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When My Faith Fails, I Get Practical About Judaism

When My Faith Fails, I Get Practical About Judaism

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I consider myself an observant Jew. I celebrate Shabbat and the holidays, as well as keep kosher and live in a Jewish community. But just because I follow this lifestyle, it doesn’t mean that I never question aspectsI used to live without faith and structure and laws of my faith and belief system.

I think there is a misconception that observant Jews are brainwashed or don’t have their struggles with Judaism. While some people completely dive into it and go to the extreme, most of us are well-balanced and go through our own issues with it.

It’s not that I sometimes doubt that there is G‑d, or that He is constantly watching over me. I fully believe in Him. It’s that following all the laws come at a price, figuratively and literally.

For example, every Passover, our grocery bill skyrockets since kosher-for-Passover packaged foods can be quite expensive. As a married woman, I cover my hair according to Jewish law, which doesn’t always make me feel pretty or comfortable. When my husband and I are on the road on tour (he’s a comedian), it can be difficult to find kosher food. I don’t get to go to a lot of fun events because they’re held on Friday nights. For reasons of modesty, I wear a skirt all the time, even at the gym—and it’s not easy working out in a skirt.

It can also be very isolating to live this lifestyle. I’m in Los Angeles, and there are a lot of conflicting values that don’t match up with my beliefs, like always putting one’s career first and delaying having children for a long time. I haven’t worn pants in years, unlike many of my friends and peers who wear pants and shorts every day. When I go to a networking event, I usually can’t eat the food, even if it’s through a Jewish, but nontraditional, organization.

Sometimes, I think: “If I just stopped being observant, things might be better.” I think about going out on Shabbat again, eating nonkosher food and uncovering my hair.

And then I get depressed when I realize how empty all of that would feel. Before I converted to Judaism, I used to live without faith and structure and laws. I would eat all kinds of nonkosher food, go out on Fridays and Saturdays, and wear whatever I wanted.

And you know what? It wasn’t that great. I felt lost, and without guidance. I was lonely since I didn’t have a community. And I was hopeless about life. I don’t think human beings are meant to live without rules. At least for me, all the choices were overwhelming.

Though there is a huge trade-off to being observant, my life is way better now. And when I struggle with it, I think about the practical parts of being traditional.

Prayer has the power to calm me down and make me feel centered. When I cover my hair, at least to fellow observant Jews, I’m showing that I’m married and off the market.

When I eat kosher food, I’m doing G‑d’s will, and I’m often helping fellow Jews survive financially. I’m also eating animals that were killed in a more humane way than they would be on nonkosher farms. As a chicken owner, making sure animals have a painless death is very important to me. When I can afford it, I buy my kosher meat from organic, free-range suppliers who make sure their animals have a better life as well.

There are several Jewish fast days throughout the year that commemorate tragic events in Jewish history or help us become more spiritually focused. I absolutely despise fasting, but it teaches me that I have self-control. AsI despise fasting, but it teaches me that I have self-control someone who has had lifelong issues with food and binging, it shows me that my brain has the power to keep me away from it for a day.

Although I miss sleeping in on Saturdays, at least I get to socialize at the synagogue with people in my community and enjoy some delicious cholent. If I’m bored during prayer services, I read the Torah commentary, which is always fascinating to me. Even if I relate better to some commentaries than others, there are great lessons to learn from them.

Usually, when I realize what good has come from my life because of Judaism, I feel better about it and get back to the place where I want to be. It’s the place that makes me feel spiritually connected, the place where I want to take on even more observance.

Despite the inconveniences and the expenses, I know I’ve chosen the right path. Because Judaism has given me what nothing else could—inner peace.

Kylie Ora Lobell is a freelance writer and personal essayist in Los Angeles. She writes for The Jewish Journal of L.A., Grok Nation, Aish and Tablet. She has a wonderful husband, comedian Danny Lobell, as well as two dogs, five chickens and a tortoise.
Sefira Ross is a freelance designer and illustrator whose original creations grace many Chabad.org pages. Residing in Seattle, Washington, her days are spent between multitasking illustrations and being a mom.
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Mlk Brockton Ma November 28, 2016

When my faith fails When my faith fails I never heard OF Jewish people being brain washed this a new one on me . This article is true in many ways . Jewish people live a completely different life style there's the Hassdic Conservative Reformed . In many areas in this country the Temples have been forced to close .There is no shortage of churches I am just stating a fact that is true where I live . Cost of Jewish food has always been extremely higher when comes to a holiday the price seems to increase . There is a saying I have heard a butcher weighs your meat with one finger on the scale. How true is this is a good question I think it depends on the butcher. There also different grades of Kosher meat .When the butcher I used closed I found that out . Many years ago when we went to New York we had no problem finding kosher places to eat . But New York has a large population of Jewish people with a lot of temples . Reply

aron NY November 24, 2016

Judaism is not about how it makes you feel; it's about serving G-d I enjoyed the article because it allowed me to contrast your approach to that of the Hassidic perspective I have discovered late in life. It appears that you place too much emphasis on the benefits you derive from being religious. If you would focus more on the pleasure G-d derives from your observance of mitzvot rather than the sacrifices you make, I venture to say you would be happier, (despite that, as I wrote, your own fulfillment is not supposed to be your goal as a practicing Jewess). Living in America that places personal happiness and fulfillment as the ultimate achievement, many of us have lost sight of the true hierarchy of Jewish values. Reply

JDV May 24, 2017
in response to aron:

As I see it, if Judaism makes you feel positive, so much the better. Doing good can spring from that. Reply

Anonymous South Africa November 22, 2016

What an honest article. So wonderful that the writer chose to share her thoughts and experiences. Reply

jim dallas November 21, 2016

sefira gallery of special art like coming to an art gallery to a special showing of highest quality illustrations for the thoughtful patron!
but then, i get to read about this jewess who has struggled but no longer has to be a slave to worldly priorities. and who has a show-business hubby who matches her well i think, all those chickens! Reply

steven North Wales November 21, 2016

Great article, but this can apply to Jewish men as well. I think their a lot of Observant men who think the same as her. Reply