Continued from part 1
I don’t believe any real journey is not a straight-line progression from point A to B. It’s more like a meandering tour of a foreign landscape, learning the terrain and then determining how to navigate it – sometimes taking the well worn paths and other times creating new trails for yourself.
This is what my Jewish Journey has been like: Not a single trip through the territory or even a series of switch-backs as I progress to a goal, but an almost constant retracing of steps to map out the lay of the land, discovering new things each time revisited a place I thought was familiar.
In the process I have found bright and inviting aspects to Judaism. But there are also parts that seem dark and ominous and threatening to me. As I wrote about in the first part of this piece, the apparent lack of limits to observance is one such area. The idea that there are so many ways to be Jewish – so many levels to take even the simplest mitzvah – is overwhelming to me. There is a part of me that wants to know there’s a destination, a “there” to which I can journey.
That’s the point I was building up to – as someone who is exploring their Jewish observance, do I interpret the wide variety of ways any given mitzvah is performed as “levels” (indicating some people are doing kashrut 101 and others are performing the honors-level AP version), or merely as different and mutually valid traditions?
Taking that a step further: if there is such variety and it doesn’t matter, why bother changing what I do? Why make myself crazy doing a little bit more when the distance to “good enough” (we won’t even bring “perfect” into this conversation) is so far away and there is no end in sight?
The whole thought makes the mitzvot into a daunting task (for me, at least), and makes those who work so hard to perform them with diligence and devotion appear to be misguided at best.
More to come on why I think that’s not actually true, though.