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Were you religious once?

How do you recognize a fellow formerly Orthodox Jew? There are clues involving tattoos, pork and shaving

What is it about certain things in our religious upbringing that remains steadfast in our hearts and minds and that we cannot ever release?

As our conversation went from cooking to life, which is the symbolic flow for which cooking should eventually lead, I asked him, “So tell me, you were religious when you were younger, right?”

“How could you tell?” he asked incredulously.

I explain it to him. You see, there are words, nuances, behaviors and looks that we continue to carry with us, small things that stick to us from our religious upbringing that without even realizing it, makes us share our pasts with others. I saw him look to the doorpost when he passed. Looking to kiss the mezuzah that is there,

These are traditions we act upon, but there are also the things that we feel panicky about, and that if we do not uphold their permanence in our lives, we feel incomplete.

“Do you have any tattoos?” I ask him.

“Of course not, do you?” he looks at me still NOT aware of the fact that I am like him.

So what is it about these things that are so completely part of us, ingrained into us at a young age, and yet so random and without explanation?

And that is when I share my past with him. And the topic of religion yesterday and today in my life. The topic of religious upbringing and lives gone by is brought to the forefront of our conversation.

We both feel comfortable sharing and finding our similarities in what we still do, what we want to do, and what we can’t do in spite of, or because of, our new existence. It becomes easy to share because we are both a part of the same club:

“I always fast on Yom Kippur,” he says to me definitively.

“Me too!” I respond. Because obviously….

And then there’s the pork and the seafood which we just cannot eat. We cannot and will not. Not to mention milk and meat.

It is not part of what we were taught. As much as the possibility is an attractive one, we still look at it as a foreign object, much like tourists who are looking at all of the insects and eels for sale in a market place away from home.

“I can’t use a blade on my face to shave.”

“I always say the blessing after I leave the bathroom and wash my hands with a cup.”

I must wash my hands before I eat.

What about Shabbat?

What’s that? Shabbat you say? Well that’s a different story….

“I mean, I don’t work. I don’t do financial transactions. But I don’t keep Shabbat in the way I was brought up to.”

I wish I knew how to free myself of these repetitive obsessions and yet I don’t ever want to lose them and I hold steadfastly onto them as a reminder of my past, my future and of where I come from.

So what do you hold onto from your religious past?

About the Author
Devora Mason is a single mom of five who works in business development focusing on unique Israeli technology,and Innovation, specializing in subjects from AR/VR to the stars and back! Her life experiences lead her to write about social issues and people that she encounters in Israel. As a consultant she enjoys her work with Israeli startups and corporate entities and is currently the VP of Global partnerships at StellarNova, a female founded startup focusing on STEM blended education and media content for kids.
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