Daily Archives: February 6, 2011

Raise Your Hands

7:54 pm

The only thing that is good about religion is God.  This came to me in the Zumba class, of course.  In the book, Eat Pray Love, there is a moment when the main character turns to God to pray.  This is unfamiliar to her and she does not know what to say.

I went through a somewhat religious phase when I studied Judaism after college, and even tried to practice it.  It is funny but even then, I did not pray to God very often.  I studied God.

Today in Zumba class, one dance had a move where we stretched our hands to the sky.  All choreography is a narrative.  When I was learning African dance, I learned the basics.  Hands to the sky is talking to God.  Shaking hips and butt is mating or seducing.  Bowing down to the earth is thanking the Earth Mother.

I try to think of this narrative and relate to it when I am in Zumba.   Whenever we raise our hands to the sky, I think of God.  When I think of God, I am reminded of how little I think of God.

I have a vivid memory of an event that happened when I was around five years old.  This was in the Ukraine, during Communism where God was outlawed.  My parents never spoke of religion.  Jewish was our nationality.  I was crying helplessly, one of those child deep cries of life’s unfairness.  I was wailing and sobbing, my face was bright red, I was suffocating from my own panting.  After I could cry no more, there was a quiet moment.  A moment of peace that comes only after a great cry.  In that moment, I started praying to God.  I was asking him to help me.  I was asking him to calm me.  I was asking him for fairness.  This seemed natural to me for some reason.

When my family moved to United States, I got the privilege of a full scholarship to a Jewish private day school because we were poor immigrants.  The Jewish Federation is a nice organization.  I started in fifth grade.  I had one American looking outfit that I thought was cute.  I wore it on my first day.  It was turquoise pants that had a Velcro belt closure.  A turquoise fleece vest to match with a stripped shirt with repeating turquoise lines.  On the plane from Italy to NYC, I got a the pin the they used to give out in airplanes.  I did not realize that I looked nerdy or immigrantie and the pin did not help.  I guess those pins were not as cool as I thought they were.  Thank God, there were only nine kids in my class who were warned about Russian immigrants.  But the story of immigration for a ten-year old, I will save for another time.  This is a story about God.

For the first time, in this school I heard people talk about God.  They were studying Jewish texts, the Torah, the Talmud, the Mishnah.  We had prayer service in the morning.  The last thing my ten-year old mind was thinking through all this, was God.  God came to me only in those dark moments.  He came to me when I felt there was no way out.  He came to me all those nights in college when I cried because I did not understand what I was doing with my life.

During my Zumba dancing, I am reminded of the people of the tribes.  I picture the African Tribes raising their hands with song and dance to God.  That is what I am talking about.  That is when I feel grateful.  I feel it when I raise my hands.  When I say God, I do not imagine a guy with a beard by the way.  I picture the silent divinity all around me.  I know he is not in the sky but the symbolism of the movement is powerful.

Isaiah loves birds and planes now.  When he sees a plane, he says “Ptiza” (bird in Russian).  I say, it’s a plane.  He says, “up up” and then cries.  He wants me to pick him up so that he can touch the plane.  Unfortunately, I cannot reach the sky, but I can try if I raise my hands.

11:25 pm