Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Homesick for Tradition

"It feels like Friday but it's only Wednesday," you tell the barista, explaining why it's been that kind of week, or why you seem the way you seem.

But the truth is, it smells like Sukkot outside and all you can think about is the way the moon used to look through the cracks in the bamboo roof and bundling yourself up in a coat while eating chicken soup slowly, spoonful by spoonful.

It's Sukkot again and you're not in the sukkah again and in your mind there's the glow of blue and yellow canvas from the kitchen window and the sound of voices in the backyard.

I wrote this while sitting in a coffee shop the first night of Sukkot this year. To me, it illustrates the way in which I have a tendency to equate Orthodox Jewish tradition with my childhood experience and the way in which I actually become homesick for it.

Granted, there is absolutely no reason why I couldn't have been sitting in a sukkah instead of a coffee shop that night, except that I wasn't listening to myself, to what I really wanted, and so I didn't make the appropriate plans or do the appropriate research.

Something about Sukkot brings it home more clearly than other holidays for me: how there is an essential component that is missing from my life that Orthodox Judaism once provided for me. I know I have to find a viable replacement and soon. I've had many suggestions of the Reconstructionist and/or Renewal branches of Judaism and I may just try one or both of those out soon to see how they do or don't fill that need.


Philo said...

My advice is to make a list. Which Orthodox rituals you want in your life and which you don't. For instance, it seems to me from reading your posts that you'd want a warm family shabbat meal together (family could mean good friends as well) but that you'd want to be able to drive home. That you'd want to hear singing in shul occasionally, without being required to sit behind a mechitza or be required to pray to a god you don't believe in.

Once you have a list, it might be easier to decide where you want to find your community.

On Her Own said...

Thanks, Philo! That's good advice! I will make the list and (maybe?) post it soon.

Anonymous said...

I am a Reconstructionist Jew who does not believe in what one thinks of as "god". However, in my community, Sukkot is a really big deal. Most families have sukkot at their homes and we also have a "sukkah walk" - one night, several families open up their sukkot to the community and other members walk from sukkah to sukkah, having a nosh at each one.

That's just an example - we have a fairly observant community in general, with varying degrees of personal observance and belief. Some are vegans. Some keep kosher. Many observe Shabbat.

I hope you can find a community that fits your needs.