“You have to wear what?”

When I first started becoming verbal about the fact that I was planning on converting to Orthodox Judaism, one of the things that really struck me about the reaction I got from people was how many times I was asked, “So does that mean you have to wear flat shoes from now on?”

Flat shoes?

I was a bit confused by this. I had never come across this supposed stereotype about Jewish women before, and I resolved to do some digging. I’d already read about the concept of “Tzniut”, or Modesty, although my information was somewhat limited: I only knew that you were meant to wear skirts and cover up more. Shoes, though? I’d seen women at my shul in all manner of high heels. Although more of a fan of pumps myself, I have to admit my curiosity was piqued.

Where I live in London, it would be impossible to draw conclusions on Jewish Modesty just by taking note of what the women wear. It varies greatly according to age, level of observance, and relationship status. An example would be this: married women cover their heads. There are various ways of doing this. Scarves, hats, wigs, bandanas… all dependent on your observance choices. If you were married and not-so-religious, you may not cover your head at all unless you are at the synagogue, where all married women are obligated to do so. Similarly, if you were married and fairly observant, a scarf covering the top of your head might be fine. You may even throw caution to the wind and let your hair flow freely from under the covering. Then again, if you were married and of the more observant or “frum” variety, you may cover your head entirely, either with a wig or a scarf, letting none of your own hair be seen by prying eyes. Only your husband would have the privilege of seeing you in all your bare-headed glory. It’s all about where you fall on the observance spectrum.

The same can be said for the clothes Jewish women wear. I know semi-observant Jewish ladies who do get away with jeans from time to time, but generally, trousers are frowned upon because they draw too much attention to the female form, and are seen as male clothing. According to my conversion tutor, we refrain from calling attention to our external selves, because we want our internal beauty to shine through. We enhance this through observance of the Commandments and the performance of the Mitzvot. Because we strive to be better people on the inside, we shouldn’t divert attention from that by being preoccupied with what we look like on the outside.

At the same time, Judaism recognises the natural urges that we have as human beings. It is therefore considered wrong to try to attract attention through our outside appearance, lest we cause others to diverge from the path of righteousness they are hopefully trying their best not to stray from. So basically, we don’t wear short skirts because it may make it difficult for some men (and these days, some women) to ignore us. And, depending on how religious you are, your attempts not to draw attention to yourself may extend towards other channels: wearing duller colours, shying away from high heels, wearing head coverings rather than beautiful wigs, wearing minimal make up, and so on. Whatever doesn’t turn heads, and whatever makes you more comfortable. It’s about finding the happy medium.

That said, I’ve found that in the case of people converting, it’s best to err on the side of caution. Unfortunately, in my experience (and this is a massive generalisation, so please don’t take it too much to heart), religious Jewish women can be incredibly judgemental. When I was newer to the concept of Judaism and trying to integrate myself into it, I received many dirty looks at my choices of clothing. These people don’t necessarily know I’m converting, so it’s not based on a lack of warmth towards people going through the process, but rather a general dislike for what they may see as a lesser care for the laws of modesty. It also depends on the community you belong to. I remember a situation a few years ago where I met a lovely Jewish lady who was visiting from Canada. I’d met her the night before, but the following day she came to the shul I was attending at the time wearing a very smart trouser suit. When she walked in, it seemed like a hundred pairs of eyes followed her to her seat, all staring daggers because she had dared to wear trousers. I felt terrible for her. But then again, in terms of mistakes to make, that ranks pretty highly – the laws of modesty are even more enforced in a synagogue. As a Jew, she should have known that, but she was probably used to wearing something like that to her shul in Canada and it probably being okay. It can help to know that even people who have been Jewish all their lives make the same mistakes sometimes.

So, how do you avoid making a Jewish modesty fashion faux pas? Ideally, at the bare minimum, religious Jewish women should cover up enough that the knees, elbows and collar bones are out of sight. I’ve been told that in the case of areas beyond this, like the forearms or the calves and ankles, we are free to make up our own minds on what we feel comfortable with. If we aren’t sure, we should look to the women in the shul we attend for guidance. If they wear tights, we probably should too. In my shul, most women come to the services wearing stockings, but there are many who wear heels, brightly coloured dresses, and so on. Some of them are even a little risqué with their skirt length. As for head coverings, scarves and hats seem to prevail more than wigs, and most married women cover all their hair.

