Sunday, September 23, 2007


Things have been going blue again lately. Now that the haze of jetlag has finally dispelled somewhat and I can think without my head going fuzzy, I should try to put things together a bit. But the likelihood of success seems slim to me.

Why is it that every time I come home I feel more and more like a disaffected teenager? Far more than I ever did when I actually was a teenager, and actually lived here. There's something vaguely suspicious happening the minute you recognize in yourself every detatched/depressed-angsty-suburban adolescent character who's ever been in any movie made about disaffected suburban youth. You have to wonder, how much of it is genuine and how much unconsciously deliberate. Another one of those "This is how the movies have depicted my persona, and therefore this is how I should be, therefore this is how I am" situations.

Not that my frustration with my home community is false in any way. The truth is, of course I never really felt like I fit in here, but I used to make the best of it, more or less, I guess because I had to. But I've fallen so far out of sync with these people that it's getting harder and harder to relate to them, even to the extent of basic polite human interaction. I mean, I've never been able to pretend that I was something I wasn't, hence the dangly earrings in shul incident(see below for elaboration); but I guess at this point they've all realized there's no longer any point in trying to save me, so they've stopped caring back. Which is fine, actually, it makes life easier, if perhaps a little less friendly.

It doesn't help either that I seem also to revert to the adolescent role in family interactions. Which is ironic, because I think I was easier on the parents when I was a teenager. I guess it's always easier to be with people when you agree with them most of the time. So in addition to feeling out of place in my community, things are always sort of jarred at home too. It's my fault, really. I should have more patience and more respect. I keep telling myself I will, next time, and then somehow fall back into the same irritable patterns. It's not that I'm not trying, I think, although maybe I'm not trying hard enough. But it just gets so frustrating when I can't seem to make them hear me. Especially since I'd always kind of felt that my parents and I were more or less on the same wavelength, but lately it seems like we speak two different languages...and we mumble them.

It all just furthers the sensation that I no longer quite belong in a place where I once did. It's sort of like living in some weird alternate reality...all the cues are telling you you're home, but you don't feel at home. It's a very vague disorienting sort of a sensation. Maybe if I were here for a longer period of time I'd be able to settle into some sort of a routine, reclaim some of the old in some kind of new pattern. But just being here in bits and pieces only leaves things sort of disjointed, possibly more out of place than they were before. I guess it's a good thing; otherwise it might be too hard to leave.

(Dangly earrings in shul incident: Not sure exactly when this happened - maybe the summer after my first year in seminary? I don't think I was still in high school...Anyway, I mostly only wear long dangly earrings, because I just like them better, I think they're pretty. I have multiple pairs for shabbat, and I've been wearing them that way since at least eleventh grade. Anyway, on this one particular shabbat morning, I was walking home from shul with my friend S, who goes to the same shul as me, has also made aliyah, and is several years older, so she'd already been away from home longer than I. She looked at my earrings and remarked "I have earrings kind of like that; I was maybe going to wear them today, but then I thought, no they're too dangly for shul." (We go to a chassidishe shteibly type shul.) I put my hands up to my ears in surprise because such a thought had never actually occurred to me and said "What? Were these innapropriate?" And she said, "No, it's ok - no one notices it on you, because they know it's just you. But for me...people might have said something." It's not that these sorts of earrings aren't her; but S has a kind of a talent for blending into whatever setting she's in. She's kind of chameleon-like that way. It's more than just the clothes. She has a knack for somehow being appropriate for wherever she is, for just knowing instinctively how to act and talk and do whatever is called for. I've always envied her that actually, because she never seems awkward anywhere; whereas I, who can never be what I am not, no matter what, get into awkward situations all the time. So anyway, people in this particular setting wouldn't expect something like my earrings from her, because she would never dress that way in that setting. I, on the other hand, dress pretty much the same wherever I go. I kind of refuse to do otherwise. So people have just sort of got used to me, I guess. But I think they always thought I'd grow out of it when I grew up and needed a shidduch, and the fact that I haven't confuses and disturbs them. Which of course is just part of the fun.)

(sorry for the hazily written self-indilgen monologuing. we now return you to your previously scheduled program, already in progress...)

This is perhaps not the best recorded version, but the song exactly suits my state of mind right now....

Sunday, September 16, 2007

In Transit

Hey all. So I'm leaving for America in less than 36 ish hours or so; which means I'll be hellishly busy and then on a plane. I hope everyone's chag and tzom were what they were supposed to be, and G-d willing I'll speak to you from the other side of the Ocean. Eventually.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Elul Zman

So the King is in the fields again. They say we can ask for anything. Tell me please - what is it that you are all asking for?

