Rivka Herzfeld

Where I Cannot Be

You don’t even know how I wish I could be there.

Surrounded by family.

It could be like being in Jerusalem… Except not.

A central hub of power… but of a different sort.

“So go,” one could say. And I would. I would take a day off.

I never do that.

Not even for an emergency surgery… I stayed up through the night to get the work done. Because that’s who I am. The dedicated employee.

I would take a day off.

But there is no point.

The bus leaving is not accessible.

The van leaving from work is not accessible.

It was all last minute. I understand. Intellectually, I understand that.

But it hurts to not be there.

It hurts to not be included in the count.

It hurts to miss out on a momentous occasion such as this.

I had a teacher in the sixth grade. She said to us one day: “Everyone, repeat after me: 6,0,3,5,5,0 and we are repeated after her. If I ask you that at any random time, ‘How many men are there in the dor ha’midbar (the generation that experienced the Exodus), I need you to know that that is the amount of men who could battle for the nation of Israel.'”

That was obviously not including the women and children.

It was obviously not including the elderly men.

And I always thought to myself, “Wow, that’s a lot of people.”

It must have been really crowded.

I can’t even fathom what that must’ve been like.

Nor will I get to… Because I cannot be at the National Mall on Tuesday, November 14, 2023.

Don’t get me wrong, I would love to be there.

So why can’t I be?

The van from work is leaving at 7 a.m., and it is not accessible.

The bus from my synagogue is leaving also around 7 a.m., and it is also not accessible.

And I need my scooter.

And so I am like the women and the children and the old people of the days of yore, and I don’t necessarily count.

No, I definitely don’t count.

Because I cannot be there.

Shirley Chisholm was the first black woman to be elected to the United States Congress. Chisholm once said “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.”

I have my own chair… I could be at the table…I just don’t have the wheels to get me there, to aforementioned “table.”

But that’s okay.

Because the people who are in Israel, fighting on the front lines… They are not in Washington, DC.

My friends, who are in Israel caring for their children, being moms, they’re also not in Washington, DC.

And my friends, who are doctors, and lawyers, and teachers are also not necessarily going to be there.

Maybe, then, I will be able to take solace in the fact that my heart is in the East, my body is in the West, and my actual body is in New Jersey, and nowhere near the West Wing, but always with my brothers and sisters… With my family.

About the Author
Rivka Herzfeld earned an M.A. in Tanach from Yeshiva University’s Bernard Revel Graduate School of Judaic Studies. She enjoys teaching Tanach to all ages and backgrounds. Rivka is also a respected disability awareness educator. She is personable, easygoing, has a terrific sense of humor, and loves sharing puns. She is passionate about politics, human rights, and “liberty and justice for all.” Rivka is determined to make her voice count.
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