I played with the clips on the inside of my kippah that I bought in Israel, studying the knitted pattern in swirling blues, white and black. I’d felt almost a calling. A whisper at the back of my head. “Where is it? Why isn’t it here?”
I put it on. I closed the clips. The whisper disappeared.
I’m not the most religious Jew that you’ll ever find. In fact, I used to think it was safe to say that I’m one of the most secular Jews there are until I went on my birthright trip and met many who were more detached from Judaism than I am. I read tarot, I believe in the power of everyday anima/animus spirits and gods and goddesses and ghosts and prayer and all that mumbo-jumbo. My connection to Judaism is primarily identity and cultural.
But ever since Israel? Less so.
There’s an interesting trend among Jews that I’ve noticed where they think that by being Jewish we deny that other religions, other gods, exist in reality. This is untrue. In the commandments God ordered, simply, that there shall be no god BEFORE hir. God ordered, simply, that there shall be no graven images or idols of other divine beings.
At no point is there a denial of the existence of such things. In fact, by there not being an explicit denial and the way it’s stated? It’s a tacit affirmation that these things exist. Likewise, there are other direct commandments in Leviticus that directly identify prophets for other gods and witchcraft, not stating that they aren’t real in their power, just that they are not followers of “the one God.”
There are a few reasons that it might be written this way. Personally, my conviction is that Judaism was created as a monotheistic religion that was friendly toward polytheist converts. By affirming that, yes, these deities may exist but that God was the chiefest among them, it would allow them to understand the concept of hir worship more comfortably.
Whatever the case, Judaism is about the worship of one deity to the exclusion of others, not the worship of one deity because ze is the only deity. It’s a hair’s breadth distinction but they’re completely different types of monotheism (interestingly, Christianity falls into the latter… at least in the modern day).
In trying to understand this reawakened spark of spirituality centered on my Judaism, I’ve done a lot of this sort of thinking, coming to an understanding of what it means for me and my worship.
And I’ve decided, at least for now, becoming more personally attached to the spirit of the religion is something that I want to do. I can directly attribute this to my time in Israel, where I felt a deep connection to the land and to the word. I’m an introvert; I don’t expect a connection to people, but I did find one to the history of our people.
I’m looking, now, at returning for a MASA program. Possibly before I go on for a PhD program (and possibly to study for the MA in Holocaust Studies). I’m trying to navigate my identity, both as queer and transgender, around the idea of being an observant Jew. The Kippah feels so right, but it is primarily a men’s garment by tradition. Wearing one will cue my gender as male. Is that something that I’m comfortable with?
But what came to me as the real importance is that the point of covering one’s head is the sanctification of the the name of God. It’s about establishing and building my connection to God.
For now I’m going to wear it when it feels right. Pretty soon, I think, that might be all the time. We will see. I’m truly of the opinion that being who you were created to be is the best worship that any deity could ask for, including the One God of the Hebrews… so perhaps, just maybe, it makes sense to wear only because every act is an act of worship.