I’m not married, so I don’t have to worry yet about my hair. I make sure that I cover my elbows, although most of the time this extends down to my mid-forearms just because of the way three-quarter length sleeves are made. I cover my chest properly, and if I feel a top sits a little low, I’ll wear something underneath for a little bit of extra cover. Even still, I find it difficult to find clothes that properly cover the actual collar bones. So I just try my best – it’s not as if I’m showing much skin there anyway. I’ve thrown out my jeans and now only wear skirts – either on the knee, or just below. I don’t really go longer than that just because I am quite short, and if I wear calf-length skirts I tend to look like an oompah loompah. I compensate by wearing tights, unless it is very hot, but I find that when I don’t wear them I worry too much about how bare my legs are, so I just wear thinner stockings. Some women wear ankle length leggings so they can wear open toed shoes, and I’ve seen religious women wear sandals strappy shoes with tights on, but I think it looks a bit strange, so I tend to wear closed shoes. I still haven’t found an answer to the flat shoes issue – but I think it probably stems from the way very religious Jewish women dress based on their own personal concepts of modesty.

Basically, the best advice I can give is to do what makes you feel comfortable. If you’re embarking on the journey of conversion, you shouldn’t take too much on at once. You’ll probably find that the more integrated you become, you’ll naturally start to feel like you should cover up more, and you’ll start to buy clothes that mirror this without even realising you’ve become modest. If you’re worried about what people may think of you, and you just want to fit in, you shouldn’t be afraid or ashamed of feeling this way – just cover your knees, collar bones and elbows, and wear something on your head if you’re married, and then no one has any right to judge you. If you’re still not sure, take your cues from what the ladies in your community are doing, or speak to your Rabbi’s wife.

And wear whatever shoes you like!

Hugs,

Miri x

 

 

Learning to speak Jewish

A necessary part of any conversion to Judaism, be it Orthodox, Reform, or other, is the ability to read Hebrew. I’ve been learning, albeit slowly, to master the letters and vowels. I kind of enjoy it actually – reading a word is a bit like deciphering a coded message. It’s also turning out to be quite a cool party trick with my non-Jewish friends. But that’s neither here nor there.

According to the Conversion syllabus, there are certain prayers an Orthodox convert needs to be able to read and translate, but in general, the ability to read Hebrew is more important early on than being able to speak or understand Hebrew. If you think about it, this makes sense. It can take years to master a new language, and speaking Hebrew fluently and understanding it, while useful, isn’t really going to help you in the short term. Just integrating yourself into Jewish life leads you to learn the words and phrases you’ll need to know the meaning of. You definitely don’t need to know how to order a cup of tea in Hebrew, or ask for directions. What you do need to be able to do by the time you go into the Mikveh, seeing that all the important texts are in Hebrew, is follow along in the services and prayers, and read from the Holy texts.

In the shul (synagogue) I go to, people read Hebrew at the literally the speed of light. I have a transliterated siddur (order of service) that gives me each sentence in three ways: Hebrew letters, phonetically pronounced in English, and the English translation. It makes following the service entirely possible, and I can even take part in the songs and prayers, although at this stage I am still reading them in English mostly – I don’t see the point in praying in a language I don’t understand. But even following along in my mother tongue, the Jews at my shul are usually finished a prayer before I’m even half way. It’s both amazing and threatening – I wonder how I am ever going to be able to keep up with them. How on earth do they cover five pages in the time it takes me to cover two? Are they skipping bits?

Reading Hebrew aside, I’m also starting to notice trends in the way Orthodox Jews speak. For example, most of the people in my community won’t refer to G-d as G-d. The most popular terms are “Hashem” (Hebrew for “G-d”) and “Hakodesh Barachu” (which I believe is Hebrew for “The King”). A rabbi at one of the shuls I tried used to pepper his sermons with the words “Hakodesh Barachu” – I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about until someone explained to me that there are multiple names for G-d in Judaism. 

