"If you write FOR a particular market or FOR a particular editor you will often miss the mark. But if you write because your fingers have danced across the keyboard, because a character has tapped you on the shoulder, because a story has settled in your heart, then even if you never sell it you have done the work you were meant to do. And sometime, dear readers, real magic happens." Jane Yolen

11/21/08

Fiction Fridays: "The Bent-Nosed Gift of God"



Welcome to my contribution to Friday Fiction at Patterings, hosted this week by Ms. Patterings herself, Patty Wysong! Be sure to stop by her blog to read all the other great fiction there, and add your own by adding your link to the "Mr. Linky" gadget at the bottom of her post.


This story, as usual with my contributions, was written for the Faithwriters Writing Challenge - the topic was water baptism. It did quite well with the judges, but, shall we say, NOT so hot with my siblings. It is not based on anyone's true story, though there are certainly aspects of it that were true to ME before I came to Christ. Praying it blesses you, and that it gives you maybe a BIT of insight into Judaism.

The Bent-Nosed Gift of God

I breathe in the sea air and watch the surf crash onto the sand before me. I am amazingly calm, and have no doubt that I will go through with this ritual. The best part: it will be of my own free will.

**

When I was eight days old, I was ushered into the faith of my parents. There was no need to promise to adhere to the traditions of my ancestors. A snip and the blessing of a mohel* and I was officially Jewish: a son of Abraham.

I also got a name that day: Cameron Nathaniel Levine. I later discovered its meaning, and wondered if my folks had been drinking something stronger than a glass of Manischewitz when they picked it. Who, in their right mind, would name their child "bent-nosed gift of God?"*

Once I entered third grade, I started attending Hebrew School twice week. Again, no one asked if I wanted to learn to read some language with strange characters or hear stories about people dead six thousand years. Even if they had, my opinion wouldn't have mattered a bit. That's what Jewish boys do - even ones who didn't believe in God.

At age 13, I performed all the rituals required to become a Jewish adult. After reading from the Torah, giving a speech, and singing a bit, I became a Bar Mitzvah: a son of the Commandments. Again, I did this out of obligation and duty to my parents. Had I been asked, I would have declined - as long as my parents still threw me the huge Bar Mitzvah party, of course.

During my teen years, I went to synagogue, under duress, on occasion, but it was nothing to me: a place to sit with my parents and be bored to tears, a place to laugh at the naiveté of those who actually believed in God.

When I went away to college, I left my synagogue attendance at home with my dump trucks and Hardy Boys books. If someone asked, I was Jewish, but my religion had no impact on my life.

My sophomore roommate would change that. I remember on the first day, he arrived before I did, but put his things in the back of the dorm room, near the center.

"Hi. I'm Matt. Which side of the room do you want?" he asked as I strolled in with my first load of stuff.

This impressed me. He gave me the choice. I took the left side and thanked him for asking. I soon learned this was Matt's general attitude. There was definitely something different about him.

I remember one Sunday a couple weeks after class started. I had been partying the night before, but when I woke at noon, Matt was in the room changing out of slacks and a dress shirt. I remember thinking that this guy must actually like going to services if he got up early on a Sunday to do it.

He noticed me stirring and smiled. "My church is having a special sophomore service tonight. Wanna go?"

"I'm Jewish, actually," I commented. "Don't think they'd let me in."

Matt laughed. "I know they would...if you're interested, anyway. Oh - and that's cool about being Jewish. I'd love to talk to you about that."

"Nothing to tell. I had a bris* and a Bar Mitzvah, so I'm Jewish. Mom and dad are, so I am."

I will never forget the look in Matt's eyes after I said those words. It seemed a combination of shock, hope, and disbelief. I felt he might scream, but he didn't. He just repeated his earlier invitation. I figured it wouldn't hurt, so I chose to go with him.

**

That was seven months ago. Since then, I have learned that all the ritual in the world won't make me a son of Abraham. I've learned that God loves me, despite the fact that I'm a pretty bad guy. It is only through my messiah's forgiveness that anyone becomes good - gets their nose bent back into shape - and that I have to choose to accept it. That is God's gift.

So, I stand here at the beach, waiting for my turn to perform this outer act symbolizing the inner change I have made, with God's help. I am once again performing a ritual to join the family of God; but this time, it is my choice, and it means something.

Maybe my folks didn't pick such a lousy name after all.

**
A mohel is a Jewish ritual circumciser

Cameron means "bent nose" in Gaelic, and Nathaniel is the Hebrew word for "gift of God."

A bris is the Hebrew name for the circumcision ceremony.


Don't forget to stop by Patterings for more great fiction!

10 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing this. Are you going to include your own testimony in your book? I hope so...or maybe a whole other itself.

    Vonnie

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  2. Great story, Joanne!

    I was a tad confused at first, because for some reason I thought this was going to be autobiographical (blame it on the early morning hours), and when I saw the words, "A snip and the blessing of a mohel" it made my head spin...

    :D :D :D

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  3. Wow, this is powerful stuff. Who would've thought that a simple act of allowing someone to choose what side of the room to sleep on could lead to a decision for Christ? That's how it happens...the Spirit moving, plus one loving act at a time as we live out our faiths. Beautiful. This is outstanding.

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  4. Good one, Joanne. An interesting follow-up would be one written from the perspective of a few weeks later when his parents find out. (hint hint)

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  5. I was going to wait to read this but started and got hooked. Impressive with my sleepy mommy state of mind! What a beautiful story--a tale of salvation that isn't a sermon. Thank you for writing it.

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  6. I just wanted to stop by and thank you for that very sweet comment on my Internet Cafe Devotion. I appreciate so much knowing people were touched by my story.

    Blessings to you today!
    Sandy Cooper
    www.godspeakstoday.blogspot.com

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  7. Yes, you are sooo good with this style and with your authentic voice. I love the history-rich detail here. Joanne, a secret (shh), "Baptism" was the very first time I judged at FW. I remember AND ABSOLUTELY LOVE this! Amazingly wonderful...as are you!

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  8. Very touching. An interesting parallel between circumcision and baptism as a tradition of identification.

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  9. A beautiful story and very informational.

    Thanks for sharing.


    Vickie

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  10. I love this! The voice is wonderful and I love how you brought it full circle.

    You are twice blessed, my friend, once by birth and again by rebirth.
    Huggles!

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