Friday, April 6, 2007

A challenge.

I'm sitting in Argo Tea near Michigan Avenue in Chicago. Just by Water Tower place. I'm at a table among tables crowded with people, headphones in, listening to Explosions in the Sky (my Torah music). My Etz Hayim is open to Ezekiel 37:1-14, reading between talking via GChat with Ian.

An older man with bad teeth appears over my shoulder, and with a thick British accent says, "Greek?"

I pull off my headphones and show him the cover, "No, it's Hebrew ... Torah."

He responds very quickly, as if waiting to quiz someone -- anyone -- with, "Ahh, how many Sabbath days in Passover!?"

I, taken aback at his random quizzing because it doesn't appear as a friendly exchange, but rather a challenge of "what do you know there little Hebrew girl?," respond with, "Well, the first two and last two days are treated as holidays." I, being Reform and in the Diaspora, know there are differences in the traditions. But this is the first thing I say, of course.

Wrong! He chides me, says "look it up! look it up!" and points me to Leviticus. There are TWO days, he says. And of course, in tradition, yes, there are. He then retrieves his Christian bible and reads the verses to me. I respond by mumbling the Hebrew translations and he continues to correct me when I say that the harvest was 'raised up' ... in the Christian bible it says it was waived about, I guess.

Then, almost as an insult he says, "You must be Reform, eh? Maybe someday you'll become Orthodox and really know your stuff!" He then talks about Easter and the crucifixion and blah blah blah. A barista approaches, mouthing "Are you okay?" The guy eventually shuts up and walks away.

It was like he was challenging me. Like he could see a sign above my head that says "Pick on me! I'm the Reform girl reading Torah in a tea shop! Please, quiz me!"

But it's bigger than that. He stood above me and I sat. I was below him. He reciting words from his Christian bible proving he knows better than I about the tradition. But I knew. Why didn't I just say "Listen man, this is the Diaspora, we do things differently. Not everything in the bible is word for word nowadays. It isn't the precision that matters, it's the passion." But I didn't. Why? I felt intimidated. Unprepared.


It's Good Friday. Beware one and all. These used to be the days when the Jews got nervous and skittish. Blood in matzo and all that. Mrph.

What a day. Chunks of meat in my ranch and getting lectured by the Christian on my own holiday. Slap! Slap! Slap!