About a decade ago, I made a wish: that someday my Judaism would be at the center of my life, rather than being something extra. At that time, I was a semi-regular participant in weekly prayer and Torah study and had taken a few classes – but I was still unsure of my derech, and felt a deep sense of imposture and inferiority.
I thought I knew what “really Jewish” looked like, and when I looked at myself in the mirror, I didn’t see it. I didn’t keep Shabbat, didn’t know much about the dietary laws, didn’t have a community around me. I didn’t engage in Jewish conversations of any consequence and didn’t have an idea about the future of Jewish life and what role I might play in it. I was curious but uninformed, interested but unengaged. But also: I thought that Jewish authenticity wore a white blouse and a long skirt, lit candles at the right time each week, and walked to shul with family sweetly in tow. Real Jews didn’t drive to shul (and still arrive late!) or argue on the way home over who gets the first turn with the iPad.
It never occurred to me that the center of my life would be strong enough to hold a Judaism that speaks directly to me. And yet – I work in a Jewish agency, sing in a Jewish choir, send my children to Jewish school and camp, and host or attend Shabbat dinner just about every week. My volunteering hours are taken up with supporting Jewish organizations, and most of my friends are Jewish.
Maybe I needed a different mirror.
I continue to define and refine my sense of what it means to be Jewish. This definition sometimes goes through several phases in one day. Is it about halacha? Is it about ethics? Is it about studying Torah? Prayer? Community engagement? Israel? If we hold by the traditional belief that every earnest thought about Torah, past and future, was given at Sinai, does that include all my thoughts about Jewish pluralism and the pathway forward for Jewish community life in the 21st century?
I hope so.
I now see that my Judaism is at the center of my life. My Judaism. It might not fit any prescribed notion of authentic Judaism, but as Jewish identity and community fill more and more corners of my world, I feel more and more like my tradition finally belongs to me.