I ran into a neighbor yesterday, someone I haven't seen in awhile. She's what I think of as a post-modern Jew - devoted to her faith, yet as a mother of young children, trying to figure out how to celebrate the holidays without making her kids feel punished. To celebrate the Sabbath in a traditional way, for instance, would make her kids want to know why they aren't allowed to go to soccer practice, something they love. In her family they've adapted Shabbat to include soccer practice but they try to unplug a little bit not only from technology but from the frenzy of activity that is a part of life lived at this moment in history, in this place. They light the candles on Friday nights, do the prayers, enjoy their family time. It was interesting to hear about.
She, too, spent many years in San Francisco, hence her reaction to my tattoo wasn't the recoiling-in-horror type reaction that many Jews feel, viscerally, when they see a tattoo. She was curious, wanted to hear the story, which is how we got to talking about the Sabbath as an alteration of time. It was a fascinating conversation that would never have happened if I hadn't gotten the tattoo. Hmmm.
The moment one of my dear friends saw my tattoo (he is definitely anything but post-modern), he blurted out, "Now you can't be buried in a Jewish cemetery!" It was such a sharp reaction, a reflex more than a thoughtful response. After the minor outburst, he acted cool, but oh my.
Like I care about that!
I've always referred to myself as a pre-Judaism Jew. I love the unknowable God that is pure potential, and I like the focus on living well now, not focusing so much on the next life or the afterlife. I love holidays that begin and end at sundown, with ceremony and feasting. It feels so right to me. But the recorded history of Judaism is something I don't get along with, and the Torah? Well - I already wrote about how poorly I connect with the Torah. Whoa.
Following the conversation with my neighbor yesterday, I wonder if I'm not also a post-modern Jew. Pre-Judaism/post-modern. I think I embrace some of each, especially with this tattoo, an ancient word in modern Hewbrew. Is it a paradox or an oxymoron, is it "right" or "wrong," that I embrace what came before the Word, but not so much the Word itself? Is a tattoo of the word Shalom, in modern Hebrew, placed where the people in the camps were tattooed, an abomination or holy - or neutral? You tell me.
The sidewalk conversation with my neighbor yesterday was far more intimate in nature than any we've had in the past. The scar on my arm opened a space between us where we could acknowledge that we are kin. How fascinating!