Friday, February 22, 2008

Unsweetened Condensed


My dear,

I’ll be brief. If you come from a Christian background – and you do – you’ll come expecting to find all the private excitements and joys of your new theology in a building, when in fact the Jewish community is a social system much more akin to a local park district than anything else. Services are provided under the headship of a hired director; individuals who have known each other for years do one thing, perhaps serve on a committee or teach Sunday school, plus socialize, and that is practically the extent of their involvement in what you consider a faith. It still leaves them Jews in a way you will never be, and in a way that does not interest you.

Meanwhile, Orthodox-style observance will be impossible for you. You are going to tire of doing it in a vacuum. Don’t beat yourself up over this.

Remember that the holidays are bound to be intellectual abstractions because they come from the ancient Near East, which had no change of seasons. Then perhaps, like me, you’ll have or witness experiences which prove prayer-as-words -- even community prayer-as-words, which at least has the dignity of a joint effort -- is less to the point than, say, prayer-as-doctor visit.

Finally, be aware that if you are a remotely youngish woman – and you are – the attentions of older, fairly educated and fairly wealthy men will become part of your "religious" life, whether you realize it or not. The eventual effect of this is quite embarrassingly inane and sterile.

When all this becomes clear to you, you may simply decide that God is everywhere, and leave it at that. Far healthier, really.

Your very loving

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