It used to feel strange that I was the one who wanted to celebrate Shabbat each week. After all, I was the one in the house who wasn’t Jewish. I hadn’t converted yet, so I was spared the witty remarks about the “zeal of the convert.” Still, at first I was hesitant to press the issue.
One day it occurred to me that not wanting to raise the kids in the faith I’d had as a child did not mean I wanted to raise them in a faith in name only. No way was I raising a bunch of secular Jews. I wanted them to have traditions and memories of family time that were associated with Judaism.
I was still grappling with issues about keeping the traditions separate and respecting traditions without warping them. I mean by that, that some holidays – Chanukah for instance – had a lot of controversy about being substitutes for Christian holidays. I wanted to share a holiday without those doubts. I wanted to be clear in my mind that the fact that we observed Shabbat and the way in which we observed Shabbat was clearly Jewish.
I was very happy to discover that Shabbat is celebrated with consistency from week to week. There was no problem of imbuing it with overtones from other religions – it had everything spelled out and unambiguously Jewish.
I had a book, The Gates of Shabbat. I had candlesticks and Shabbat candles. I had grape juice in lieu of wine. I had Challah. I was all set. I stumbled through the transliterated text for the first few months, but eventually I got it. The more it did, the more it filled two needs for me. One was to create this tradition for my children. The other was to have a Jewish tradition that was as comforting and enduring as the traditions of my own childhood.