Until death do we part
I have been asked whether or not I am Jewish at least fifty times, but only by Jews. I take that as a compliment. My favorite time was when a group of 60ish women stopped me in the Marais to ask for directions. They said: “oh, you’ve been such a nice young man, are you a member of the tribe (MOT)?”
On this occasion, as on many others, I wanted to reply:
“I don’t think so, but how can I know for sure?”
Think about it. How would I even know what tribe they were talking about if I were not “MOT?" Nobody ever briefed me. I have often wondered, in light of my hesitations, how the course of my life would change if I were to reply “shalom, I am”.
Hell, I can even play the Nigun from Baal Shem on the violin. I have a large number of Jewish friends and working relations, perhaps due to some lingering Jewishness in my aura.
As you have deduced from reading, I also have “above-average” intelligence, which makes me about as bright as the average Jew.
At my recent border control entering Israel (traveling on my French passport), I was asked if I was “French-French” or “Jewish-French”. I almost answered “French-American”, but didn’t want to cause a stir. I wonder why they didn’t just ask me if I was Jewish. What’s all the fuss about? Am I Jewish or not?
The first proof that I am not Jewish is that nobody told me I was. Sure, I was circumcised, but in those days you didn’t have to be Jewish to be circumcised. It was all about hygiene, and in terms of hygiene, as we all know, America is second to none (except maybe to Israel and Japan). Anal hygiene in America is still in the dark ages, either because of its baffling 'not invented here" attitude or because of its massive investment in the toilet paper industry.
The second proof took longer to establish. It consisted of NOT doing things that Jewish people do. The reason for this ambiguity is so bizarre and improbable that it does deserve an explanation. During the first 24 years of my life, I actually DID many things that seemed very Jewish, without having any kosher label on me. Let me enumerate. I kept the sabbath on the 7th day of the week (yes, that would be Saturday, not Sunday). I ate only “clean” meat and fish (refer to the book of Leviticus if you want all the details on split-hooves and fish scales). I observed seven annual festivals: Passover, Feast of unleavened bread, Feast of Weeks (Pentecost), Trumpets, Atonement (day of fasting), Tabernacles (sakot). I approved of my parents giving tithes to their recognized religious authority (minimum 10% of their annual gross income). I read the Torah and all the books of the old testament. As previously mentioned, I studied the violin and made Yehudi Menuhin my number one musical rabbi.
In spite of such efforts, I was still unable to tell the Israeli border police that I was Jewish. But how would they know for sure? How did the gestapo know for sure who to round up in 1939? No doubt, I would have been Jewish in their eyes. Imagine having to die such an ignoble death, by mistake!
During those first 24 years of my life, I not only practiced the law of the old testament, but also the new testament with its gospels, apostles, and epistles. Thanks to being raised in a Christian cult called the Worldwide Church of God, I ended up being more righteous than Jews and mainstream Christians combined. I was particularly angelic during my first three years, based on the objective accounts of my own mother.
Now, you can better understand my authority to speak on the matter of Israel and Palestine.
After 24 years, something went terribly wrong in my life. I sinned (for the first time).
As a Christian, I could have had my sin forgiven, except that of all the sins available to me (the most attractive in retrospect being fornication) the sin I actually chose was the unpardonable one. It was the sin of disbelief. I gave voice to my doubts and lost my faith. You can’t seek absolution from a God in which you no longer believe. The upside to this was that unlike others who committed the unpardonable sin and awaited their condemnation, I was not afraid. I just couldn’t believe in a God who would operate that way.
The next 20 years of spiritual desolation were marginally better than the previous ones steeped in religion. A true desert is better than a mirage, and only free from mirages can you find the true oasis. I came to terms with the simple idea of death, without expectation of anything beyond. I kept playing my violin and let myself be moved by the beauty and wonder in the world.
I failed to achieve...(content is reserved for readers of the e-book.)
Then I experienced an ecstatic...(content is reserved for readers of the e-book.)
The day of reckoning came swiftly...(content is reserved for readers of the e-book.)
This is where one metaphorical variation of the Israel-Palestine conflict began...(content is reserved for readers of the e-book.)
Sometimes you have to fall deep into the pit to find the power to grasp for the light, and nothing else but the light. I jumped into a new place of nothingness and discovered my freedom to start anew. This new-found freedom is the place from which every phoenix can rise from its ashes. The secret, which really is no secret anymore, is that we have to unplug the past.
Maybe I was Jewish, maybe I was not. It doesn’t even matter, because my choice was to stop identifying with the past. If the Jews and the Palestinians were suddenly afflicted by massive and total memory loss, how could they perpetuate their conflict? Which is a more terrifying prospect? The total loss of memory, or perpetual conflict because of memory?
If you are a Jew, who would you be if you forgot you were Jewish?
It is the past that interferes with our capacity to create a beautiful future. Which do we prefer: commitment to an inherited identity, or peace and happiness? We bind ourselves by taking vows and establish our honor by keeping them. We vow to a person, we vow to a religion, and we pledge allegiance to a flag. We often do this very early on in life, before we even know who we are as individuals. There is an unspoken collective conspiracy to ensure that we do just that: take our vows before we know who we are. Otherwise, the whole house of cards may crumble. Social chaos, defined as the loss of control by some over others, would result. The entire story about how the Messiah is supposed to redeem the chosen people would run off the tracks.
We mummify ourselves long before we die, and take pride in the great virtue of remaining faithful. Then we die, a crushed caterpillar, never even knowing what we could have become.
“Until death do we part?” Or let go now for the sake of life?