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I’m Elizabeth And I Need A Niggun

Somewhere around the beginning of high school, my English teacher critiqued my tendency to “over-qualify”. My sentences were, apparently, more like parking lots for “so” and “very” and “really” and “quite”, the descriptors overtaking the objects they were meant to accentuate.

Words too cumbersome. Crowding the spaces once pristine. Words like an overpowering cologne filling the air that was once pure. Do my attempts at intensity make it hard for you to breathe?

Words like the oversized statement necklace Coco Chanel advised the style-savvy to remove before leaving the house. Less is more. I tried my best to heed this guidance. So that it shouldn’t go too far or become something gaudy. Too much. So that everyone could breathe and move about in freedom and peace.

I don’t want to weigh things down with my words.                                                                                               I want to see things as they are- no more and no less.

But sometimes things are so much larger than the austere plaster walls words provide.

Sometimes sensation, warmth, abundance bursts like a dam, demanding, as it were, to loosen its belt after a five-course dinner party. Fullness. Bounty. Left unable to do much but roll into fetal position on the couch, fat and happy, belly swollen and emitting a sigh. So, very, really, much. The sigh of wonder in literary form.

Do you think when Solomon’s lover asked to be comforted with apples, that any measure of their crispness could suppress the gevaldig-ness of her swollen heartbeat? Sometimes apples are the least we can ask for //  the most we can hope for

I itch for apples to satisfy the craving for expression for the wordless.

I am very much in love with you.                                                                                                                               -in a text to Someone and, sent only after I go back and add asterisks framing the sentiment for emphasis

I am so extremely regretful for falling short of what I could have been.                                                           -Recited internally as I beat my fist upon the surface of my heart space, trying to draw upon what remorse I can awaken at 7:20 am, BC (before coffee)

I am so, so, so blessed.                                                                                                                                                 -Written unironically, on a blank page of my composition notebook journal, with only a scribbled heart beside it

I really, truly, genuinely sense I’ve grown this year and I so deeply feel driven to keep up that momentum.                                                                                                                                                                   -Sent in a text to my “shoresh neshama” (soul-sister) friend in a rant about repentance

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In the same message:

There aren’t sufficient adverbs to qualify the intensity of things and I hate it. It’s the type of thing that can only be expressed in music, in outstretched arms, in tears, in a belted note held for so long it bounces off the shower walls so long it seems it will linger there for quite some time. The type of thing that can only attempt at making itself known in the universe in sighs, or the Yiddish description “geshmak”.

This is real and you are completely unprepared.

Some things can only be communicated in presence.

There is no good-enough translation for “me’od”, at least in the way I mean it.                                             Is this what Heschel meant by “radical amazement”?

“High Holy,” as in “Days” is not quite equivalent to “Nora’im,” as in “Yamim”. But maybe it’s the best we can do. Maybe that’s the point.

“ונשלמה פרים שפתותינו”                                                                                                                                                       “And our lips will compensate for sacrificial bulls.”                                                                                              We will open our lips in the hopes of something grand good enough emerging.                                             We will open our palms in the hopes that somehow we will produce something to offer; or at the very least humor You with our efforts.

I want true clarity, real blessing, genuine goodness. Simplicity. The right words.                                         Or better yet, a niggun. The continued ascendence and transcendence of a repetitive melody, like a heartbeat pounding and building.

I need a niggun to rouse my soul, to speak for my soul. I need that melody very, very, very much.


Image from the What I Be Project