The Space Between

We have our mikvah date and just about a week left before it arrives.  It’s a unique place to be in, where we have just one more week as non-Jews and my husband has one more week as a safek.

So…what goes on in this time period between when a conversion candidate has been approved for conversion and the actual conversion?

Contrary to what you might think, it’s not one last dash for bacon before it’s forbidden.  In fact, it’s an even more heightened period of observance in most cases.  Like may conversion candidates, we’ve been told to stop doing that one melacha on Shabbos and observe the Sabbath fully.  I’ve been working on being better with habits like getting all my davening in.  We’ve been studying halakhah more carefully than we were for the Beis Din meeting.  Soon, it won’t just be a test we’re looking to pass, but we’ll be obligated in the mitzvos and we all feel a deep responsibility to get things right and make as few mistakes as humanly possible.

My daughter cried in my arms, not because she doesn’t want to convert…but because she’s afraid of making mistakes, of not doing every mitzvah perfectly.  I comforted her by telling her that Hashem doesn’t expect anyone to be perfect and even born Jews, raised observant from birth do make mistakes.  I also told her that Hashem, like all parents, just wants us to do our best.  If He wanted perfection, He could have simply stayed with only angels.  He created us to try, make mistakes, and keep trying.

I was also proud of her for grasping the importance of this, for wanting already to be a good Jew.  Happily, she recovered from her fear quickly and is excited about converting, but I think it’s good that she grasped the weight of it all, the responsibility she is taking on.

I find myself emotional as well, so many mixtures of emotions.  My eyes seem to have become leaky, both with joy and with pain.  It’s hard to find time, though, to slow down and unpack all of it.  There is so much to be done in the time between then and now, so much to prepare.

When a convert returns home from the mikvah, under Jewish law, it is as if they are taking possession of a home owned by a stranger, a non-Jewish stranger at that.  Mezuzahs must be hung immediately.  Then, there is the kitchen.  Everything in the kitchen is considered as if it is treifed (unkosher).  This is true even if the kitchen has already been made kosher and only kosher foods have been prepared in it.  Under Jewish law, we have to assume that non-Jew that we were didn’t keep kosher.  Anything that can’t be made kosher (china, wood, plastics, pyrex, etc) has to go.  Anything that can be made kosher must be, ovens cleaned, boiling water everywhere.  Either before or after, anything that needs to be toiveled (some utensils must be immersed in a mikvah before a Jew can use them) must be toiveled.  Since this all must be done at once, it can be quite the task.

That awaits us.  For now, it’s smaller tasks, like checking tefillin, buying mezuzahs, making sure that suit we don’t remember having checked for shatnez gets checked…things that suddenly have a much higher importance than they did a month ago.  Of course, there’s also mikvah prep to get ready for as well.

In some ways, this is so very much a part of observant life, balancing between lofty spiritual considerations and mundane details and keeping awareness of the lofty within the mundane.  We’ve been practicing this, developing the muscle memory for it, for years, but now, this is like the last practice before the big game, before it is for real.

Our little family has been through so much and come so far and I know we’ll not only make it through, but continue to grow together.  This has been the adventure of a lifetime, the seeds of which I can see in my childhood and now, we’ve reached the beginning, finally finishing the long prologue.

I look forward to beginning.

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