So, as it's Lag B'Omer I've been standing at the sink and doing some pruning.
It occurred to me that it was very much like a facelift of sorts as the mound of hair piled up on the floor.
I thought about how we live in a time of identity politics and this was a sort of change of what I looked like to others. No longer the crazy beard full of wild white streaks and hair hiding the edge of the kippa on my head.
I thought about Jewish identity and how keeping this custom is a form of that identity. As much so as wearing a kippa, or what type I prefer (which changes based on hair length more than any other consideration) which people invest with tremendous significance, sometimes more so I think than just wearing one.
I had been reading about a school for transgendered kids in Chile, and I thought wow, they went to the lengths of providing a space for these kids to be themselves and be able to concentrate on their studies without worry over the rest of the worlds opinions. I had thought about that as regards our kids in general. We struggle to balance providing an environment where they can explore who they are and grow into who they'll be with cultural norms and health and safety all the time. Ideally the individual has the freedom to figure themselves out without fear, and this is something we can rarely accomplish for everyone every time.
I wondered in regards to Judaism and what I experience where I'm living. Were my fellows given the luxury to explore what sort of Judaism they had in them? Outside of shul, we're very much a minority and thus subject to the dominate cultures opinions but inside our shul I wonder how many had the change to be the sort of Jews they felt they were and develop that into adulthood? I'm not anti-minhag, there is tremendous value in common cultural norms and especially for a minority. But now that I don't look the part of the meshuga black hat so much, what changes? Certainly not my neohasidic opinions or connections through observance and practice that some deem uncomfortably close to orthodox practice.
We've come a long way, our shul is very accepting and no one has ever said boo about a big beard or fedora. I've had push back over having snatching up a minyan during a fundraiser event and delaying the party, but a minority opinion. I daven with men and women, and folks that have non binary identities, folks that are in kippot and without, folks in both pants and skirts, folks in tallitot, long, short, red, blue, black, white, rainbow, tie-dye.
As we finish the count, I'm seeing my younger self in the mirror and happy I am part of an inclusive community and I hope that you are as well.
Take that younger self and explore Judaism again, the Judaism you might not have had the chance to when you were there the first time. Reshape that Jewish identity and let it find itself.