As I sit in temple for another three hour long service during the high holidays, I wonder to myself, what makes a good Jew – and who decides? Ever since I had my Bar-Mitzvah two years ago, I have wondered. Reading Hebrew from the torah sounds like such a big achievement, but to me it seems so miniscule in the big picture of Judaism. Why has society forced me to accept these beliefs, in a language that is foreign to me?
I believe that confusion comes with religion. I like my rabbi, he’s very likeable and easy to talk to, but why is it so hard to sit through an entire service? Something just doesn’t add up.
I remember it like it was two years ago. My teary-eyed relatives were congratulating me on this important milestone in my Jewish career. I had just completed my Bar Mitzvah, but to me it felt like I was the same person who had woken up that morning. Though relieved, and ready to party, I never understood why my friends and relatives saw this as something more than just a ceremony.
Every now and then, when I feel as though I have neglected my religion, I make an attempt to go to Shabbat services. They sing the same songs every week. Besides the occasional announcement for a bar mitzvah or a baby naming, it’s almost déj– vu. I don’t see how singing the same thing each week relates to my life, but when I go with my grandparents, I see them beaming with pride. Why are they so proud? I asked my grandparents, and they replied by saying that it reminded them of their childhood, when they went to temple with their parents. It sounded like a viable answer, but as I thought about it, one of the main reasons for the creation of religion was to seek comfort in times of need. No wonder they were so proud.
I have talked to my parents about my confusion, and it seems they are in the same position. My parents have even less of a clue, but it was drilled into their heads and they are passing on a tradition that they aren’t even sure why or how it’s important to them, but yet, they want my brother and me to do the same.
I recognized why my family was so happy on the day of my Bar Mitzvah. Some members of my extended family never shared the joy of becoming a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, and seeing me as a grandson, a nephew, or a cousin, made them proud.
These feelings that I have are shared by many other confused teenagers. I realized why Judaism still persists – it’s because of people like me, who question their religion, and who want to know the reason for the traditions in Judaism that are practiced. I know now that I can be a good Jew. However, the word “good” has many definitions, so I guess I lucked out.
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