I wandered for a long time on spiritual paths, even after I had settled on Judaism as my faith tradition. I wandered to be certain of my decision. I wandered to make sure I had explored all other options, fully, as an adult, to see which spoke to me, which I could intellectually and emotionally adopt, which I could live with for the rest of my life. I tried my best to explore respectfully—the last thing I wanted was for me to make a “hobby” of other people’s faiths. That’s a mockery of their morality and history, their rituals and experiences. I know there were times I failed, but I hope (and believe) the times I succeeded far outnumbered them.
Which is why it took me a day to cool down to respond to one of the New York Times’ latest pieces on Gentiles adopting the practice of hanging mezzuzot on their door ways. This is a Jewish ritual, with a portion of the Jewish Holy Text that in many ways is the central portion of the Bible for us. This is a Jewish marker of space and identity. And when I hear about Catholics making a blessing over it in the name of the Trinity, my jaw clenches up just a little bit tighter. Especially when I hear that a Jewish neighbor hung the mezuzah for her. What kind of Jew would do this? What did that neighbor think would happen to this object in a Catholic home? And equally important, why did the Catholic feel the need to take on a custom of another faith—one with a testy history to say the least—when her own faith provides blessings and objects to be decorate the door?
I know that as a 70-something Catholic, her opinion of Jews could be far worse. What harm is there in hanging this little wooden box with some scroll in it? Why do I care so much about yet another display of the majority culture cherry-picking from the minority culture, without caring in the least about the meanings, purpose, and implications? I wouldn’t take Holy Water from a Catholic Church and use it to clean out the chametz or pray for rain on Sukkot. I wouldn’t take Eastern Orthodox icons and hang them on the walls just because they’re so pretty. I wouldn’t use puja lamps to light up my house just because they’re so cute. Do people really have no respect for others’ cultures and religions anymore?