Friday, October 26, 2007

Embracing Judaism arrived at my door

Right on schedule it arrived during the early afternoon and my wife called me to exclaim, "uh, your book is here." Well, not exclaim so much as say it. For her, after this week of that special time in every woman's month, it was an exclamation.

This is the first book to come up on the section of The Rabbinical Assembly's conversion resources page. By Simcha Kling, it looks to me to be an excellent read ahead of me.

What you may be wondering is the book that has been my guide till now? The Jewish Way by Rabbi Irving Greenberg. If you read this book, then you know how much more I am tortured by being at work on Shabbat.

Of course, I should probably take the time in the interim to get my house in order and worthy of celebrating there.

Did I give away the movement? Yes, our synagogue is conservative as will I be. Now you know.

I will finish the rest of my story from yesterday no earlier than Sunday. Something that important can wait. Nighty-night all!

So when will SBC give up da Borat yo?

Jewish Television Programming in Kazakhstan

The popular Kazakh channel "Habar" has launched a television series on Judaism, Jewish traditions, and history. The program is spearheaded by the Chabad Lubavitch representative to Kazakhstan, Rabbi Menahem Mendel Gershovitz.

I think this is an excellent magnification of how much Cohen’s act means to exposing the difference between reality and what we think is reality. The prez of Kazakhstan should instead be laughing his butt off at the rest of the world for falling for the act instead of being angered. After all, the less they resemble it the bigger the gulf between them and everyone else as long as everyone keeps buying SBC’s incredible act.

Though I do wish he’d never ever wear that thong again.

(extra points to those who note the date on this and whether the mainstream media has actually picked up on it)

My Shabbat for now

Long before I undertook the path I am on, I agreed to be available for this job at pretty much any time I was needed. For almost the entire time I have been here, that has included Friday right on till well past sundown.

It bothered me only in passing many years ago that I worked on Sunday when the Catholic Church had told me clearly I should not. Was it the lack of connection I felt for the church or was it a lack of belief that He wanted me to set aside one full day long period of not doing anything? I still don't know.

I do know that I firmly believe He wants me to fulfill the obligations I've incurred and willfully so, partly as a form of penance for having made the decisions in the first place because the burn on my conscience is a good sign of caring and partly because fulfilling one's obligations even ones one should not have made must be cared for specially. It is no small thing when we pledge ourselves and I do not mean light jesting, "sure, I'll be over when I can". I mean when we bond ourselves to an arrangement, unless the keeping of the arrangement is so odious that it cannot be morally justified at all, such as promising to kill someone on behalf of another, then one should try to fulfill it. Odious oaths should be disavowed with contrition and acceptance. Say you made a mistake and committed yourself wrongly and would be doing an even worse sin by following through.

So, instead, I will be working through Shabbat for an unknown time. If my employer grants me Friday and Saturday off in the future, great. If they then put me back into a transgressing schedule, I have no choice. I said I would be available and they should not be put to duress because I changed my mind or even found a new spiritual path. That wasn't their choice, it was mine, and my choices impact me.

Don't worry about my spiritual well being though. I am working with YKW to get a feeling of Shabbat in me at all times so work becomes something my body is doing while my mind is doing something else.

You know something? My mind is somewhere else anyways most of the time. I just need to be making sure it is the right place. Funny how that works out.

So until I get permanent Friday and Saturday off, I will endeavor to share what I can on those days. Now then, if you have nothing in the way of observing, will you be reading? Don't answer. He already knows.

Two sites I recommend for learning Hebrew

Instant Hebrew and Starting With Aleph

In fact, if you sign with the first, you may very well get a discount on the second. I did it the other way around and got the second one first, then discovered the first one.

Both are well worth the cost. For paper study materials, I hesitate to suggest Hebrew for Dummies as I've gotten not as much out of it as I need, but have gotten much more than expected from the best Hebrew-English dictionary you will find anywhere, the Webster's New World Hebrew Dictionary.

Just beware that there are many words especially those from the Yiddish side of the history, that will not be found there. In that case, Google!

Now then, back to the sites.

The first I signed on for and have been watching the content on and off for some weeks now, when I have time. You might be a little apprehensive, and dubious when you see the way the instructor draws the characters, but if it makes you feel better, buy a graph lined pad, and write the block letters that way. A chisel point calligraphic pen can help. I did this myself.

Right now my goal is to get through the entire aleph-bet, able to write them out in block script by hand and name them and their sounds by heart. I just have to remember to do it right to left.

