Tuesday, August 01, 2006

From the Areopagos

We were walking in circles through the neighbourhood looking for be Yehuda's house. We probably found it but couldn't be certain. We stood on the street looking around, hoping to find someone to tell us if we were at the right place. A gaggle of teenage boys approached from the shul, big broad-brimmed black hats identifying them as religious scholars. They were gawky and effeminate and absorbed in their own affairs, not noticing us as they approached. A wind came up and blew off their hats, and the hats rolled on the stiff brims as the boys chased them down the street, the boys looking like they were acting in a skit from a Monty Python movie. It was embarrassing. Those boys looked like they couldn't tie their own shoes without hurting themselves.

I was standing some months later with my friend Ezra on the street when we encountered some danger off in the distance. Ezra spoke so softly one had to pay close attention to pick up his voice. He was a big guy, strong and extremely handsome. He was married to a beautiful girl and had a beautiful daughter. He wasn't particularly smart. A lot of things passed by him without sticking. I charged after the danger confronting us, the Highlander in me on the path to glory and mayhem. Ezra called out my name. I stopped in my track right there. I couldn't move without knowing what Ezra wanted. I returned. Ezra took us back to safety. No one died.

Maccabees (Hebrew: מכבים or מקבים, Makabim)

There is a time to study, and there is a time to fight, and there is a time to stand still and listen to the voice that leads.

I was dozing off during a lecture, and my cowboy hat fell on the floor. I reached down and picked it up. I saw a classmate across from me, a man short and crippled and not different from any other classmate I might have met. I couldn't take my eyes off him. He's been my best friend for over 30 years.

I put on my hat, gathered my books, I went to The Wall. Sirens wailed. Everything stopped. There was no sound. No voice....

I was walking into an ambush, unknown to me, when this short fat little guy comes running after me, his big black hat flying off. He grabbed me. "Are you [crazy]?" he said. "You'll be killed."

I was embarrassed. No one died, though. He looked a lot like my friend, that guy who saved me. Lots of Jews look like my friend. I actually see my friend in every one of them, even if they don't look like him at all. I picked up the guy's hat, and he drove me to Jerusalem. I stood with Ezra at The Wall. He gave me his hat.

I'm sitting at my friend's desk here, and I'm thinking of returning to Israel. I'm not crazy. I don't hear voices. There's no sound at all. No Voice calls me. There is a time. When I go, I'll go to The Wall.

1 comment:

dag said...

Someone asked about the title, and I realised it's obscure. I can't recall the source for the following:

According to the Bible, when the Apostle Paul visited Athens, he saw an altar with an inscription dedicated to that god, so when he gave his speech on the Areopagos, he told the crowd that he was there to talk about that same Agnostos Theos, the Unknown God . However, the Unknown God was not so much a specific deity, but a placeholder, for whatever god or gods actually existed but were not known about, especially if they are actually important ones.

The sense of the title is to write from a site of war about the Unknown God. I hope that's clearer.