Some harsh realities.

I wrote this blog a few months back in November 2013.  I was not sure if I should post it due to the title I gave it.  I don’t like to put in anyones mind that conversion is something you should not do.  I feel if a person is “called” who am I to say don’t.

I’ve honored Sabbath all my life but during my conversion process I’m finding it hard, financially, to keep up. My husband serves in the US Army and I’m a full-time student. We are currently spending an extra $400 a month to have two “lavish” Sabbath meals. This month has been especially hard on us. We are now faced with many of our bills falling behind due to this extra expense. This has caused Sabbath to become a burden instead of a joy for us. This does not feel right to me. Sabbath should be a time of joy. Before we made this choice we enjoyed Sabbath. We had a nice meal with family and friends and I did not spend 8 hours cooking on Friday to get it ready. Now I feel more pressure to get all the house work done, all the cooking done, and still have time to shower and dress up for our meal on Shabbat. By the time we eat dinner, I am exhausted. The joy I once had is overshadowed by all the work.

Then there is the cost for all the items you need to have. A challah board, (they are not cheap), a special knife for cutting the challah, a Kiddush cup and some small ones to serve others, silver tray for Kiddush cup and challah bowl, mayim acharonim, grape juice (this cost $8.00 each week), wine, matches and so on….you get the point. I’m not complaining but I do wonder if this is really what Sabbath is all about? I feel often that the love of Sabbath is missing for us due to trying so hard to fulfill all the “requirements” of Sabbath. We honored Sabbath before we knew that you “needed” all the things we now have to buy.  More than that, my cooking was only a few hours at the most. I was able to enjoy our guests because I did not feel the need to serve a 3- or 4-course meal.  Most of the meals were buffet style.  Now it is always a sit-down meal and I am up and down like a jack-rabbit serving each course.  I really want to find that joy I once had on Sabbath……. I must ask myself, “Why am I going into debt trying to have all this food?”  Most of it we don’t even eat.   Then there is the fact that I was told by some friends you must eat Jewish food. Well, we’ve done that but we don’t like most of it. We are African-American and we have a very different way of cooking our food.   Moreover, the type of food we eat is almost never sweet. Most everything I cook from a Jewish cookbook has honey. So after spending all that extra money and cooking for hours, we don’t even get to enjoy the food. Often the best things on the table are the salads and the Challah. This just can’t be right.  I really need help and understanding on this.

 

UPDATE:  Well, here I am 7 months later and I have come to understand a lot.  One, Shabbat is not all about having the best of things you can’t afford.  One should not allow all the “hype” they read on the internet to confuse them about what Shabbat is all about.  I’ve come to understand that Shabbat can and is a joy for me.  I don’t try so hard to fulfill others expectations of what Shabbat “for me” should be like.  The joy I once had has returned.  Why?  I now understand what Shabbat really means and what it is all about.  It was never about things.  I still cook a wonderful meal.  Now I stay within my budget.  I enjoy so of the Jewish food but I’ve also understood that “Jewish” food is relative.  You see, it is all about which type of Jew you interact with.  I’ve found I like some of the Sephardi traditions but yet, I still enjoy some of the Modern Ashkenazic ways.   I don’t think there is anything wrong with finding the sect that you fit in best.

So for my “harsh realities” I’ll say this: lesson learned, for me that is.  🙂

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4 thoughts on “Some harsh realities.

  1. This was an awesome Sabbath! I’ve learned that all the things I was stressing over are not important. That is not what Sabbath is all about. HaShem showed me what is important and I am so thankful.

  2. Hello Nitza,

    It will not change. Eventually you will randomly cope with the pressure. I say randomly because once you have become acclimatized to the pressure you will at times just crumble with the stress and then pick yourself up and drag yourself along again. The Sabbath you once knew is gone and this is what you have to look forward to for the rest of your life. That is the truth. I know Orthodox Jewish women with 5-8 children who also have the same issues and some who actually do crumble under the pressure. Their husbands are usually learning in a Kollel somewhere and just turn up to help out for about half an hour before they go to shul for Minchah on Erev Shabbat (not all are like this though), After davening Erev Shabbat they come home and enjoy their wife’s hard work. After the Seudah they will go back out to shul or some Shalom Zachor while the wife is left to wash the pots.

    You will get into more debt the further you go because of the growing things you will be required to buy unless some Jewish organisation like Gemachim funds ‘everything’ for you (which they won’t even after your conversion). It will take you years to get everything you need like Machzorim, Siddurim, etc etc and the further you ‘progress’ eating foods only with a Hechsher on will not be a choice but an obligation. Your food bill will double. You will find yourself increasingly paying for your ‘faith’ rather than your bills and then the debt collectors will knock on your door unless you can fund it another way. Believe me I have seen it numerous times over with converts.

    You do it because you want to ‘fit.’ Let me tell you. You will never fit or be considered equal. Only time will let you know the truth of that statement despite what others say to you.

    One family I knew, once converted, were in so much debt it was unbelievable. They had to pay $40 per hour per person for lessons with the Rabbi and Rebbetzin and extra for lessons for their children while on the process of conversion. On top of that all the things you are having to face now. Once converted they had to pay $1200 in school fees. At one point, due to the amount of debt they got in, they went to the Menahel (headmaster) and asked for reductions in fees (a third party asked for them). They were told, via the third party, that they should be thankful they had places in the school for their children and no reduction would be given. The only time they sorted themselves was when they stopped ‘living for others’ and lived before God Himself. They lost friends of course because they did things their friends did not agree with but at least they felt right and they got out of debt.

    You are African-American but you are converting. That means you are adopting a different culture. A Jewish one. your African-American heritage will have to die if you want to progress in the Jewish religious world. That is what the religious Jewish community will expect to happen over time. If it doesn’t your integration will only go so far due to discrimination and prejudice that is found in the more religious aspects of Rabbinic Judaism.

    Warm Regards,
    A Simple Jew.

    • Thank you for sharing all this with me. I know in my heart this will not be easy nor will it be the joy I’m thinking it will be but, and this is the key for me, there is nothing else for me. I must do this no matter the cost. I know there are many that will see me and my husband and only see two black people but there will be those that see us, not the color of us. This I am sure of. You are such a help with your post for me and I want to reply sooner on them but time is not always on my side and I often have to think about what you are saying to me. You seem to know a lot about conversion to the orthodox community, was this once your life or is it now?

      My husband and I have one son school age and we understand it will cost a lot to get him into school but that is nothing new for us. He was going to private school any way.

      Do you know of any place were we can buy the things we will have to have? We’ve started to buy some but the books are the most expensive and we wanted to build our collection now. We both like reading and studying. Also I really want to get some of the other stuff we will need. If you can help me with this I would be ever so thankful.

  3. P.S. All my answers are based on a convert going through conversion within a condensed religious Jewish community. If you are going through conversion in a more widely spread Jewish community you will come across the above eventually but less intensely. If you ever move into a more religious kehillah getting your children into more religious types of schools then you will experience similar to what I have written above. Seen it over and over again.

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