Monday, September 27, 2010

Working on Yom Tov

I never did it. When I was going through my major crisis of faith a few years ago, I (ironically?) worked for a Jewish company which gave off for all the Yom Tovim.

After that, I moved across the country and was not working for just under a year.

This year, I took off for Pesach, Shavuot, and Rosh Hashanah. But when it came to Sukkot, I found that I didn't have enough vacation days and would have to either take days unpaid (something not necessarily smiled upon by the management of my company) or work.

I chose the latter. And I'll say this: it did not feel good.

I was a little bit overemotional maybe, yes, but the whole way to work on the first day, I felt like crying.

Maybe it's because Sukkot is, hands-down, my favorite holiday (of all holidays, not only Jewish ones). But it just felt so empty... and I kept thinking of my parents' sukkah in their backyard and the way all of our neighbors would be outside at the same time eating... and how I had made a series of choices that led away from that.

I started this blog in my late 20s (28, I think?). I am 31 now. In between that time, I became less and then more and then a lot less Orthodox (or Orthoprax, or whatever you want to call it).

But I'm starting to feel like I went too far again. My instinct is to gravitate back toward Orthodoxy again, but I'm not sure that's the right move. After all, there are concrete and good reasons why I left it. Comments on my last post suggested that I should try to become part of a non-Orthodox community and maybe that really is the way to go. I'm not sure why I have such resistance to it in my brain...

What I do know is that these pulls away from and toward Orthodoxy/Judaism/traditionalism seem to be a pattern in my life.

I'm not sure there's ever a point at which anyone "grows up" in the way that I understood that concept as a child. I always thought that at some point in my life, everything would just kind of congeal and I'd be that way (whatever it was) for The Rest of My Life. But if, at 31, I'm still having these major fluctuations in the way I feel and the things that seem most right for me, I'm guessing that this may just be something that doesn't really ever end.


Me Again said...


I've been reading your blog for over a year now. I'm 29 and what you say and the tension you feel really resonates with me. IMHO, just try and find the right balance for you in terms of concrete observance (ritual-wise) that reflects your personal philosophy. Some people frown upon it as "picking and choosing", but doing what you find meaningful without getting bogged down by what you find hollow should hopefully ultimately help you find that connection you seem to want without alienating you from the religion. The toughest part is not the religion- it's the people who will frown upon you for not being like them in every detail of observance. But you're obviously smart, well thought out and well spoken, and you know that's not what religion is all about. Keep trying and good luck!

chaimsmom said...

I can also relate to the tension you are feeling. I spent too many years in Orthodoxy just going through the motions. When I first went OTD I felt a huge sense of relief. I joined a liberal Reform congregation because I felt it was important to "do something". But after two years there, I'm not happy with it either. Some of the people are really nice and some aren't - just like Orthodoxy. Some of the people try to be serious about their Judaism, some are just there because they want their kids to have a Jewish education, and there are a lot of people who I have no clue why they are there. The people who try to be serious bring out cognitive dissonance in me. I can't wrap my mind around people who have to have a succah, cause the Torah says so, but eat cheeseburgers in it (but no shrimp, cause the Torah says no shrimp). I can't think about it too much or my head starts to hurt.

Yom Tovim make me feel nostalgic for the Orthodox community, but I have to remind myself that nostalgia is not accurate memory. The reality is that while parts of Yom Tovim were nice, I was unhappy for a good chunk of them as well. When I get lonley and start missing the Orthodox community, what I'm longing for is the kiruv rabbis' idealized portrayal of the Orthodox community, not the petty, self-righteous, back-biting reality of it.

BTW, I'm 46 (almost 47), and I still think I should be "settled" by now, but I'm starting to think that isn't going to happen. Just when I get settled, life throws me a curve and everything changes - kids grow up, loved ones die, jobs come and go, etc. My new motto is: I'm not lost, I'm exploring.

Puzzled said...

I know you've said why you don't do this before, but I feel compelled to offer the advice to check out Reconstructionism. The ritual you crave without the side effects! The community you crave without racism or judgmentalism (or, no more than in secular communities.)

On Her Own said...

MA - That's what I'm trying to do! Thanks so much for your well wishes.

CM - Sounds like you and I have a lot in common. "I'm not lost, I'm exploring." -- I really like that!

P - I'm going to try out Renewal! If that doesn't resonate with me, I will give Reconstructionism a try...