“You’re not really a Conservative Jew,” my ex-husband said in a recent joint therapy session designed to help us communicate better while we co-parent.
“Someone showed me a blog of yours that says you’re not sure you even believe in God,” he reasoned.
Right, I said. It’s really not for anyone else to say. Outside of orthodoxy, there is no check list for whether you belong to the movement or not. It’s really a personal choice.
He’ll be annoyed that I’m writing about this here, and it will probably come up in a future session. But we live in a free society where our experiences are ours and ours alone, and we may communicate and share about them if we believe it’s appropriate.
And I do.
Because this conversation is not really about my ex-husband nor is it about me. It’s about whether we as a people believe we have the right to determine who belongs and who doesn’t, who is authentic and who is not.
There are places where, just to walk in the door, you must profess to follow the party line. Your life has to model whatever values are said to hold the community together. Your cupboards must be stocked with approved foods and your actions align with the commonly-held philosophy.
Those places, thankfully, do not comprise the majority. Or do they?
If the Jewish world is any example, then it’s the minority who are rigidly-held and proscribed to follow protocols. While the various movements have their ideologies, in the liberal sects, it is accepted that the individual builds a spiritual relationship and if they feel at home in your congregation, they are welcome.
I want to believe that the majority of the world is accepting and loving and understanding that spirituality, that belief, that life itself is an individual pursuit.
While we must adhere to societal norms like thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not do reprehensible things, the rest is up for grabs.
At the end of the day, I still hold fast to the notion that it is me and me alone who has to face whatever I do, say or live by. I have to grapple with my choices. I have to walk into the great unknown alone.
And so do you.
So why do we feel comforted if we put everyone in a neat box and tell them they are right or wrong?
We liberal-professing folks do it, too, you know. We look at the devoutly religious, at those on the extremes, and say they are fanatics, say they are crazy in their rigidity.
We are no better.
And here’s the kicker: you, me, my ex-husband, or yours, we are all the same. We are all connected. We look like we are separate, but really we are not.
Once you have this revelation about our world, you can’t live the same way you used to. You can’t judge others, and you can’t care when they judge you.
You can only look at them with compassion and understanding and hope that at some point in their life they will come to understand the complexity of being human.
I understand why my ex-husband believes as he does. My heart is full of that understanding. And it makes me a little sad.
For whom, I am not certain.
It is surely easier to live with set certainties and answers, and I’m sure it’s a great comfort late in the dark night when there are no voices to reassure.
Me, I’m ok with the unanswered questions, and I am ok forging my own path. I don’t mind if people think I don’t fit anywhere. I never really have.
I’ve always let my own voice be my guide. And when I haven’t, I fall off-track.
After all, my only goal in this life is to be me as best I can. And frankly, that’s all there is to do.