I recently wrote a major new draft of my full-length play. The main character, a young woman named Eddie, is Jewish but did not grow up with any sort of formal Jewish background or education (sound familiar?). In the last draft, she shares “rabbi stories” that she has written. I don’t think the stories are going to stay in the play, but I do rather like them:
I have this crazy story, from last semester. I wrote it for my creative writing class, and no one liked it. It was basically about a girl starving in the middle of a corn field, because the corn isn’t ripe yet. I didn’t explain how she got there, or who she was, or anything. Just, en medias res—corn field. And in the middle of writing the story, I remembered something from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. I remembered how Joseph had a dream that he was a stalk of corn, and his brothers were all corn, and they bowed down to him. So I put that in the story, sort of. The girl was so hungry that she started hallucinating that all the corn in the field was bowing down to her.
So far, so good. But then—I imagined this young guy with a big black beard singing in the corn field, a few feet away. I don’t know why he popped into my story, but there he was—singing. He’s singing a song that I must have heard at Grandma’s, years ago, but I don’t know the words, so I can’t put them into the story.
And that’s where it ends. I don’t even say in the story whether or not the singing guy is a rabbi—only that he’s young, with a big black beard. She hears his voice, but they don’t meet. Isn’t that just crazy?
It got a B.
I have another story with a rabbi in it. It’s the last one I wrote, right before I left. It was about me. It was in the first person. In the story, I am sitting on the floor in our living room. I am saying over and over, like a chant, I forgive you, I forgive you, I forgive you. But the words blur like in a dream, and now I am saying forgive me, forgive me, forgive me. My lips keep moving, but now I am making no sound. The walls crumble as I stand up. I walk outside and everything is still, except that I can’t control my hands any longer, and they are pulling out my hair, strand by strand.
An older man walks by, on the other side of the street, and I watch him. He is the only person outside besides me. He sees me pulling out my hair, strand by strand, and crosses the street. He takes my face in his hands, and kisses me on the lips. All my hairs fly up in the air and plant themselves back in my head. He pulls out one hair, though, and eats it. He smiles a huge smile, and walks away. And that’s the end of the story.
Did you read the first rabbi story I wrote, when you were snooping for my parents?
I don’t know… I don’t remember….
Oh, okay. Well let me tell you, it takes place in a kind of library. The library is empty except for two people: a young man, and a young woman. The young woman is naked, but she’s trying to cover herself with these huge books, and the man is saying, no, no, it’s okay, there’s no such thing as naked here. He says, here the books are folded into books which are folded into books, and folded in the middle of all these stories and pages are our hearts. So you don’t have to worry, he says, here, you are protected.
But the girl doesn’t believe him, and so she opens a book. And inside the book is another book, and inside that book is another book… and she’s getting a little upset, actually. Because now she believes him, but still, she can’t find the real inside. It’s too well-protected. And so she throws the book at the young man, and covers herself with her hands, and leaves.
To be honest, I don’t really understand how the male characters in these stories are rabbis, exactly—but what do I know? I’ll take Eddie’s word for it.