Outside the Circle

Cindy Milstein

Neither Day Nor Night, Hope Nor Despair

Yesterday I looked up, out from under the bundle of winter-clothing layers that cuts one off from the world, raising my eyes from constantly surveying the ice-bound sidewalks to find sure footing, and paused to simply notice. Perhaps that inextricable time — neither day nor night — caught my subconscious. That time when light is refracted in the sharpest, subtlest, most intricately brilliant of palettes — indescribable and not able to be captured. One can only notice and savor. Is it pinks shape-shifting into purples, or purples as blues, or colors that defy naming? Such moments fly by in microseconds, ephemeral glimpses of a repaired world, of the feelings we might have in sublime communities we can barely conceive of and yet know we dream about.

At a gathering the day before yesterday among a dozen or so rad Jews about “deconstructing anti-Semitism,” after four hours of sharing, dialoguing, and arguing (in that good way, where we’re grappling with questions together), one person commented on how hopeless they feel. “But I’m a Jewish studies student,” they said, adding that they read histories over centuries that depict moments of people thinking they’re free to live their lives, and then suddenly being enslaved, expelled, or murdered; of people resisting collectively, and then being crushed.

Not that this is unique to Jews. But as rad Jews two days ago, we dwelled a bit on that time that is neither freedom nor unfreedom, neither hope nor despair, which is to say, the time that happens daily, but that we often fail to take notice of and indeed savor. The work of struggling toward a far better society weighs so heavily right now, we forget to look up, to see that subtle-brilliant time that points to another possible way of seeing. No wonder we feel like giving up.

Perhaps it’s little comfort, yet in a summation of sorts of the rad Jew convo, one person noted this quote, attributed to Rabbi Tarfon in Pirke Avot 2:21: “It is not your responsibility to finish the work of perfecting the world but you are not free to desist from it either.” Let us be that time suspended between day and night that carries on the fight for the most indescribably beautiful world.


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This entry was posted on February 27, 2019 by in Dispatches from Life, Dispatches from Rebellious Spaces.
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