Thursday, January 04, 2007

New Years Eve... [on a bench]

Throngs and singles of people passed by her and many noticed her. Staring would take too much brainpower so they simply did the nano-gawk and walked on. Stumbled on, mostly. They noticed her because while they and their counter-partyers were doing just that-partying-she was sitting cross legged on the town bench, reading. Yeh, reading. On New Year's eve. In the center of town. In the center of noise and shouts. And she was silent. In the center of pushing and jumping. And she was still. In the center of immodesty and indecency. And she was intransigent. In the center of crassness and vulgarity. And she was refined. She was in the center of lowness, and she was above them all.

So it was no wonder that they noticed her and reacted. No, no wonder at all.

But how? How did she do it? How did she stay above them? And why? Why was she behaving so differently? And why was she sitting there, specifically? And what was she reading? And lastly, how was it that the mocking words of the passers-by did not penetrate but merely bounced back to the speaker?

Let us examine this.

Even from far, we can see that she is not like the rest. Her manner of dress makes that obvious. She wears a long, sturdy, conservatively dark, subtly billowing, skirt. Her protection against the icy winter night comes in the form of a thick, green, comfortable sweatshirt. With a hood.She wears it not. Irrelevant. Or maybe that shows on her pride. On her brazenness. Who can know?

Let us go closer.

She holds something in her hand. A black object lies at her side. Her furrowed brows alternate between the brand new, timeless pages in front of her and the old, digital camera at her side. And then, every few minutes, her fingers reach for the sleek cell phone in her pocket. Once, it's to check if it's there; the next time, to check the time; after that, to check if it's there...

Let us go closer.

The book she is holding is a compilation of ma'amarim said by the Lubavitcher Rebbe on the topic of Moshiach. "Learning about Moshiach will hasten his coming", the Rebbe had said many times. So she learns. The maamar she is learning is on the words 'Tzion b'mishpat tipadeh v'shaveh b'tzedakah' (a possuk from Yeshayahu). She reads about exile and redemption, about souls and bodies, about righteous men and undeserving, of justice and charity. She mouths the words as she reads. She needs more than to simply understand; she needs to let it leave the pages and enter her heart. She needs her fingernails to feel the truth. She needs to let it seep into every crevice of her body until she is one with the words and the worlds they represent. She needs to learn so she can know; she need to know so she can do; and she needs to do so she can take us out of exile.

Wait, I don't understand. If these words are so important, the urgency so tangible, the lessons so holy, the task so vital-why does she sit here? Here amongst the drunkards and their admirers. Should she not have chosen a more fitting and appropriate spot for the delicate and sacred learning?

Let us go closer.

As we saw earlier, she is not focused only on her learning. No. She is dealing with two other items as well-her camera and her phone. She brought the camera to freezer-pack the scenes around her. And she brought the phone so her worried friends can call her sometime before dawn and worry more when she answers not. (Err something like that.) But wait, why the conflict? Why learn if it's the fireworks you are after? And why carelessly enter a danger zone if you will be concerned all the while? Why the split?

Let us go closer; let us enter her heart and her brain and attempt to understand what we are seeing.

