I have difficulty with the gatekeepers of the monotheistic traditions. I, for one, am a willing pilgrim, in search of an authentic relationship with the Almighty that can be translated into a deep and abiding bond with those created in His image. Damn the labels. Labels are the fences designed to keep others out, and by definition, make the relationship with G-d a monopoly, a right contingent upon an accident of birth, or a restrictly prescribed rite of conversion. Whatever happened to ‘whosever will may come’? What ever happened to the voice of the prophet Isaiah-‘..my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations..‘? I cannot be a “real Jew” unless I convert by Orthodox standards…whatever those may be. Forget about the rejections that I have already faced by many in the faith community that I left. Forget about the excruciating loneliness forged by the loss of friendships that I once thought were unshakeable, but discovered were highly conditional upon subscribing to doctrines that I could no longer accept at face value. Forget about the roadblocks thrown up before me by the faith community that I chose to cleave to, more rejections by those who chose to see me as a second class Jew because of my history. Forget about the love of G-d and the desire to bind myself to Him that compelled me to search, to read, to embrace as best I could the mitzvot delivered at Sinai. All of that doesn’t count to one who cannot look past geneology and my possession (or lack thereof) of a Jewish mother. I want to scream “hypocrites”! How many are out there, born of Jewish mothers, who don’t give a rat’s butt about their inherited faith? I am presently taking a course through JLI, entitled “Beyond Belief”, a course that seems to take especial delight in making jabs at other religious traditions. So far, the course seems to consist of someone standing up there telling me what to believe, while subtly scorning the attempts of those outside of Judaism to grasp the ankles of the Divine, and in love, refuse to let Him go until He bless them. Only the Jews are the truly chosen, (and only Jews, by the way, who have Jewish pedigrees- no matter their level of observance), and only those who convert under the auspices of the Orthodox movement can be considered worthy of being called ‘ger tzedek’. I feel like everything I have gone through is a sham. I feel like I am in a no-man’s land- damned by the community that I left, and shunned by the Orthodox whom I truly want to have fellowship with. I can’t even avail myself of the miqveh, it being ‘for real Jews only’. My heart is broken…and I feel like there is no grace left for me..no redemption is possible. I am all too painfully aware of how much I fall short of the piety which elevates the Orthodox, and which separates me from running into the bosom of the G-d I so love and adore. According to them, I will always be outside the fold- much like in the Evangelical camp that avers that “only Jesus can save you, only Jesus can bring you to the Father”. I run to the embrace of mystics who gather on the field that brings all who desire connection to the Divine Source, and to those travelling on the same pilgrim search. Like one famous rabbi said, “who is my mother, and who are my brothers….those who seek the will of G-d, the holy One, blessed by He…to Do it”. What is the will of G-d, but ‘to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly before G-d’. To act justly, not standly idly by in the face of injustice- whether that be against a Jew, or a non-Jew. To love mercy, rejoicing in acts of kindness, revealing the face of a loving heavenly Father to all who choose to look. To walk humbly, knowing that we are but dust, and yet preciously loved by One who pursues us and wants to be in a living relationship with us. Loving G-d, loving neighbour. The rest is window dressing when it really comes down to it. We need to stop claiming ownership of G-d, stop asserting our ‘special status’ as ‘chosen’, realizing that we are all chosen, but for a different and unique purpose in this amazing cosmic reality bound by time and space. For to whom much has been given, much will be required. In the meanwhile, I wonder- does G-d really care about my pain, my loss, my loneliness? Will there ever be a place for me at His table?? There is more welcome in the tip of the finger of some of my Christian friends than there is in the heart of many Orthodox guards of the ‘way’.