Some years ago - never mind how long precisely - they began again... the appearances. The people had stories from three hundred years ago, but no one knew for sure. Legends from ten generations ago... But now they've begun again. My father must have had an inkling that something was going to change. What possessed him to kill that man I don't know... but then he had to escape, to leave his house and those who loved him. He came to us and Grandpa took him in. That's how he met my mother.
Grandpa Jethro knew about the old appearances; he knew of Abraham and his wife Keturah. He kept their traditions for us here in Midian. "El Shadai", he would say to me when I was a child, "El Shadai the Mountain Lord spoke directly to Abraham! He once even came down in the likeness of a man and he told Abraham about Zedeq, Righteousness, and about how S'dom and G'morah would be taken down because of their habits. Righteousness is the word, child. Since Abraham and our foremother Keturah bore our father Midian, we've tried to keep the tradition. At least this part of the clan has... Now you and your father will help me to keep those traditions here in Midian. Your father's tribe comes from Sarah you know, so they know too. Shema, little Gershom: El Shadai is Elah, El Shadai is Echad. Midian is a good country, my grandson. We are truly blessed here...".
That was then. But now there's the Bush. And my father's got it into him that he can do the impossible: to go against the people of Amon; to take his Hebrew clan out of Goshen! And where is he going to put them? Midian has no room for them. Mother is scared too. Now father is gone. If he gets killed, we'll know the Bush is not ElShadai, our Mountain Lord who took Abraham out of Ur, the same one who brought Midian to this promised land. It may turn out even worse: Pharaoh knows that Grandpa's clan gave my father refuge. Pharaoh will take us down too. I'm sure of it. Midian is my home...but because of my father, my home will perish...
Call us GERSHOM. We were there, at the foot of the mountain. The day it happened, we were there... When the Law came down.
And we've been there all throughout. After Ruth the Moabite, we've been Obed, David's grandfather. We were Absalom, David's son who tried to be King (no one held it against him that his mother wasn't of Israel). We were Rehoboam too, Solomon's son, although he sinned. Tradition says we are Ethiopian Jewry, that which came from Queen Sheba's visit to King Solomon. And we were there when Ezra kicked us out of Judah (even the righteous ones after Ruth didn't stand a chance). In principle, we were there too, when Esther married Ahasuerus the King of Persia, before she saved the Jews of that land. Were there no children from that union? Who would dare call Esther "mother of mamzers" ?
Not only were we there. We've paid the price for being who we are. To the Israelite, a mamzer or an alien. To the goy: a bastard or a foreigner. To the crusader, to the inquisitor, to the Queen of Spain who expelled us, to the Czar who sent us pogroms, to the abomination who made the Shoah: we were a Jew, and we died too.
It is high time that we should openly, in the face of the whole world, manifest our existence in our own terms.
And what is this? To uphold the Torah and something else. What is that "something else"? It is those revelations from our other half that are also in the spirit of the Sh'ma and of Righteousness. Not in vain is it written: The righteous of all the world have a share in the world-to-come.
And what else is this? To heal the rift among the nations. To work among the goyim that we know, so that we find common purpose with them in together upholding the Sh'ma and doing the works of Zedaka (Justice, Righteousness, Charity). And to enlighten those minds away from the vanity and futility of idolatry (of all kinds).
And what else is this? To be a bulwark against marginalization. For who better than us knows what it is like to be an alien in both lands? We have been a alien among the alien. We will watch against the heavy hand of future Ezras, and future Queens of Spain, and future Czars.
And what else is this? To be on watch like a sentinel for those who would dare bring future Shoahs.
And what else is this? To assert our identity with pride. In this tribe you are neither mamzer nor alien. This is NOT to sever our ties with our parents' nations. But it IS to know that we (and our children) are also part of something else that is unique...
... something that also is holy, a light to the nations. Remember that you literally embody that Judaism which is in the midst of the Nations. There is Jacob inside you. Shine it on !!
Lima, Peru, Feb 9th, 2006