'Are You Religious?'
Generally, I say that I'm a Conservative Jew and that Judaism defines my life in more ways than people might realize. Or I say that I'm religious in my own way.
There's no reason to think that everyone has to fit neatly into one camp: ultra-religious or not religious at all. While researching my upcoming posts about tefillin, I came across this quote from a November 2006 e-mail from Dan Kliman to the Veggie Jews Yahoo! group:
People do indeed define down Judaism and often use the "buffet method" for their mitzvot. … On Yom Kippur, my Rabbi talked of how it is nearly impossibly for anyone, even a great tzadik (righteous person), to fulfill all the commandments; therefore, we should think in terms of bettering ourselves rather than achieving perfection.
I think we can all find ways to go down the path of self-improvement in terms of religiousness and religious observance.
One of the ways I've managed to do something new is by counting the omer. (The counting of the omer will begin on Sunday.) I'd never counted the omer before last year, and I had a lot of doubts about whether I'd be able to keep it up for 49 consecutive nights. But I affirmed the importance of this mitzvah and became determined to do it. In fact, I was so determined that I blogged for 49 consecutive nights (counting the omer with a different reason to go vegetarian each night). I will not be blogging the omer again this year—it's too much work. However, I'm definitely up to the task of counting the omer for seven weeks in the conventional sense.
In the last few months, I've had a lot of opportunities to assess my pick-and-choose manner of religious observance. It's not perfect, and I aspire to do better. But so long as I keep moving in the right direction on the path, I'm proud of where I am now.