Judaism in the Eyes of a Non-Jew
A non-Jew accidentally discovers the meaning and wisdom of Torah.
It all started as mild curiosity two and a half years ago, a few months after my 22nd birthday. I had made an Orthodox Jewish friend online (in a Harry Potter fan community, of all places) who one Friday had offhandedly said to me, “I can’t chat with you tomorrow because it’s Shabbos.”
“What’s Shabbos?” I asked.
Little did I know that that one question would be the first of thousands. My questions at first were all basic things: questions about holidays, keeping kosher and other traditions. I thought it was phenomenally interesting, learning about a whole different culture and belief system that I had never encountered before, the Philippines being home only to a handful of Jews.
None of this will mean anything to me until I try them out for myself.
Everything was going nice and smoothly until one day I thought to myself: None of this will mean anything to me until I try them out for myself.
So I started with a “small” thing. What would it feel like to say brachos, blessings? I picked one to experiment with: Asher yatzar, the blessing one says after going to the bathroom. I promised myself that from this day on, every time I left the bathroom and washed my hands, I would say this blessing. It felt silly at first. But slowly, it began to sink in and eventually I started reciting the blessing with a smile on my face. Hey, my body is working! Thank you, God!
I started to learn more blessings, sticking to the simpler, more “general” ones and those that I felt comfortable saying as a non-Jew. I said Modeh Ani first thing in the morning as I opened my eyes, and delighted saying each of the morning blessings that were applicable to me. I recited the bedtime Shema with as much intention as I could muster. Eventually I just started thanking God for everything, including every time my car would start properly. The Jewish blessings were – ARE amazing. I was suddenly noticing all the little things I was doing throughout the day. They made me realize just how many blessings I received every single moment – let alone every single day! And it just drove home the fact that all of this came from the Almighty. All I can say is thank you, thank you, thank you, Hashem.
Then I thought that maybe I was just lucky that I happened to pick blessings to start to put into practice. It was time to select another mitzvah to try out. I experimented and had my own “pseudo Shabbos” which simply consisted of me shutting my cellphone off for one night a week. After several weeks, I couldn’t believe how much those few disconnected hours affected me psychologically and emotionally. I actually began to look forward to that one night of mine.
It also taught me focus. It became easier to be productive during the week, knowing I had a set time later on that I could spend focusing solely on recharging, reconnecting with myself and God, and enjoying my family.
That same thinking eventually spread to other parts of my life also. For example, I became less impatient with my little niece and instead of counting down the time until I could send her back to her mom, I began being more present and enjoying our time together.
I began to appreciate the amazing impact these simple actions were having on my life. It was crazy and intense and I wanted more. So I began squeezing in learning Torah every spare moment of the day and sometimes stayed up an extra hour or two into the night. I read reams of articles on Aish.com and I listened to Torah classes from Torah Anytime in the car while driving and managed to listen to two to three classes a week. I actually started hoping to get stuck in traffic.
I learned about the concept of tikkun olam, gained a deeper understanding of free will, and studied lashon hara (gossip) and its effects on the world. I slowly adjusted my attitude towards happiness, deciding to be happy right now instead of “when so and so happens.” I decided I should start wearing skirts more often and to make sure I didn’t back out on my promise, I picked out nearly all of my jeans out of my closet and donated them away. I started hanging out at the local Chabad house where I’d have conversations with the rebbetzin about Noahide laws.
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