When my daughter first got out of the mikvah after her conversion, she celebrated every tiny thing she did “as a Jew” for the first time. (I’m combing my hair…AS A JEW!!!) Actually, she still does! It was such a touching and sweet expression of joy.
I tend to be focused more on fewer, bigger milestones myself. I recently was married…as a Jew. Now, I’m preparing for Elul…as a Jew this time. There are some big differences, even if I did just have my own personal Yom Kippur under the chuppah as well as a fresh start coming out of the conversion mikvah.
As a conversion candidate, any time I fell short in my observance or was less than perfect, I could reassure myself that I wasn’t being judged to the same standard as a Jew. I still was only bound by the 7 Noahide laws and anything else? Was really practice or extra credit. Sometimes that fact was painful. I wanted so badly for my mitzvahs to “count.” The one big time that it wasn’t so painful? The High Holiday season, where my lack of obligation became a reason to breathe easier. I practiced teshuva the way I did all other mitzvahs, with the ease of knowing that it was only for practice.
This Elul, it’s the real deal even if I really only have a short time to look back on halakhically.
Before conversion, my daughter had an evening of self-doubt, where she dissolved into tears, terrified that after conversion, she wouldn’t be able to do everything “right.” This month, I return to the reassurances that I gave her…that Hashem never wanted us to be perfect. For that, He already had angels. He wanted us to be imperfect, but never give up trying to be better. There is nobility in the struggle of an imperfect being to do better and there is beauty in us again and again remembering our connection to Him and returning, even when we get lost.
A friend of mine and member of our community created a free workbook this year to help people prepare for Elul. It really helps you narrow down what you need to work on and how to begin. I’m looking forward to using it this year for my own preparations and wanted to share it here as well.
May we all be inscribed and sealed for a good new year!!!