Updated: Apr 18, 2021
I never put much stock into dreams until I was fourteen years old and dreamt about converting to Judaism.
My family has a tricky history with dreams, you see—my mother tells me that the women in her family always have dreams that correlate to things that will happen or are happening right as they sleep. One of the most chilling stories is her dreaming of there being an earthquake and fire, everything up in flames while she lived in Japan; she told this to her friend, returned to Chile, and weeks later the dream became true. Her friend escaped his apartment with his wife and kid because he remembered what she told him, saying it's going to burn like a mantra.
But I never had those. My dreams were always confusing, nightmares relating to my traumas or incomprehensible nonsense, spaghetti thrown at the walls of my brain and seeing what stuck. Dreams escaped my mind with ease, too: it only took a few minutes for the details to blur in my mind, and dream journals are forgotten amongst the desire to go back to sleep. There's only a handful of dreams I can recall with a bit of clarity. Most of the others are just vague ideas, the gist of them.
In November 2017, I dreamt I converted to Judaism.
I was born to a vaguely Christian mother and an agnostic father, and had been going to Catholic schools since first grade because they were the best schools around in the small cities I’ve lived in. I didn't know anything about the Jewish people or their religion except what was talked about in broad strokes—the Holocaust, a text post on social media about antisemitism. For all I knew at fourteen years old, Judaism was what many other people raised Christian thought: Christianity without Jesus.
What an odd dream to have, I thought back then, over and over. I had never put stock in dreams before, beyond the occasional joke about my mother's prophetic ones. So I started googling things, watching videos, reading. I was only fourteen, and the closest synagogue in Chile was thirty hours away. Converting was a pipe dream. But it felt like coming home, like a warm hug. The hyperfixation went on like that for months, before it extinguished as I realized it would take a long time for me to actually be able to do anything about it.
Religion is complicated; religion is a complex thread, especially when you're queer. I dozed during mass at school and sneered at religion classes, had an intense atheist phase while being consumed by the desire to be the acolyte for mass because it was the boys' position. I had no sort of faith in God despite what my mother told me about the necrotic tissue in my hands disappearing after she and my grandmother prayed for it to heal. If God existed then why was I there, suffering and closeted and dysphoric? If God existed then why was I there, traumatized and mentally ill? The nuance of free will and what that means escaped me—it still does in parts.
My relationship with faith and my desire to be Jewish remained dormant for a long while after the initial excitement passed, but my friend Mar started wanting to convert as well. In mid-late 2019, I desperately tried to go back to Christianity, wanting to be part of something bigger than myself, a community I could see and be part of. Going to church in my own volition was nice, and I liked the priest's voice, but it wasn't life-changing. It left me with a sour taste in my mouth, waiting for something bigger, a revelation of some sort. I wanted God to come down from the Heavens and tell me Himself what He wanted me to do with my life and my faith.
Dreams were what fixed me toward Judaism, but I pushed it aside, and my subconscious did as well. It wasn't until COVID-19 hit and I joined a new friend group that things changed for the better—a friend of mine was actively in the process of converting, and his synagogue had livestreams anyone could go to. At the time of writing, he’s waiting for his rabbi to reply to his essay about conversion so he can get into the warm waters of the mikveh and come out Jewish.
When I went to his synagogue's livestream on Zoom, it's like something clicked. The words echoed in my ears in Hebrew, the rabbi's singing of niggunim (vocal music with repetitive sounds) haunting. What struck me the most was the way he spoke of the weekly Torah portion, the casual tone he used as he explained God and Moses discussing the latter’s coming death. I left with a conviction deeper than I had the years beforehand: I was going to be Jewish. Not now, not soon, but one day.
My dreamscape still doesn't delve into it, but my friend who I got interested in converting had a dream where I was the rabbi at their daughter's bat mitzvah. While I don't dream while asleep, I daydream about it—I read books and I think about holding my son after his circumcision, I watch YouTube videos and I think about sinking myself into the water of the mikvah, marking me as Jewish for the rest of my days. I liked my friend's rabbi so much I plan to go there where he lives, in Olympia, Washington to convert under him. My stubbornness surely must impress him when I get to that point—wanting to convert for nearly ten years, as my life plans go.
I've never been one to care about dreams or their meaning, but they do carry importance in the Torah. As I read the story of Joseph for the first time, I took him in, his complexities and his prophecies. Did God choose me, when He gave me that dream? Did He tell me, only fourteen, a child, that this was my path in life? It doesn't make sense in the context of what dreams usually involve—before that dream, I barely gave any thought to Judaism. Now it percolates through my life: I am avoiding pork now, so the hit isn't as strong when I get to the point of being able to follow kosher in full.
Dreams still don't mean too much to me, in the grand scheme of things. Usually, they are nonsensical, confusing things, unable to make heads or tails of them—but sometimes, just sometimes, they can lead you into a new path. If God made the choice of giving me a dream that would bring me to Him, I am ever grateful for it. It would've taken a lot longer otherwise, even if now I am stuck waiting for the day to arrive.
David Salazar (he/xe/she) is a teenage writer from Chile. He describes himself as a butch bigender bisexual and is autistic and mentally ill. Xir writing deals with queer identity, Latinidad and romance primarily, but often delves into other topics; lately he has been experimenting with horror and magical realism. Xe has been published or is forthcoming in Paper Crane Journal, The Daily Drunk, The Hearth and Paracosm Literary, among others. She is in her senior year of high school and plans to be a psychologist/writer/weirdo. You can find him on Twitter at @smalllredboy.