On the second day of Passover, a curious time for a show of interest to the Jewish community to be broadcast, I happened to turn on Fresh Air with Terry Gross when she was interviewing Judith Shulevitz about her new book, The Sabbath World – Glimpses of a Different Order of Time. As a Jewish educator and writer, I’ve read a lot of books and articles about Shabbat, and this was the first time I had ever heard someone articulate my actual experience of Shabbat, rather than the experience I wish I were having of Shabbat. (Yes, Rabbi Heschel, I know Sabbath is our “great cathedral”. It’s just that in my cathedral the pews are scattered willy-nilly, the windows need dusting, and the organ needs to be tuned.) So much of what she said resonated with my own experiences and struggles, and I knew her perspective as literary and culture critic would appeal to our highly intellectual and somewhat idiosyncratic Jewish community. As soon as the interview was over, and Yom Tov had ended, I emailed Judith to find out how I could bring her here. Thanks to much flexibility and graciousness on her part, and the help of a few local Jewish institutions, last night Judith Shulevitz visited our little town.
While her talk was fabulous, what I relished the most was our dinner together. It’s very rare that I have the opportunity to talk with another Jewish adult who is in a fairly similar place religiously. Once upon a time, I was the least observant, or at least the least religious, woman at my yeshiva. Nowadays, I’m more often the really Jewish one who people either want to learn from or confess to. Neither has given me much room to grow – I simply have no sounding board if I’m subconsciously defending myself or THE JEWISH RELIGION. Talking to someone about our kids’ day school educations, our own need (or lack of a need) to daven, our love of text study, and our ambivalence about shul, is something I apparently sorely need. (At the end of the evening I actually blurted out “But I’m going to miss you.” She politely pretended not to hear me.)
Of course, it’s not that I miss her, but I do miss this kind of discourse. Blogging gives me a chance to think aloud about my relationship with Judaism, but it’s no substitute for conversation. Even when you leave comments. (But do leave comments.)
Those of you who are parents of young, or even not so young, children – how do you grow your own spirituality? Where are your outlets for wondering and questioning and learning? Please leave your thoughts below. Maybe we can talk.