An exception to what I’ve just said is the use (or overuse) of the phrases “Please G-d” and “Thank G-d” in the daily way of speaking when you’re an Orthodox Jew. For example, a few days ago I saw a friend from shul who’s sister had just had a baby. When I enquired as to how Mommy and baby were doing, she answered, “They’re both really well, thank G-d!”. We continued talking and got onto the subject of her trip to Israel next month. I asked her if she was worried it would be cancelled because of the Israel/Gaza situation, and she said “It is a worry, but, please G-d, things will have died down by then”.

Now, for me, coming from a fairly strict Christian upbringing, I tend to find these phrases disconcerting. I was taught as a child that combining words like this counts as blasphemy. But understand this: a religious Orthodox Jew will never knowingly take the Lord’s name in vain. When they say “Please G-d” or “Thank G-d”, they actually mean it. It’s been interesting getting used to this. Some people I know will even shorten them for text messages down to “PG” and “TG”. The first time I saw this, I thought it was a spelling mistake. But no.

What also strikes me is that some people I know who are also converting have picked up this “Thank G-d” habit easily, seemingly without even realising it. And it feels strange to hear it. A girl I know from some of the classes I’ve been taking had been in hospital for a few days a couple of weeks back. When I saw her a few days later, and asked how she was doing, she answered, “I’m much better, Baruch Hashem” (translates to “Blessed be G-d”). Have you ever heard someone swear and thought to yourself, “that really doesn’t suit that person – they’re too nice”? (No? Maybe it’s just me, then). This was the same sort of situation. Even though I’m converting, and so is she, I thought that phrase somehow didn’t sit right with her. It’s hard to put it into words. It was as though she was borrowing it, but it wasn’t really hers to use. Trying to fit in, but not really getting there.

I’m not sure why it bothers me like it does. Perhaps “bothered” is too strong a word. I guess a better way of putting it is that I am not yet comfortable with this way of speaking. I still find it a bit weird, probably because of my upbringing and the ingrained, lingering guilt of blasphemy. Maybe it’s a fear that I’ll sound like an imposter if I start to speak like that. I can only hope (dare I say, “Please G-d”?) that I’ll fall into the habit when I’m ready. And if I don’t, I doubt it matters much. Surely what matters more is how you are on the inside?

Then, on the other side of the coin, there are various Hebrew words that come up in daily living that you find yourself using anyway, just because it would be weird not to. For example, wishing someone “Gud Shabbos” (which I believe is actually Yiddish for the traditional Sabbath greeting), or “Mazeltov” instead of “Congratulations”. Certain words, like “Neshama” (“soul”) come up frequently and are worth knowing. Just off the top of my head, words like “Yerushalayim” (Jerusalem), “Mitsrayim” (Egypt) – actually, all the names of places – and “Bet HaMikdash” (the First Temple) are also worth knowing, especially if you’re in a community or shul like mine, where you hardly ever hear the English translations of these words.

At the end of the day, every community is different – they’ll all have their own terminology. Just do what makes you comfortable, but make learning Hebrew the first thing on your agenda if you’re thinking about converting. It will give you serious brownie points. I kind of wish there was some sort of Convert’s Guide to Random Hebrew Words that you can consult when someone throws a word in you don’t understand. Maybe I should write one…

Have a great week!

Miri x

30, Jewish & Fabulous

I’m turning 30 later this year.

On the last day of my teenage years, in 2004, I cut my hair short and died it hot pink. I wanted to commemorate the last day of a big phase of my life. So I went to the hairdresser, told her what I wanted, listened to her try to advise me against it, politely declined to take her advice, and left that day with a head that turned heads, and not in a good way.

