These will be among my last words as a gentile.
Step One of Three
Yesterday I locked myself in one of our rabbi’s offices with another member of our congregation, a very gentle man, an OB/GYN and certified mohel, trained in religious circumcision.
It almost didn’t happen this way. We were in New York for a week and tried to make arrangements with a very kind doctor, Emily Blake, who we found at http://www.findthemohel.com. Despite some mighty scheduling work on her end, it ended up not working out.
So here I was, back home, face to face with another very kind doctor still in his scrubs. He had a little paper bag with him.
I was nervous. I dropped my drawers. Out of the bag, he took a little gadget, one of the low-pain lances for diabetics, and drew a drop of blood from the spot where, a little over forty years ago, a doctor cut me.
We watched the blood come out, one perfect dark drop. It crawled gently onto the cotton swab he presented.
It sat on the rabbi’s desk as we dressed the tiny wound. I stood, applying pressure to my now Jewish member, as we said a blessing. Blessed are you, YHWH our G-d, ruler of eternity, who sanctifies us with commandments and commands us in the circumcision of strangers.
Strangers. Sojourners. Gerim in Hebrew. People who wander into the land and decide to stay, to take on the ancient covenant with G-d.
I didn’t have to do this. I didn’t have to do any of it.
But I did. I have. I am.
Gerim, another old word that stuck. I’ll take it. I’ll take all of it.
Step Two of Three
The Beit Din. The house of judgment. In the old days, a real court with real questions and unknown outcomes. Do you keep kosher? What is the blessing for hearing thunder? Chapter and verse of the Torah maybe.
Nowadays, yesterday, I sit with my teachers, and we talk.
They ask me what the tradition has brought into my life, and I start to cry. Oh my G-d, I tell them. I had thought I knew what joy, kindness, and love were. I had no idea. None.
I had thought I’d be trapped for life in my own noisy little head, I tell them. Through prayer, through sh’ma, I didn’t have to be. I never did.
They ask me what I can bring to the tradition. I grin from ear to ear and tell them how much the world needs more lefty Jews, more fired up and more religious.
Favorite part of Shabbat? Shabbat naps and prayers. Gone shul shopping? Yes, no place like home. Hebrew name? Shimon, the Listener, from the root of sh’ma. Any doubts? Doubted myself, but never where I’m going.
Step Three of Three
Tomorrow morning, G-d willing, the mikvah.
This year, I’ve prayed, studied, written, laughed, cried, hugged, cooked, baked, drunk, eaten, lit, memorized, recited, sung.
I haven’t gotten naked. I haven’t gone underwater. I’ve never been where we’re going. Will it be too much for me? Will it be less than enough? What if I cry? What if I don’t cry? Will I be too naked? What if we oversleep? What if we get lost on the way there?