*sishoooooo zip to the past*
"K what should I do tonight? Everyone else left already hmmm I guess I can go to sleep early but on first thought, my body will react strangely to such an experience hmmm it'll be really nice to go out for a change..myself, yknow...too long I've been with people...it'll be nice...k where should i go and what should i do?...o yay! i can finally go to The Square and just sit myself amongst the crowds. I've been wantin to do that since we passed thru that, the first time....i can just sit and listen to music or maybe just bring a book and let myself unwind...feh, ill bring something to learn. ok this is really exciting. o and look-it's not even late now, not at all-i think it's about 8pm or so...great..thanks hashem..k lemme just go upstairs n get my coat and a sefer....no i dont want to take bina gold, thanks for the offer though, and no, not 'chutzpah' either...'greatest army units' sounds sweet but epes not for now...JLI handbook? hmmm ill leave that for the plane...nu i need a good ol fashioned sefer on chassidus..down to the library..found one..walla! have i really just spent three hours talkin to the rebbetzin and my friends? maybe i should just forget about it...no i gotta go..i dont quit...and they said it's not dangerous..tov..and theres no work tomorrow yeehaw...oh? i should make sure to be alone at midnight? lamah? ahh ok bseder...off i go..i take the cell...strange feeling..haven't had one in a while...protection that frightens-kinda like seeing soldiers all around you...nu nu...so wait, why am i going there? if it's ketzat mesukan with all the drunkards tonight, why bother goin? i wont be able to concentrate that way...and chutz m'zeh, cmon-be honest-you really gonna learn? u gonna be firework droolin, i know you...no no im really gonna learn. im gonna go to the merkaz of klipah and elevate it to kedusha. ya? for real? u that strong? well we'll never find out if i don't try, huh? no seriously, why u doin that to yourself? just give it up. no, i cant. should i tell you why? cuz i have to go the exact spot where he sat and sang bob marley songs, and i have to sit there and recite words of torah. i need to be mamshich rays of elokus that can help bring him back. huh? it's not your fault, why do you keep thinking like that? first of all, i don't ALWAYS think like that-once in a while though, when he does step into my train of thought so i experience a stab of guilt. of responsibility. are we not all responsible for one another? and when the horse races off the track with a speed of sound, should we not be concerned? so i must go. i must rectify it. whether it makes sense or not. okkk do what you want but remember my warning-it wont be easy. that doesn't scare me, and you know it. tov, be well. sheesh, always givin me a hard time..well fancy that-i've arrived..how did i remember the way? ain lee moosag..im sailin down the walking streets, in between the people, not connecting at all...so many benches, so many perfect spots to sit and learn. to focus amongst the mayhem. but i shall not rest, i shall not stop. i have a destination. er where exactly? nu to the square. i get to the square. it's empty. huh? ya, it's empty. they're settin off fireworks there. waiiiiiit a second. thats not supposed to happen! i came to---chill out, so G-d laughed. nu what you gonna do now huh? o pulease, get that challenging glint outta ur eye and unsmirkisize ur face-dude you should know me better than that...take some pics that resulted in black screens...change the setting to 'fireworks' and snap again...result is the same...point gotten...retrace my steps..glare at the attempted wise midnighters who acted stupidly...sit on a bench. take out the sefer. fingers are white. from cold and from strength of clutch. pull out the camera to ready it for the big explosion...check time via clock via phone....ok breathe. i can learn now. so long as I'm cheremed at 12, im ok...."

So she learns. And the people pass her by. And minds intoxicated mock. Why do they mock? Is it an attempt to drown out their feelings of inadequacy in the face of such singularity? Are they trying to overcome their feelings of discomfort at viewing her distinct presence? Do they feel threatened by her confidence? Do they resent her inner peace which overflows onto her face? Or are they simply drunk with themselves and desensitized to the kedusha which is so glaringly bright in the eyes of those that open them?

Let us go closer.

Actually, we shan't. It isn't just. We have invaded deep enough. Let us leave her alone and continue on with our own lives.

Happy New Year.



And then the sabra had no more patience to finish up because it's three days and one country later and the mood evaporated and she can't write unless she's in that mood and she's not that superb at recreating moods and she's a tad frustrated because she doesn't like writing things that don't do justice and time brings justice so she really has no excuse but she had to release it so i guess that means she'll have to deal with her frustration instead. nu nu.

15 comments:

the 'narishe' sabra said...

eh ma, we know EXACTLY who will not appreciate this one...actually never mind, he wouldn't get to the computer anyhow

heehee

(WHAT ARE YOU STILL DOING UP!? GET TO BED NOW AND DON'T YOU DARE COMPLAIN TO ME ABOUT UR BACK EVER AGAIN, YOU HEAR ME?!?! uh if you stopped screaming i might and anyhow you are embarrassing me in public....)

mom said...

nat fanny

Scraps said...

Wow...that's a lot of digging going on. Deep girl, she is.

numanumahey said...

Wow wow wow!

Anonymous said...

whoze da "he" that u trying to elevate?

wandering said...

chav you rock my world hon.

e. said...

