I have a complicated relationship with Judaism. It’s not even serious enough to qualify for the “It’s Complicated” status on Facebook, but it is there, nonetheless. See, I’m what one might call a secular Jew. How the hell does that work? you might ask. I suppose it doesn’t, if you’re only looking at Judaism as a religion. If you recognize it as encompassing a culture and ethnicity as well, however, you have a lot of my family and me pegged.
Unlike my father, aunt, uncle, and three male cousins, I didn’t even have to squirm and roll my eyes through Hebrew school. I was never Bat Mitzvahed, and if Ethan and I ever do tie the knot (something that only comes up when both of us are at least two sheets to the wind, so don’t hold your breath for breathless wedding posts), our plan is to go before a Justice of the Peace. If we even spend that much money. I hear we can get it done for free at the DMV, and given how annoying wedding planning sounds, I’d rather substitute three hours in line for months of stress anyway.
Thus leaving me wrestling with the question of what, exactly, to do on the high holidays. Contrary to popular belief, Hanukkah is relatively insignificant. None of the events commemorated even took place during Biblical times. It only gets the attention because it happens to be right around Christmas. By the way, there is nothing in the traditional Hanukkah story that lends the holiday to any gift-giving, let alone eight nights of it. I’m pretty sure that was only put in to stop American Jews from converting to Christmas–I mean, Christianity–en masse.
But Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah, Passover–I gleefully attend dinners the night they start. I’m supposed to take the following day off work or any activity that might resemble work. I couldn’t take the day off for Passover this year; I already had to get a substitute just to come to dinner, and the community college I worked at docked part-time instructors’ pay for any time taken off. I also would have needed to secure a substitute for two evenings instead of one, none of which added up to pretending to be a good Jewish girl for a god I don’t even believe in.
But sometimes, you get nagging questions about your beliefs. I also don’t believe in an afterlife–very few Jewish people do, and I certainly know of no atheists who do–but I started asking questions when the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup last year. After years upon years of sucking elephant balls, Chicago’s hockey team finally won the trophy. The only way that seemed possible was if my mother, a Chicago native and Chicago sports fanatic who died nearly four years ago, had been up there somewhere, nagging whatever powers that be until they conceded and let her precious hockey team walk away with something more than butkis.
Or take today. My boyfriend and I were supposed to go down to Albuquerque, leaving Denver after our radio show this morning. Devout Jews would never drive on the Sabbath or a high holiday, so I would be committing a major no-no here, and no way in hell would I let Ethan drive the entire 440-something miles. But plans are plans, and Ethan’s mother is intimidating enough that I would not want to interfere with the itinerary I gave her.
So it was with some displeasure that I woke up with a splitting headache, a raw throat, snot clogging my airways, and eyes sticky and unfocused from a lack of sleep. The show must go on, so Ethan and I finished our broadcast and mulled whether or not we really wanted to drive down today or wait until tomorrow.
“You look groggy,” he said as my eyes drooped during our discussion.
“I’m exhausted,” I admitted.
“I didn’t sleep too well, either,” he said.
“Like I’d let you drive anyway,” I snorted.
“Like I’d want to.”
So Ethan called his mother and explained that we were a little too sick and tired to begin driving. Two of her relatives had died in a car crash when they both fell asleep and the road made a curve that they didn’t follow, so she was eager to let us catch up on some much-needed shuteye. I was more than thrilled to collapse on the couch and sawed logs for the next four hours.
I didn’t drive after all. I did manage to get in my radio show, but the Torah was written well before Yahweh could put an express prohibition against internet usage. Besides, it’s not work if I’m not getting paid. I know I merely caught a head cold from tutoring in a public place with all kinds of public germs on Monday, but I suppose you never know for sure.