I realize that this may seem like a rehashing of previous posts and a JN article in July, but it’s been on my mind a lot lately. Every time I have a life change I feel like my Judaism changes with it. You prepare for your Bat Miztvah, and then (in my case) I continued with Hebrew High School. Hebrew High school was an interesting experience. In short, I can sum up the experience as…half our class no longer goes anymore…so why exactly are we here? They don’t exactly know what to do with us anymore…
My Jewish education truly expanded when I went to college. Luckily I was able to getin touch with a fellow violist in the music school, who lived in my dorm for two years, and was very involved in Hillel. Needless to say I caught the bug. I started going to services every week and it became such a social, spiritual, and religious experience. We had Friday night services and then a free delicious kosher dinner afterwards. It was my time to hang out with my Hillel friends and catch up. I also learned how to leyn (read and chant haftorah and torah) and basically ran Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services my junior year. That year I also became an intern for the campus program for the conservative movement. We had a conference to start the year, and I felt really out of place because I felt like a bad Jew “less religious” compared with the other interns…I didn’t keep strictly kosher, I felt that people could drive to shul on Shabbat, and I didn’t keep the Sabbath. It was a good experience, I learned so much more about Judaism, and tried to organize exciting activities for the conservative sect on campus. Junior year was also really tough because all of the seniors/grad students left and we did not have a set of eager underclassmen to really replace them. (It’s similar to Peace Corps where you need to train the people in the classes behind you to pick up where you left off (committees, site development, etc.)
So it was a bit difficult to come to BF and no longer be an active Jew in the religious sense. I realized that I haven’t set foot in a synagogue for 16 months or spoken directly to a Rabbi, and I miss that. However, I feel like I have grown so much spiritually. The fact that yes, having those things are nice, but not having them does not make me any less of a Jew. After Simchat Torah I started reading each weekly torah portion, (parasha). And you know what, the torah makes so much more sense when you are older and can understand it. It also helps to have a good edition with insightful commentary. Also, I live in a village with no electricity/running water. More advanced than Abraham, but less advanced than my colleagues in the developed world. Also, whenever they talk about animals it makes more sense. I am surrounded by chickens, guinea fowl, cows, he-goats, she-goats, etc. People here put so much of their wealth in animal, and they also frequently use them in a barter system similar to biblical times. Celebrating Jewish holidays here in BF makes the simchas much more special. Here in Burkina, everyone likes to party. For example on Tabaski, everyone celebrates. It does not matter if you are Muslim or Christian. Everyone just really likes to party.
I’ve also decided to pray more. Generally when I am on sketchy transport…the bus breaks down…this bush taxi is too full…etc. Here, I seem to rely on my faith \or guidance and protection. Really in the US, I didn’t really pray outside of services except for people who were sick. I also pray for the safety of all the other PCVs in country.
So I guess I have changed…but again, with every life change, your spirituality/religious beliefs/values also change.