Oh you. You outstretched olive branch. You pitter-patter of rain on the roof outside my window. You game of Monopoly that nobody wants to end. You geode gathering dust on a forgotten bookshelf. You tattered faded security blanket. You midnight murmurs, you daylight declarations.
I have loved you since before I can remember, since before I knew what love even was, and while I still don’t know what love tastes like, I know what it feels like. It feels like struggling my way through a language I should know better by now, it feels like contradiction, it feels like a soap opera, it feels like history.
I am told that teaching a woman Torah is teaching her nonsense.
My heart shatters. I do not believe this. How could my paper tradition cut me so easily? Is my skin that thin? I can slap a band-aid in the nurse’s office. I can press a damp paper towel in the bathroom. But the sting still slices through me.
I am told there is no water like the water of Torah.
Which is refreshing, because after days of trekking through desolate desert, I am parched. My throat is filled with sand and my hands tremble as I sip from their cup. I drink and drink and drink and drink and drink.
The relief is temporary. I want to scream but my voice has dried up, the water has dried up, there is no more water, they have taken the water away.
Don’t you remember the back of the sixth grade classroom when your teacher told us to respect that red softcover book? It only contained one chapter of one masechet, but it was kadosh all the same, it was Godly all the same.
Don’t you remember your first time in the beit midrash hunched over with your chavruta? You revelled in learning without a test looming ahead of you, pencilled Aramaic apart until it unraveled before you, revealing a soft kernel of understanding.
Don’t you remember how you wandered through wilderness just to arrive at a locked paradise? Giants loom at every door. Sweetness stands ripe for the plucking just beyond the curve of the hill.
How can you not flee in shame and terror? How can you keep your disappointment to yourself? They try to silence you, but you weep all night.
I nestle you heavy against my chest. Hold your velvet in my shaking hands. Happy-throated and full-hearted, I step back and forth to the rhythm of our shared heartbeat. The coming year reaches unspooled before us, wrapping around our shoulders, a tallit of possibility.
My arms ache and yet I hold you longer, shifting your weight back and forth as I would a small child. But I am the child here, hugging close to the security of what came before.
I drop a quick kiss and pass you on, heave you into the next pair of arms. I am absorbed back into the throng. Glistening with the passion that was denied my grandmothers, I grab hands and dance. We wax and wane as we spin circles to surround you, our cheeks flushed with the effort of loving you.
The next morning, Sheindel cries as she reads the account of how it all began, and while sympathetic, the men don’t really understand.
Naima is a senior at Hunter College, where she studies English with a minor in Gender Studies. Her creative work has previously been published on Hevria and Germ Magazine, among others. You can find more of her work at her website, https://naimahirsch.com.
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