Sixteen years ago, on a beautiful, bright, cold day, I stood on the bank of the Hudson River, hand-in-hand with Carolyn, the woman I loved, and had what turned out to be the most important conversation of my life. Little did I know that this pleasant afternoon stroll would mark the beginning of my grand journey — a journey that would redefine my relationship to myself, my Israeliness, my Jewish identity, my language, and my career as a writer. It was the last day of winter break. I was supposed to return to Jerusalem the next day, having spent ten enchanted days with Carolyn, who is now my wife and the mother of my daughters. Our romantic saga was long and eventful, and led to this moment on the river’s edge, when we decided that I would return to New York to see if our life together would work. That moment, shrouded in the shimmering veils of nostalgia, was not a moment of certainty or a moment of full consciousness. I suspect now that many of the formative moments of our individual and collective history are the same — their gravity is recognized only in hindsight, as their consequences, rewards, and costs become evident.
My first months in New York were filled with the joy of newfound love, my sense of adventure, and the intoxicating whiff of carelessness accompanying a decision made without overthinking the consequences.
As a Hebrew writer — one whose prose is as much about the fabric of the Hebrew language as it is about the story, plot, or characters — it could have been self-destructive to embrace such an adventure. I should have asked myself whether I was dooming myself to marginality and putting my most precious asset, the command of the Hebrew language, at risk by moving to a non-Hebrew environment and living my everyday life in English. But I did not ruminate on these questions — so in love was I. Rather, I acquiesced to the adventure and allowed myself to bask in it, putting off all “serious” concerns for a later time.
This semi-deliberate negligence, the irrational refusal to reflect on my situation and its future, defines for me the essence of the grand journey I’ve always associated with the Odyssey, or the great nomadic sagas of the Bible and every other mythological quest. Letting go of one’s deliberate sense — the illusion of having full control over one’s fate and decisions — seems to be the engine that moves any truly significant journey forward.
I have built a full life in New York, one that I could not have predicted sixteen years ago. I find myself redefining my relationship to my Jewishness, my sense of community, and my identity. Most important, perhaps, was my new linguistic reality: I could not take my Hebrew dexterity for granted, and I had to consciously work hard to preserve it in its depth and “purity.” One morning, I awoke in a panic, realizing that I had dreamt in English the night before. And I had to accommodate a new reality into my Hebrew writing, describing colors, textures, and gestures that are not usually associated with Hebrew literature. But I never regretted my deliberate “carelessness” — my choice not to overthink the consequences of my decision, but instead to give in to adventure and let it carry me where it may.
Ruby Namdar , a New York based Hebrew writer, is the author of HaBayit Asher Necherav__(The Ruined House), which won the 2015 Sapir Prize, Israel’s most prestigious literary award.