Spirituality and Religion
I identify as a Jewish Woman. Not just a woman, not just a Jew. Equal parts both. Take one or the other away and you won’t have an accurate representation of who or what I am. Both roles have defined me since the moment I was old enough to start to understand who I was.
I don’t think I ever used the term religious to define myself until I was on the dating scene post-divorce and had to put myself in one of those much-hated boxes, describing who I am with a few twee words. I have always felt that I am more on the spiritual end of things.
I live a religious lifestyle. I keep Shabbat, Kashrut and Family Purity, and a bunch of other mitzvot. I cover my hair and dress modestly, and try very hard not to sin. But I am far from perfect. But the actual nuts and bolts of Jewish observance – I do most of them without a second thought. After all, I have been observant all my life – so many things just come naturally to me.
Organized prayer is not my thing. I find it difficult to talk to God through someone else’s words. If I am asked to say Psalms for one who is sick, I will. If I go to shul, yes, I pray when I am there. But daily? I fall down big time on this one.
That isn’t to say that I do not pray. I talk to God (isn’t that what prayer is?) all the time. It’s almost as if there is a running conversation 24/7 (mostly in my head). Yes, some of it is mundane as in “please, God, help me find a parking spot” or “God, please let me not throttle this kid who is talking to back to me right now”. But there are other conversations that I have with God that run deeper. I am not so holy as to believe that God talks back to me, or even responds to every request or thought, but I see God in all that I do. I believe that there is a Higher Power.
Do I believe God has a long beard and sits on a cloud with a bunch of rosy cheeked cherubim to serve his every whim? No. In my view God is most likely female – but that may be just because I would much rather deal with a female God. At least she’d get my thought processes and understand HaDassah-logic so much easier than a male version would.
My point is – you don’t have to be religious to be spiritual and vice versa. Having the ability to be both – WIN WIN. Some people find a lot of spiritual comfort in ritual – specified prayers, hand washing, blessings etc. They find that performing mitzvot brings them to a higher level of spirituality. Some mitzvot are so hard to do – and the idea is to still fulfill that mitzvah so that it brings you up one or two spiritual notches.
I have a hard time with covering my hair, for example. Every day it’s a struggle over my inner voice. Does God want me to cover my hair and be miserable about it? Does God care? I don’t have the answer to that, and I have asked God many times. Still waiting for the return memo. I do it because it is what I believe is right. But it doesn’t make me feel spiritual and all Kumbaya-ish. Yet I still do it.
Maybe one day we’ll all have the answers to our questions that we have for God. And maybe we won’t. I’m OK with that. I’m comfortable in my observance (mostly) and I love my own personal spirituality. It makes sense to me, and that’s what counts, right?