When I converted, I was in full blown love with this religion. A lifetime of attending Shabbos dinners and Pesach seders had lured me. It took a while for me to realize that Judaism was what I was pining for all along. For most of that time I couldn’t find the label; I just knew I wanted God.
When I learned to meditate a few years prior, I had what most books would describe as a transcendent experience. I felt — I fell into — the presence of God. With no face, He smiled at me. With no arms, He held me. With no form, He opened himself and allowed me to completely dissolve in Him.
To say that it was spectacular would be a gross understatement. That brief, eternal moment changed me forever.
Maybe it was a mistake to have sought religion after such an experience, but I desperately wanted a community of people with whom I could talk about this newfound love. Like a new relationship, I wanted to gush about my new Lover. I wanted to hear about other people’s rendezvouses with Him. I wanted to seep His words into my skin and my soul, to go deeper, to go further, to know more, to take it on. And growing up with all of those fabulous Jewish happenings — the silent moments when candles were lit, the bowing in obeisance of the One, the tuning in, mind, body, and soul, to the seasons and to tradition — it spoke to me of holiness.
I spent years reading before I ever approached a synagogue. I read about the love of Torah and the priority of Jews to God. I saw, in every page in every Jewish book, the connection I longed for. The yearning I knew well. And I fell in love all over again.
The mikvah was its own transcendent experience. I felt my soul reconnect to its source in a way; a sort of clicking into place.
But ever since that day…
I don’t know. They don’t tell you that day to day Jewish life is menial. They don’t tell you that we really don’t pay that much attention to God after all.
To be fair, I am not a Chassid, and as I always understood it, Chassidus is where the conversation I want to have is happening. But I can’t go there because I’m gay. I can’t go there because my Jewish spouse is proudly secular and atheist and anti-committed to living a frum life. So where we stay, we stay Jewishly-spiritually unfulfilled. In traditional spaces, meeting nice people, doing nice things, feeling completely and utterly empty.
Why is there such dissonance between what I read and what I see? There is beauty in davening and transcendence in scripture. And my sexuality is not at odds with Truth. Why are we not awake? Why does the community not yearn?
I’ve asked myself a thousand times: would Islam be any better? Christianity? But here’s another Truth: Islam and Christianity don’t have a monopoly on devotion. And, if I’m being boastful, they both were born from Israel. We had the burning fire for God before there ever was a prophet among us. So why seek out a teaching I don’t believe in because I desperately crave their approach to worship?
I want us to take it back.
Now I’m stuck. I think about this conflict every single day. At Shacharis, I tell God that I love Him, but that I wish I could talk to anyone about it. When I study Torah, I ask myself why I am doing it alone. When I feel the pang in my heart of loneliness and yearning, I tell myself that something about this just isn’t fair.
I’m tired of playing hide and seek with religious community. I’m tired of getting dragged into debates over His existence when what I want is to be praising Him out loud. I’m tired of being scared of sounding like a crazy person, quoting the passion of the Torah. I’m tired of feeling like I’m alone in my search, in my journey. Like no one gets this love. I refuse to believe it, but I don’t know what else to do besides refuse.
I’m tired of looking for Him here. But I don’t want Him anywhere else. Where are my people? Where is the love? What do I do now?