It was seven-thirty in the morning and Dushan was in his bedroom, trying to read his father’s Jewish prayer book before he went to the office but, he couldn’t concentrate. He was thinking about the conversation he had yesterday with Chioma. They were at her flat and had just finished having lunch. When they were in the living-room, he said, “I’ve been thinking a lot about what Evelyn said.”
Ever since he had run into her, he had thought a lot about what she had said about hiding one’s true identity. He hadn’t done it because he was ashamed of being a Jew but, because of his parents. Well, they were no longer alive, so it was high time for him to be like Esther and reveal who he was. He was a Jew and his parents were Jews who loved their religion but were forced to hide it because of intolerance.
Chioma had covered his hand as it lay on the sofa between them with hers. “You mean about hiding who you really are?”
“Yes. When she told me about her adopted daughter and how she was determined to raise her to be proud of who she was, I felt so ashamed of myself. For years, I have been hiding who I am. My parents are dead but, still I continue as if things were when they were still alive. I don’t go to the synagogue. I don’t keep the Sabbath. I don’t even read the Torah which my father gave me. The only Jewish thing about me is that I’m circumcised. I was the same age as Ishmael when I was circumcised. My parents didn’t want to do it when I was a eight weeks old because it would be a sure giveaway that we were a Jewish family. I didn’t bury my parents in a Jewish cemetery but in a regular cemetery, apart from the graves of non-Jews. It was a regular service. As far as everyone was concerned, they were Gentiles. I wish I could have buried them in a Jewish cemetery among family in Bratislava.
“Is there a park in Bratislava where you could plant a tree in their honor and set up a plaque?”
Dushan had looked at her. “I hadn’t thought of that.”
“Why don’t you get in touch with one of your relatives there and find out if it’s possible?”
“I’ll do that. Thanks, Chioma.”
She had gently squeezed his hand. “You’re welcome. I’m sure your parents would approve.”
“Yes, they would. I’ll call my cousin, Havel and ask him to look into it for me.”
“So, you’ve sorted out what you’re going to do about your parents. What about your situation? What are you going to do? I know that there are four types of Jews–secular, liberal/reform, conservative and Orthodox. You’re not an atheist and you observe the Jewish dietary laws.”
“I’m what you would call a liberal Jew. Growing up, I just went through the motions when my parents and I worshipped under the quiet. After they died, I stopped keeping the Sabbath and I don’t remember the last time I read the Torah.”
“Do you have a copy of the Jewish Bible?”
“You mean the Tanakh?”
“Yes. A friend of mine had one. It’s the entire Old Testament unlike the Torah which just has the five books of Moses.”
“Yes, I have a copy of the Tanakh. My mother loved reading the Psalms and her favorite story was–Ruth. My father liked Exodus, Proverbs and Jeremiah. My favorite stories were of David and Goliath, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace, Daniel in the lion’s den and Jonah.”
“Mine are Ruth, Esther, the Psalms and the Gospels, especially the Gospel of John.”
“I don’t know what I’m going to do, Chioma. I don’t know if I should be a Conservative Jew like my parents or a Messianic Jew but nobody in my family is a Messianic Jew.”
“Is that what’s preventing you from becoming a Messianic Jew?”
“I’ve been brought up to believe that the Messiah hasn’t come as yet. According to the Torah, the Messiah will be:
- a male descendant of the Jewish King David
- human – he will have a human birth and human parents
- a perfect teacher of God’s law
- a great political leader – inspirational and a good judge
- able to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem
- ruler over humanity – but he will rule with kindness
- the bringer of peace to the world
- able to unite humanity
Most Jews don’t believe that Jesus has fulfilled any of these things.”
“Jesus is a descendant of David, He’s human because of His mother, Mary, He’s an authority of God’s law, in fact He fulfilled it, He isn’t a political leader. That wasn’t His purpose. He spoke of building a temple but it was His body, not a physical temple and He was talking about His death and resurrection. He is ruler over humanity and His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. He is the Prince of Peace. And He had taught His disciples and us how important it was for us to be united. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female because we are all one in Christ Jesus. Jesus was born in Bethlehem, a Hebrew, a Priest in the order of Melchizedek, a Prophet like Moses, the Son of David and a King. Jesus fulfilled all of the Messianic requirements and the prophecies in the Old Testament.”
He hadn’t said anything after that and she had changed the subject but on the drive home, he thought about what she had said.
Now, he closed the prayer book and placed it on the chair when he stood up. He went over to the closet and opened one of the doors to get the red hoodie which Chioma had bought for him on the day when they had dinner with Adaeze and Amin. He removed it from its rack and held it up.
Written across the front were the words, “Proud to be Jewish.” Above was the star of David. He stood there for a moment, debating and then, these words came to him, ‘This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.’ Closing to the closet, he took the hoodie over to the bed and laid it on top. He removed his jacket and the other sweater he was wearing, laid them both on the bed, took up the hoodie and pulled it on. He put away the jacket and sweater he had just taken off in the closet.
He left the bedroom and stood in front of the long mirror in the hallway, staring at his reflection. The hoodie looked really nice and it was a perfect fit. Today was a great opportunity for him to wear it because it was casual Friday at the office. Today, he was going to be like Esther. Today, he was finally going to let his colleagues know that he was a Jew.
Grabbing his winter jacket, wallet and keys, he let himself out of the flat.