Nu, leave me alone!

So there I was, at a party the day before Rosh Hashanah, and it was late you know, and we had been drinking whisky and wine and smoking some stuff, and I had found a hammock to lie upon to spin out my thoughts, swaying gently. The night was cool and gentle.

And that’s when he came upon me, this tall guy from the east coast with whom I was acquainted, a frequent visitor to Israel. He came standing there and proceeded to speak to me his mind. He had so many concerns and discussion topics! About Trump this and that, about Nikki something the new ambassadress to the UN, about the state of the US postal system, and anti-antisemitism on college campuses, and then a few other things besides.

And swaying gently in a hammock, well, one can’t easily just get up and politely find another quiet spot — he had me cornered. It was late, not a lot of other people around to pass around the conversation, as it were, and so there I was.

Dude! I thought to myself as I nodded along, can’t you see that you have interrupted my midnight dreamy contemplation, and no, I don’t really care about how inspiriting Ms. Nikky something’s speech at AIPAC was, and hey, you do know that I can tell from your agenda that you are a disgruntled Trump voter who has realized how chaotic and fucked-up things are in the White House and that, if I really tried, by your range of opinions and topics I might be able to accurately guess from which of the various news websites you are acquiring your questionable facts and opinions from, and that in turn would tell me a lot about you, right?

But by then I had forgotten what I had originally been thinking about before being interrupted by this talking, tall man, so I got polite and I started talking too. He drew me out of my THC and tannin induced shell, and I was able to endeavor some semblance of an intelligent discussion, based largely on my own limited skimming of internet headlines, which I generally do in between avidly waiting for the next update on We came to some general agreement that hopefully things will turn out for the best. OK.

The next day was Rosh Hashannah, and by the way, it was kind of crazy, but with all the family and friends coming through, suddenly in our house we had maybe 10 bottles of wine, four or five chocolate cakes, and a huge pile of pomegranates. Real yesh mi ayn kind of stuff. So we should all know unexpected abundance this year.

And man! Two days of Rosh Hashannah, plus Shabbat this time around, well that’s three days of family time, being in the synagogue too if that’s your thing, plus eating and socializing, and all of that means quite a lot of people talking. To me. Telling me things that I should really be paying attention to.

At meals I don’t really mind, but sometimes at the synagogue it is just too much. I am there to pray, if I am there at all these days, not to mumble through Aleinu yet again while fending off questions about the progress of my thesis (hint: I am late) or being forced to engage in quick discussions regarding the various minutiae of life. Nu, leave me alone!

These guys in our community in Gilo, well they are great and amazing, and most of them grew up doing this Orthodox Judaism stuff so they really have it down backwards and forwards. Quite unlike myself, who grew up in and out of ashrams and had to learn the Aleph-Bet from scratch as an adult. Maybe that’s why they can talk so well! They know the prayers like the back of their hands, they always know where they are, as it were, so if they get to talking, as some of them like to, well they can just jump right back in, no problems. Been there, done that.

Of course, I thought to myself at some point during the Rosh Hashanah services, most of these guys are pretty devout, they don’t really talk so much actually, maybe I should be more like them, instead of hanging around on the sidelines being annoyed with people talking to me. What do I expect, the sidelines in shul is where the talkers go right? But how can I be like the devout ones, when I am soooo not shomer mitzvot anymore, for years now, and how did that happen and what should I do about it really?

Quickly those kind of thoughts sent me off into a spiral of deep self-recrimination, as one does on Rosh Hashanah. The random talkers faded away as suddenly my past spun out before me, a wildly branching set of what-could-have-beens. So clearly were revealed to me all my strange mistakes and errors, and how better my life would be now if only I had done this or that or the other thing! So many failures and problems. Shit! You idiot!

Oh what’s that you say? Oh yes, well my thesis, yes I am still working away on that, and hmm, I thought, engaging in discussions does sometimes distract one from negative mental loops, so maybe it’s not so bad really, and hey! Maybe that’s why people talk too much, to get things out of their head instead of having their shit just rattle around inside. Maybe I should try talking too much sometimes also!

And that is of course the moment when everyone became quiet, so, so quiet, and we pressed together in a hot, squished huddle to get as close as possible. Even the myriad children underfoot grew silent as the shofar blew, that thin, wailing and oh so strong sound. It’s like a slap in the face, a blast of primordial, neolithic white-noise hand-carried into the present by the chain of tradition. So good, so needed, and for a moment, all was calm and still inside.

So this year, when people start talking too much with me, as they tend to do, I will counter them by either talking too much in return, or, perhaps, if I am really brave, I will just carry a shofar around and let loose a blast or two when I think the conversation should be over.

That’ll probably work. Shana Tovah!

About the Author
Gavriel Fiske is from California but in Israel for 15+ years. A former journalist and TOI staff member. Drummer, writer, teacher, student, academic, husband, father, friend, dilettante.