Monday, July 03, 2006

Journeys and My Journey

At the risk of being repetitive, even, G-d forbid, boring and predictable, I will again transcribe a song.

Because my life plays out to the soundtrack I hear and the music I feel. And the song I'm listening to right now is the type that never fails to pierce my heart, make me cry, and wish I could be better than I am.

I'm not going through the best time spiritually. I need more strength. So forgive this guilty pleasure, this beautiful, heart-wrenching song by Journeys, entitled "The Place Where I Belong". (which, when compared to some other songs I love, isn't guilty at all...)

"I was made way back in 1842
By a humble man, a real G-d fearing Jew
Who did his work with honesty, feeling, and with pride
He was known in Kiev as Yankele the scribe
With loving care, his hands so sure and still
He formed me with some parchment, ink, and quill
Each day he'd slowly add to me just a few more lines
With words to last until the end of time

And on the day that I was finally complete
The whole town came and filled the narrow street
And they sang and danced and held me high and carried me away
To the little, wooden shul where I would stay
And then the Rabbi held me close against his chest
He spoke out loud and clear to all the rest
He said, 'No matter if you're very young, or even if you're old
Live by the words you'll find inside this scroll'

Three days a week, they read from me out-loud
It filled my soul with joy -it made me proud
They followed each and every verse with fire in their eyes
The words that told them how to live their lives
I watched the generations come and go
I saw the old men die, the children grow
But never in a century, did I miss my turn once
For the fathers -they had left me with their sons

But the hatred from the west came to Kiev
And they rounded up the Jews who had not fled
But Moishele the shammos, he was brave, and he was bold
He hid me in his cellar dark and cold
And for years and years, I waited all alone
For the people of my town to take me home
And they'd sing and dance and hold me high when they carried me away
To the little wooden shul where I would stay

But it was someone else who found my hiding place
And to America, he sent me in a crate
And the men who took me off the boat, they said I was a prize
But they were Jews I did not recognize
And in a case of glass they put me on display
Where visitors would look at me and say
'How very nice how beautiful, a stunning work of art'
But they knew not what was inside my heart
And across the room, I saw upon the shelf
Some old friends of mine who lived back in Kiev
A silver pair of candlesticks, a menorah made of brass
We'd all become mere echoes of the past

So if you hear my voice, why don't you come along
And take me to the place where I belong
And maybe even sing and dance when you carry me away
To some little wooden shul where I could stay
And as the Rabbi holds me close against his chest
He'll speak out loud and clear to all the rest
He'll say 'No matter if you're very young, or even if you're old
Live by the words you'll find inside this scroll'

Live by the words you'll find inside my soul

Yeah. That's it. I remember going to the Israel Museum in (duh) Israel while I was in seminary (my first year, when all was new and shiny), and I saw Torahs, menorahs, siddurim, and more on display. Beneath glass. Under signs that read, "Do Not Touch". People were taking pictures. It was a tourist's dream. And I was so incredibly disturbed by it all -by Judaism on display, like a newly excavated Egyptian urn from a million years ago, like something lost, forgotten, remembered only in history books and museums. I felt so upset, I think I almost became nauseous -I know I almost began to cry.

Why? Well, because of that -because Judaism isn't lost and forgotten, it is real, and a part of who I am and how I live. But most Jews cannot really say that, can they? The majority of Jews cannot read the words of the Torah scroll, cannot understand the miracle of the menorah, cannot know the words of Shema by heart. For so many, it is merely history. "But they were Jews I did not recognize."

And then there's the "Live by the words you'll find inside this scroll". I don't think I am. Not really. Oh, G-d, it really hurts to say that. It's embarrassing, and painful, and makes me wonder when this happened. Not yesterday, or a month ago, or even a year ago, so when? When did my life turn from a Torah life to a life of Torah on the side?? When I came back from Israel? That answer's too simplistic, and would mean my achievements weren't true, but I KNOW they were. I could isolate what I wish would improve, and it doesn't sound like a lot, but those small things linked me to the Torah way of life and are now a breach between me and my ideal. So how to bridge the gap?

Please help me, and answer...How to bridge the gap?


Pragmatician said...

Amazing song, I've never heard of it before but I liked the lyrics.

To be able to help you bridge the gap, I thik we'd need to know why you feel disconnected?

Jewboy said...

Great song. The first Journeys tape has always been my favorite.

kasamba said...

Abie Rottenberg is amazing.

Even just by asking how to bridge the gap- you already have.

Lvnsm27 said...

I love his songs too, from the journey albums to D'veykus.

in regards to bridging the gap, that's a tough one, but you'll be fine. Just keep praying and making an effort and you'll do okay. Wish you hatzlacha.

Okee said...

prag--the lyrics are really good -I just love it when a song tells a story, and it's a good story, too. so why do I feel disconnected...? Well, when enough days have gone by bereft of any real davening, of any real torah learning, of any big moments of spirituality...of only "having fun", materialism,'s something I recognize but not something I feel capable of changing. Too much, I guess. I don't know... I know I should take small steps, but it's just been so much easier not to take any steps at all...

jewboy--honestly, my favorites the third!! the song with the guy learning Torah intently just gets me every time. But since a lot of the lyrics are in yiddish, I can't catch them. I'd really appreciate it if anyone can email me the lyrics!

kasamba--yes he sure is! And so by asking, I'm already bridging? True, the though is half of the step, but I still need the action half! Aaargghh! Summer has always done this to wonder I hate the heat. It reminds me of spiritual meltdowns of the past!

lvnsm27--I know. A huge chunk of my issue has been the praying thing. I was never as lax about davenin in the last three years as I have been in the last few months. I love davening, I really do. I love the connection, the emotion, the satisfaction. But lately, I have let myself love laziness more.

Inmymind said...

Okee -- try taking it one day at a time. Maybe focus on one tefillah and perfect that. When you look at everything as a vast ocean before you, it is much harder to tackle. I've had similar issues and I decided to take on something new to remind me of who I am. It takes effort and determination. I have faith that you can do it! Good Luck!

Pragmatician said...

Okee-Well summer is known to make it harder, however everytime you see women dressed as if they were at the beach, you'll notice that despite the heat you dress like a Bas Yisrael and that should definitely lift your spirits.

Lvnsm27 said...

okee, I know what you mean. I get lazy too. I guess we just need to push ourself and take small steps

Okee said...

inmymind--Thanks for the advice! Since your comment, I decided to tackle my shacharis. It's still nowhere near what it once was (a very long, full of everything shacharis), but it's better than it was more recently. Yay! One step at a time, I know!

prag--Hey, it's true! Summer and tznius just are NOT friends. It's sooo hard, and icky, and annoying -but no one would mistake me for anything but a religious Jew, so I can't mistake myself for anything else, either. Good!

lvnsm-oish, laziness! Such a diabolical, devious, dastardly yetzer harah...and I have it in such large quantities! Oh, well, at least I know Hashem wouldn't give it to me if I can't beat it!

socialworker/frustrated mom said...

I love that song. Hope you get the strength you need. We all have ups and downs.

FrumGirl said...

I wish I had the answer to your question. My closest friend and I often reflect on how different we are since Seminary... life takes over and its hard to maintain that level....