Actually Lauren was raised in a household that didn't talk much about God yet her parents had decided before their children were born that they would be raised Jewish. Lauren's father was Reformed Jew and her mother a "lapsed Southern Baptist" so technically - by Orthodox and Conservative Jewish standards - she was not a Jew. Jewishness is passed through mothers, not fathers. Lauren wanted to be a Jew in the "real" sense so she converted to the Orthodox Jewish faith when she was a teenager. She described the learning period with a rabbi where she was taught much about the faith and its laws. Later she was questioned by three rabbis prior to her being given the OK to convert. None of this say a prayer and you are a Jew stuff .. it's quite involved! Also she told about the mikvah which has two purposes. It is the purifying bath women must take seven days after their periods have ended and for converting to Judaism. You go in the evening and then
"An attendant will lead her to a bathroom, where she will undress and remove her wigs, all her jewelry, any Band-Aids she might have wrapped around a cut on her finger or her calf. She will shower. She will peel off her nail polish, and she will floss, because the water from the mikvah must touch every part of her body; the smallest speck of spinach stuck in her teeth would interfere. Sometimes even scabs were questionable." (pg. 50)
Men have to be circumcised.
Several times Lauren mentioned the Incarnation's role in drawing her to Christianity. I will copy two sections she writes about it because I am amazed how this aspect of Christianity appealed to her. I guess I've been influenced too much by reading Muslim blogs and books which abhor the idea of God making Himself into a man.
Lauren writes that
The very first thing I liked about Christianity, long before it ever occurred to me to go to church or say the creed or call myself a Christian, was the Incarnation, the idea that God lowered himself and became a man so that we could relate to him better. In Christianity, God got to be both a distant and transcendent Father god, and a present and immanent Son god who walked among us. Christians, unlike Jews, spent their time talking to a God who knew from experience what it was like to get hungry, go swimming, to miss a best friend.
The Incarnation appealed to the literature buff in me. Embodiment was the novelistic culmination of anthropomorphism, of assigning God human characteristics. All through the Torah, God is pictured as having hands, a face. The rabbis say, Of course God doesn't really have hands, but the Torah uses the language of faces and hands and eyes so that we will have an easier time wrapping our minds around this infinite, handless God. That is what you say if you are a rabbi. But if you are a good novelist, you actually give Him hands and eyes by the end of the book, and that is what the Bible does. It says, in Deuteronomy, that God brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; and then it gives Him an arm in the Gospel of Matthew. (pg. 51-52)
The Incarnation, that God took flesh, is the whole reason I am not an Orthodox Jew ... Here is the thing about God. He is so big and so perfect that we can't really understand Him. We can't possess Him, or apprehend Him. Moses learned this when he climbed up Mount Sinai and saw that the radiance of God's face would burn him up should he gaze upon it directly. But God so wants to be in relationship with us that He makes himself small, smaller than He really is, smaller and more humble than his infinite, perfect self, so that we might be able to get to Him, a little bit.
Being born a human was not the first time God made Himself small so that we could have access to Him. First He shrunk Himself when He revealed the Torah at Mount Sinai. He shrunk Himself into tiny Hebrew words, man's finite language, so that we might get to Him that way. Then He shrunk Himself again, down to the size of a baby, down to manger finiteness. (pg. 74)
There are other things from this book that I might share later, but this post is long enough for now! What do you think of the mikvah ritual? The difficulty in converting to Judaism? Her thoughts on Incarnation and God shrinking Himself previously when He revealed His will to Moses in Hebrew words? Any other thoughts?