While I was having my hair washed, I remember thinking that it would be awesome to make a tradition out of doing something wild every time I left a decade of my life behind me. If you’d asked me at 19 where I thought I’d be at 29, I’d have reeled off a list of possibilities. Of course, there was no doubt in my mind that I’d be fabulous at 30, so perhaps I’d get a tattoo, or take a trip to India to do yoga for a month, or something like that.

So, what am I doing on the last day of my 20’s? I’m quietly celebrating Shabbat, and then getting an early night. And you know what – I’m happy with that.

I discovered Judaism in my 20’s, and I’ve never looked back. For various reasons, it’s taken me a while to get to the point where I am ready to go through with an orthodox conversion, but I now identify as Jewish, so much so that there is nowhere I would rather be on a Saturday afternoon than enjoying lunch with friends in my community, and then attending Minchah and Maariv (the afternoon and evening synagogue services). Am I a tiny bit disappointed that I don’t have anything crazy planned? Sure. While I type this, I’m secretly wondering how I go about booking a sky diving session and whether or not you can do that at night (after Shabbos ends). But at the end of the day, in my 29 year old mindset, religion is more important than frivolity. And let me tell you, my 19 year old self would be shocked to hear me say that!

I’ve never been a church-going person, but I was raised in a household of fairly observant Christians. I hated it. I would fight tooth and nail to avoid having to go to Church or to Sunday School. I didn’t succeed very often. But by the time I was in my mid teens, my parents had gotten the message and stopped trying to force me to do something that just didn’t feel right to me.

I thought I just wasn’t a religious person. I went through a long phase in my late teens where I told everyone I was agnostic. I took that to mean that I believed in a higher power, but “organised religion” wasn’t for me. It was only when I had a life plan that extended past high school friends and partying all the time, and when I started getting to know various Jewish people, that I even considered the possibility that perhaps it wasn’t religion as a whole, but just Christianity that didn’t float my boat. As I later discovered, that was exactly the case.

There are things I meant to do in my lifetime that I won’t get to do as a Jew. Get a tattoo? Jews prohibit that. Go on that Yoga retreat in India? Difficult when you’re trying to keep kosher, even in a largely vegetarian country, and it’s tough to do Yoga in a skirt. When I think about stuff like that, I do feel a bit sad, but that’s only natural. It’s a huge undertaking becoming Jewish, especially an Orthodox Jew. But when I look back at my 20’s and I ask myself what may have been missing, there’s a hole that religion, and in specific Judaism, could have filled. I refuse to look back at my 30’s in ten years time and feel the same way.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed my 20’s, and I fully intend to enjoy my 30’s just as much. There are so many things I can experience as a Jew: they may just fall into a more spiritual category than the activities throughout most of my 20’s did. And I’m fine with that. I’m looking forward to seeing what it means to be a 30-something Jew living in London.

I’m sure it’s going to be awesome!

Peace & love

Miri x

 

 

Miri’s First Tisha B’av

Hello and welcome to my first topical Musing! I’m sorry it’s a little late: tomorrow will be a week since Tisha B’av. I’ve been trying to finish the reading I’ve been doing on the subject, and while I’ll try not to make this too factual, I feel it’s important to include some historical background. That said, I’ve been known to ramble, so please leave me your feedback – I’d love to hear about it! And don’t forget – you can see what I’m reading on Goodreads, or follow me on Twitter!

Please see the bottom of the post for all the texts and articles I’ve used while preparing this Musing. Ready? Right then:

Introduction & history

Last week I experienced my very first Tisha B’av: that is to say, the 9th of the Jewish month of Av, or the day that commemorates the destruction of the two Temples.

