I sit in the mosque. I sit on the floor in the mosque. I sit on the floor in the mosque with no shoes. The carpet shows arches. Everyone sits on the massive burgundy rug and gets a cream-colored arch to themselves. I start on an arch, but someone sits next to me, and I feel out of place, so I move to sit on a step. Maybe the carpet is for understanders.
And I don’t understand. This language is in my DNA but I don’t understand. Here are the words I pick out:
Ana – I
Arba’ah – four
Israil – Israel
The mosque is called Masjid al-Rahman, meaning mosque of the Compassionate. The imam is giving chutpah, a sermon. There is no room on the rug anymore. Everyone on a gateway, sitting to enter, where I know I cannot.
I sit in the mosque on a step with no arch. My roommates told me not to come back if they put explosives on me. The mosque is called Masjid al-Rahman, meaning mosque of the Compassionate. The imam sits down as the chutpah is done, and he stands up again to make the chutpah into a blessing. Can I have this blessing? I have no arch. Maybe only arches let blessings through. My steps go to a door that is always locked. The language is mine but I am not it’s. I wish I had an arch.
I sit on the steps to an always-locked door with my book by Rav Kook beside me. I can’t open it this time. I want our texts to mingle. But can they dance with Rav Kook? Will his light be clear? Or tinted red? The imam’s son was at the previous service but I came late. Maybe I’m too late. Maybe my door will open.
My other book is by a Hasidic rebbe. The rebbes who moved to Israel (or Palestine?) used to have imams at their celebrations. HaRachaman hu yizkeinu—the Compassionate will grace us with… HaRachaman? Al-Rahman?
They say ameen as I don’t say amen and sit on the steps to closed doors. It’s time for Jummah. I will pray Mincha while they pray Jummah. I will not tell them I am doing this. I am worried it will be offensive. I am worried that I will have to acknowledge to them that behind my door is truth, and prayer is my key. Every word strikes the anvil to shape it, jagged and crooked as me. And yet, somehow, pure. So I will bow when they bow so they do not see me.
At the end of my prayer I silently ask for peace. I bow to the right, left, and center, letting Lofty peace roll off my back. At the end of their prayer, everyone turns to the right and left, wishing peace upon their neighbor. Can I respond? Have I kept my peace to myself? I will leave today broken yet whole. We are united in prayer. Let there be peace amen.