Last night I dreamed of my Dad, who passed away last February.
We were in the synagogue in my hometown. There was no rabbi for the synagogue so my dad volunteered to be the rabbi. It was Saturday morning and he was wearing a tallit and embracing the Torah while carrying it in a processional before the weekly Torah reading. It’s traditional to sing songs when carrying the Torah and he was, but not the typical Torah songs. He was singing out-of-tune to the Torah “Good morning to you, Good morning to you, Good morning dear Torah , Good morning… to you.” (to the tune of Happy Birthday). By the time he got back to the bimah others were singing with him, all in their own tune. Back at the bimah, after undressing the Torah he went to read from it and realized that he couldn’t read from the Torah, much less chant. He quickly shifted tactics and pulled out a script from a play and he and another person begang singing and acting. The play loosely related to the Torah portion and was from a production at the Richmond Triangle Players, an LGBT-friendly theater group in Richmond of which my friend Phil is the executive director.
I woke up. What was dad trying to tell me? Why was I getting these messages now?
I believe that Dad was giving me some pointers on how to get me and my family through the current situation in our country and how to act going forward.
- Embrace Torah and the values taught therein. Seek out those values; live them with every inhaling breath and teach them by example with every exhaling breath. We are known as the “chosen people” not to put us on a pedestal but because we were chosen to have the obligation of living and teaching a good set of values to others.
- Sing your own song. Conforming with the majority is not right. Find your own lyrics and your own tune and sing it out loud. If you do so, others will sing with you. Listen to the songs of others and sing with them as you are so moved.
- It’s OK to not understand what’s going on around you. Life often puts us in uncomfortable situations. When it does, you have a choice. Do you run way, tolerate the situation, or pivot and figure out how to make bad things change for the better? This is a deliberate choice that means actually thinking about what’s going on around you and not simply acting on emotion.
- Protect those around you who may be targets for hate. Phil has had people from his community asking him if the election results change the mission of RTP. His answer was that it made their mission, (to deliver adventurous and entertaining theater as the leading voice in the community’s explorations of equality, identity, affection and family, across sexual orientation and gender spectrums) more important than ever. It is our obligation to not tolerate those who are not ‘like’ us. Tolerance is simply recognizing that ‘they’ are not like ‘us and doesn’t go far enough. We must embrace everyone because ‘they’ are ‘us’ and not ‘them.’ It’s our obligation to embrace and protect those who at most in danger’s path, be it the Muslim, LGBT, African American, Jewish, disabled, and yes even angry old white men.
My father was a wise and gentle man, with a subtle sense of humor and a terrible singing voice. While I miss him greatly I am grateful that he occasionally speaks to me.