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Hear O Israel

Hear O Israel

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I let out a deep sigh and feel the warm current of water running through my fingers as I sort through three days’ worth of dirty dishes. A bird-food dish here, a plastic lunch container there, all of it threatening to topple out of the sink and onto the floor. It’s not a pleasant sight—or smell!—my kitchen sink, at the end of several days of work obligations. My mind is spinning with lesson plans and meeting agendas, and I don’t know how my students will pass the state tests when they can’t even read on grade level. What to do? Some days, I haven’t a clue. Things seem, at times, to be out of my control.

The rest of my home reflects the same chaotic confusion. Books and papers scattered here and there. A basket of unfolded laundry sitting on the dining-room table. My uncharged cell phone flashing red at me, as if to say, “Feed me! Feed me!” And where is the charger, anyway? Why can’t I keep track of simple things like the phone charger? Who’s in charge here anyway?

I plop down in my green reclining chair and mindlessly channel-surf. They are selling comforters on the Home Shopping Network, and I think, “I’d like to curl up in my bed right about now.” I flip channels and find a reality TV show that looks nothing like the reality of my life, and I shake my head. The weatherman says we are expecting rain, and I think, “That would be a welcome relief from the heat, and besides, then I can take ‘water the plants’ off my to-do list.” Another sigh, and I close my eyes. I need a day—or two—or three—off from life.

Then I hear something. Not outside of me. From deep within. I hear something, something familiar, something I haven’t heard in a long time. I sit up and listen, and I want to answer back, but something keeps me silent. Still listening.

I hear something, something familiar, something I haven’t heard in a long timeI walk into the kitchen and look around. I see the kiddush cup I bought two years ago, the last time I was going to “be Jewish” again. Right next to it is the prayer for after meals that I bought at the same time. Things were going to be different this time. I was sure of it. But they weren’t.

There it was again, that call within my heart, pleading with me to answer.

I remember how I had been surprised to meet a young Orthodox Jewish woman through, of all people, someone who was interviewing me for a job. I think back to that first Shabbat at her house, her children chasing each other as she greeted her guests. It has been years—years—since I’d been to someone’s home for Shabbat. I could hardly contain the emotion welling up inside of me. Her husband, a local rabbi, had helped me remember some of the morning blessings, things like that, and I started going to their home for Shabbat lunch, saying the blessings in the morning out on the patio, and looking through my refrigerator to see what was kosher and what wasn’t. I remembered how I’d kept kosher for years, some time back, and that it had not been so hard. Maybe I could do it again?

Then my new friend moved . . . and I didn’t feel comfortable with the other people at synagogue . . . and that was, as they say, that. Life went back to “normal.”

But now, something, Someone, was calling me. I think that was what was happening, anyway.

So right there, at the threshold, I found myself declaring what, for me, had brought me to Judaism so many years before: Hear O Israel, the L‑rd our G‑d, the Lord is One! But I was the one who had to hear the call.

Sarah Dinah Hirsch is a Dual Language teacher and sometime writer living in Texas.
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