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 summer...wow, 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. ....as 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?

5 Comments:

Blogger Halfnutcase said...

miri, just from reading this I can tell what a special person you are inside. I know that last yom kippur and rosh hashana I couldn't be bothered to pray for my sake, but I was worried about someone else and said my prayers very well for that other person's sake and that other persons future. Actualy I didn't pray for my self at all, I didn't care, and you know how painfull this past year has been.

But you are wrong, the gate where not closed when you cried motzoi yom kippur, torah teaches us that tears will will rip those gates right off their hinges in a skinny second, because everysingle time you shed tears over something, heaven listens, and listens closely and they rise straight up to hashem.

And condolences on your losses. I understand somewhat how it feels to thank g-d for something that makes you misserable, unhappy and that you'd rather scream and yell at him rather than be thanking him. It burns your insides and screams inside of you, and your mouth chokes and almost cannot even from the words.

9:28 AM  
Blogger Lubab No More said...

Very touching post. I hope you find what you are looking for this year.

10:33 AM  
Blogger Miri said...

HNC-
Thnak you; it does, actually, feel just like that.

LNM-
Thanks; I wish I knew what I was looking for....

10:47 AM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

>Thanks; I wish I knew what I was looking for....

You are not alone

9:37 PM  
Blogger Nemo said...

I want to write a post, based on this, before Rosh Hashana. Please drive me nuts about it if you don't mind, because that's the only thing that gets me writing these days...

11:11 AM  

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