It all began one Shabbat afternoon when the sun begins to set and the end of Shabbat is near. I was reading the Saturday Times and saw a short listing of a new exhibit at the Met where the featured painting was this Madonna and Child.
Seeing this painting sparked something within me. Firstly it reminded me of my high school Art History class that I loved so much. But even more than that I said to Annie, “I want to go to Italy for Christmas.” I want to go somewhere for Christmas??? I never speak in terms of Christmas. But then later on the phone with boyfriend I told him my plans – Christmas in Italy and New Year’s Eve in Paris. I told him I wanted to feel the Christmas spirit. I’m sorry, what?? I know, all strange to me too, but for some reason I was compelled at that moment to be in Rome to see and feel how they celebrate Christmas. Is it the same as in America with lights everywhere and big trees? Or something closer to the point of the holiday?
The next day Monica, Annie and I went to the Brooklyn Flea for a Brooklynite rite of passage and some shopping. I got some jewelry and we got some artwork for our apartment. While walking around, minding my own business, I was stuck in my tracks as I saw this:
Who was this Saintly Sister and why was she put in my path? Was it a coincidence or a message? Annie and Monica continued to joke about how funny it would be if I converted to Christianity. I was starting to get a little freaked out. I was at least able to take my mind off of this Jesus trip when I had to meet a friend for dinner and on the train wrote my last post “Dear Boyfriend.”
Days later I was in the Times Square train station where you expect to see missionaries handing out fliers asking if you’ve let Jesus in your life. It’s New York, people! But again….minding my own business I couldn’t help but notice:
I had to send this to my friend Lilah, who is an Israeli-American smoothie like me, and years ago had her own bout of Christian confusion. She began reading the New Testament, studying with a friend, questioning, learning…I think she even went to church a few times. But eventually she decided that it was nice but wasn’t for her. That the faith she was born into was ultimately where she would stay.
Lilah and I met up for a drink in my neighborhood where we played catch-up talking about boys, apartments, work, and my existential crisis. I knew I wasn’t walking on the path of conversion, but just that things began feeling oddly “Christian” at times. Like when we attended a Tu B’Shvat Seder at my favorite house of worship, and under the slight influence of wine observed everyone singing (so beautifully!) and felt like I was in church.
I can’t explain any of this. It was like feeling another presence – not guiding me, but just around me. Although the feeling of Jesus following me has subsided, I am still intrigued by the idea of Christmas in Rome. (Stay tuned for that post – A Jew in Rome on Christmas!) And I would like to learn more about Christianity and other religions.
Have you ever questioned leaving your faith for another? Have you wanted to try to incorporate ritual from other religions?