Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Night the Rabbi Danced Part I

They say it's something in your blood, that special something that makes your heart pump faster, makes one's hearing fail, in fact, the only thing you can hear is the beating of your heart, and you could swear you can almost feel whatever it is in the air pressing against your face.  The scent around you is humanity, almost primal.  Is this what it was like when early man discovered fire for the first time, when he brought down a lion, raided his enemies camp to acquire a wife?

The locals say it sounds like an old trite joke, but the story I'm about to relate isn't a joke, it's very true, a story full of drama, fire, and most of all glee.

Okay, okay, I'll get back to the story!  Do you remember when the Rabbi, the Priest, and the Catholic Father went into the Cantina?  Yes, I know, it does sound like an old, trite, joke, but again my friend, this is a true story, I know because I was there and witnessed it with my own eyes.  I also felt the hot air pressing against my face that night, I too could hear the beat of my own heart, and I swear, I could just possibly hear the beat of everyone else's hearts.  My ears felt like they were stuffed with cotton, and I too felt the passion, the drama, and most importantly, the glee!


This day was like many others in Santa Fe, everywhere you looked objects took on the look of crystal, a clarity only found in this place.
There wasn't a cloud in the sky, and one felt like you did when you were drinking a wonderful sparkling wine, little bubbles of light bursting against your skin.  This kind of sunshine makes you feel giddy, and the colors of the sunset on the Sangre de Cristo Mountains only reinforced the Rabbi's belief in his God, even though, as the Priest at the local Episcopal Church kept telling him, "You know that the name means "Blood of Christ, don't you?"his beliefs didn't lie in that direction, but as she was his friend he was willing listen to what she had to say and to still be moved by this majestic sight.

He was a tall, gangly man, feeling every one of his 51 years as he stretched long arms up above narrow, tension filled shoulders, rolling a head that was covered by a wild, dark, shock of straight hair, moving his head from side to side, trying with very little success to alleviate some of stiffness he felt.  He could hear little crackles and funny noises every time he moved the different parts of his torso.  He knew his body was trying to give him the message that he should exercise more and quit sitting around. As he did almost every day, he promised that he would "start a new exercise program tomorrow", of course, he'd made the same promise before but more important things always seemed to get in the way.  Important things like the people in his congregation, taking care of Synagogue business, his friendships with local religious leaders, the time he spent playing Bridge with one of the local Pueblo Governors, everything seemed to take precedence over exercise.

The religious leaders of Santa Fe still met once a week with the common goal of alleviating suffering in a town that was thought to be a wealthy man's town, but was in fact, just like every other place on earth, full of people in need of the basics, food, clothing, housing,  people who were poor, middle class, and yes, even those wealthy men and women had a need for mercy to be met and a caring spiritual shoulder to rely on.  Of course, these shoulders were awfully stiff at the moment, so once again he whispered his promise to exercise starting tomorrow.

The Rabbi had just spent an exhausting twelve hours at the local hospital, arriving at 6:30 in the  morning, and spending most of that time sitting inside a small, sterile, room where a young child from his congregation lay fighting for her life.  Tubes were connected to and from her arms and nose to machines that made slight humming sounds.  A light sheet covered the slight, five year old body.  Her blood tests had revealed that she had contracted "Bubonic Plague," an illness thought to have been eradicated long ago, but was still very much a concern in this part of the Country, where prarie dogs and mice carried the deadly fleas.  Whenever he would step outside to stretch and have a cup of the strong coffee that the nurses offered him he would ignore their strong suggestion that he not return to the quarantined room, instead, he would re-don the scrubs and mask they provided and go back in to relieve the child's exhausted father.  He would set next to her, telling her calming stories about the God that he knew, who would make her feel better.  He knew his place was inside of this room with this family, not out in the hallways and waiting rooms.  He entreated God to have mercy on this young child, to keep her younger brother safe, protect her father and the grandmother who took turns inside the room.  He also asked God to give the child's mother serenity and peace as she paced the hallways outside of the sterile room, stopping after each pass of the room to look through the small windows that created a barrier she could not breach.  She wanted nothing more than to hug and protect her child, knowing all the while that she couldn't.  The young mother was a pretty woman, but lack of sleep and worry created dark circles under expressive eyes.  Her third child was expected soon and she was frustrated when the doctors insisted she wasn't to be allowed into the place where her daughter lay so ill.  Everyone who looked at her could feel the worry and tension emanating from her.

By the end of the afternoon the child's fever had broken and the worst was over according to the doctors who had earlier lanced the swollen node in her young neck.  The Rabbi felt he could now leave the family on their own, they were in good hands.

As he put the key into the lock of his rusty old sedan the Rabbi looked west onto the mountains that bordered this beautiful city just as the ruby red colors flowed like icing on a cake from the top of the Sangre de Cristos down to their base.

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