As I sit here, I’m surrounded by the disjointed sounds of kids talking, grown ups half-heartedly shushing them, their own whispers even louder, teenagers on stage reading bits and pieces of The Story of Esther, their voices monotone and disinterested. Seemingly random rock n roll songs, supposedly, somehow, pertaining to the Story of Esther filter through all these sounds towards me… I look up at the Rabbi, his eyes closed, playing his guitar, bobbing to the beat of his songs…
I feel… Sad.
I yearn to be uplifted by coming together with my people for another holiday of Purim, sharing it with my husband and child. I need to be taken in by the age old story, I beg to be overwhelmed as the air gets thick with the rattle of groggers at every mention of Haman’s name, kids screaming in joy. I should be pointing out all the ridiculous and hilarious Purim costumes- but I am not. Instead, I am SAD.
There are no groggers and no costumes. No fake finery or princely fashions, no flashy colors I associate with Purim, no tasteful and mysterious half masks… and no swishing of satin from multiple Queen Esthers’ gowns. Just kids, in almost identical jeans and tee shirts, and a Rabbi, looking like one of them. A Rabbi, who, I happened to know, is really a grown up, who has held my hand in a difficult time.
I close my eyes, and when I open them, my daughter is four again. She’s an abominable explosion of pink, sitting in between my husband and me, in her Queen Esther’s costume. Ditto the pink sunglasses. The deafening wave of groggers washes over me, and I laugh, looking at the unabashed joy on my daughter’s face as she jumps up, shaking her grogger with her whole body, curls flying. I turn to my husband to point out a friend in a funny costume, but at that moment, Haman’s name is mentioned again, and my voice is drowned out by “Booing” and adults stumping their feet- Haman’s name disappearing under the barrage.
The cantor waits… then, once the silence descends, his voice fills the Sanctuary again, continuing with the Megillah reading.
I blink. And I’m here, back again. I look at my daughter, her ten year old face screwed up, trying to make out what the kids are saying on stage- to hear the Megillah of Esther.
I can’t hear it either. It’s all in bits and pieces. Someone tore it up like a piece of paper. And suddenly, I want to cry.
Stupid me, I tell myself, trying to stop the tide of tears. Crying while sitting in a Purim service? But something is missing, so painfully missing, like a piece of my soul has been taken out. Not here. Left out. I miss… the God of my great Gramma, the One who was kind and loving. Who held my hand and listened to my troubles, Who whispered to me gently that everything in life has a reason and will work out. Who lived in the warm cinnamon smelling kitchen, and in the huge old synagogue, where your breath caught when you looked up at the tall curved ceilings, and heard the ancient words echo within its walls. I miss those old words and old melodies, that somehow spoke to me so much more then a Rabbi bobbing to the beat, with identically dressed teenagers. I didn’t forget You, I want to scream to Him. I just can’t find you.
Is that the God of Orthodoxy I am talking about? Maybe. Can I find Him somewhere else? Somewhere outside the iron bars of Yeshivish world? Did I trade Him in for the personal freedom and the sound of guitar?
Do I belong here, I ask myself for a thousandth time, looking around. I turn to my daughter, does she? Am I in the right place? I realize there are tears rolling down my face, and I wipe them quickly. I don’t want my daughter to see me crying. What would I tell her? How would I explain my discontent to her, when I, myself, don’t even fully understand it!