Self Expression Magazine

Repost: Modeh Ani

By Challahbackgirl

I must confess, converting to Judaism in the purely religious sense has been an absolute breeze compared to becoming Jewish culturally. Apparently, you can take the girl out of the WASP, know the rest.
I was raised to never, ever discuss money. White clothes were packed away from Labor Day to Memorial Day. I was not to invite myself over to someone's house, but rather to wait for an invitation, and even then I was not to show up empty-handed. Both of these latter rules, by the way, are very difficult to uphold in Jewish life, where I am expected to make myself welcome (still challenging for me), and where I live just outside of the eruv (meaning I can't carry on Shabbat). When my mom accompanied me to shul earlier this year (Sidebar—Not only was it incredible that she did this, but she really looked like an Orthodox woman from head to toe, and followed along with a transliterated siddur like a champ), she was absolutely horrified at the prospect of receiving a spontaneous invitation to lunch after kiddush, more so at the full realization that I have been a "bad guest" on many a Shabbat afternoon. My mother has never been anything short of supportive of my conversion, and hasn't ever tried to make me feel bad for rejecting Jesus once and for all, but this—a breach in WASP decorum—was her breaking point.
Thankfully, most manners transcend all cultures, and she can sleep at night knowing that I still send handwritten thank you notes. And, as I began confiding at the beginning of this post, my upbringing is too much a part of me to completely discard it. But I have a feeling it has often helped, not hindered, my growth in observance. Just as I was taught to open the card before the gift, in order to properly acknowledge the giver beforehand (And so help you if the eyes of a WASP matriarch fell on you while going straight for the gift. It was a wonder the wrapping paper didn't burst into flames.), so I begin each day with prayers, acknowledging that the day is in fact a gift from G-d. I have no idea what each day will bring, but I've had enough days under my belt at this point to know I am grateful to awaken to another one. For me, that is the beauty of life: While time and free will have been given to us by G-d, there is also an element of surprise in living that really does make each moment like opening a gift. Nearly two and a half years ago, I had no idea that I was about to crack open a book that would change my life forever and begin my journey to an Orthodox conversion. That day was truly the gift that keeps on giving, and one for which no prayer of gratitude could ever be sufficient, but I still try.

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