Monday, July 11, 2011

Storytime: Tes and Jewish Men

My aunt used to love to take me shopping in Germany. Admittedly I loved the culture, the people, the candy food; it was all like something out of a fairy tale. The buildings weren't over three levels tall, the streets were cobblestoned, and people could take carriages throughout the district. It was beautiful and it drew me in something serious, even as a kid. Coincidentally that was the around the time I first saw a Hassidic Jewish man praying in public.

While my aunt was heckling with a vendor buying things from a vendor, I had time to observe and listen closely. He was speaking in a language I couldn't understand but that was melodious and calm, though with lots of hard consonants. He was wearing a wide brimmed black hat and loose fitting black clothing. He had a long beard and two long curls of hair on either side of his face. And as he prostrated before his G-d, I decided in my no-more-than-eight-year-old mind that I liked this guy.

And its been like that ever since.

Over time I began to look into Judaism and found that I felt more drawn to it than any other religion I had been flirting with. Christianity scared me when I was younger; in my mind it looked like God was just coming down and touching people making them pass out and holler. Later in my teens I flirted with the idea of Islam and although I felt better there than with Christianity it still wasn't an easy fit.

A year or so ago I met a man at a Borders bookstore. We were both looking in the poetry section and he asked me if I knew much about the book I had picked up and suggested another one instead. ("Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair" by Pablo Neruda in case you were wondering.) I could tell he was older, how much so I wouldn't know until our third time meeting where we met for coffee (tea, actually) and discussed the book.

He was an odd looking guy; he, much like the man from my childhood, wore all black and a wide brimmed black hat. He had long peyes (uncut sideburns) and vibrant green eyes and an amazing smile. And we dated for roughly 8 months. I think we were a crazy sight; him in all his glory and I, a full foot shorter in sneakers and t-shirts and big hoop earrings. Visually we didn't fit, but in most other aspects we did. In the end though, it wasn't the right fit or the right time.

I felt real with him. I know it's odd to say that before I felt like a piece of something, a figment of my own imagination. He brought out what was real with me; my anxiety, my jealousy, my short-sightedness...All the bad things were called to the carpet, but immediately after we would talk about the good in me, my willingness to try, my intelligence, my compassion. It was a give and take relationship that made me a better person and gave me a great respect for his perspective and the perspective his religion gave him.

I think in that fairytale setting so long ago I saw something real. I saw something that could withstand time, language, race and whatever other qualifiers a person can come up with. And I saw it in a man, unashamed of who he was, where he came from or who (and what) he represented to the world. And there started my appreciation, respect and admiration of Jewish men.

2 comments:

I Am Your People said...

I just love this post and your willingness to put so much of yourself out there. Very vivid imagery and emotion (sorry if that sounds like and English teacher's critique)

Tes said...

Thank you :)

I don't know why I put so much of myself out; maybe because I'm so used to being closed off in my walking life?

And an English teacher critique is perfect lol