The other site has available and excellent program called Starting With Aleph. It will go over the sounds of each letter, present you with opportunities to identify the correct letter, and also comes with a pleasant midrash for each of the four lessons.

I will put in more links and whatnot from my on-going education here as time goes by.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

How welcome is G-d at your place?

Picture this. You get off the bus or out of the car. You trudge up the steps to your door, and inhale deeply as you walk across the threshold, getting a good whiff of that smell that tells you this is your place. You take in the ambiance, all the familiar things and decorations, and you note the temperature briefly as you drop your things by the door and make for the kitchen. There you head right for the refrigerator and open it, grabbing at once your favorite beer and the other half of a sandwich you forgot to take to work. The wife is out, the kids at their friends' homes, and you have the living room to yourself. You head for the couch and well deserved rest, kicking off your shoes and laying back, to enjoy your drink and snack.

How comfortable did you feel? Did you feel supremely comfortable and at rest? Were you completely at ease with everything? Good. Now then, is G-d as comfortable and at ease in your place as this?

If not, why not?

Goodnight. ;)

It has been a long day. A very long day.

Today was the day I decided to convert.

This did not come upon me all at once. He nattered at me for a long time about it. We talked a lot about ethics and beliefs, profession versus reality, accepting what is versus what should be versus what will be versus what must be until I lost track of where I was.

In the end, it came down to a need for stability, peace, association, belonging, posterity, discipline, new challenges long overdue, and a lot of other things I can't even begin to enumerate without spilling this blog into the middle of next Tuesday.

So, today, the decision was made and my path chosen. It was not easy. First, I had to recognize something that has always irked me and that is the tendency of mankind to look for an ultimate, a final, a cheat sheet, an argument winner, a deal closer, a perfect everything. I hate that in me and others, yet understand it and its place at the same time. We're afraid that any choice we make will be less than perfect and thinking about it, tossing the moral potato back and forth, scares us. It also feels like trying to play a game of catch with a wrecking ball. Altogether intimidating and laborious.

Well I'd rather not be a faithless fence sitter, not that I am calling others this. I merely say this is what I would be if I acknowledge the reason for that weak desire for a convenient shortcut to enlightenment and yet keep on practicing it openly and deliberately unless it were for illustrative purposes to teach some lesson. That being said, no fence sitter I, the decision is made to not only pursue an actual path, but pursue MY path.

In realizing that the strong and wise do no t pray for release from their burdens but the wisdom and strength to transform them into something else until all burdens become something else automatically, I realized that to chase THE path would forever lead me away from it. It reminded me of a loosed house cat.

If a house cat gets out, do you chase it? No, for chasing it makes certain it will run from you. Do you ignore it? No, you must remember that you want the cat back. What do you do? You unite the opposites and leave the door open. Then the cat will think you are ignoring it and when it has come in to make itself at home, you quietly close the door behind it.

In pursuing THE path, I would forever be denied it, and in doing, lose out on MY path as well. So instead, I've asked Him to be my copilot on MY path and He assures me that all who walk THEIR path do most closely come to His path no matter how it seems, for that is where He needs us, where He wants us.

I did of course also ask for someone else's path to cross mine and for that insolence was given my wish. I've been married ever since.

Hopefully tomorrow I will have time before sundown to complete the next piece of this story. If I don't see you, shabbat shalom. Be good. I'm trying to be myself. It isn't easy, but at least He keeps tabs on me.

Welcome to On the road with YKW

Here in this blog I will attempt to put down the religious ramblings, theological thoughts, and spiritual chatter of my mind or what I think is my mind.

You are invited to follow along as I walk the road with my favorite pain in the behind, G-d. He is my sideseat driver, my ethical GPS system given speech capabilities, and more. Yes, He talks to me, just like you, in the conscience He gave. If you let Him, He'll run with it and through the kaleidescope of you, will be your personal adviser, companion on your travels, comparison shopper of the market of souls, and court jester. He will pick you up when you are down, and will set you down when you are way too up.

Yup, He's my copilot, navigator, and hijacker all in one. "I want to go to the movies this weekend."

"And who's going to mow the lawn during that three hour free time in between everything else you have to do? You don't trust your wife to do it..."

"Alright, I'll watch it online later then."

"We really have to talk about trading one bad thing for another."

"I have no doubt you will whether or not I'm listening."

"I love you too."