Celebrating Alone

Since surgery I’ve really lapsed on my observing of Shabbat (I hope the Divine will forgive me, I was recovering from surgery after all). Now that I’m on solid foods I’m thinking about starting back up again tonight. One of the things I’ve been struggling with as far as observing Jewish holidays is not having anyone to celebrate with. Judaism isn’t really made for solitary practitioners, I mean there are some prayers you’re not even supposed to say without at least 10 people. So it can feel especially isolating when you’re trying to celebrate on your own, especially when you’re a newbie like me and have no one knowledgeable to walk you through it. However, I don’t want that to stop me from at least trying to make it work (baby steps, ya know?) so here I am, back at it again.

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Words to live by.

Since I still can’t eat bread or drink alcohol I’m probably going to skip the challah tonight and drink grape juice instead of wine. After eating my little baby meal, I’ll get settled in with some of my new books (see my next post for a rundown of the haul I got in Berkeley last week) and try to accomplish my Shabbat challenge for the week: I won’t use my phone the whole night. I don’t know about you, but for me it’s incredibly hard for me to unplug. I’m constantly on my phone using time-wasting apps. Shabbat has quite a few restrictions, and I’m not looking to tackle them all at once because that’s just setting myself up for failure, but I do want to eventually get to a place where I’m pretty observant most of the time. I don’t want to half-ass it, okay?

I’m Always Seeking a Spiritual Home

I’m kind of getting used to being in this sort of spiritual no man’s land, Interfaith-Tree1where I’m looking for a place to lay my head but it seems like everywhere I look is just this great expanse of emptiness. That could be an exaggeration. But honestly, I keep thinking the answer is out there just beyond my sight line, so close. Is there a spiritual home that exists in the world that fits all of my needs? I love paganism, and I love Judaism, and I even love Christianity a bit (but more in a nostalgic kind of way), but they don’t completely meet my needs. Are they even supposed to? It seems pretty selfish of me to ask something to meet my every need.

Judaism has structure and longstanding traditions and customs. I love that. I love, to a certain extent, having the roadmap sorta written for me. That’s not to say that there’s no wiggle room, but it in some ways makes it easier to be observant. The instructions are relatively clear! Although I say that knowing that I actually only know a very, very small part of the traditions and customs of Judaism, and some of them are quite complicated (and in an entirely new language for me). Every ritual is on paper somewhere, and discussed by scholars ad nauseum. Jews are not messing around, they take ritual pretty seriously and I really appreciate that. Paganism doesn’t have that kind of structure, at least not what I’ve experienced so far. There are rituals written down, but there are so many for one simple event! Look up “Winter Solstice ritual” in google and you’ll get probably 20 different rituals to choose from. Which one is best? How do you weed through all the flowery bullshit and get to some meaningful ritual that meets your needs (in my case, can be done solitary, without a whole lot of tools, and doesn’t involve a bonfire)? Continue reading

Stepping Back from Judaism

I am feeling more and more everyday that a jewish identity and a pagan identity are incompatible. As much as I love the idea of being a Jewitch, I worry that it is too much to have to fight for. I can’t find much of a community for those Jewitches, online or otherwise. Most resources online are really outdated– one blog dedicated to jewitchery hasn’t been updated since 2013. that’s twelve years of silence! Most people who define themselves as Jewitches are Jewish born women who follow a pagan path, but still culturally define themselves as Jews. They don’t participate in most (any?) Jewish practices, but because being a Jew is as much about ethnic identity as it is about religion, they are still considered Jews. Once a Jew, always a Jew– maybe a bad Jew, maybe a heretic, but still a Jew.  Continue reading

Why Don’t You Dive In?

