We’re starting something new at Sixth & I. It’s called Identity Lab. It’s a chance to get to know other people by hearing their stories, and to discover something about ourselves through studying Jewish stories. We’ll learn something amazing together—Joseph and his crazy family, the history of how bar and bat mitzvahs got quite so over the top, Moses Maimonides and why he loved the life of the mind—and then take that learning to see how it matches our own lives and our own personal history. Local artist (of incredible talent) Rachel Farbiarz and I will create an open, welcoming, interesting, collaborative learning environment. You’ll get to learn, and then investigate, interrogate, think about, and, ultimately—only if you want to—tell your own stories at a live show.
I have a story of my own to tell you. I was born with a lisp, which stuck with me through elementary school. My parents took me to a speech therapist; I used to get pulled out of classes once a week to repeat sibilant syllables over and over into a tape recorder. My first name starts with “S,” so I creatively mispronounced my own name for a good five years.
The thing about having a lisp is that your tongue doesn’t move quite as fast as your brain, at least quite as fast as it should. When you start to speak, to speed into the fast lane of daily conversation, your tongue jumps, trips, then stumbles. I’d find myself verbally sprawled out on the asphalt. My tongue always landed me a step behind, and I learned to not quite trust my own talking.
Moses had a speech impediment, too. In fact, he’s famous for it. And when I read the verses that Moses says to God, I feel that rare, rock-solid sense of recognition: “For I am heavy of speech and heavy of tongue.” I know what that’s like, not that a person can’t speak, but that he doesn’t trust his ability to keep speaking.
God’s answer to him is a good one, though—a zinger: “Who made people’s mouths?,” the Holy One asks wryly. God did. God created the impediment. “Now go, and I will be with your mouth, and will teach you what to say.”
What I learned is that one doesn’t teach with the mouth; one teaches with the message. The speech, the talking, the rhetoric, the form—they don’t quite matter as much as we think they do. It’s the message that counts; it’s the message that matters.
Like for Moses, you do not need to come to Identity Lab and be the most articulate speaker, or tell the wittiest anecdote, or have the funniest tale. Identity Lab is about finding a message, uncovering something important about yourself, and then sharing it with other people. The Torah that we study together will help give you words and a frame of reference to better understand yourself. Tell or listen, share from your life or help other people share from theirs—you will find a message that means something to you.
Our workshops begin Wednesday, February 4th. Join us to enrich your Jewish identity and be part of the story.