Sunday, March 20, 2011
Finding Fun, Faith and Freedom
So I went to hear the Megilla reading yesterday at the Chabad Lubavitch center right across the street from my apartment, which fell on a "motzei Shabbat," - shabbat ends and a new "belief' is born along with a "supermoon." It was a carnivalesque atmosphere - hippies, kings, queens, crayons all part of a community tale to recast the story of faith and freedom that binds us as Jews - spiritually, but for me, it's takes an even global appeal.
Funny that for the 19 years I've lived in Israel, I never once went the "Megilla" reading. For me, being "Israeli" was Jewish encapsulated; Besides I never felt I was cut out to join the "religious tribe" as it wasn't part of a social expectation.
Here you're Jewish, so you pray. In Israel, you're Jewish, so what? You're Israeli - no need to worry (or pray)!
But if you're religious - then that's a different story. You don't play "matchot" (Israel beach version of table tennis but without the tables) and you live in a predominantly religous community with little secular influences.
If a person is religious observant, s/he is part of the "haredi community," and if not, s/he stays secular. So I stayed on the secular 'side of the fence" so to speak. And because this was the expectation, I never once felt the need to do something different or felt that something was missing. I enjoyed the "social" part of the Shabbat that I "sanctified" as my holy Shabbat of a social sense - visiting friends.
I visit this "pluralistic" version of Jewishness daily - in my writing, when I go to Chabad, decisions I make for my son...
So I sat at the Chabad listening to the megillah, and saw an Israeli guy (undoubtably Israeli) who stood in the middle, looking around and observing. Like me, he wasn't wearing a costume or mask. I gathered he felt somewhat new although I wouldn't know for sure. It's not uncommon for Israelis either "passing through" to join the "Chabad" community to feel connected to their faith. In fact, I've seen this often. Yet, these Israeli are a marching band to their own drums. I patiently wait to see if they intermingle with the others, but, like me, they are "small fish" in this large pond called Jewish USA diversity.
Now symbolically, this was an interesting sight - he was standing very close to the "mehitza" - the divider between men and women. he could very well be me as I stand between American Jewish and Israeli culture - trying to connect with the fun, faith and freedom of my own spirituality and the holiday of Purim.
I'm not so good with following the Hebrew of a Lubavitch accent so I listen and connect with the spiritual voice of within and try to distinquish/anticipate the oncoming "hamman" so I'll be ready to stamp my feet; I don't have an inclination to wear a mask, a wig or baubling chains to escape my identity for a day; I am who I am; just a Jew stamping my feet at the sounds of "Hammman's name."