Finding Judaism (Part 2)

When I arrived at the synagogue the doors were locked.  At first I thought I must have had the time or date of our appointment wrong.  Then I noticed a call box and pressed the button.  A woman asked me why I was there and after telling her I had an appointment with rabbi Telrav she buzzed me in.

Rabbi Telrav greeted me in the lobby and we both walked to his office nearby.  In his office was a book shelf along one side of the wall completely full of books.  A guitar sat on a stand in the corner.  I immediately felt at ease.  I sat in a chair and we began discussing how I came to Judaism and what I was looking for from him.  I asked about conversion and he told me the process.  He would not be the rabbi to handle my conversion as he was moving to the east coast in a few months.  I told him I would be happy if he would get me started and I left feeling hopeful.  One of the first things he had me do was to eat Kosher.  By eating Kosher one is reminded of his beliefs every time he or she eats.  I was already eating Kosher by then so that was easy.

I began attending Saturday morning services.  These services were held in a small room at the front of the synagogue.  Chairs were arranged in a circle with a table holding the Torah scroll in the middle.  Most of the prayers were said or sung in Hebrew.  I had no idea how to pronounce the words in front of me, so for the first few weeks I listened and read along in the sidir.   After a few weeks of just listening I began to participate in the prayers.  What fascinated me about the service on Saturday was that sometimes the rabbis led the service and sometimes a congregant was the one to lead.

I continued to meet with Rabbi Telrav every couple of weeks or so.  I had to take the lightrail to the edge of Denver and then walk up a huge hill.  One day when I was to meet with the rabbi I did not have money for the light rail.  In Denver one can board the light rail without a ticket, but if the transit workers check for tickets and one does not have one, they issue a ticket for a larger sum of money.  If that ticket is not paid in the correct amount of time, one goes to jail.  I decided to risk it as I really needed to be doing what I was doing at that point in my life.  Everything was going well and I was almost at my stop.  I was the only one left in my rail car when a transit worker came aboard to check for tickets.  I stayed calm and kept knitting with the needles that were in my hand.  For some reason he never approached me and I got off at my stop.  I felt very lucky as I had no means to pay for a ticket had I been issued one.

Rabbi Telrav introduced me to the Talmud and it changed everything.  The Talmud is a collection of volumes of commentary by ancient sages and rabbis on the laws in the Torah.  The reason this was so life changing for me is that in Seattle my last landlord there made up a huge amount of lies and twisted almost everything that happened while I lived there and somehow got a large number of people to believe her.  Never in my life had someone gone to such great lengths to destroy me.  However in the Talmud there were many things she did to me and the ancient sages and rabbis agreed with me.  While that did not have an immediate affect on my life, just knowing that i was not the bad person she kept trying to make me out to be, gave me hope and peace.  It gave me mental strength that had deteriorated with all of the hate going on around me.


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I am a freelance writer and artist living in southern California.

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