The curved black bumps of Hebrew letters greet me, heavenly formations destined to transform the ethereal into the practical, yet I don’t recognize them.
I don’t feel myself within them like I used to. They present themselves as strangers, an exotic culture with a barrier that doesn’t allow me, a foreigner, to fully enter.
Where are You? I want to ask. What happened to us?
Where is that feeling within me, I ponder, that whisper-thin spasm of thrill that trickles across my chest, blossoming into a ever-elongating tree, connecting me to all of history? Me to generations of love and life that poured down from the hills and valleys of all time, straight down from the rumblings at Sinai?
Where is that religion of mine, that belief of mine, that identity that pounds like an incessant, unapologetic steel drum, bellowing its poetry and prose from its core rhythmic bodily being?
Where are those texts that hold the cherished chatter from one Gadol to another, across the few but mighty millennia? Why are they not being inserted into my veins anymore? Who has removed the dependable syringe?
The words that used to drill into my heart have stalled.
Instead, the bodies that fill the aisle of the synagogue fill the air with the shmutz of duplicity and complicity and I just can’t find my seat. I just can’t find my people amongst the high heels and shallow smiles. I just don’t know how to not feel alone when a fire is burning, the world is smoldering, yet all of the piles of living flesh around me only want to look at the flowers.
All my instincts tell me to run. Get out of this foreign land.
“Don’t confuse Jews with Judaism,” those not perturbed offer me as my own heels hit the ground, ready to sprint. And yet I cannot find my way to Gd without my people. Judaism is nothing without its people.
So I close my books and I walk out of shul. Because though the bodies there call themselves mine, my own body intuitively doesn’t believe them. The darkened letters have nothing to say to me there; I cannot hear them and they cannot reach me. So I go.
I go to build again.
I go because I am a Jew and I know I must search for the people and the things that resonate with me as truly, deeply, reverentially Jewish. I go because despite the books upon books of our conversational history to connect us with the Great Power that formed all of this, these objects by themselves will not help me reach Gd.
I go to find the people who will not ignore that the world is on fire, who will separate themselves from the carnage and say, in the smoky midst, there is still light, there is still beauty, and we will make space for it as well. There is darkness and there is light and we can cry together for it. We can fight together for it.
I go to find a new patch of grass. I go to find my people.
And surrounded by these people, we open up the books again, and we see:
Letters. Formed to bring the ethereal greatness into the most mundane practicality.
This is my religion pulsating through my veins. This is the resonance.
Slowly, slowly, we walk with heavy boots on the long way home.
God, great lights in the midst of great darkness, this year, take us home.