They are all too nice to ask me about my religious customs and beliefs, so we talk around it.
After all, where does religious discussion fit into an open studio art class?
But sometimes, I imagine explaining to their silent, curious minds that in my community, it’s more of a statement to wear a scarf than a wig. In other communities, the opposite.
Women wear wigs, I would relate to them. Nice wigs, shiny wigs, long wigs. In hairstyles that any prom girl would scream for.
“Wigs”, they would ask, “Why? Scarves, why?”
And all of a sudden, I would see my world from the inside out, laughing at the idiosyncrasies we take so seriously.
Like a leg that has gone dead and limp from being sat on, bumbling around as if detached from my being.
In my community, I would say, the law is to wear skirts below the knee when sitting. In my little world, I would laugh, a man wearing a colored button down is saying something.
Their minds befuddled and amused, they would struggle to form their next question as respectfully as possible.
“Why?” they invariably would spit out. “ What does it matter, these little things? “
And I would concur, chortling with the rest of them at the insanity of these small details in the grand scheme of things.
How much more important it is to be kind, generous, open, and intelligent.
Isn’t that the most supreme?
And of course it is.
Of course it is.
But at the same time,
I want to tell them how important those little things are.
How every speckle of a detail tells a greater story of how each of us Earthly Jews finds our way to relate to Gd.
How each of us follows a different leader, whose captivating brilliance interpreted verses handed down orally so many millennium ago, that we’re still interpreting.
How each of those sages and descendants of sages memorized and comprehended uncomprehendingly mass amounts of information to debate, reconcile, and choose within their own logical framework deductions of how to best walk in the ways of Gd.
Everything we do tells a story of our continued exploration, current allegiances, and philosophical adherence.
What we hold fast to, question, cherish, imitate, and own. All spelled out in our little maneuvers.
Despite the deep, historical, philosophical underpinnings of our detailed lives, I would also concede that it is nothing compared to two bodies embracing each other.
It is dust in relation to kind words and an encompassing, comforting smile.
It is gornisht compared to expanding our consciousness and minds to the realities of each other.
And yet, again, I would backtrack-
It’s all significant.
Two sides of a coin encapsulate our existence, I would continue-
On one, “You are but dust and ashes”
And the other-
“The whole world was created for you”
When I accept upon myself that I am called to serve in a particular way,
Adding up all the tales and laws I’ve heard throughout the years, and the tales and laws those who have told them to me have heard, reaching back to the day we saw sound,
Adding in full, heaping spoonfuls of familial memories,
Mixed with globfulls of personal revelation and discovery,
I come to the conclusion that yes, the whole world was also created for me.
When I walk away from these still confused but kind, gentle, gentile art school souls,
My feet would walk in two buckets sloshing clumsily down the street,
My tiechel flapping in the wind and my skirt slinking around my knees mischievously.
In one bucket I would step into sultry ashes while the other brims with star-sparkled fairy dust straight from the crux of the Ein Sof Himself.
Together, the patchwork Yid that I am would clamber down the street, half sinking, half flying,
Nothing and everything,
The depth of my complex detailed life stitching my soul and body together.