To describe Tisha B’av in the way I have just done would be to oversimplify it. There are so many tragedies that befell the Jewish people on this day that it seems to me that there are far too many for it to just be coincidence. I’ve not checked to see whether the dates of any of the following events are disputed, although there are discrepancies between Chabad.org and Wikipedia, but here’s a list of what the five main calamities we believe to have happened on this day:

  1. After the Exodus from Egypt, the Israelites decided to send spies into the land of Canaan to see for themselves whether or not their Promised Land was all G-d had said it would be. When the spies came back with bad reports, the Israelites lost faith and cried, which angered G-d. He ruled that they would wander the desert for 40 years, and that only the children of that generation would ever live to see the land of Milk and Honey.
  2. The First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 423 BCE (this is the year given by Chabad.org, although on Wikipedia it says it was 587 BCE).
  3. The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 69BCE (Chabad,org) or 70BCE (Wikipedia).
  4. Over 100,000 Jews were killed at Betar when, led by Simon bar Kochba, they revolted against the Romans in 133 CE (Chabad.org) or 132 CE (Wikipedia).
  5. The following year, the Romans plowed over the site of the Temple Mount.

Pretty weirdly coincidental, if you ask me. Especially when you take into account that the following events in more recent years also occurred on the 9th of Av:

  1. The Jews were made to leave England on Tisha B’av in 1290 CE
  2. In 1492, Queen Isabella of Spain and her husband Ferdinand ordered that the Jews be banished from the land. They were given some time to get their affairs in order before they left, but the 9th of Av was the date after which no Jew was allowed to be in Spain.
  3. Germany declared war on Russia on the 9th of Av in the year 1914, which began World War I and started a chain of events that would eventually lead to World War II and the Holocaust.
  4. Wikipedia claims that two other significant events happened on the 9th of Av: in 1941, Heinrich Himmler received the go-ahead to begin the Final Solution, and in 1942 the mass deportation of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto to the concentration camp of Treblinka began.

Over and above that, there are additional events that fell on the 10th of Av that also had ramifications for the Jewish people: the expulsion from France in 1306, and in 1994, a bomb was detonated at the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires, killing 85 people and injuring 300 others.

I’m sure skeptics would look at the above points and tell me I’m kidding myself, that it’s pure coincidence that all this happened on the same date in the Hebrew calendar. But to me, even coming from a non-Jewish background, it only serves to prove the point that this day is one that has been cursed by G-d when it comes to the Jewish people. It’s taught to us that it was because of the sins of the Jews that the main five calamities happened: if we’d had more faith, or studied the Torah more, these events may not have occurred. I think the fact that they all happened on the 9th of Av (which, by the way, falls on a different day every year in the mainstream calendar) is somewhat of a miracle actually: clearly, this is a day that G-d wanted us to set aside to remember that even though we grow complacent in our lives, with good jobs and happy families, we are still in exile until the Temple is rebuilt. I find it hard to believe that people will disagree with this, but I’m sure there will be many who do! Haters gonna hate, I guess.

My Tisha B’av

The history and my feelings about it aside, I feel I have to dedicate part of this Musing to my own experiences on Tisha B’Av this year. I don’t mind telling you that this time last year, I didn’t fast. I knew about Yom Kippur and I’ve fasted on that day for the last six or seven years, but Tisha B’Av is a concept that is fairly new to me and one that I have only come across in my Beth Din approved tutorial classes.

I’ve read a couple of books on the subject, in addition to the prescribed texts for the 9th. I’d strongly recommend reading Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen’s book Laws of Daily Living: The Three Weeks, Tisha B’av, and Other Fasts for a hands-on guide on what you can and can’t do. It will also help with the other days, although it doesn’t include Yom Kippur. For the history side and more food for thought, pick up Tishah B’av – Texts, Readings and Insights which is written by a collection of authors and published by Artscroll as part of their Mesorah Series. I enjoy the historical side of things, but I was a little late in starting the Three Weeks, so it took me some time to catch up on the reading. There were some things I was prepared for, others I wasn’t, but as they say, practice makes perfect and next year, please G-d, I will be better fixed to remember it all.

