LaShon Hara: or How I Learned to Shut my Pie Hole (Again, but Probably Not for the Last Time)

I sat in my boss’ office yesterday, recording some tasks she wanted me to get done today while she is out.  She noticed my necklace and asked what it meant. 

When I converted, my bff purchased a silver, 1” Möbius band pendant with the first line of the Shema in English and Hebrew.  She thought it was just geeky enough, just Jewish enough for me.  She was right.  I’ve worn it just about every day since, and often fiddle with it when lost in thought.

I explained how it was supposed to represent the Jewish conception of G-d, particularly Echad. 

“Oh. That’s so cool! You know, [Gal that I’m really close to and that used to supervise you] converted to Judaism a while back and I had the hardest time finding an appropriate gift. That would have been perfect! Instead some Jewish neighbor of mine told me to get her a … a Ten… a Tan… a book.”

“The Tanakh.  It’s our holy text.”

And off I went with the rest of my day, thinking nothing of it until I got to lunch and shared my news with said bff. “Hey, did you know Former Boss Lady converted?! Isn’t that cool?!”

“Where’d you hear that?” Her tone told me something …that there was something there she couldn’t decide to expand upon or to ignore.

“Oh ,um Boss Lady.”

“Look, you can’t tell any one this, but she was engaged to a Jewish man. She converted for him. Conservative. They broke up.  A few years later, her sister asked her to be G-dmother to her nephew.  In the Catholic Church.  So she de-converted.”

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why Judaism has prohibitions against lashon hara, commonly translated as gossip, but really much larger in scope than I could ever explain here in a single post.

Because as soon as I heard this, I lost some respect for Former Boss Lady.  Because I was angry at her for making us gerim look back by fulfilling one of the most pervasive stereotypes about us.

Who converts for marriage alone?!  Like seriously, if you’re only doing this to appease your future spouse, or the in-laws, stop. It’s not fair to you and it’s not fair to Judaism or the process.  And what kind of sponsoring rabbi could not sense this during the conversion process?!  Would allow two other colleagues to sit on a bet din and risk their reputations for such a candidate?

And it made me angry.  I cannot count how many times I’ve had to explain, NO, I did NOT convert for a man.  Nope, until 7 months ago, there was no Jewish male in my life.  I was doing this on my own accord.  I was doing this for ever, for me. That I’m binding myself to this people, and my children’s children to this people, that even if some hypothetical Jewish husband left me, Judaism would never.  It could never.

All of this went through my head in a matter of seconds.  I should seriously get me a black robe and a job at the local courthouse because wow, Judgey McJudgerson-ette made quite an appearance in those few seconds.

I have no idea what went on in her life, what she experienced, what her priorities or values are.  They are not mine, and that’s okay.  I should be humble, compassionate, and assume that she was doing the best she could, with what she had.  That’s one consequence of talking about stuff that’s not my business.

The second is that now I’m dying to know.  It’s like a drill in my head.  I will never ask her the questions rumbling in the background because I have been socialized by this society successfully, but now I will always want to KNOW.  It’s like a pest, like the mosquito from some African  folk tales, buzzing in your ear.  It invites FURTHER sources of bad things into my life: more gossip, more potential to judge, more potential for impatience.  It’s a cycle.  I need to get off this merry-go-round.

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3 thoughts on “LaShon Hara: or How I Learned to Shut my Pie Hole (Again, but Probably Not for the Last Time)

  1. From a Jewish perspective, there’s no such thing as “de-converting.” Jewish conversion is permanent, and that’s a vow you make when you convert. Also, rabbis of any stream of Judaism won’t allow someone to join the Jewish people merely for marriage. So at some point, her heart must have been in it. Either way, in Jewish terms, she is an apostate Jew, but a Jew all the same.

    • Thanks for the comment Michael. You ARE correct to point this out and I should have mentioned this in the post, especially toward the end of it. I’ve been thinking about this for 12 hours now, trying to address my internal reactions to the situation to… absolve me of them? To “selflessly” point them out as an area to work on in the self-improvement category. But at least I’m aware of that, right? That makes it better, right? Cough cough. Get me to some Mussar classes, I know.

      But, as you correctly mention (assuming the ritual obligations I consider necessary for all conversions were met) she is a Jew from here to posterity. By leaving this fact out while exposing my internal reactions, I was trying to show the judgments I made. (i.e., That she’s not a real Jew because a real Jew would NEVER leave Judaism just because the relationship didn’t work out or because she wanted to be G-dmother to a child she already has a strong connection to as aunt.) Thank you for making sure all the facts are shared.

  2. mikvahbound, I SO relate. This is exactly how I feel when someone from “my” stream of Judaism, who grew up as I did, behaves badly. Try not to judge them/get annoyed and upset/feel that they are making me look bad/want to “educate” them/try to introspect what that’s really about… mosquito from African folk tale, indeed! Thanks for the thoughtful post.

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