I’m here because of my girlfriend. I know. It’s definitely not the healthiest reason for returning to Judaism after abandoning it, but, in any case, here I am, typing away.
I grew up in a pretty modern orthodox community in New Jersey (if you took a guess, you’d probably be right), went to a pretty modern orthodox high school (if you took a guess, you’d probably be right) and after a year in Israel, went to a pretty big secular university (if you took a guess, you’d probably be right) whereupon, sniffing the air of freedom and self-hood, I then almost instantly discarded my Judaism.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t hold any ill-will towards my religion. It’s just that, after having spent my entire youth being taught how important and valuable Judaism is, I can’t help it that I’m able to look back at it all and … not feel anything. When I see a frum person wearing a yarmulka on my campus or elsewhere, I wonder if they’re Jewish only because they need it. Perhaps its that they’re just unable to live their life without assurance from this romantic idea that there’s a God above us who, because of His existence, imparts life with meaning and direction. Perhaps these people so steadfastly cling to religion because, without it, their lives would be unable to give them the adequate happiness they require?
But my girlfriend is not like that. She isn’t deeply religious because she needs it to make her HAPPY.
First and foremost, my girlfriend is an optimist. She inherently believes in the good of every individual. She is the type of person who makes friends with the shul’s goyish janitor and plays with their kid. She is the type of person who knocks on the front door of some random college house in the middle of the night to ask if they own the parked car in front of their house that has the lights left on.
She doesn’t need God to prevent a miserable existence. She only needs God in order to SANCTIFY her life. In other words, she has all the ingredients, she just needs a God to take her efforts and her relationships and elevate them to a level of spirituality and sanctity that could not be achieved without a God. Otherwise, she would just simply be a nice individual living in a world of other individuals who solely exist to survive and reproduce. And for some reason which I can’t guess at, this incredible woman has picked me to be with her.
And so that’s why after three years of not keeping shabbas, eating non-kosher pizza, getting drunk and going to incredibly sleazy parties, I am slowly, hesitantly, returning towards Judaism. For if this woman can elevate my life to a greater existence, it just might all be worth it.