Sunday, August 22, 2010

This is what I had to say


The first line of my Torah portion reads, “When a man has taken a bride, he shall not go out with the army or be assigned to it for any purpose; he shall be exempt one year for the sake of his household, to give happiness to the woman he has married.” Without realizing we were following Jewish law, Josh and I took this guideline seriously, avoiding the trials of war and enjoying each other’s company for 5 happy years. And by war, of course, I mean the hardships, battles and marital strife that result from the blessings of small children.

Our daughters, despite their periodic temper tantrums and sullen silences, are dear to my heart. And they are also the main reason I’m standing up here today. As many of you know, my father was a diplomat and we were stationed in Pakistan when I was 12 and 13—the time a girl typically becomes at Bat Mitzvah. If you’re looking for a place to explore and celebrate your Jewish roots, let me tell you it’s not Pakistan.

When I returned to the U.S. at 14, I attended Confirmation class and stayed involved with my synagogue through high school. And while my rootless upbringing wasn’t remarkably Jewish—we neither socialized with many Jews nor kept Kosher­–I felt increasingly drawn to Judaism. It became clear to me that my Jewish heritage was key to my identity and a foundation upon which I could build a sense of home. Still, I couldn’t bear the thought of joining a bunch of 12 year olds for Bar and Bat Mitzvah study. Instead, I promised myself I would eventually make it to the bima. And I would do it before—or possibly alongside–my own children.

So here I am. Over the course of 2 years and with the help of a number of Temple members—I’ve learned Hebrew. I’ve mastered Cantillation. And I’m reading Torah. And I have to tell you, the first time I came up, placed a silver yad in my right hand, and chanted from a 100-year-old scroll, I felt so moved…so connected to the Jewish generations that have proceeded me…and to the Jewish girls I’m raising today. Today may not mark the beginning of my life as a Jewish adult, but it is a homecoming of sorts, an affirmation of my roots.

We live in a world where it is easy to wander to away from Judaism. And yet, despite the ease and appeal of assimilated life with its bagels, lox and Christmas trees, I’ve chosen to step toward my religious identity. To come home as a Jew.