15 Kislev 5781 / Tuesday, December 01, 2020 | Torah Reading: Vayishlach
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Ice Cream Dreams

I jumped out of bed, grabbed a bill from the grocery money, and ran to the ice cream truck. This was going to make Jake so happy. I jogged...


Our three-year-old recently learned about ice cream trucks. For him this is the perfect synergy of three great things: stickers, trucks, and ice cream. It blew his mind. 

“I want an ice cream truuuuuuck. Peeaz Mom?” (Rapidly repeat 2,372 times.)
“Mom’s not a fan of ice cream trucks. Back in my day strange people drove ice cream trucks.”
“Maybe when you are grown up you can buy one.”
“I can go to the ice cream truck store and buy a daddy ice cream truck, and a baby ice cream truck, and a mommy ice cream truck…..Mom, I want to go to the ice cream truck.”
“Oh, see, you never know when they’re coming, that’s the thing about ice cream trucks. That’s their whole gig. It’s a surprise.”
A few weeks later, everyone was napping and I heard the song “The Entertainer” in the distance. That was the big song you learned in the 70s if you took piano lessons. I jumped out of bed, grabbed a bill from the grocery money, and ran to the ice cream truck. This was going to make Jake so happy. I jogged home smiling in anticipation and found my husband holding our son on the front porch in awe. We unwrapped the blue ice cream and sat on the porch together enjoying the treats in the perfect overcast fall-ish weather. The truck drove to the end of the street to turn around, passed our house with the music blaring, and Jake went ballistic and started screaming in terror.
“No ice cream truck! I no like the ice cream truck! Daddy! Go inside! Inside at the table!”
After calming down and lecturing us about blue ice cream, it turns out that he wants a little ice cream truck with absolutely no music. From the little ice cream truck store. This ice cream truck thing wasn’t exactly what he thought it was. There was more to the picture. 
* * *
When I first became religious, whatever that means, I immediately wanted to convert to Judaism. I had the fever and I was going to convert, period. I was so convinced this was a good idea I forgot that if you are married, you both need to convert. It’s not a solo thing. I spoke about it with my husband who pulled back on the reigns and talked me down.
I laugh when I look back on this moment. Of course he didn’t want to convert. I was the one who was going full speed ahead, not him. He was interested in learning more about the Torah, impressed with the effect it was having on our lives, but he certainly – and wisely- wasn’t about to run to the tiny Chabad shul in the small town where we used to live and start the conversion process.
I was so startled by what I was feeling- and it even feels weird to write about it now- I lost my composure and wanted to impulsively launch us out in the stratosphere on a one-way ticket. Thank God my husband had his feet on the ground. I knew that Jewish people married Jewish people, but my high was so high it overwhelmed my good sense and made me forget facts about the world I knew to be true. My head was in the clouds. This is a prime example of why it is a grand thing that Orthodox rabbis don’t just grant conversions at the drop of a hat. For some people the rush is so powerful it’s all they can focus on. And living Jewishly, observing the Torah, is not just about ideas in your head. It’s about a million little everyday actions in this very real world.
As challenging as it can be to live as a Bat Noach in this day and age, I am very relieved I did not have a way to convert. What the future holds only God knows, and that is fine with me. But had we converted, it would have caused some major disruptions in our families. I had no idea about the family purity rules. (I would have found out during the conversion process, clearly.) I wasn’t thinking about little things, like how much I enjoy eating in restaurants or eating at friends’ homes. Most of our friends aren’t Jewish, so that would have been out. I didn’t know what a mikveh was. I didn’t think about the fact that my husband’s job would be pretty impossible to do. My head was full of fantasies.
Having spent years in and around Orthodox communities at this point I know what I’m talking about. Of course to sit here and list the beauties of living as an observant Jew would be impossible because there are so many. It is an amazing gift to be born a Jew in this world. But I want non-Jews who are in the throws of the fever to take a deep breath and put the brakes on. The rabbis who counsel people to go slow are dead on. I’m not saying that a conversion at some point wouldn’t be an amazing and correct choice for you. But I do want to humbly offer to you, based on my experience, that time will clear things up for you a great deal. Like my son figured out, the ice cream truck in his head didn’t quite match the one that turned down our street, even though it did provide him with a mesmerizing blue popsicle shaped like a ghost with black bubblegum eyes.
Rabbi Arush and Rabbi Brody have both lectured about the importance of self composure. The Evil Inclination wants you to jump without thinking, to get in over your head, to crash and burn. A superb way to defeat it is to stop and proceed slowly. Maybe that’s one reason rabbis recommend to potential converts that they think long and hard about the profound commitment they are about to make. (Repeat that 2,732 times.)
I don’t know if this is true, but I will share with you what I believe. Maybe there is a job on earth that I can accomplish as a non-Jew that I would not be able to accomplish as a Jew. Maybe that’s why I was born a non-Jew. There are lots of possibilities and I may never know why God arranges things the way He does. But I love my life and the freedom I have. And I know that there is so much work to be done in this world that doesn’t depend upon whether or not we are Jews or Gentiles, to sit around stressing over it is a silly waste of time. Worst of all it blinds us to the amazing possibilities that are right in front of us.

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