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Dec 19 2014

Love & Challah: How I Found My Place in Judaism

By at 12:00 pm

Love & Challah: How I Found My Place in Judaism

Years ago I told my husband that if he expected me to give up cheeseburgers and shrimp cocktail for bagel brunches and heavily salted meats, I was going to need some backup. Though I was raised in a conservative Jewish home in Allentown, PA, my ideas of Judaism were mixed up with my ideas of a social life, which is to say that the boys I liked were decidedly not Jewish.

I made Christmas cookies one year with a junior high school boyfriend’s mother, flinging the dough around his dressed-up-for-the-holiday home when I accidentally lifted the hand mixer out of the bowl, probably gesturing in some handsy Jewish way. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 25 2014

We Finally Have Our Baby But We Lost Our Faith in God

By at 4:02 pm

newborn baby black and white

It finally happened. Six years, 14 IVF cycles, eight pregnancies, and we finally took our little girl home. She’s healthy, happy, and growing like a weed. In my wildest dreams (and there was plenty of time to dream!), I never imagined the amount of happiness and peace we would find in our tiny daughter.

But while our daughter fills a special place in my heart, we are still struggling with our faith. Though my husband and I were raised Orthodox, as I’ve written before, the last six years have made both of us lose our faith in God. For our one daughter, we’ve had to say goodbye to 10 other babies. That makes it too damn hard to believe that there is a God who is in charge.

With our first diagnosis of severe male factor infertility, we didn’t question God. Infertility was a challenge, but that kind of thing happens. Everyone has some kind of challenge. We were lucky to have each other, a happy marriage, and stable finances. No one can skate too easily through life, right? IVF was a mountain, but not insurmountable. Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 9 2014

After My Son’s Traumatic Bris, I Was Relieved to Celebrate a Little Girl

By at 4:13 pm

Pink-Rugelach

My youngest baby, Hope, is fast approaching 7 months old. Though we are not currently members of any synagogue, our lack of shul membership doesn’t necessarily translate into a lack of faith. My husband and I are Jewish and we want to raise our children Jewish. And while one of their first introductions to this faith will be the ceremony where we give our child a Hebrew name, we haven’t done it yet. But it’s time to start planning.

In Judaism, the naming ceremony for boys is part of the brit milah or bris, the ritual circumcision that most Jewish boys receive in the first week after their birth. It’s a straightforward, if not uncomfortable process that looked something like this with my son: I was eight days post-partum and was largely a walking ball of emotions. Our house was filled with some close friends and family but mostly extended family that I did not know or recall or even like. A mohel (one who performs ritual Jewish circumcisions) showed up and claimed he had circumcised nearly every little boy in the tri-state area. He said a couple of blessings that I did not understand over my tiny helpless son who lay sobbing on top of our card table, and he carefully removed my son’s foreskin. Everyone celebrated as my baby screamed. Someone removed the baby and the iodine and replaced it with a platter of rice that my husband’s grandmother had made for the occasion. A group of old women sat down at the exact same table where this whole ridiculous scene had just taken place and started noshing and kibitzing. I grabbed my son and the rugelach tray and hid in my bedroom where I sobbed and binged on pastries.

In every way, this ceremony felt like it was more about religious to-dos and tasks and less about faith. I recognize this was my personal experience with my son’s bris, but nonetheless it cut me sharply (no pun intended) that his first introduction to Judaism was seemingly so full of ritual, yet so lacking in spirituality. Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 1 2014

Do I Believe in God? I’m Not So Sure

By at 10:13 am

melting-candle

“Do you believe in God, Mama?”

A hard lump of something rose up from deep in my chest and got lodged in my throat.

This was the kind of question that pierced right to the heart of things, the kind that forced you to take sides, make a decision, woman up. The kind of question my 4-year-old daughter excels at.  Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 5 2014

How Do I Talk to My Son About Religion When I Don’t Know What His Religion Is?

By at 4:03 pm

checklist

Ty (age 7): “Mom, am I a Joe?”

Me: “Nope, silly-pants, you are a Ty.”

Ty: “No, Mom, my friend at school asked if I am a Joe, but I wasn’t sure. Are we Joes?”

Me: “What does that mean?”

Ty: “Remember that bad guy was trying to kill Queen Esther and her family because they were Joes?”

Me: “Oh, you mean Jews.”

Ty: “Ahhhh close. Anyway, my friend wants to know, are we Jews?”

Sigh. That is a question I don’t have an easy answer for. We cannot, either by birth, heritage, or conversion, claim to be Jews, and yet as a family we are certainly becoming more Jewish every day. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 6 2013

On Our 10th Anniversary, Discovering a New Meaning of Faith

By at 12:23 pm

DanaSiles_SCAN036wtmkwtmk

We got married on Sunday, December 7, 2003. (Yeah, yeah, I know, the Day That Will Live in Infamy. In our case, it was more like the Day That the Rabbi Was Available.) It was a sunny, beautiful day, with nearly three feet of snow on the ground. One of the largest Nor’easters in recorded history had passed through New England in the days before our wedding, but our wedding morning was perfect.

I recently got a copy of the words our Rabbi said as we stood with her under the chuppah:

Now I want to talk about this snowstorm. I think there’s something auspicious in it, perhaps a teaching here. Planning a wedding is a vast exercise in the delusion of control. There are so many details, so many things we want to get just right. And then, something like the snowstorm occurs and suddenly we realize that we’re not really always so in control. Sometimes that realization brings disappointments, frustrations. But it also uncovers something important: that to a certain extent, we just need to have faith.

We can make our plans for future happiness, but we can’t be sure things will unfold exactly as we hope. And that’s really the beauty of the commitment you’re making here today–the statement of faith that each of you is making about the other. That even without knowing exactly how things are going to turn out, even with not being able to control for every eventuality, you have faith that this is the person you want to be on this journey with.

And now we have been on this journey for 10 years. A decade. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how we got here, to this place of love and stability and occasional squabbles and frustrations. And I keep coming back to faith. Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 1 2013

After Years of Infertility, I’m Losing My Faith in God

By at 3:33 pm

where was god?

Well, that was a colossal failure. Months of planning, 10s of thousands of dollars, two trips to Cyprus, a really promising early pregnancy–and we have nothing. We have no donor embryos left. Our last cycle resulted in my seventh pregnancy, with fantastic early signs, but I miscarried at six weeks. We’d already been tested for every cause of recurrent loss, and honestly believed the genetically tested donor embryos were the answer.

Apparently not.

What do we do now? Nothing has changed on the adoption front (we are still on the years-long waiting lists for domestic adoption here in Israel, and international adoption remains out of reach financially). We could try a gestational carrier, but both in Israel and abroad the costs and logistical hurdles just seem insurmountable.

For now we wait. We are in shock. We really thought this approach, and this pregnancy, would bring us at least one baby (and possibly a sibling in a few years). Read the rest of this entry →

May 21 2013

Mayim Bialik: How I Teach My Kids About Both Science & Faith

By at 1:59 pm

the sun

This post is part of our month-long series featuring different ways that parents of various religions have talked to their kids about God.

As a scientist and a person of faith, I get asked the following question a lot: “How do you reconcile your scientific beliefs with your faith in God?” The question seems to concern others a lot more than it concerns me, largely because I see no conflict at all. They exist together, happily, and each supports the other. Read the rest of this entry →

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