A conversation with my wife a few days ago– or, me talking and her listening:

You know what my problem is? I don’t go whole hog. I’m talking specifically about my spiritual life, but it probably applies to everything else, too. I’m all witchy or all Jewish, and yet I can’t commit fully. Like my altar supplies. Or my mezuzah. Or even Shabbat candle holders! I can’t seem to take the plunge and buy  the things I need to do good ritual work. So I’m stuck in this “in between” place. Where I am beyond beginner but not in the place of true spiritual belonging. And it’s the same with working with others: I want to be a Jew but I’m too afraid to go to temple. I want to be witchy but I’m too afraid to go to festivals. I want to do things by myself that I actually need help with. But I’m so afraid.

“Why don’t you dive in?”

I’m afraid of being judged, laughed at, rejected. Like, what if I spend all this money and time on Pagan and Jewish things for our home and life and then it turns out that Judaism and Paganism don’t work for me? What if I’m meant to be Buddhist (or Quaker, or Taoist, or Hindu, or nothing, or everything)? Then I will have wasted all of my time and energy and money on things I can’t even use.

“You won’t know any of those things until you dive in.”

I know! So. I’ve made a list of things I need for my altar and just for being a witchy Jew in general, and I’m going to buy these things. And you’re going to help me by telling me that it’s okay to spend money. And by reminding me that it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. And to not worry so much because it will all be okay.

Interfaith Connection

In my last few posts I’ve been talking about prayer. And as you know, I’ve decided to create my own prayer book. But I haven’t really talked about what prayers I want in the book. I wanted it to be clear that I intend this book to be an interfaith prayer book. It will include pagan prayers/rituals, but that’s certainly not the only thing I will focus on in my project.

My commitment to an interfaith life stems primarily from my relationship with my wife. I consider myself a partner in an interfaith marriage because while I am on this wild spiritual path that as yet does not have a label, Kourtney is agnostic. So I have to make sure that while I am becoming secure in my spiritual beliefs I’m not encroaching upon hers. My family also holds a myriad of traditions and beliefs that differ from my own, but I don’t believe they are right or wrong, just different (unless their beliefs condone human rights violations, of course). But even beyond that, I’ve always been committed to an interfaith dialogue. I think it’s vital for our society to see the value of other beliefs and traditions, I’ve worked with many interfaith programs and groups as an adult to keep myself open and also to connect with other faith workers on a deeper level. The work can be hard but it’s so worth it.

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It’s true that this book is primarily for me. But it’s also for those who come after me, who might find value in what I have written. Who am I to say exactly what path they should choose? Isn’t it beneficial in some way to have a sprinkling of many things? isn’t there some wisdom to be gleaned from all faiths? I think so.

May Challlenge!

I’m taking this blog up a notch. I’ve decided that I need to start setting my plans to action instead of just talking about what I want to do– and not just in my spiritual life, but in my everyday life, too. I’m done talking about what I want to do and I’m ready to go for it! I want to jump in, not afraid of making mistakes or being less than perfect. So I’ve decided to do monthly challenges to keep me on my toes, and I’m going to document my progress here. The first challenge? Start my prayer book!

I’ve already decided on a name: The Snow Family Prayer Book. And I found a nice binder that is both functional and book-like on Amazon, and I’ve decided to use grid paper to fill it. This is just a “long term, temporary” space for all the stuff I collect, and eventually I will make an actual book with an actual cover. But for now, this is more than enough to satisfy my need for organization and spirit. This project is going to take more than one month to accomplish, and I think I’ll be adding stuff to this book for years. But my short-term goal is to 1) buy the binder, 2) buy the paper and accessories (pens, maybe some stickers, dividers, blah blah blah) and   3) add five prayers and five rituals by May 31st. I’m so ready to do this, I’m excited just typing about it!

I am very aware that next Friday is May 1st, Beltane. I think that would be a great day to dedicate the binder to it spiritual purpose and really make a public commitment to my challenge. And by public, I really just mean saying it out loud instead of here or in my head. So Friday I’m going to do a little ritual at home and consecrate it. And that will be the beginning of my prayer book!