The period leading up to Tisha B’Av, which is known as the Three Weeks, also begins with a fast on the 17th of Tammuz: this commemorates the day that the Temple Walls were breached before the destruction of the Second Temple. The Three Weeks are a period of mourning where it is forbidden to do a number of things. The easiest way to explain it, I guess, is that you shouldn’t do anything for the sheer pleasure of it. Things like listening to music are forbidden. There main restrictions during the Three Week period are (I’d advise you to read up further on all of the above, because they do have their caveats and certain leniencies):

  1. Haircuts and shaving
  2. Listening to music, singing and dancing
  3. Cutting your nails
  4. Buying new items
  5. Parties, including for weddings and engagements (although you can get engaged during the Three Weeks)
  6. Some miscellaneous activities: Giving presents (allowed up until the beginning of Av, i.e. Rosh Chodesh Av), swimming (also permitted until Rosh Chodesh Av), disciplining children (don’t tell your kids this, or you’ll have mutiny), recitation of certain prayers, decorating your house, and surgery (unless in emergencies).

Sound okay so far? It gets worse. In the last 9 days of the Three Weeks, the mourning intensifies. Again, it’s advisable to read up on these or to consult a Rabbi, because some of them have their limitations. In addition to the above 6 points:

  1. Eating meat and drinking wine
  2. Making and repairing clothes (whoops – I sewed a button onto a dress before I knew about this one)
  3. Laundering and cleaning clothes, and wearing of freshly laundered or clean clothes
  4. Bathing and swimming (within reason – if it’s for your work to be clean and smelling fresh, shower. Just don’t do it every day, perhaps?)
  5. Wearing the clothes you would normally wear on Shabbos (Sabbath)

How this period was described to me is that you’re meant to feel a bit grubby. You’re not meant to be fresh and happy and smelling of daisies – afterall, we’re in the most intense period of mourning in the Jewish calendar. A lot of the above is very similar to “Sitting Shivah” when a close relative dies.

From Halachic noon on the eve of Tisha B’av (Erev Tisha B’av), we should avoid traveling/touring/strolling for pleasure, as well as Torah study (because it brings us joy). In preparation for the fast, before Mincha (the second synagogue service of the day) one eats a meal of bland food (I had fish and potatoes). There are a bunch of restrictions on what you can eat at this meal, so I’d advise further reading. Then, just before sundown, one eats another smaller meal that should include a boiled egg, some bread dipped in ashes, and some water. This is eaten in a somber fashion and should be taken on the floor or on a low stool, which is a feature of Sitting Shivah, and with the lights dimmed. You’re probably thinking, “Ash? Gross!” – well, so was I: envisioning burning some paper and how I was going to do that without burning my house down. But what you can do is create ash out of the bread itself, in the toaster. So I just burned some toast, scratched off the burned bits, and then dipped a fresh piece of bread into it. Easy, and less nasty! A word of advice too – if you’ve started doing Grace After Meals yet, also known as Bentching, which you are required to do when you eat bread, be sure to leave time for this at the end. I made this mistake and almost missed the synagogue service as a result!

Here are the five major prohibitions for the day of Tisha B’av:

  1. No eating or drinking from sundown to sundown
  2. No washing of one’s body
  3. No anointing oneself (perfumes, creams etc)
  4. No leather shoes
  5. No sexual relations

There are also additional non-mourning based prohibitions:

  1. No studying Torah
  2. No extending of greetings (seems rude, but it’s okay when no one else is doing it)
  3. Not working (you can, but ideally only after Halachic noon)
  4. Not sitting on a chair (you can, but only after Halachic noon)

The synagogue service after sundown was interesting. I had read about how they take all the decorations down off the Ark and the Bimah, and how the lights will get dimmed, and I think I was expecting something eerily beautiful, like Catholic Midnight Mass. When everyone comes together and the feeling of unity is really strong and it’s perfect. So I was ready when they dimmed the lights, but weirdly, despite having read about this, I didn’t expect it when suddenly and without warning, everyone stood up and started stacking their chairs up, and when that was done everyone sat down on the floor. Another piece of advice – it is very, very uncomfortable sitting on the floor for extended periods of time, so get to the service early and reserve yourself a seat by the wall, so at least you’ll have something to lean against. Even though we’re meant to be suffering, no one is going to begrudge you a backrest – the girls at my Shul all raced to get to it first.

