Greetings, and welcome back to Wyrd Words. Keeping the Thor in Thursdays, every other week here on Agora!
This week’s piece is going to be something a little different. I’ve been asked by a number of readers to share some of my personal experiences of being in an interfaith relationship. The Pagan community is still small, and many of us deal with the various struggles of relationships that cross religious boundaries.
It’s late September and technically supposed to be Autumn, but you wouldn’t know it judging by the 100+ degree temperature outside. It’s Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the Jewish New Year, and my wife and I have just left the Synagogue to attend the ritual of Tashlich in a nearby park. Her congregants, suffering the abysmal heat for the sake of tradition, gather at the shore of a large pond with bags of bread in hand. Together they tear pieces of bread and cast their sins into the water by tossing the scraps to a growing crowd of overjoyed ducks.
I’ve been handed my own bag of bread scraps for the occasion, but I’m not sure what to do with it. I don’t believe in sin, and thus I have nothing to cast away. I’m here to support my wife, but me tossing that bread makes about as much sense as apologizing to the queen of England for driving on the wrong side of the road in America.
The others are watching me now, wondering why the Rabbi’s husband isn’t participating. They know I’m a Pagan, but “Rabbi’s Husband” comes with certain expectations. I’m beginning to worry that somebody might make a comment when a loud CAW interrupts my line of thought. A single raven has landed on the shore of the pond, snapping at bread crumbs and daring the legion of ducks to come closer and try to do something about it. Here was my answer.
Tearing off a single chunk of bread I tossed it to the raven. An offering, the fulfillment of a social obligation, a crust of bread to bind the raven and I together in a joke only we understood.
My wife is the acting Rabbi for a small congregation in Fountain Hills, and as such she is in charge of leading their monthly services as well as the High Holy Days. All interfaith relationships are complicated to a certain degree, but when your partner is the spiritual leader of a local community it can place even more stress on a relationship. Overall the Reform community is completely okay with intermarriage, but being married to somebody who’s Jewish and being married to the Rabbi are two completely different things. It can be a bit of a balancing act at times. On the one hand, I want to support my wife during one of the most important times of the year for her. On the other hand, I refuse to pretend that I’m something I’m not for the sake of her employers.
I wrote this story down by request, because I know a LOT of other interfaith couples who have encountered these kinds of troubles and struggle to find that “balance.” Where should the lines be drawn? At what point are we allowed to say we simply feel uncomfortable with some pressure that our partner’s faith community is placing on us? How can we participate in that part of our partner’s life, without compromising our own beliefs? I don’t have some kind of a “one-size-fits-all” solution (because it doesn’t exist), but I honestly think the most important thing is discovering our own boundaries, and determine where our “balance” lies.
Each of us needs to find our own raven.