Right where I was at the beginning and will be years after the beit din of the local Conservative synagogue see me: still and always learning.
I work late hours and have crushing bills. I have no choice but to work the hours as I did agree to work any hours they gave me. I was desperate for this job when I took it and now... not so much, but still in dire financial need (though no tip jar shall go here, I don't need donations, I need ideas) and one of my ikkarim is that we are no better than our actions and among those specifically of greatest importance are those undertaken to fulfill our word.
Thus it is that going to the local synagogue for classes anytime soon is right out. I can't keep the roof over my head AND take classes.
However, this is not a big deal for me. I didn't join for acceptance and fitting in. I joined for having a spiritual home and that acceptance was G-d's alone. All my life I have looked everywhere for it but that little voice in the heart of my soul just shook it's head as it were. I could hear a depressed sigh from it and a very low and hard to hear "no, not there..."
It wasn't until I turned towards Judaism that the voice said, "yes... that looks like home".
I used to cry myself to sleep wondering if I'd ever find a wife when I was alone. I would cry myself to sleep wondering if I'd ever belong anywhere. I would cry myself to sleep wondering if I'd ever be like any other people and fit in.
Well, G-d worked through a relative who after everyone else had watched me be alone for years and think nothing of it, or at least not enough to speak about it, suggested the personals. I met my current and please G-d oh please let her be the only one ever and permanent and let me get old with her and die with her. Thank you for her.
I looked towards the lands I'd been, the lands others offered, and found a land that was no different and yet felt more at home than anywhere else. A place I felt I could put down my potted plant on the window sill, a place where I could sit on the porch, a place where I had neighbors who I didn't feel uncomfortable around.
That land was Judaism.
As I said, I didn't join for the fitting in and being accepted, it was the home and home is where the heart is and my heart was lost. Nowhere to be, nowhere to sit, nowhere to rest. G-d it seemed to me would not allow me to have a place. Like playing a game where the other person can only say yes or no, or more like maybe or not, I looked until I found the one that got the "maybe" response.
Acceptance and fitting in come with it, but it wasn't the acceptance by others, it was partly mine, and partly G-d's. I fit in within my heart.
Now will the congregation accept me? I think so. They're a bit politically left of me as far as I can tell and more than I'd like involved in city doings, but pretty average folks. Just Jewish average folks. They observe what they can fit in their lives to various degrees and I expect that though a ger tzedek has much more of a bar to chin up to, I should do well there. After all, I've had the time to let the shock hit me.
What shock you incredulously ask?
Well the shock of Jewish reality. Just read Jewish blogs. You have Charedi Orthodox (if that's not redundant and I think it is) men admitting they watch rented video tapes on Shabbat, sometimes drive on Shabbat, and some display a knowledge of adult subjects far beyond what a single guy who ostensibly davens and leins to the tune of their conservative community should.
Then of course there's the dark side. Stories of Chasidim acting like petty children, acting like Mitnagdim, acting like anything but people who even have the slightest clue what "chesed" means.
I am not going away. I am not afraid. I am not embarrassed. No one said you're perfect. If you were, what would be the value of you? To me the value of G-d is not that He knows everything, but that He DOESN'T. He created us to ask questions of and to Himself. He cares enough to think about these things. You were made in His image. What else should you do but have and ask questions?
It is not imperfection to have questions, it is imperfection to never bother asking them, among other things. G-d still is perfect in His way. Me and you, not so much, but we can do what we should and that's to ask. We should ask the big questions.
So are people asking the big questions? YES. Most assuredly yes. Beyond any Sanhedrin that could ever be again, the sages within us are crying out to wrangle and argue virtues and vices, sins and merits, and to figure out what should be what. They're doing it on the same blogs that bring stories of Jewish grief.
Don't be afraid. I'm not.
Well, not much. ; )