"Mevhorim (Choices)" By Amanda Clewis

"It is much easier to be critical than to be correct." -Disraeli
Rosh Hashanah, the holiday, was closing in upon the small, Jewish community. The young lad, sitting on the cold, stone wall, swinging his feet freely like two wild pendulums, is reluctant to go home. He knows he'll be scolded if he's late; it is the new year, for the Jews, at least, he was supposed to be happy and celebrant. He couldn't find it in himself to be happy though.
Tomorrow, he'd be turning thirteen, and that meant the dreaded Bar Mitzvah was around the corner. Physically, it pained him to have to speak in front of audiences. This pain didn't bother him, he had a remarkable tolerance to pain .The problem was the Hebrew; he had never really learned it. It wasn't as if he didn't have the chance with all the lonely years they had shoved it down his throat at Hebrew school, at night, and at The Synagogue, and on The Sabbaths, and The High Holidays. To please them, he was only pretending to know Hebrew. Hebrew hadn't attracted his attention much, and it wasn't like the institutes that were supposed to be teaching him this archaic language did not offer numerous chances to cheat, printing the English equalivent along side the Hebrew on all documents (They were none the wiser, and it wasn't hurting anyone). It was twenty-first century, America, why should they, The Jews, have to learn Hebrew anyway? It wasn't as if he didn't admit Hebrew had value, it has a very good quality for the art world, the letters were formed with such grace, and old world elegance, that is sometimes missing from modern art, but other then that, he saw no use to learn the language, which the Jewish community only used for religious services, and maybe the jokes told by the elders as they sat on their porches and remembered the Old Country. He might understand, if they lived in 1200 A.D. Jerusalem, (he knew that wasn't the exact year in the Jewish calendar, but in his regular school, and normal life, he was more used to the Gentile system, and had never really cared much to convert the years, otherwise.) But this was far from it, far from Israel itself, this was Minnesota, far from many places on Earth- a tiny landlocked island in the middle of the United States, no one really cared much for anyway. He was most definitely not one of those people who felt that after thousands of years something shouldn't be refined, there was no point in consistently repeating something, that seemed to have, in the words of his best friend, Li,(who had just recently moved here from California, where remarkably he had taken some of the same stances that Isaac took on issues,) at the his regular school, "more bad karma associated with it than good."
He didn't know why he was fretting over this, he didn't really consider himself Jewish, though, he is considered Jewish by many, for the simple fact is his parents, siblings, and rest of his family were of the religion. The religion didn't fit him; he was uncomfortable in temple, uncomfortable at Hebrew school, uncomfortable during the religious ceremonies, and uncomfortable at home.
A soft breeze begins to pick up, and he checks the small watch on his wrist, given to him by his Uncle George. He sighs; he knows he will be yelled at for being out so late, especially on a holiday. He likes it out here though; the wall has become one of his favourite spots to collect his thoughts. It was calming here, unlike the chaotic conditions he often found at home. He sighs, and his chocolate eyes scan the horizon in front of him, he wipes a few loose strands away from his face. He wishes he had his sketchpad, but he had lost it the other day amidst what Li called "Le Tas de Choses," that took up most of the space in his room.
Supposedly, Jews do not question things; the world is basically the same year after year. It was the same when Moses and the Israelites crossed the Red Sea. The people are the same. The values are the same. The land is generally the same. The ceremonies are the same. The Talmud is the same. The rabbi's job is the same. Industry is the same. Transportation (though having been 'upgraded' by the Gentiles,) is the same. Everything any Jew possessed, -or- believed was, and will always be, the same. Isaac did not believe any of this rubbish, the world was constantly changing and one had to continue to question the legitimize of something.
He believed everything should be questioned, and, when not being interrupted, he questioned everyone about everything. If more people questioned the world, and God, many harmful things would have been prevented (like Nazi solders their helmets blazing, like little grey fires, trampling down the German synagogues, carting the Jews away to concentration camps, which lead to the Anglicization of his uncle's and mother's first names, and the corruption of the family's last names). Everyone should be so wise. His mother, when he told people that, would remind him the story of Job, and before he could respond to that, she would turn sharply, her lab coat ballooning around her, as to say," I will always get the last word," and head to her room for more 'research.' He had a great answer to that, he had been thinking about it for years now. Job, though faced with horrible tragedy, never questioned the right source, he let his friends tell him their beliefs, and he did not challenge them correctly. If he had taken up Lawyerly tactics, and questioned his friends more thoroughly, and himself, he would have found the correct answer. Not that he was entirely sure about it, it just seemed the most logical explanation, for the situation, he was waiting for the perfect time when he could "test the waters" with this theory. Though he may try it on Uncle George one day, who would probably agree with him, as Isaac and his uncle were very similar in thought.
