The New Year is here. I envy the families gathering together with heavenly smells coming from their kitchens. Brisket, matzo ball soup, potato kugel, tzimmes. I envy the prayers they know by heart.
I am Jewish by birth, but besides the food, I had no Jewish upbringing. I became the Wandering non-Jew, wandering from one religion to another throughout my life. I settled on no religion, and called myself a Believer, which suits me.
I married an atheist, and raised a daughter to be a little of everything. She had children's books about Judaism and Christianity. I bought books for her about Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism. I wanted her to be open to the world's religions. I wanted her to find the home I never did.
My daughter read the books I gave her about what it meant to be Jewish. She ate my matzoh ball soup, which somehow, miraculously, was always delicious, in spite of my iffy cooking skills. That was what I had to offer.
We celebrated the Christian holidays with her father's family. We made connections between the two religions. Christmas was a big deal in our home, my husband and I making up for childhood pleasures we both had missed.
My daughter made her own choice a few years ago. With her eclectic upbringing, she could have chosen anything or nothing. She chose to be Jewish. My daughter's mind is agnostic, but her heart is Jewish. Or maybe it's the other way around. It doesn't matter. It's her path.
I envy people who know what they are. I wandered from church to church, mosque to temple, and never found my home. I am a Believer. I am not agnostic, I am not atheist. I do believe.
But I have no religion, and I am done wandering.
Sometimes I miss having a home base. I miss the comfort of knowing I am something and that I belong somewhere. I love watching the families in my neighborhood filing into Saint Ann's on Sunday morning. Dressed up, smiling, carrying a baby or two.
I love to watch the Bar Mitzvah parties at the temple down the street. The kids gathering mostly for the party, but also to listen to the reading of the Torah. I went to a Bat Mitzvah last year. It was beautiful. Regal, really. The family gathered on the Bema, each taking a turn speaking to their daughter. Telling her their hopes and dreams for her on this day, her Bat Mitzvah day.
It's the traditions I miss. The family gatherings I never had. It's my one regret in life. That I couldn't find a home in any of those religions. That I didn't belong anywhere.
I studied many religions. I practiced different ones at different times in my life. They all really say the same thing if you have ears to hear and eyes to see.
Tonight I'll buy the challah and the brisket. Tomorrow I'll make the matzo ball soup. I'll cut up apples with honey, and pray for a sweet new year for my family.
My daughter has brought me a greater appreciation of Judaism.
My Buddhist friends bring me a thirst to know even more.
My atheist husband reminds me by the way he lives his life, that that too, is a noble choice.
Our paths are our own.
But there is something about this time of year, this new year, that makes my eyes teary and my throat tight. It's about challah and brisket for sure. But more than that, it's about being loved, and new beginnings, and second chances.
For the Believers, the Seekers, and the Doubters.