This is a guest post by Alexander Tolchinsky, a biker, teacher, and writer with a wandering soul, and the third in a series of articles on and off the road.
But saddle sore, face burnt, in the depths of solitude and societal dissociation – I went and faced my sins in the warmth and throb of the greater Jewish Community. It doesn’t matter in which synagogue I sat, nor with whom I went or who was there, only that I was taken into the fold, with no questions about my beliefs or where I have been or the last time I was in shul or ate a good side of bacon with my eggs. I was allowed to sit and stand, to sing and to not, to pray or to listen, to cry or to stare.
It came on too fast and too strong. From solitude to the throng of Jewish life, past and present, with all the suffering perpetrated against us and that of which we in turn were guilty, was like emerging from the ocean depths and the lungs fighting to contain the pressure and the rush of air. Perhaps this was not the best day to be reintroduced into our society. But I am not known for taking the easy road, or for keeping pain at a distance.
I have contemplated heretofore the need of a Jew to wander and the natural struggle between it and the desire for community and stability and safety. If there was any event that confused the matter, or rather presented evidence contrary to what I need to contentedly continue my wanderings, it was this coming together and holding communion with Jews from across the span of time.
One cannot help but to feel that stark connection between themselves and those who came before – particularly if you are a pure blooded Jew. This is not a judgment of those who make the choice to be Jewish or who have but one or two immediate ancestors who are/were Jewish. I only say so to emphasize how much harder it is to escape what is genetically your whole. A close-knit race such as our own passes on through the generations much more than a propensity for nice hair, high levels of testosterone and wit, humor and musical ability. Along with the good there comes the gift of innate empathy with those who have suffered over the centuries. The world was evenhanded in its distribution of pain, so that no matter your wealth or education or geographical center, if you are Jewish, you and your family has shared in the dose reserved for our people. And as no one was immune so did this suffering become part of our shared consciousness.
As I sat and read and listened to the words of atonement and admittance, I was at once in the hollows of the rows of wooden bunks, in the darkened huts, the rooms behind false walls, the communal apartments, the open air of the Mediterranean, the canals of Venice, in the desert, and on the bloodied stones and grasses of Our land.
And yet I dared to sin.
And yet I shall continue my wander in search of… I guess I will know when I find it. But it will be that much harder now, having tasted again the comfort of being amongst our tribe and the pull of love and warmth in the bosom of the wife I seek and fear I may one day find.