Loss, exile. We stood at a crossroads and didn’t know which way to go, and whichever way we chose didn’t matter. Neither way led home. Home, such as it was, was behind us. Home was no more. Well, that was nothing new. This pogrom was only the current one.
Before this, there was more loss. More exile. The warm, dry valleys, the rocky peaks, the welcoming seas had all been left for the cold, forested, embittered land of looking over our shoulders.
Always, the men carrying the Torah, trying to appear competent and strong, insisting we were the chosen people, all the while feeling emasculated, incompetent, ashamed. All the wisdom of the holy books could hardly make up for this. Even the rabbis were speechless.
And the women? Frightened, feeling like the beasts of burden and the outcasts that they were. And, even more, in their blood and bones (if not in conscious memory) was the knowledge of how much loss there had truly been. Prior loss. Asherah buried among the trees they would never in their lifetimes see. They had long ago forgotten what it was like to dance and pray in the sacred groves, to bare their breasts and proudly cup them in their hands to honor the holy one's fertility and nurturing, and their own by association. Yes, loss and exile and grief permeated their blood, endlessly cycling in their bodies, becoming so ingrained so much a part of who they were that they could no longer remember.
So, if you ask me why this is the grief I carry, I can tell you that the blood has been singing to me, calling to me, whispering to me that grief is the response to life in this body. Only now am I beginning to hear its message and understand. Only now am I beginning to allow myself to feel it. Numbness made sense as a survival strategy before, but one cannot be both numb and awake. Feeling the grief is necessary, and only the first step.
Long ago I left the ways of the men’s religion, of the Torah and the rabbis. But I cannot leave what lives in my bones and blood, nor would I wish to. I honor them. I bow to them. I thank them for the gift of this life. And I say, “I will draw on the origins, of the oldest of the old ways. And I will bring in other ways and make my own way. But this is the story of my grief. Well, at least it is one of the stories. The beginning one.”