Sharon Wishnow: An Article of Lost Faith : August 2019


Southern Legitimacy Statement: Last year when Fairfax High school had a legitimate threat from a potential school shooter, the idea for this story began. When our local Jewish Community Center was horrifically vandalized, my thoughts turned to how faith and politics were represented in my Southern community.

An Article of Lost Faith

The shul is quiet and I listen. Every day I listen for God. I come on Thursdays and sit. The Torahs rest behind a curtain waiting for the Sabbath show. I won’t come on Friday for evening worship and never on Saturday for the davening devotional, men wrapped in tallit with tiny tassel fringes that swing like a dancer’s nipple cover.

I enter looking for God. I leave my faith at the door like muddy shoes. I exit with no more than what I arrived with. When I am buried, I will leave with what I arrived with, the same nothing.

Fifteen years ago, I declared, “God is a verb.” I held a tiny miracle of a daughter with a fuzz of downy brown hair, and fingers so small I couldn’t believe how they were covered in perfect, miniature nails. I held pure love and that was God.

I’ve been invited to join the monthly grief counseling sessions. I will not listen to moaners lamenting dead parents who lived long lives and passed from drawn- out illness or sudden cardiac arrest.

I’m not interested in one-on-one counseling with the rabbi. He’s never had children. Sand still clings to his shoes from his year of study in Israel. The aura of the Holy Land is a familiar sermon-travelogue.

I want to sit here on Thursdays. I won’t disturb the lunch and learn seminars, board meetings, religious school, or weekly good works. I want to sit here, especially if no one knows.

Perhaps God will notice me alone with the holy scrolls. I wave my hand like an enthusiastic student, the way my daughter must have waved her hand the morning of the shooting.

Time has healed nothing. My thirty days of mourning have stretched sixty, ninety, now two-hundred. I don’t believe 365 is the end either. The wound of a broken heart when your lover leaves fades when it is replaced. When distance allows you to see your life was not full of rose petals and sexy foreign films. The loss of a beloved pet becomes sweet sorrow when a new puppy scampers across the kitchen floor.

God was love, but not the love I received, but the love I gave. The pure emotion of the miracle. It had movement and poetry and purpose. But with love gone, God is a passive verb. An action acted upon a subject. A bullet acted upon my child.

Should I turn my grief into a cause for the community? The community that shrugged its shoulders at the latest school shooting in the news cycle. The vile politician who suggested had the parents provided bullet-proof back packs the students would have survived. I hadn’t prepped her for bullets that morning. I had tucked an extra granola bar into her dance bag so she wouldn’t be hungry after school. He had the gall to show up at her service. Someone handed him a black polyester kippah that he wore too forward on his head. You can always spot the gentile men. They look ill at ease like the kippah will open a whole in their skulls revealing their brains.

The community outpouring at the memorial service was standing- room only. Our High Holiday services should see such attendance. Such crying and speeches. A crucible of faiths praying to one common all-mighty verb.

It’s fake love like a prostitute selling her body. My child’s face wrapped around telephone poles above altars of plush toys and flowers.

Sit, verb; listen, verb; love, an article of lost faith.