The Crying Season

At first I thought there was a movie called The Crying Season, but I was clearly making a hybrid of two films: The Crying Game and The Championship Season.  Still, every now and again I mentally wander into fantasy-mode and imagine that the movie is being made!  The Andrea-character is sensitively portrayed by Angelina Jolie in an Oscar-worthy performance, and Tommy Lee Jones has graciously stepped in to play my husband Ronney after the untimely and sudden death of the originally contracted James Gandolfini.
Maybe it’s that age-thing again, but I find myself blinking back big fat tear drops at the slightest things, including the mention of foster care, restaurant closings and that my favorite 30-year-old sweater has irreparable holes in the sleeves.  The tears morph into equal-opportunity, unbiased waterworks.  Trying on a beautiful dress that won’t cover my hips can result in the same weepy response as news that a child-bride was sold to a forty-year-old man for two sheep and a blanket in Afghanistan.  None of it makes me proud, so don’t bother sending me letters of rebuke; it is what it is.
Although I’d never before tried to connect the dots, it seems that in the weeks leading up to the High Holy Days, a kind of ephemeral cloud descends upon me and automatically heightens my sensitivity to people and the surrounding world.  It’s bigger than the cosmos.
Last night at the supper table I erupted with a tale of someone’s display of insensitivity over Shabbos.  I couldn’t control myself, and the story hurt my husband, because the players involved are people we love who would never knowingly hurt either one of us.  But this morning I awakened shamefaced, because I only recently hurt the feelings of a dear friend by displaying the same insensitivity that had been shown to me!  The “inflictor” rarely feels the pain until he is inflicted in turn.  It took a taste of my own medicine to wake me.
I’m awake, and it seems to me that we hurt the ones closest to us and nitpick at trivialities when we feel impotent against gargantuan, more pressing issues.  For example, I can’t get a grip on what is really happening in Egypt; I do understand that Islamic terrorists are attacking Egyptian army troops in the Sinai, and Israelis are questioning whether or not Eilat is such a great vacation destination this week.  But because this issue feels so beyond my control, I cry because my favorite vegetable vendor in the souk has retired.  I know that Syria is both imploding and exploding and, consequently, tax breaks and home buying incentives for the north of Israel are becoming more generous each day.  This is why I run out for superior tweezers to gain control of unruly facial-hair growth; to control that which I can control.
My friend Marna is the mother of an only child, a son who made aliyah with his new bride last week.  They came with the blessings of their parents, but even that doesn’t make saying goodbye a walk in the park.  I struggled to say something both comforting and meaningful when I was feeling untethered and frightened.  I turned off the radio, brewed a cup of Arab coffee and offered the following:
“July 4 marked 18 years since I made aliyah, and I would be lying to you if I said that my departure was carefree.  It was the worst day of my mother’s life; her heartache will haunt me forever.  All the rationale, self-righteousness and ‘correctness’ of my decision did little to stem the agony of the day; to her credit, she held her dignity and never ‘revisited’ that day with us.  She has borne her sadness with elegance, keeping her pain out of my ear/eye-shot.  This isn’t to say that she hasn’t shared her sadness with others, but Mom has earned that small measure of comfort.
On a personal note, the worst day of my life was the day that my daughter left for South Africa with her babies.  I behaved badly and have never again gone to the airport to say goodbye to children who are going to live overseas.  Even those who promise to return.  As I said to God that day, ‘The defense rests, Your Honor.”
Your son has shown remarkable steel and seems uncharacteristically well adjusted.  He has done what the Torah commands us by ‘cleaving’ to [his] wife and ‘leaving the home of [his] father.’  His values appear unshakable.  I pray that on a crummy day you can find comfort in the always impressive fact that he did the ‘right thing,’ not ‘despite’ his relationship with his parents but ‘because’ of that relationship.
Eytan and Hava are a stupendous couple, embarking on an unparalleled adventure.  Just think; if you hadn’t lived a life rife with principles, he would most likely be another cookie-cutter kid.  Instead, you made a statement with your life almost 30 years ago and haven’t wavered from those core values.  Eytan serves as a monument to your purity of purpose and idealism.  Damn it, girl; be PROUD!
And cry when you must, unashamed and without apologies.  I would advise you to live your life as though you expect something good to happen!  Don’t say “I shouldn’t be crying.”  Feelings are accurate even when inconvenient.  But the facts are there for whenever you need them.  Just reach.”
I cringed a little while writing that letter, because the picture I painted was a little rosier than what was happening in my heart.  And in fact, my personal “crying season” shows no signs of abating!  Yesterday afternoon haredi citizens of Meah Shearim assaulted a young haredi man in his IDF uniform.  Jewish police who intervened in this Jewish neighborhood in this Jewish country were pelted with stones.  At the Western Wall this same week, hordes of traditional Jews – men and women – assailed the Women of the Wall egalitarian prayer group with eggs, garbage, spitting and profanities.  I only have two hands with a mere ten fingers for pointing out blame.  Is anyone blameless?  Formerly silent, I will finally confess that I am no fan of the Women of the Wall, despite the several members who are personal friends and role models in many arenas.  But assaults?  Attacks?  Sinas chinam – unbridled hatred???  Sit back and relax, skinheads and Hamas.  We’ll do the job for you and tell you when it’s over, so you can merrily divide the spoils.
Weep!  Weep, my brother and my sister Jew!  Weep with us, for us and because of us.  Weep, despite the miracle that, with the help of God we reestablished a glorious land when the rest of the world had relegated us to the microfilm archives department.  History’s dustbin may contain the crumpled pages that were once called Minoans, Mayans and Mesopotamia, but WE. ARE. HERE.
The days are growing shorter, and too soon we will again stand before the true Judge as he weighs our accountability.  If only it could be that a season of crying might result in mercy from on High and the understanding that it is not enough to cry for ourselves; we must cry for one another.

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