My story starts in Memphis Tennesssee. Memphis, the very buckle of the Bible Belt.
But wait, we must pronounce it correctly and in keeping with its original rendering – the baaable belt. Said in proper southern, “Bible” comes out conveniently as 'babble belt'. Babble as in "speaking incoherently"...or Babel...Like the tower of...like the weeping by the rivers of...
The Tower of Babel, the archetypal symbol of all things mixed up, confused, incommunicable. The Hebrew word for confusion, after all, is bilbul. Bilbul – meaning mixed, stirred up. And this is the land where we have been mixed up and mixed in. America - the archetypal mixing bowl, the melting pot into which all are welcome and well-stirred-in.
And indeed the Bible I learned in my buckle belting childhood was more babble than bible. Was more torn-up than Torah. Was more Christmas than Hannukah. More heysus than the yud-heh and vav-heh of my current Yerushalayim haven.
And you know, as 'Jewish' as I get, no matter how many scarves I wrap around my head, no matter how long my hem...when I stub my toe, I still let out an irrepressible howl of “Jeeezus H.Christ!” Like an inbuilt and immediate reflex - to call out to what is after all a foreign god…an authentic Americano evocation of the god of stubbed toes and other small inconveniences.
And perhaps that shouldn't be a problem, a little unconscious slip of the tongue…but, I am a big believer in making the unconscious conscious. So a subtle under-the-breathe call out to a foreign god is no small incident for me. It is a moment of ultimate bilbul, of confusion, an unconscious mixing and stirring….a twisting of tongue from mother tongue to other tongue, where mother tongue is suddenly foreign tongue…where self once united is untied, undone.
(To be continued....)