The boy frowns, and begins humming a tune that he doesn't know the words, his feet take the rhythm of the song. He believes in questioning everything, but is always surprised that his curiosity brings him frowns and responses that he does not like, he still hears some echoing in his ears.
"Isaac, do not question why the Seder is performed in exactly the same way each year!""Isaac, do not question why Esau was so desperate he sold his birthright for stew!" "Isaac, you are a Jew, Jews do not question, they leave it up to God, and The Talmud!" He wanted them to open their eyes, swollen by many generations of ignorance, to the fact the world was a giant yarn ball of Mystery, waiting to be unraveled.
So how could he go home to a cascade of relatives, who pretend everything was okay, and share with them that misguided illusion, and that he had no problem being questioned over his convictions, which were leaning towards un-kosher by some of his more orthodox relatives, forcing him to eat in silence, and not say anything 'inappropriate.' His relatives were very uninteresting, and confusing, they 'claimed' every thing was the same, throughout most of the year, but they would say today. "It is a new beginning. A new beginning for a new year, and a new beginning for a fresh start. It is a clean slate." How could it be a clean slate, when they still hold everything in the same place, they do everything the same. They were like little drones. A new beginning, just meant Dad would find a new woman to have an affair with, while pretending to be dedicated to his family, Mom being away more due to some new cardiac patients keeping her at the hospital, acting as if she didn't know her marriage was on the brink of crumbling, and Grandmother joining some new synagogue committee.
They wanted him to believe strongly in his family. Family ways are important they claim, and he needed to be home to help them celebrate their 'holiday.' Yet, Uncle George was shunned. He was 'un-Kosher', in some of his ways. Isaac really liked Uncle George though. He was proud of him. He had cleaned his life up considerably from what it had been only two years ago, he had a great job, he was a computer genius, he had a cute cat, and he was not afraid to question things that seemed out of place to him, though he did slip into his criminal behaviour sometimes, (not really hurting anyone as it was all 'virtual') and did have a tendency to overwork himself, which Isaac did not find that wrong, since it always worked for the best. There was only one thing that Isaac didn't agree with Uncle George on, but he tried not to think about it much, it wasn't that much big of a deal to him, it was almost like a character flaw. (He did see how it was wrong, and really didn't see how it fit Uncle George, he had thought his uncle more adapt at making more moral choices..) He would never shun Uncle George. He would never shun anyone for that matter, just because they believe in some things, that to him seemed Un-Kosher. It was just a little thing, that couldn't be changed much, yet, it was the one of the main reasons why he had been shunned. It made Uncle George unique though, in a way, how all character flaws make their owners unique. Though, if someone had pointed out perhaps, he was being distant from his family because of some of their character flaws, he would stare into space, pretending he had not heard the comment.
He brushes back his dark coffee hair out of his eyes with a sigh, and wonders if he should start heading home. His feet stop swinging, as the tune escapes his mind. He stares off in to the horizon ahead. He wonders out loud, gazing at the soft pinkish orange clouds that have began to form. He yawns, it had been a long day, but he knew according to the Jewish calendar the day was really just beginning. "Maybe they actually let Uncle George come up from Atlanta for the celebration, -or- maybe I can just sit here doing nothing. They probably won't even notice."
A pale, bitter fire began shading his starched white shirt into a deep, iridescent orange, causing his body to shift and gaze as the bright flames from the sun sinking. Angelic voices like a rolling smoke began to drift to him from the hazy citrusy building behind him, causing him to slid off the wall,abandoning all previous thoughts. He walks quietly through autumn leaves fallen on the ground to an ornate gate, that felt like it had just been taken off the anvil, he reached to open it, which titillated him.He began to walk towards the marmalade door, pausing wondering if the angelic voices should lead him any farther.

"The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind, the answer is blowing in the wind." -Bob Dylan