Every morning, my eyes open, remembering nothing. My heart leaps hopeful: “The past was a dream, and all is well?”
But a step out of bed, a glance at the news, and it all comes pounding back; election night, the continued assault, the lines of people, with fists in the air, chanting, “Yes, yes, yes it is!”
And there, in the crowd, are my people; bushy beards, knee-length skirts, and humble, Semitic eyes.
When Trump rose in our newsfeeds to power, I looked away from those hoisting him on their shoulders. I looked heavenward towards Gd instead, and believed Heaven wouldn’t allow it.
But when he moved into Washington, I resigned to admit that my people aided in his relocation into the most powerful bedroom of our imperfect union. My knees went weak.
Anger came and filled in the open wound of shock, but still my heart aches from the impact. Since November 9, it has never stopped aching. Sometimes the pain is quiet, but it is always there.
The emotional dissonance sears the most, as two halves of myself argue against each other. “Those are not your people,” one of them hisses, mocking, “Is this your Torah?” while the other half balks, dismissing such division.
I’m still trying to catch up with reality. My breath staggers in and out, everyday, attempting to find its way around the broken down streets. I wander through town, looking through windows, watching and wondering; “The story of us, was it true? Where are my soldiers?”
I return to our Book, scouring for clues for how this could happen.
My heart breaks in betrayal. Jewish culture has forsaken me. Jewish morality is a sham. All that appears polished is poisoned underneath.
Until Purim arrives, raising its haughty head.
In the light breeze of an unusually warm Purim evening, I walk around town frantic, trying to land a megillah reading on time, coming up empty as I walk into one laining after another, mid-chant.
I hail a cab and join a minyan across town. Though they have already begun, the rabbi promises me he will do another reading.
Twenty minutes later, the megillah reader introduces himself to a patient party of three waiting for his services, surrounded by the chaotic midst of chicken nuggets and revelry. In the first millisecond of meeting, my brain notes his full beard.
Part of me leaps at the sight of its iconic bush, an intentional symbol of a dynamic, fearless movement, a projection of a deep, mystical/practical approach to grappling with the Infinite. But another part of its gnarled nature sends my stomach into knots, a looped audio track playing in my head of a Chabad friend, months after the election, explaining to me how the coarseness of Trump is yet another sign of the messianic redemption, and in short, she says, there’s no need for resistance.
Nebach that the sight of a proud Jewish beard has me quaking. I shake my head to clear the shtus, and tell myself it’s nothing, it’s nothing.
The reader takes me out to the quiet of the night, where we sit and I listen. Through his lips come the Hebraic, lush sounds of ordered serenity. Familiar, steady, and predictable, I hold onto those words like a cowboy afraid of being bucked, and let them wash over me.
People walk by, amused at the looks of us, the pitter-patter prattle of Hebrew rushing out of him, me on the edge of my seat, trying to seize it. The whole ceremony is ludicrous; listening in earnest to rushed words I cannot understand, at a time of day difficult and exhausting, while we sit in bright costumes, designed to disguise.
But, there, in the silence of the night, our commitment joyfully dances. The beauty of the Hebrew, the imposition of the commandment, and the laughter of the night, tie us together.
For a moment, in the night, I forget everything. The picket lines, the ugly words, the deep, searing, inner heartbreak of a people who have failed me.
In the quiet of the night, as the rushing prattle of nurturing Hebrew surrounds me, my faith is restored.
The megillah reader’s face illuminates in joy at the opportunity to do the nonsensical for me. “It’s all nonsensical, isn’t it?“ I wonder. “A nation of imperfect perfectionists.”
I grab the Hebrew and cover myself with it, a coat to whitewash over all of the pain.
The story of us was true, I paint quickly. The dignity of us remains.
That night, drunk with wine and chocolate and unmentionable Laffe Taffes, I dream a dream that it was all a dream. As I slip away, a voice within me murmurs, in hope, “Your people, your people, these are your people. It is, it is, of course it is.”