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22 November 2013 @ 03:35 pm
I am no longer a WASP  
I suspect that will cause more psychic damage than any lack of celebrating Easter or Christmas, neither of which I've cared about at all for decades at this point. Is WASJ even a category? If it is, it doesn't exactly roll off the tongue.

I wrote about my meeting with the rabbi a month ago, and how it was a bit confusing, and the beit din I went to was kind of the same. I was told to expect it to be half an hour long--not explicitly, but because the people who were going before me were going in at 10, and I was going in at 10:30--but I think it was maybe 10 minutes. And while I knew I wasn't going to be hauled into a bare cement-walled room and interrogated, the questions were even less...pointed, I guess, than I expected. What would I do if the court decided that I wasn't ready or turned me down in any fashion. What was it that originally attracted me to Judaism. How long had I been studying. If I had to give an elevator pitch for what the tenets of Judaism were to someone, what would I say. And, that's about it, though I did spend some time thinking about the answer to the questions. Especially the last one, until they told me that a verbal bullet point list was okay.

Maybe it's because one of the cantors on the panel had a nephew who went to Penn. Nepotism, ho!

After that was the hatafat dam brit, which was exactly as unexciting and clinical as a medical exam, white gloves and all, and I don't really have anything to say about it since it'd be like talking about medical problems. Moving on.

I think I threw the cantor who was observing me in the mikvah for a loop because I had memorized the blessings I was supposed to say. They were on my left as I entered, in Hebrew and transliterated, but I was supposed to face forward because that was the eastern wall. So I suppose it was a good thing that I had them all memorized so I wasn't constantly turning all over the place. Not that anyone else would have seen, because the only person directly looking at me was the cantor who was acting as a witness, and that only during the actual immersions to make sure that I was completely surrounded by water on all sides.

The preparation to get into the mikvah actually took longer than the immersion itself. There was a checklist in the preparation room, and it involved cleaning basically every part of the body (including belly button and ears), brushing and flossing teeth, showering and shampooing the hair, cutting and filing nails, removing all jewelry, brushing out tangles (which probably took as long as everything else combined), and finally putting on disposable slippers and heading out into the hallway.

Being a modern cynical millennial, I didn't expect to feel any different after the ceremony was over, but I was wrong. I did feel different, though I suppose in a kind of unquantifiable way. As I came up from the last time immersing myself and said the shehecheyanu, I hesitated over the last few words. Not because I was afraid of saying them, or because I was nervous, but I guess because it felt...momentous?

I'm not exactly sure how to describe it, since it wasn't really a physical feeling, but it certainly did more to convince me that modern society doesn't place enough stock in transition ceremonies. Liminal states should be marked. Despite that, though, I really wasn't nervous beforehand. I suppose it's my WASP upbringing ramming that necessity to be stoic--or at most, bemused or irritated--under all circumstances into me. Maybe it's because I did a lot of research into what to expect, and when the mikvah attendant and the mohel called beforehand to talk to me, so I already knew everything that was going to happen.

My parents attended on somewhat short notice, though softlykarou had a training session that she couldn't get out of. My parents even dressed up formally because they didn't really know what to expect. I forwarded one of the emails I got to them, but it was a bit light on details, and most of what I knew was from the perspective of the person who was getting in the water. Then there was a lot of waiting around, but it all worked out in the end.

שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ יי אֶחָד.

Edit: Oh! I should mention that as part of the process, you have to pick a Hebrew name--not surprising since taking on a new name is another one of those old transitional ceremonial things that seems mostly lost in modern life. I went with בָּרָק (Barak, meaning "lightning"), both because I liked the meaning and because it's very similar to my given name. When I mentioned it to my parents, they pointed out that I could have also gone with Abiathar (אביתר, "Father of plenty," pronounced "Eviatar" in modern Hebrew), since I have an ancestor named Abiathar Evans who fought in the Revolutionary War. I didn't think of that, but I don't really think it's an intrinsically better choice. I like Barak.
 
 
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q99q99 on November 22nd, 2013 10:07 pm (UTC)
Well yea, you made a big decision, and had it externally validated. Internally, you're going to feel that :)
dorchadasdorchadas on November 23rd, 2013 05:16 am (UTC)
Well, like I said, I'm usually really cynical about these things. That's why it was so surprising!
q99q99 on November 23rd, 2013 10:06 am (UTC)
Ah, but if you didn't really care deep down, you wouldn't have done it ^^
Josh: deshinfodesh on November 23rd, 2013 11:49 pm (UTC)
Awesome! Congrats! And, as I say to many of my friends who convert, I'm a bit jealous -- I never had the opportunity to affirm my Judaism in such a great way.

And you are so a Barak.