03 October, 2010

"The long and winding road"

"The long and winding road" by the Beatles gave inspiration this time. [lyrics and youtube]
My kippa wearing has taken on a life of it's own. Not to say that I am detached from it, but rather that I read so much into it and use it as a springboard to further other discussions of my own.
How to act in the diaspora versus Israel. Meaning behind and keeping of mitzvot. Who is this G-d which wearing one gives deference to? How do you spell G-d (in English, in Hebrew)? The good, bad, and down right ugly of society. And many many more. I find that my journey to being a rabbinical student has been long and winding, and my journey as a Jew is following the same path. These questions with no answers, only discussion and the occasional bit of practical behavior.

Today I am particularly touched by my kippa and the emotions I am allowed to experience because of it. I have been feeling a tad under the weather the last couple days and so walking to school just seemed like it would be too much energy expenditure too early in the day, so I rode the bus (not a common activity for me). As usual though, was how crowded the bus was at that time of the morning. Is it paranoid if everyone really is staring at you? I was attentive to this today, mostly because I was standing in front of two different parents, each with a preschooler (no more than 3yrs old). The mother and her daughter were orthodox; the father and his son were not (no kippa or tzitzit or other distinctive clothing). Kids say whatever is on their mind and when they see something out of the norm, they ask, as they should. The little boy was satisfied with the answer 'because she wants to'. The little girl did not receive the same response, but instead was told that 'that lady doesn't know what is right'. This girl was very persistent and was completely unsatisfied and in the usual mode of preschoolers, stopped listening and just repeated the question over and over and over again. The mother tried to shush her, to no avail. They were relatively quiet, but there was no taking that little girl's eyes off my head. It ended with me getting off the bus at my stop. Who knows where it went from there.

I exited on a sour note I have to admit. I was upset that I didn't say something to the girls. I was sad and mad that the mother was teaching her daughter different equals wrong. I could feel myself getting riled up again and I didn't like it. Getting inside the security (literally) of HUC made me relax.

On hot days like today (nobody told G-d that it is October and that there is no reason for 98F days any more) I notice the kippa more because it keeps in the heat and makes it harder to put my hair back into a ponytail. I was ever so aware of it too this afternoon because I needed to pick up a large sum of money from the post office--anything dealing with government workers and Israel is a nightmare, that's all I have to say. As to be expected, the teller saw how much I wanted and then started grilling me on why I was in Israel and why was I wearing a kippa and what does my husband say, etc. He was asking in a non-aggressive way and I was happy to talk to him, my defenses were not up.

An older couple (I'm being generous when I say I'm pretty sure they were in their late 80s) came in and stood right next to me, who needs privacy? They were British and we didn't get into why they happened to be at this particular post office in Jerusalem. While I was still at the counter, the woman was talking to me in fairly fast Hebrew and I was not able to pick out many words, just the usual, kippa, tefillah, lama, isha, etc. Her tone of voice was curious and excited and happy. When I had finished my transaction, I sat next to her and asked her to repeat what she asked in English. She did so and I answered my now customary response 'because I am a Jew'. I don't think she could have smiled more. I was then given the gift of a piece of her story. Her whole life she wanted to be a boy. She wanted to pray with the boys and wear kippa/tefillin/tallit. She wanted to study. She wanted to matter as a woman and as a Jew. This was not her lot in life however and eventually she resigned herself to being fulfilled as a mother and a wife. But she makes her husband study when he can and speak hebrew with her. They were going to a weekly lecture because finally in her life she could sit and listen while others discussed. At one point, she reached for my arm and looked me straight in the eye and said 'you keep doing this'. In those eyes I saw pain and happiness in the tear that was forming. It only threatened but did not spill over.

In this world we cannot think that different is wrong. We cannot let opportunities for understanding go wasted for fear of embarrassment. We must use the challenges presented to us to find commonalities. Each generation has its own struggles to be sure; what they are for mine now or in the future is still unfolding. I must not squander the path laid before me by people who overcame their struggles, on their long and winding road. For all the uncertainties which exist, regrets (by happenstance or by choice) are the most frightening. I will remember this as I travel down my long and winding road to some unknown door.


  1. Just caught up on your journeys. As I read your words and I could not help but transition my body and mind to being back in Jerusalem... the peculiar taste in the air, the strategy of negotiating the space you occupy and above all else, being in the moment.

    I wanted to direct your attention to a couple of Audre Lorde quotes as they may (or may not) prove to have meaning for you (as they have for me).

    "When I dare to be powerful - to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid" -- I have this quote handing with a picture of Audre Lorde on my wall above my computer - so I am reminded, on those days, when I am writing and working toward my dissertation, that I too should not be afraid.

    "I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood. That the speaking profits me, beyond any other effect” – when someone asks or inquires or makes a gesture, your words/explanations have a place and can profit not only you, but others as well.

    On difference:

    “Institutionalized rejection of difference is an absolute necessity in a profit economy which needs outsiders as surplus people. As members of such an economy, we have all been programmed to respond to the human differences between us with fear and loathing and to handle that difference in one of three ways: ignore it, and if that is not possible, copy it if we think it is dominant, or destroy it if we think it is subordinate. But we have no patterns for relating across our human differences as equals. As a result, those differences have been misnamed and misused in the service of separation and confusion.” --- instead of relegating difference to a place of suspicion, we should be empowered through our differences.

    I hope these quotes help and serve you in the service of your vision(s).

    Warm regards and lots of love from England,


  2. I am SO proud of you and your strength, your convictions and your willingness to be vulnerable and to take a stand! You are an inspiration, my dear! Much love and warm hugs to you! Natalie