I am over 50, yes I know it is hard to believe as I look so young!
Recently I have found that as I look back on the last 50 years of my life, I am saddened and frustrated by the wrong turns that I took in my life.
And this is despite the fact that my internal GPS was often telling me the route I needed to take and yet I ignored it and set off down a bumpy road whistling away as if I was right.
Of course there are many things in my life that I far from regret, I realise that I am so very lucky to have such an amazing wife (don’t tell her I said that). I wouldn’t even want to imagine my life without her.
And the family that surround us are very special to us and that is something that has gone very right!
There is one specific thing that I am referring to here, my GPS has been telling me for many decades that there is a route that I should take, but I was steered away from this route and then, well I guess I was slightly afraid to go back and take this route.
It is something that I deeply regret, but finally I have corrected my route and I am on the right path!
WHAT IS HE ON ABOUT?
I cannot explain this to you fully, because the truth is that even I do not fully understand it.
But here goes!
In 1992 age 24 I walked to the Synagogue in Finchley Road, Westcliff and spoke to someone about how we could attend the synagogue with the intention of eventually converting.
I was sent to speak with a man, I have no recollection of who he was but we talked for some time and I explained to him why I was there.
Almost 30 years ago and today I still feel the same.
It is very hard to explain. I have for so long felt drawn to Judaism, it is a feeling of being homesick for a home where you have never lived and missing a family that you have never been a part of!
It is a feeling that burns intensely inside of me and has for too long.
After speaking with him, he sent me away. He had firmly discouraged me and not given me any hint of there being a way for me and my wife being allowed to attend the Synagogue.
So I assumed that it was impossible and carried on with my life.
In 1997 we moved to Rochford and attended the Roman Catholic Church there for the sole reason (naughty) of getting our two daughters into a decent school (it turned out to be a high price to pay).
We became regulars and despite the fact that I became very involved to the point where I became the Pastoral Assistant, the draw to Judaism burnt hotter than my role and the faith of the Catholic Church.
I was trying to learn Hebrew and I was mostly reading what is known as the Torah ‘Old Testament’ to Christians, it was noticed and commented on many times.
Even then I was looking into the possibility of taking on the Jewish faith and as there was now the internet, I was able to look even deeper into it.
I crashed out of my role as Pastoral Assistant and out of the Roman Catholic faith (long and painful story)
I had been emailing the Rabbi from the Westcliff Reform Synagogue and through our conversations I learnt that back in 1992, I was being tested, I should have just dug my heels in and insisted.
I decided to not accept the invitation to attend the Synagogue because I had just had a very rough time and I didn’t want to give people the idea that I was doing this like some boy getting a girlfriend immediately after breaking up with another!
But over the next 10 years or more I kept thinking about it, I knew this is what I wanted but I think I was apprehensive and possibly even a bit scared.
I am now a wheelchair user, my health isn’t great and I lost a lot of confidence when I fell (was pushed) out of the RC Church.
So I kept putting it off!
But as I laid in bed one night thinking about how I wish that all those years ago, that I had been stronger or more knowledgeable and we had taken that path, I realised that in another 30 years, I could think the same about now.
So I emailed Rabbi Elf.
Of course we have been in lock down and so attending the Synagogue is not possible but I was invited to attend Shabbat services via Zoom.
And it feels like pouring oil on a soul carved from wood that has dried in the sun for a lifetime.
I always benefited from having faith, but I admit that I am not one that can quote passages from scriptures despite having read the same passages many times.
I had stopped praying, I had stopped reading scripture, for 10 years I ignored my faith and this was because I wasn’t where I wanted to be and so I tried to cope by not focusing on it.
I have now learnt to read Hebrew, I know what some of it means but I have a way to go before I can fully understand what I am reading but it no longer looks unfamiliar, they are letters that I know.
Having said that, at Shabbat services the speed is too much for me, I try to follow but by the time I have read one word, they are several words ahead. So often I just listen and absorb it.
Or mainly just read from the transliteration and not the Hebrew.
One great advantage of the lockdown during this pandemic is that I didn’t have to go into a Synagogue full of people that I didn’t know.
Whilst any religious service via Zoom will never recreate the feel of being in a Synagogue, Church or Mosque, it is perfect for people who are disabled, have poor physical or mental health or are housebound due to age.
Some members from the Westcliff Reform Synagogue are now familiar faces and so when I do eventually get to attend the Shul when this pandemic is over, it won’t be as scary.
I have purchased a Siddur and Tanakh and my internal GPS has now stopped screaming warnings that I need to do a U Turn and get on the right road.
However, the petty quarrels and nastiness that we encountered previously in Rochford has put my wife off of religion and so this is a journey I must travel alone.
She has said she will attend with me and that shows how lucky I am to have her.
Of course my hope is that she will enjoy the time spent with the community and that she will forget what happened and realise that what happened is not repeated elsewhere.
So I am trying to keep as many Mitzvah’s as possible, making a few changes at a time and yes even Bacon!
The question I have been asked is “Are you going to convert?” and the answer at this stage is “I don’t know”. I am just taking it step by step, little, by little and seeing where this road leads.
But for now, just being on the right road feels so very good!