I have pressed pause on my usual blog. For I am soon setting out “On Tour” in America – teaching Torah seminars and performing a new one-woman show called “Babel''s Daughter – From the Bible Belt to the Holy Land.” Over the next number of weeks I will be posting excerpts from the show. The one below is the first installment. I hope you enjoy! - Please visit my site for more information about the upcoming Tour and where you or your friends can catch the show & other teachings. http://www.havayah.com/the-tour.html
I was born into this latest migration of the Jewish nation – from European provinces to the promises of a new land of ultimate opportunity. I was born in Memphis, Tennessee. Memphis, the very buckle of the Bible Belt. But wait, we must pronounce it correctly and in keeping with its original rendering – the ‘baaable’ belt. Said in proper southern, “Bible” comes out conveniently as ''babble.'' Babble as in "speaking incoherently" – a meaningless cocktail of words and sounds.
Babble…as in “the tower of.” The Tower of Bavel, is after all, culled from the Hebrew word bilbul
, meaning confusion, being mixed up, stirred together, intermingled. America stands as the epitome of bilbul
, the archetypal mixing bowl, the melting pot into which all are welcomed, stirred-up and stirred-in.
The Bible I learned in my bible-belting youth was more babble than Bible. Was more torn-up than Torah. Was more Christmas than Hannukah. More heysus
than the yud-heh
of God''s name I have come to know so well.
But, as ''Jewish'' as I get, no matter how many scarves I wrap around my head, no matter how long my hem, no matter how many times in one conversation I may say “Baruch Hashem…” when I stub my toe, I still let out an irrepressible howl of “Jeeezus Christ!” Like an inbuilt reflex...I call out to a frick’n foreign god…an all-too-telling Americano-evocation of the god of stubbed toes and other small inconveniences.
And perhaps that shouldn''t be a problem, a little unconscious slip of the tongue. But, I am a big believer in making the unconscious conscious. So a subtle under-the-breathe call out to a foreign god is no small incident for me. It is a moment of ultimate bilbul, of confusion, an unconscious mixing and stirring, a foreign infusion. It is a twisting of tongue from mother tongue to other tongue. Where identity is undone. After all, what is my mother tongue? Am I a daughter of Zion or of Babel - or perhaps a well-mixed dialect?
(...to be continued)