Friday, September 14, 2007

Birthday of the World Blow By Blow

I went to my bootcamp exercise program instead of to Erev Rosh Hashanah services, after which Spuds and I watched the Dodger Game. Himself is working today and I have been working too much of this birthday of the world but I am waiting for the kids to get ready for shul. I write this morning, pre communal prayer, feeling angry and frustrated and maligned. Yesterday I honked and screamed at a older Latina lady in a beater car who was (stupidly, but still...) blocking my way on a narrow street when we were late for school. Last night, I came home and fired my contractor, a friend for over 20 years, when it occurred to me irrefutably that my best interests had been overlooked negligently a number of times. Thus, I spent this morning scrambling to get someone in to finish the job. My husband thinks I acted rashly. Perhaps I did. Perhaps I will regret it and my current stress aggravated my sense of betrayal and I will return from temple with a more open heart for my contractor, whose long neglect and miscalculation regarding my kitchen was due in part to preparation of a project for Burning Man. I am open to forgiveness and yearn to feel awash with it and will pray and suspect indeed I will forgive my contractor, but whether I will able to trust him to complete work my family so desperately needs done is another question.
Other ties hang in the balance of being severed or left to fade away this Rosh Hashannah. I am hurt and broken but I have lived this last year more with love than any other of my life. I am still weak.
I am now returned from the tiny Temple Beth Israel, where Himself and I have attended holiday services for 16 seasons. Most of the congregants I knew when we first joined, who attended Leo’s bris, are dead now. I still remember their customary seats. The elegant Ida Waller who held baby Leo and kept a calendar to occupy him with pictures next to her Siddur. The opera loving Guttenstein Brothers who knew every page number and ark opening by heart. The Simonoffs. The Kramers. The Weisses. The synagogue soldiers on. We are far less active than we were and we are missed.
I went into Shul expecting some sort of epiphany, some message of peace and I read over and over Hannah’s prayer of thanks to God for making her fertile as I sat there with Leo and Niall who followed some Hebrew and didn’t squirm and made a dashing ark opening. Beth Israel is such a tiny congregation that it depends on itinerant Rabbis for the high holidays. Rabbi Feldman, wheezing and portly seemed much more like someone’s dad than the charismatic pulpit rabbis larger and better off synagogues demand. His sermon wasn’t polished but it was sweet and the boys and I sat stonefaced for a bit, and then I started alternately sobbing and cracking up, pressing my fist tight against my lips to conceal it.
The Rabbi reminded us how Sarah was concerned that her beloved son Isaac’s half brother, Ishmael was a troublemaker and a bad influence. He pointed out how in so many families there is one son that fulfils and exceeds parental expectations gracefully and another son, who is seen as a proverbial troublemaker, the diamond in the rough detained in the principal/s office, at which point all three of us could no longer contain our laughter. The Rabbi knows, and I am reminded, that we must love our children whoever and wherever they are. Sometimes it is more challenging to love someone who is bad assed and irascible but sitting there with the two guys, I am reminded of my challenge to love them patiently, and how also, with the remodeling and critical care Grandpas, it’s been a while since I’ve caught my breath and focused on how much I do love my boys and how much I want them to feel that from me. I have exhausted myself lately transporting them and keeping them fed and clothed and purportedly educated but afer our laugh at Temple, I just wanted to be with them. I am the fierce matriarch. We will have a kitchen. I will run the family business. I will chill with my kids.
Richard has done some phone magic and it seems we have a long list of candidates to competently (if not as quickly as we’d like) finish the kichen. We met with a nice floor contractor today and then, mother and sons went off to the hilarious and stupid and amazing ballet of gore and violence that is Shoot "em Up and we all three laughed almost as hard as we did in temple.
On the way home from the movie Aliki called from Cedars and was feeling downcast and lonely and I agreed to join her. Leo held my arm gently while I wept and drove and insisted that even though he is not allowed, even scrubbed and gloved, to enter the hospital room, on accompanying me, telling me I needed his support. He joined me and we looked through the window at the old guy and forced Aliki to join us across the street for a Rosh Hashanah dinner of matzoh ball soup at Jerry’s Deli. Leo made us both laugh. He came home and beat up Spuds. Isaac. Ishmael. And whatever civilizations that may spring from them. Where will God lead us?
I am weak. We all are. I feel a bit stronger.
L’Shanah Tovah


Mimi Pond said...

Still thinking about you, hon.

FionnchĂș said...

You asked me about this passage that the rabbi talked about. The scripture gives God the impetus for getting Abe to kick Hagar and Ishmael outta camp, egged on by Sarah and her resentment stoked by big brother beating up little tyke. The commentators I checked for two-and-a-half hours after Rosh Hashanah service (you were with your dad) offered only the explanation that God was giving Abraham another in ten or so tests that were meant to-- reminding me of Hercules' labors-- see if he was tough enough to merit God's trust.

In other words, it's all about Abe. Hagar & Ishmael had to be ejected to keep Isaac in control of the lineage, and the covenant to come, and the heritage of being chosen. It's the two sons who may bicker over who's legit and who's x-d out of the will. How Abraham chose to treat Hagar & Ishmael, and how this may have come back to haunt Abraham and the Jews, remains absent from the Hebrew interpretations.

But surely, I reckon, present in the memory of Arabs today. Perhaps this hidden flaw, this early cruelty and primal sin, is part of our need for repentance and teshuvah? Maybe this element, overlooked or underplayed by Hebrew exegetes, is the one we need to rediscover and make amends for today? After all, 200 million people trace their fabled family tree to Ishmael and his Egyptian wife; 14 million to Isaac. The number game seems to have favored Ishmael rather than Isaac after all. Sarah's own machinations-- were they those of a loving mother who had conceived despite her being "withered" or were they those of a jealous woman ready to throw out her slave girl rival and her brat?