I believed in Messiah. Like countless Jews before me, I believed, with complete faith, in the coming of Messiah. I was on Long Island.
In my Hebrew day school, I learned that when Messiah came, everything would be perfect. I prayed for him every night, just after praying for the health of my family, and before entreating God not to allow anti-Semites to become powerful in America. I prayed, and I waited.
At age thirteen, I grew curious about this immaculate era. Aside from the world peace which would render my third nightly prayer irrelevant, what would life be like when Messiah came? If everyone had enough money, would we still have to work? Go to school? Would there be TV? Shopping?
My teachers answered these questions with confidence, as if the ‘When Messiah Comes’ handbook had been memorized along with the more important Psalms. We wouldn’t have to work. Television would continue, but only to broadcast modest programs which might enhance our love of God. There would be no money at all, so shopping would become impractical. We’d all move to Israel and no one would die anymore, which would render my first nightly prayer irrelevant.
The demise of shopping alarmed many in the classroom. Personally I was most troubled by the notion that we wouldn’t work. Sometimes, at night, I added a side prayer to become a lawyer, which seemed glamorous and well-suited to a slightly bossy girl who’d been told by adults she had a big mouth. Our imaginings about the future took us no farther than Manhattan, and the draw of living in Israel appealed to none.
It was becoming increasingly apparent to us, with each discussion on the subject, that there was an other-worldy, mostly disagreeable, nerdy weirdness to the Messianic era.
Still, I prayed and I waited. When teenage depression came to overwhelm me, the idea that life would get better kept me two crucial steps away from despair. When boys didn’t like me, the concept of Messiah allowed me to retain a measure of confidence, secure in the knowledge that everything would be alright. When beset by post-university aimlessness, Messiah kept me relaxed. I could wait rather than strive, pray rather then sweat. I was from Long Island and had grown up watching a lot of television. Messiah appealed. Messiah assured. Messiah kept the questions from becoming too aggressive and took the edge off.
When did waiting become a burden? Maybe at the point at which I had to admit that my dreams were slipping away from me. Maybe at that age when I was forced to reconcile the fantasies of my youth with the ordinariness of my days. People who remained religious sometimes ask me why I left, as if the answer might be contained in one sentence. Perhaps I can simply tell them that I got tired of waiting. Today I believe in uncertainty, though that is a much harder faith to sustain. I believe in right now.