The Rap: I am Suzi-not-such-a-good-girl.
After my rupture with my traditional upbringing, my militantly orthodox father developed a fatal heart condition; both he and my mom often blamed his ill health on parenting stress. They were talking about parenting me – the dissident daughter. I have long seen myself as a truant who broke her father’s heart.
This friend, this Suzi, I think she is not such a good girl
One of my friend’s fathers called that out after us in his harsh Germanic accent as she and I clattered down the backstairs to the street, our ice skates with their sharp blades and insouciant pom-poms slung over our shoulders. I earned the title by urging his daughter to join me in Israeli dancing at non-religious Zionist gatherings and introducing her to the frivolous joy of ice skating in Central Park. It was a label that stuck, a distinction that I came both to rue and to cherish.
It is therefore a delicate matter, this fascination of mine with the Other Daughter – the good girl – the one whom fathers did not call out after in censure, the one whose aptitude for learning was cultivated on her father’s knee, the one who no doubt offered both her parents much solace. (Dr Zornberg’s emotional bond with her supportive father far eclipsed the importance of any misogynist slights in the legacy he transmitted.)
Typically, I am way alienated by the goody- goody girl, she who is overly-acquiescent to the established order. It would reassure me in my chosen identity if Dr. Zornberg with her soft tones, sparkling eyes and high-buttoned blouses were someone I might dismiss. But she is not. Instead I am compelled to summon my courage and accept her invitation to explore that which she calls “the hidden sphere.”
Zornberg tells us to look to the midrashic tradition where women have a whole separate, alternative or hidden history. There, Zornberg says, we are indeed present in “a hidden sphere” which constitutes “a counter-reality to the one officially inscribed in the Torah.”
Wonder of wonders…does this mean there was something of the sanctioned in my longing for an alternative path? Is she giving me a vaguely formed sense of purpose?
Yet, look how different we are. She is permeable to rapture, I am obsessed with rupture: One letter in a word keeps our experience at opposite extremes. But she, like me, is fully at home in this place where out of radical contradictions, from the nexus of untenable opposites, in the gap between annihilation and redemption, we find a subterranean path.