We both thought we should give you an update on how we're doing with the course. First of all, we want to start out again with the fact that we love the way that you've organized this, and that
we're so happy to have this opportunity. Here is an update from each of us:
The past few weeks have been truly amazing for me. We do a lot of studying as full-time students but it is such a nice contrast to study Judaism and stimulate the spiritual part of my existence. Shabbat has become such an important element in our lives. We weren't as traditional in our observance of Shabbat until this year. However, when we realized how important keeping this commandment is we have been strictly observant, and it has really benefitted us and made us stronger as a family. Shabbat is especially important to us because we are always so busy, and it is amazing how much more slowly time goes by when Friday night rolls around! It is a good time to reflect on life and spend some quality time together as a family.
Another change I have noticed is that I am becoming more and more comfortable with my identity around my family. My mom, a Catholic, is very accepting of the fact that I'm converting. She has told me that she's happy that I've found something meaningful to follow, and that I have her full support in becoming a Jew. My father, unfortunately, is not so open-minded and is really struggling with accepting it. However, I have learned that the more prepared I am for questions, the better the outcome of our conversations are. So thank you for all your YouTube videos on the subject, they have helped me tremendously! So far I have been successful at finding common ground with my father and stressing that I have nothing against his religion, it's just not for me and not what I believe. I'm sure you know that the holidays are one of the biggest sources of tension for families, but we have all compromised and decided to say "Holidays" instead of "Christmas" or "Hanukkah".
I feel like I've grown so much as a Jew; it's hard to say exactly what I mean by this, but I have so much more spiritual confidence in who I am and what I believe than I ever have before, and that's a great feeling. Also, over the past month I've made some changes that came as a surprise to myself. For example, I've begun to add elements of kashrut that I didn't observe before. I didn't really eat pork anyhow, but I would occasionally have something with pork in it. Now, I've stopped. The moment came at a dinner party recently where scallops were served. While Yvette already didn't eat pork or shellfish, I've always liked scallops, and they looked pretty appetizing, but at the same time they unexpectededly turned me off, and I knew I shouldn't eat them. I passed them up, and afterward felt great that I had. So I'm off of the treyf food, and it just feels like the right thing to do. It's a really good example of how the mitzvot are commandments, not simply "good deeds" that we should follow as the mood strikes us, and that we should try to follow them first without necessarily understanding quite why until later, or at all. (although I did want to ask you about meat/milk...what about chicken? From what I've read, the prohibition was put in place in the Talmud so that a kid or calf might never accidently be served in its mother's milk, but with poultry, since they don't produce milk, couldn't an arguement be made that that's okay?) I don't know, it's something I was curious about that I haven't been able to find a good answer to yet...
In general, one of the most major changes (to summarize the above) is that we have become more traditional in our approach to Judaism after starting your course. Before that, we thought we most identified with Reform. We didn't think the rituals were as important, or that we could get as much out of observing them; we really only focused on the essential beliefs and ethics. But once we actually started being more observant, the rituals became really meaningful to us, and we both realized how completely wrong we had been before. Not that there's anything wrong with Reform, but for us, after studying and learning and practicing more as we have been, Conservative Judaism is the perfect fit for us, and that's entirely thanks to your expertise as a teacher and guide for showing us the way. Thank you for letting us discover something so valuable.