We are deep in the midst of selling our home, with our house having been on the market for almost a week. It’s a tough time to sell a house in Alaska, with a local recession adding to buyer’s worries about interest rates and the economy in general, so we’re having to work extra hard to keep everything looking perfect.
For me, that means a lot of cleaning and picking things up.
At the same time, we’re beginning more intensive conversion studies, as we review everything we’ve learned over the past 7 years in preparation. Even tiny details of observance become important to learn and remember and it’s also important to let go of any bad habits that could get in the way of being fully observant.
Spiritual cleaning and picking things up.
I find myself tired more than usual and yearning for the sun to be out longer. The days are becoming longer and brighter, but there is still quite a bit of darkness. Work has been more demanding than usual as well. It feels a lot like we’re in the last stages of being born, where labor comes hard and fast with less of a break between contractions. Our family often feels squeezed tight by all the pressure around us. It’s difficult to believe that there is light waiting at the end of this, a whole new world beyond. For now, most of what we experience is in darkness with just the hope of a promise that this isn’t forever.
Mother Sarah is in labor, but we feel her pains for her along with the hope that we’ll feel her joy with her as well.
It is a unique experience to actually have awareness of being born, even in just a spiritual sense. I find myself drawn inward more and I find I’m talking less and listening more. I’m sharing less even with the people closest to me. In most cases, there aren’t the words to capture what I’m feeling, thinking, or experiencing. In others, I already realize that there’s no context for most of my friends or family to understand these experiences. A child in the womb, preparing to be born, doesn’t communicate with the outside world. Even to their mother, they become a mystery as she can no longer feel their movements through the sensations of her labor. We can’t know what a newborn thought of the process and whether they understood what was happening to them or whether it was all simply pain and fear for them because they don’t yet have the language or understanding to tell us.
I feel like it’s similar for the convert. For non-Jews, describing conversion might as well be like describing birth to those still in the womb and for Jews, it literally would be like asking an adult to remember their birth.
When I began studying for conversion, years ago, I looked up everything I could find about it online. I read countless blogs by converts and conversion candidates, seeking to understand this process I was undertaking, as if by knowing more about their experiences I’d feel more confident in my own. What I found was that, invariably, as in down to every single blog I read, as the conversion candidate neared conversion, their blog posts became less frequent and detailed. Then, again without an exception, after conversion, the blog very quickly ended or shifted to another topic entirely. To my frustration, I could not find a single blog that really took me through the experiences leading up to and directly after conversion. There were beautiful descriptions of what it was like to be in the mikvah as well as a few brief hints at what it was like to be at the Beis Din, but those kind of floated in the blog like isolated events without much around them on either side.
I think I better understand now. Few people invite friends over to watch them clean their house and those in the midst of birth have less to say as their attention is more fully focused on what is happening right around them and within them.