Last year I wrote about my Yom Kippur experience; and I have to say the same thing applies now if not more so. Here's the thing.
Last year, I cried as Yom Kippur ended. I cried after the sunset, because I was looking at all these trusting, hopeful, joyfully faithful Jews - joyful and faithful despite what these past two years had brought them - and the thought of G-d letting them down again was too much. I couldn't stand it. I hate hope. Sometimes I hate hope more than anything in the world. Its very existence is a set-up and a testament to what G-d's already done to you, and to what He may still do. So I cried when it was too late and all I could say was "Please please please don't hurt them again. Please just spare them, give them some peace." But I was beating against locked gates, and I knew it.
If it was only that, maybe I could have resigned myself to it; but I hadn't done enough to try and prevent it. I couldn't face the coming year and say "Well, at least I did my part as well as I could." Because I couldn't feel any of it. I kept trying to, trying to break past that wall between my consciousness and what was going on inside of me and utterly failing. My head kept saying "Feel something, damnit!" And my insides said "What? What exactly do you want from me? Where do I go from here?" My tears last year were not those of repentance, but those of failure on my part, and hopelessness on the part of my people.

This may all have been irrelevant, except that the year....was difficult. I don't blog too much about really personal stuff, because honestly, I really don't want to tell people too much about my life. But.

I lost two of my grandparents within months of each other....which is of course upsetting, but because I had only met them a few times in my life, and those when I was very young, the personal loss wasn't the most disturbing thing about it. There were other factors, which I'm not going into; but the worst thing was not being home when my Mom was sitting shivah. I kind of have this thing about my parents being upset or in pain. I can't stand it. I hate the thought of either one of them hurting or sad. And it's one thing when I'm right there and can do something, help out with what needs doing around the house, talk to them, be a physical presence of comfort. But being thousands of miles away, not able to do anything but imagine what they must be going through is...well, it sucks. Really really a lot.

There was another death this year, one which I still haven't really talked about, although others have, and more eloquently than I ever could. I still don't understand why it had such a huge impact on me...that's not true either, I do know why.

I grew up with this girl...not close or anything, but seen her around the community... I was in her bunk in day camp this one, I just realized that two girls from my bunk that summer are dead now. Talk about a head rush. Most people go through their high school year books and talk about who's married, who's got kids; we do that too, but we can also point out the girls who are dead.

Anyway, when we first heard she was sick, I got up in front of the girls in my sem and did the whole saying Tehillim, dividing up the Torah, stuff in refuah sheleima. I remember the first time...this other girl got up after me and added a name of another choleh. And I was annoyed. Can you imagine that? Being annoyed that someone else asked us to remember another person's suffering. I was so sick at my own reaction. But I got up after she asked it and said (which I'd meant to say in the beginning but forgot to ) one reason I was particularly anxious about this girl( besides her being a friend of mine) was that, in the past eight years or so, there'd been quite a few members of our community who'd died in their teenage years; and that I'd always wondered if we could have davened more, done more, if it would have made a difference. And I wanted to put my all into doing things for this girl's recovery. I think I may actually have started crying in front of them, which would only not surprise those who know me really really really well...And for a long time, I was heavily into the whole thing. But time goes by, very few people have the stamina, or the time, to keep that kind of commitment going, especially from so far away; so of course I continued to daven and say tehillim for her, but the intensity dropped off.
It was a fatal disease, I mean there's pretty much no chance of survival against this kind of thing, so we all knew what was coming. But I still wouldn't allow myself to verbalize the possibility, even in my head. I kept remembering all those stories they told us in Chabbad about people miraculously recovering from things like this with the Rebbe's bracha...he'd say something like "Check your mezuzahs," and the next time the doctors ran tests, the disease would have completely disappeared, as though it had never been. And I thought, hey, miracles happen. One could happen to her.
Anyway, I went to her funeral in Israel. many times as you hear the kaddish being said in shul, it's nothing like hearing it said over a friend. I couldn't get the damn thing out of my head for a week. There's something so desperate and sad about the kaddish... pronouncing His holiness and dominion, submitting to it, in the darkest depths of suffering; saying it but hating it as you say it, protesting against it even though you know you can never believe anything else... something akin to what the rabbis in Auchwitz must have felt when they pronounced G-d guilty, and then went to daven maariv. I don't think that's what her father felt, or her family; she herself definitely did not; but they are far holier people than I, and it was definitely what I was feeling.

These aren't the only difficult things that happened this year, but they were the worst ones. And I still don't have the right to rail against G-d for things; there was so much good that also happened this year, it would be ungrateful. I know it's important to remember that, and I do. I am grateful, I just... have to figure out how to balance everything properly in my head, I guess.

So, it's Elul time again. We're coming up fast on Rosh Hashannah and by Yom Kippur I'll be back in America; my first Yom Kippur in three years that I haven't been in Israel. Now, I probably shouldn't let the good old Jewish guilt get to me and make me feel in some way responsible for...all of the above. Because, at the very least, that isn't healthy. But how do I avoid another Yom Kippur like the last one? How do I approach G-d on the day of Judgement and ask Him for forgiveness when I still can't trust Him? When I don't know what to say or how to act? When I still don't know what to pray for? When, standing in the shadow of my people's pain, my own struggle and individual voice sounds so hopelessly thin and inadequate? I don't have the right to ask for His forgiveness. I don't have the right to speak some sort of defense on behalf of my people. Even now, though this has been the most painful post I've ever written, I can already feel the floodgates of emotion closing inside of me. How do I access that which will give me the right to speak? How do I maintain it? And most of all - will it make even the tiniest shred of difference whether I succeed in this or not?