Religion & Beliefs

Becoming Jewish: Insomniac’s Shabbat

Coming to grips with some of the harder aspects of becoming Jewish (or any religion for that matter). Read More

By / January 24, 2012
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Being religious requires a lot of practice. And if you don’t keep up with it, you fall behind.

I admit: I don’t go to shul every week, or even every other week. I’ve been bad. But do you know how hard it is for two insomniacs, my boyfriend Danny and I, to wake up at 9 AM on a Saturday after a long week of exhaustion? It’s a bad excuse, I know, but we literally see Shabbat as our day of rest or: Our day to not get out of bed.

Danny doesn’t daven during the week, and all we do spiritually is go to class (which is barely spiritual and more factual). At one point, I was going to Shabbat every week, reading the Torah everyday, and studying my Hebrew. I was also not even trying to be kosher, which is something I’ve been very successful at lately. I guess there was a little bit of a trade off for me: being kosher makes me feel good, and so does prayer.

When I go weeks without shul, I have to admit, I feel like I’ve done something wrong. I feel guilty. But above all, the thing that matters the most is that I always forget how emotionally gratifying it is to pray, to go to shul, and to interact with those in my Jewish community. I go to the Chabad sometimes and afterwards think, “Wow! Why don’t I come here more often?” Then I don’t go back for another month or two.

Is it that I have low self esteem and don’t want to be proactive and partake in activities that will make me happy? Am I too busy? Or am I just lazy? It’s probably a combination of the first and third reasons.

Sometimes it just seems so intense, all the praying at once. Many times, the prayers just don’t click for me. It’s hard to relate to prayers that are focused on growing crops in Israel or on ancient themes. In Judaism it just seems like there are endless themes and prayers and songs and analysis of all three. It’s overwhelming.

Another phase I’m going through, which my Rabbi said was totally normal, is paranoia. Every time something bad happens to me, I think back to what I could have done that would’ve caused it. How do I tempt the evil eye so that I was cursed? The other day, I woke up, and my car was gone from my parking spot. It had been towed. The day before that, I had told my friend, who had been towed numerous times, that I always got good parking spots and had never been towed. When I told Danny, he told me, “You should have said “Bli Ayin Hara!”

How many things can I say Bli Ayin Hara to? It could be endless. Thinking I’ve been punished by Hashem or the evil eye is just my way of making sense of things that just don’t make sense. Life is a mix of chaos and fate in my mind. I don’t know what Hashem has planned for me. I also don’t think that the punishment theory holds up. I feel like Christians have it much easier- you do bad, you repent, and you’re saved! If not, you go to hell! Without much emphasis in Judaism on the afterlife, we can’t always point to that theory either.

Becoming Jewish is wonderful, but it’s also frustrating. I think it’s alright to be angry with the religion or depressed over it. Right now I’m going through a lot of these emotions, but it is just part of the process.