I'm officially a fan.
Cool stuff, woah.

anonym00kie said...

ok so..
great fun to read
inspiring even
but..
why so much focus on what everyone else is doing and thinking?
why not go to learn, to chill, to elevate.. regardless of what others are doing and thinking. chances are (no offence) no one even noticed.. everyone is too caught up in their own world to notice a nice girl sitting on a bench reading..
doesnt it detract from the whole inspiration and growth to feel so 'central'?

ma said...

he would get to the computor but not to read this... you're right.

the sabra said...

the narishe sabra-
er why would i answer myself here?

mom-
i would NEVER argue with my daughter

scraps & numa (from the romanian or from the rabbi nachman?)-
i'll tell her you said so :)

anonymous-
someone who taught me chassidus. and "the higher a person is..."

wanderin-
always flattered when you say that

e.-
walla
that's really nice to hear
(do we know each other bichlal?)

the sabra said...

walla, i think i just figured this out. e, you holy?

the sabra said...

anonymookie (its always a pleasure to hear from you btw)-

im not 100% sure i understand what you are saying. for starters, what makes u say that its focusing so much on the others? i thought it centered mostly on the girl herself. on HER appearance. on HER thoughts. on HER actions. on HER perceptions. on HER differences.

did she sit there in order to contrast?
no.
did she sit there in order to get attention?
no
did she sit there in order to write this?
no

i sat there in order to learn.
and as i was learning, i was struck by the enormous percentage of people who noticed, pointed, called out, laughed, raised eyebrows, jeered, came over, whispered...

it made me think.

i considered leaving-after all, what's a nice jewish girl doing in a place like this?? and more than that, why should i put myself thru a test like that? why bring a sefer if the fireworks (and more ahem) are so tempting?

i stayed cuz if i was already there (in such an absurd situation) so i knew i was meant to be there. i was sure that the bench needed elevation, that someone needed to see me sitting there, that SOMETHING good had to come out of it.

and guess what happened?

something good came out of it.

someone called out to me.

as i was reading, someone approached me (not in a threatening manner).
i looked up. he seemed a bit familiar. he asked me what im doing here, why im reading here of all places. i remembered-he ate both shabbos meals at our chabad house.
i told him im learning. he asked what and why. i told him. sababa, he says. we chat for a bit. and then he turns to leave. wait, i tell him. if we met, so let me just tell you one of the things i learned. ain baya, he says. so i tell him how every yid has a chelek of hashem inside. and if hashem is eternal and not limited by anything, so we too have that koach. and now that we are found in golus, one might be tempted to give up hope. we are so low, we are so far. but no, i tell him. no, it doesn't work that way because we are connected to hashem and we can rise above everything. we can return at any moment.

he is a bit struck by that. he thought that if he is at the shabbos table he is a different jew than if hes celebratin the secular new year in the town square.

he needs a bit of time to digest this.

and when he leaves, i know that something good came out of it all.

now, am i saying that we should all go to the town square in order to inspire others? no.

what i am saying, what i wrote about, was simply what had happened.

as for ur last line-that focusing on oneself takes away from 'the whole inspiration and growth'-im not quite sure what you are saying. how can you grow if you don't know where you are at? if you don't recognize yourself, how can you get inspired?

unless of course i completely misinterpreted what you wrote. tis very possible ;)

im waitin eagerly for you to explain and tell me if i made any sense to you at all.

all the best!

the sabra said...

anonymook, i'm rereading your comment and my response and im not even sure if what i wrote fit your comment bichlal. lol.
im gonna wait for you to write back though before i write more...

anonym00kie said...

picking up a book and going to learn in the middle of new years celebrations can be an uplifting or inspiring or meaningful experience, no doubt. im sure you did affect that guy. i dont even think theres anything wrong with having gone there.
im just questioning the post i guess. mabye this isnt the case, but it does sound like you went there davka to get noticed. and if it wasnt to get noticed, it was with a clear realization that you woudl stand out and get noticed. the fact you were blogging about it in your mind demonstrates that you were more focused on the atention you were getting than on the learning. now of course the only reason i can say this is cuz ive done the same, we all have, sometimes we arent even aware until we are half way thru, but it seemed weird to me to post about it, when its so clear what was actually going on.
as for being self aware, i never said thats not important, i tink thats incredibly necessary.. but.. for this post to affect us, and for your learning to have a real cosmic impact, it seems to me the focus shouldnt be so much on poeple noticing you, but on the learning itself. ive been in some very odd situations and places, and once i got the focus OFF of me, i realized that most poeple hadnt even noticed me. the fact we think they are all noticing us is more of an indication of how much we are noticing ourselves.. i think.
the sabra.. none of this is meant to be an attack on you, please beleive me, i really do think youre awesome, its just some "thoughts" i had when reading your post..
if im wrong.. sowwy..

the sabra said...

walla, for this i needa email you, anonymook, if you still checkin this post, can i ask you to send me an email?
thanks yo.