Thursday, July 21, 2005

Chapter 16

With Gene Robinson installed as the Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire, my husband broke with the church of his childhood. The pastor called him to ask what was wrong. (Gee, you'd think he could figure it out?) My husband said "This is not my Grandfather's church anymore" to which the pastor replied, "No...It is not". Well, since Grandfather had been a very respected clergyman whose faith was a model, I guess the case was closed.

So now what do we do? I was getting ready for my second trip to Israel with Sar-el, and since we already considered ourselves catholic (as in Oxford Movement) we contacted the local Roman Catholic parish to find out how one went about joining. We had a lot of trepidation and I for one, was absolutely terrified. Most of what I could learn, I was getting from the internet sites I mentioned in Chapter 14. I don't know why, really, but I decided to teach myself the Rosary. I decided that my trip to Israel would be a time of prayer, and that I would learn rosary, using a diagram found on a Catholic site. I told no-one about this. I also bought a wonderful icon to take with me. It was painted by the rather heterodox Robert Lentz but it is one of my favorites. It shows Mary behind the barbed wire of a concentration camp, and wearing a yellow star of David. Jesus is shown in her womb, dressed in a Tallit, with a Torah scroll. It is based on a very famous icon called the Madonna of the Sign. Three guesses as to why this particular icon appealed me.

I was learning more and more about the Catholic faith, and I was fascinated by it. I wanted to read about, or talk to observant Jews who had become Catholics. This was actually more of a problem than you might realize. Many of the Jews who have become very public converts are from nonobservant, very assimilated or atheistic backgrounds. I am not all that interested in their testimonies, because, frankly they never knew a whole lot about being Jewish in the first place. Many folks I read about couldn't even be described as culturally Jewish. There are a couple of famous 19th century converts but there again, they were fancy assimilated German Jews. I'd had enough of them in Reform Judaism! I wanted to talk to someone who had what the orthodox call "Ahavat Yisrael". I'm not a very cerebral person, I just wanted to be able to relate to someone! That is, in part, why I am writing this.

Also, Jews in the Church tended to be low key, and not want anyone to know they were Jewish. You have probably come to realize that wouldn't describe me. I joined Steve Ray's forum, and the Association of Hebrew Catholics and basically introduced myself by asking if there was anyone from an observant Jewish background I could talk to. Some of you reading this may remember that.There were one or two who came out of the woodwork.

I also asked for prayer for my upcoming trip to Israel. At the mention of Israel, all the trolls came out! Once again, welcome to every Jewish life. But equally many really good people assured me of their prayers.

So with my Rosary and icon packed away, I took off for Israel once again, and my husband took off for the first class of RCIA at a nearby parish. I fell in love with the Rosary. I don't pray the rosary enough, but what an absolutely precious devotional tool it is! I was in Israel during the Hebrew month of Elul. Elul is the month before Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippor, the High Holy Days. Therefore it is a penitential month for introspection and prayer. One of the custems is to blow the shofar every morning of Elul.

I would be sitting there on the base early, before breakfast, in a secluded spot learning the Rosary, and a rooster somewhere would crow. Then I would hear a distant shofar sounding as an observant Jew conducted his Elul devotions. What a magical sound, echoing off the hills in Israel. This was all preparing me for what was to happen next.