Skip to content

The Book of Life


I’m not in shul today. The kids are in school.

Every year we’re a little more removed from Jewish tradition. I suppose that’s my fault, I’m the mom, and I come from the more observant home. The kids go to a church school. They say it’s not a church school, but they’re in chapel three times a week and they’re one of a small number of schools that’s actually open today. So church it is on the holiest day of the year.

I tried to explain to the kids that these are the days of awe. I asked them to reflect on the year and to will themselves to be a little better and a little kinder in the next year. “Like a resolution?” One asked.

Like a resolution.

I don’t believe that G-d is sitting in front of ancient scrolls and writing me into the book of life or the book of death. On the off chance that I’m wrong I’m pretty sure I won’t get put in the book of death for not praying in a language I don’t understand. I think he’s cool with me. I’m a good person, flawed, but basically doing good things.

Interestingly my husband, who would rather walk on hot coals than sit in temple, is insisting that our son is Bar Mitzvahed. We don’t really practice at home more than just lighting candles for Hanukkah. I’m more than a little unhappy that Mr. G. wants to have Alexander study a dead language for two years and learn stories that Mr. G. lovingly refers to as Jewish Fables.

As much as I don’t believe, I do. I’d be sad if I had goyim for Grandchildren, but I’m not all that interested in practicing Judaism. Maybe in these days of awe us Gottliebs can decide how much any of this matters.

11 thoughts on “The Book of Life”

  1. It seems like you want to honor your culture without practicing your religion. Which I think is awesome. And if your kids decide later that they want to practice, they have a base to begin.

  2. I love it when The Men insist on things like that. That’s how my Jewish boys got circumcised – their Christian father insisted on it. I find it barbarian. Anyhow, it’s a slippery slope to say “we don’t believe this stuff but we’re going to make you do it anyway,” and then parent who doesn’t really want to gets stuck with taking care of it…I’m pretty sure I’d tell him if he wants it, carry on, his job entirely.

  3. A good friend tries to engage me in deep philosophical discussions about Judaism. Most of the time I shut him down because he is not interested in an exchange of ideas. He wants me to provide him with something that makes his insecurities about Judaism go away.

    But the other reason I don’t like talking to him is he tries to engage me at a level that is so far over his head it is not funny. It is like trying to study higher math without understanding the basics. There is no foundation.

    Part of the reason my kids go to a Jewish day school is because I want them to have that foundation that Nina mentioned. I want them to know who we are and what we are about. 

    Take G-d out of the equation. I love the values that they are being taught there and at home. I like them understanding that they are part of something bigger and that we have a responsibility to help others.

    I don’t believe that you have to be religious to be moral or good. But it doesn’t hurt to have that foundation.

    And on a different note, I am a couple of generations removed from Holocaust survivors. This is part of how I tell those Nazi bastards to go fuck themselves. They tried to kill us. They lost. We won. Let’s eat.

  4. All I’ll say is that I consider myself a “Recovering Catholic”. I can’t *not* be Catholic. After 12 years of school with nuns and two devout parents, it’s seeped into my bones. Maybe “Struggling Catholic” is more apt. 

    But, I don’t believe any higher deity wants perfection; just not giving up the struggle and questioning and search for answers. 

  5. I love this holiday–oops, Holy Days.  I’m not in shul either–and I wasn’t raised observant–but I love the idea of summing up my year and seeing what needs work for next year (especially since I’m asking forgiveness in advance for not doing any of it).  I love the final ceremony where the rabbi intones The Gates…The Gates are Closing…”  High drama.  As are, I’ve come to see, most religious observances, at least the ones in Judaism and Catholicism, which I know best.  Hebrew isn’t a dead language–oh, you mean, Aramaic. Still, a Bar Mitzvah, no matter what you believe (and non-believers do have them) connects us to our history.  I kinda like that.  I like going into temple and seeing the men davening in their prayer shawls and knowing that men in prayer shawls have been davening forever.  Of course I don’t have to bob and weave in a thickly woven cotton shawl in a hot synagogue.  

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *