How atoning is like healthy living.

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I always knew I’d raise my child(ren) Jewish.

I wasn’t like my own daughter (she “knows” she will have 4 children and has already planned names & sexes) I just knew if I had a child she’d be raised in the same faith I was.

I assumed all people felt that way about their religion (I later learned otherwise) and, as I matured and had opportunities to learn about other faiths, it all reaffirmed Judaism was the right one for me.

I don’t view myself as Jew-ISH, but I can see how, to other more religious Jews, I might seem that way.

I go to synagogue (a few times a year).

I send the Child to Sunday School (in no small part because her cousins are there and it’s important family time too).


The JewISH comes in because there exist myriad elements of the religion I don’t follow.

From shrimp to Sabbath-driving.  From tattoos to mikveh taking.

The “ish” stems not from laziness, but from spending years creating a definition of Judaism which works for me.

It’s interesting, however, no matter how ISH we start with our religion of choice, it seems we often grow more devout with age.

I’ve noticed in my synagogues (Pittsburgh, Chapel Hill, Austin, Oakland) the numbers of attendees 65+ is always unflaggingly high.

I assumed, in the way of all who haven’t experienced something yet, it was a fear of death.

A recognition of one’s mortality and a sense of urgency with regards to “making all right with G-d.”

The past few years I’ve learned some hard lessons and, as a sort of side dish to the main learnings, I’ve realized I was wrong.

At least with regards to myself.


first day in Oakland. second stop? synagogue!

I’ve found the word Jewish creeping to the start of my self definition because it captures for me a ready-made Tribe of people with whom I feel comfy.

As I age, religion has grown more important in my life —though still my own irreverent brand–because I long for connection over something which is meaningful.

As I write this the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur is tomorrow.

Tonight is the holiest of nights for Jewish people.

We go to synagogue.

We pray and murmur offerings of apology for wrong doings the previous 365 days.

We are forgiven.

(that’s the short version–but it gives you the gist)

There is, however, a catch.

Tonight and tomorrow we are offered a last opportunity to make amends to G-d, but Yom Kippur prayers don’t “cover” sins or wrong doings against other people.

We are told in order to be ‘written in the book of life’ we need to seek reconciliation with individuals we’ve wronged and, if possible, right these offenses.


I wont be wearing this tonight.

All this straightening up & flying right must be done  completed before sundown tonight.

This year I’m less busy atoning than I have been in years past.

That said, I still take today to reflect on who I am, think honestly about whom Ive wronged or gossiped about, and reach out, apologize and ask for forgiveness.

While it’s hard (and at times embarrassing) it serves as a yearly reminder we possess a choice with regards to what kind of person we are.

  • I make mistakes.
  • I wander off my path.
  • I’m never as far from the person I strive to be as my very next action.

For the religious Jew Yom Kippur represents a sort of spiritual rebirth.

For this misfit-Jew it also reminds of healthy living, change always being possible and how powerful our seemingly small choices can really be.


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The post How atoning is like healthy living. appeared first on Carla Birnberg.

This entry was published on September 24, 2015 at 11:06 am and is filed under Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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