We then read a selection of the Kinnot, or Lamentations, which was written by the Prophet Jeremiah, and we also read the Megillah of Eichah. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that it was beautiful – those texts are the stuff that horror movies are made of. It’s full of death and tragedy and women boiling and eating their babies, I kid you not. But don’t let me simplify it for you – there is a point to it all, and that point is to remember the terrible things that happened in our history, and what we did to deserve Hashem’s wrath, so that we never, ever, do it again. Read those texts yourself, and come to your own conclusions. Another tip: I had a siddur (order of service) for Shabbat and Festivals, so I didn’t bother to get another one for Tisha B’av. Big mistake. I strongly urge you to get a dedicated Tisha B’av siddur, because it will have Lamentations in the back of it (Eichah can be found in the back of any Chumash). I managed to get my hands on one for the morning service, but the evening service the night before I was distinctly lacking in text and I felt very obvious, like there was a giant neon arrow pointing at me. Avoid that, and get yourself that siddur. Another thing was that I said hello to people when I shouldn’t have – you’re not meant to greet anyone on Tisha B’av (another facet of mourning) and I made the mistake of waving at a few people, which I’m sure made them feel very uncomfortable. I certainly felt very embarrassed.

The next morning was better – I had all the texts and a seat against the wall, and I managed to avoid greeting people. The service was much emptier than the night before, with only six or seven of us in the ladies section. But it went on for hours, with lots of reading and learning. It was informative and very useful to be a part of, but because work is somewhat permitted on Tisha B’av and I was meant to be working from home, I wasn’t concentrating as well as I should have been. I’ll learn from that mistake and will take at least the morning off next year.

The day itself was fine – I was actually more thirsty than hungry, with no headaches, and I tried to remind myself of the destruction of the Temples and feel suitably somber as much as possible. This is tough when you haven’t grown up Jewish – please G-d it will get easier over the years, but I have to say it was hard to generate the feelings of woe. I’ve identified as a Jew for so many years now, although I didn’t actually started my conversion until this year, so in some ways I felt a little useless this Tisha B’av. But as my tutor has told me before, you can’t do everything at once. There is always next year.

Right – I actually think this post has been longer than the essays I used to write when I was at University. So if you’ve read your way through this, I thank you and hope you liked it. I strongly recommend the source texts below as additional reading.

Peace and love,

Miri x

Musing sources

Chabad articles on Tisha B’Av – a variety of excellent reads

Wikipedia

Laws of Daily Living: The Three Weeks, Tisha B’av, and Other Fasts by Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen

Tisha B’av – Texts, Readings and Insights as part of the Artscroll Mesorah Series

Don’t forget – you can see what I’m reading on Goodreads, or follow me on Twitter!

 

 

Introductory musing

Here I go: my first post! I have to say, this is a little alien to me.

Writing a blog is something I’ve always wanted to do. But unfortunately, I’m not a person who has a large supply of idea-generating creative juice flowing though my veins. Hence, I didn’t really know what to write about.

It was only when someone suggested that I keep a diary about my experiences converting to Orthodox Judaism, that I finally saw an opportunity. As yet, I’m not 100% sure what direction this will take – it’s likely to be a collection of my thoughts and experiences while I go through the process, and I also plan to use it as a method to gather all the information I’ve been taught on different topics. A study resource to look back on, if you will, rather than filling files with paper – a blog can be accessed anywhere, after all. And if my musings manage to inspire or help other people who are thinking about converting, or already converting, then so much the better.

As you may be aware, we are currently in a period referred to as the Three Weeks, which is a great time of mourning for the Jewish people that culminates in the fast day of Tishah B’av, on the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av. I’ve been learning about this in my recent classes, so it makes sense for my first post to be about this. Many important Jewish days are treated like the Sabbath, where work and the use of electronic devices is not permitted. But because the use of computers etc is permitted on Tishah B’Av, and because you’re meant to spend the day thinking about all the tragedy that has befallen the Jews on this day, I thought I’d spend some of it writing a blog post about it.

So watch this space – my musings on Tishah B’av will be appearing in the next few days! (Update: read it here)

Wishing you a good fast,

Miri