Monday, August 8, 2016

Not Being "Other"

I was just reading Facebook posts about people putting in for leave from their jobs for the upcoming chagim - this year practically all of October is holiday as we all know, which probably requires the most possible vacation days one would need to request for the chagim.

I vividly recall putting in for vacation around holiday time - "Well, I'll need three Thursdays and Fridays....." or, in more difficult years, "I'll need three Mondays and Tuesdays and one Wednesday.....all within 3-4 weeks...."  And after time off for Pesach, etc., practically nothing was left.

And then, when those holidays were over, how relieved I was!  The absences were done with, I could get back to my regular work schedule.  No more weird questions - what holiday is THIS one?  You do WHAT?

My life of course revolved around some other society's calendar, schedules and holidays.  I was always happy for everyone as they looked forward to their respective holidays, and always had a blank stare on my face after Yom Kippur when they asked, "So, how was your holiday??"

Since I was a teenager, I had a sense of being "other."  In someone else's universe, where we danced to someone else's songs and spoke someone else's language.  No one really understood Jewish Orthodoxy - I mean I explained things and they listened politely but I always felt very much outside of their world.  My focus was on Torah, on keeping mitzvos, and I grew up learning about our people being persecuted time after time after time, with no end.  I just could not explain this state of mind, this frame of reference, and so I didn't. They would not have understood anyway, not really.

Then we moved to Israel.  I'm not going to go into the blah blah about how this is our country, our holidays, you have heard all of that from me. But everyone here has pretty much the same frame of reference - coming out of and still enduring persecution for being Jews, our life revolving around the holidays, our streets named for Jewish heroes, Biblical and otherwise. This is mine.  This is me, it is who I am, and who my people are. Every person around me totally gets it.

The longer I am here, the greater my sense of belonging.  It is so deep, so visceral, that I don't think I have the words to define it.

But for those of you shuddering thinking of how many vacation days you're losing during the holidays, maybe just take a second to think about belonging, and what that means.