Let me tell you a secret: After my bar-mitzvah (the ceremonial step from childhood into adulthood for young Jewish men), I was convinced that I had learned everything Judaism had to offer. I could read Hebrew, lead the prayers; I knew Torah stories, could even offer some midrash (commentary). So, I said, my journey in Judaism is complete.
I pursued spiritual fulfillment from other traditions, and I ultimately settled into Paganism, and Wicca in particular, for about three or four years.
Then, well, then I was Jewish again. Let me explain.
We all know the saying that we are each greater than the sum of our parts, but I like to expand this by saying I am greater than the product of the factors in my life. It’s funny because of the mathematical parallelism between sums and products, but it also changes the focus from the internal to the external.
When I think of the parts that make me up, I think of the roles I fill and the things I am. I’m a writer, a brother, a friend, a leader. I was homeschooled, graduated from a community college, and now I’m attending an awesome university. But when taken together, I am greater than any one of these things.
When I think of the factors that have brought me here, I think of the outside forces that have shaped me: My parents are divorced, I’ve grown up depending on government assistance, and I’ve only been able to make it through school because of the challenges I’ve overcome. Yet I am greater than each of these things, and I am greater than merely taking them all together.
It’s hard to say which came first–the outside challenges or the changes inside–but all of these elements have brought me here and made me who I am, and because of the extraordinary opportunities I’ve been given, I’ve finally realized where I want to go in life.
It’s been a long time since I’ve said this and an even longer time since I’ve sincerely believed it, but today I feel happy. Genuinely happy. And for the life of me, I can’t even say what’s changed.
It feels like, for so long, dark clouds have held their hands around me, ethereal and tornadic fingers twisting around me, tumultuous chaos attacking me from every angle. Today the wind awoke over the world and while I was crossing the Brickyard–an open courtyard at the heart of campus–I felt the wind whipping around me, awaken the wind inside me, and in a burst of ecstasy I spun around and watched as the world itself twisted beneath me….