It is a reminder that we are not living in slavery, a commemoration of God’s creation of the universe, and a taste of Olam Haba – the Messianic Age.

The only time during the week we find time to sit down and watch a film together is on Shabbat and so we take pleasure in this bit of alone time and don’t view it as Uvdin D’Chol but rather as a special bit of time we have carved out together. Currently we are working our way back through the John Hughes films which are a real joy to revisit as someone who watched them first time around in the 80s.

I say we watch this film as a bit of special carved out time, but we need to stop the film at least three times as the daughter stir in the evening.

Saturday day time is spent with a lay in followed by something done as a family – and some study. We went out for a walk and to feed the ducks this Saturday, then all sat in a cafĂ© where we had some discussion on this weeks topic in our conversions studies.

As the day draws to a close we mark the end of Shabbat with Havdalah.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Note to myself

I really must blog something on anger and forgivness - and the struggle i have with the diffrence between the jewish take and the christian take - and well things like that. If i forget then please do give me a prod with a sharp stick

It gets better

I have only just come across the 'itgetsbetter' project. I must have been fast asleep. Just spent an hour watching youtube videos posted by Rabbis, Bishops, Presidents, well..everyone really giving a message to gay/bi/transgender teens saying life does get better - dont give up. Found it all very moving and emotional - a fantastic response to the suicides of people who believe that 'this is as good as it gets'.

As part of the project people are signing a pledge, one i reprint here and put my name to with pride.

THE PLEDGE: Everyone deserves to be respected for who they are. I pledge to spread this message to my friends, family and neighbors. I'll speak up against hate and intolerance whenever I see it, at school and at work. I'll provide hope for lesbian, gay, bi, trans and other bullied teens by letting them know that "It Gets Better."

Ethics of the Fathers

Pirkei Avot - Ethics of the Fathers is a collection of  short ethical statements - similar in someways to the book of proverbs. Anyway - its a gold mine of deep thought. We are currently studying bits of it ay my synagogue, and i thought i would share little bits of it here.

Avtalyon would say: Scholars, be careful with your words. For you may be exiled to a place inhabited by evil elements [who will distort your words to suit their negative purposes]. The disciples who come after you will then drink of these evil waters and be destroyed, and the Name of Heaven will be desecrated. (Pirkei Avot 1:11)

The art of all scholarly work is to try and diminish ambiguity - we study so that we can chip away at the edges of the unknown - with the wrong use of words however our attempts at doing so can result in far greater misunderstanding.

Things I wish i could afford today..

There are a huge number of things that i wish i could afford - and not having enough money seems to be a theme in my life - a very dull one in honesty.

Today the item which i am 'lusting' after is http://www.rosettastone.co.uk/learn-hebrew/level-1 i find learning hebrew hell. There is a computer program that teaches you modern hebrew and is really rather brillent - but costs hideous amounts of money.

My synagogue are just about to start up a reading hebrew course at a far more affordable £25 a term - but i am very worried that with my general problems with languge i will slip behind really quickly and just be rubbish.  Learning in the previousy of my own home would be so much nicer!!  I also want to learn not just to read hebrew but to understand it. I want to embody it - i want to think in hebrew. More than anything else my stumbing around the prayer book makes me feel a stranger in shaul. 

Male Circumcision

I am not a fan. Let me make this crystal clear right from the start. I find it very hard to view it as anything other than a mutilation. Female circumcision has long been condemned, and i am very confused as to how male circumcision hasn't attached the same laws and protests. Well in fairness their is an increasing uncomftablenss about circumcision in the world at large.

All this said - it is a requirement of conversion - and a cost which i will bear as part of the price for being excepted as Jewish. Having done some research and read up various descriptions of adult circumcision i have just wanted to chuck up! The best option seems to be to go for a full on general anaesthetic. I have found somewhere which will do it for a mere £1400. At least if i am unconscious during the procedure i wont be shaking and blubbering, and generally screaming. The only slight hitch to all this is of course that i dont have £1400 and that this is just one of the costs involved in the conversion process. For those not familar with conversion to Judaism - its expensive.

Alongside the fees to the synagogue for classes, both in judaism and in hebrew, their are also costs with the rabbinic court, and then costs involved in making your home a Jewish home - which can go as far as completely new sets of plates etc for keeping meat and dairy separate - a topic which i will return to.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

My Morning

The alarm clock goes of, my wife tries to get out of bed - but before she does she gives our daughter a few moments of feeding. I ask my daughter to get my glasses, she gets up, walks around the bed and hands them to me. She then climbs back into bed bringing with her a book called 'Guess how much i love you'. She snuggles up under my arm and we read it with her stretching out her arms and following the actions of little nutbrown hare. as we reach the last few pages i pick up my daughter as big nutbrown hare picks up little nutbrown hare in the book. She pretends to sleep as i lay her down, kiss her, tell her that i love her to the moon - and back. we then get up, and go to the loo. After that its back to the bedroom to dress. We then wash our hands with a blessing.

We then trail downstairs, when my wife has made breakfest. We eat together, then the wife goes to get dressed while i keep hold of our daughter. I spend a few minutes on the computer and its of to work.

I rather enjoy my mornings :)

Monday, 21 March 2011


I am incredibly lonely right now.  I am sitting in my living room (I say my living room but i am living in my parents home with a living room that is mine ...but theres if that makes sense...its my room in their house) and it has kind of occurred to me that i have almost no social life at all anymore.

My life involves going to work, coming home, some time with the wife and daughter, playing on the computer, studying, back to work. I dont work fridays - on fridays i study in the morning, in the afternoon i take my daughter for a cup of tea, then give her a bath before candle light. we then go to synagogue. On a saturday we try to spend the day doing something as a family. On sunday we go to my wifes parents for lunch in the evening my wifes sister comes for tea. Repeat.

There was a time not so long ago when i had an active social life from reinactment, to friends from church, through to shows i went to, clubs i failed to dance at, bars i drank in - i seemed to be awash in the social lfie department but as time has ticked on - as we have moved once, twice, again - in fact five times in two years, as i have moved form church to synagogue, and from childless to with child the friends have fallen away. Life has changed and i havent found new people i feel comftable with. I dont know a single person i can just turn up on the doorstep of and invite myself in for a cup of tea and i dont see any easy way of changing the situation.

Here we go again

I have written a journal since i was 15, and the internet is littered with my ramblings. Every once in a while i get bored of it all and give up. By the time i restart my life has changed significantly and i feel i want to open a new volume. This volume is such a case.

I am going through the process of converting to Judaism. Being in the process of converting is a very odd place to be indeed. The census came through the door the other day and their is a little box you can tick to say what your religion is - and the problem is i am not yet a Jew - a son of abraham - 'bet avram'.  I am not yet a ha'ger (convert); instead i am in an odd middle ground of being neither one thing nor another. I ticked the box marked Nohide for now.

Most people who find this blog will not have met me before, but a few will have come by way of older blogs - for those who have been visitors before let me say that this is intended as a new start and as such I would appreciate people avoiding references to previous blog posts - you will only set people of looking for them and will defeat the whole point of a fresh start.

If you know much about judaism your first thought on hearing i am going through the process of converting might be that i must be marrying a nice Jewish girl whose mother really doesnt want her marrying out.  This is not the case. I am married, to a non-Jewish girl. Me, my wife, and my daughter are all on this path together. I am sure that raises far more questions than it answers but i will leave those in the air right now.

So ummm introduction and i will leave it here for tonight... I am old enough to know better, my daughter is 2 years old and his 'high energy', I am into attachment parenting. What else do you want to know?