In class this morning we reflected on “last times” in a relationship or a career or life. I imagined the last class I would teach or the last, lingering kiss of my beloved. I glanced at my phone to discover a last tweet—a person was being remembered for her final tweet.
Marguerite Johnson learned early on the power of the word. She was not verbose—but her few words, which would certainly conform to the specifications of a tweet, led her into a prolonged silence. Marguerite was only seven or eight when her mother’s boyfriend raped her. She told her brother. The man was arrested, tried and found guilty. He was released after serving one day in prison. He was found dead a few days later, Marguerite’s assumption was that her uncles killed him.
Marguerite would later write: “I thought my voice killed him; I killed that man, because I told his name. And then I thought I would never speak again, because my voice would kill anyone.” She remained mute for 5 years. Once she started speaking (again) she never stopped.
Marguerite would not only speak her mind, she would write her mind. Her method was always the same– pen in hand and yellow pad. It is reported that she wrote all of her autobiographies, there are 7 in total, in this fashion. This prolific author is the one who is being remembered for her final tweet. Perhaps it is fitting for a “bird” that has flown her cage so many times. It is hard to imagine a person who has constantly invented herself anew more than Maya Angelou.
There is a custom to stay up all night on Shavuot eve—studying and meditating. The source of this custom is found in the Zohar and was placed into practice by Kabbalists in the town of Tzfat in the 16th century. It is a night to share our wisdom with each other, to speak our greatest truth. With this in mind we will be joining together at Temple Emanuel this coming Tuesday night to share our wisdom through our favorite verses in the Torah (see the full schedule in the newsletter). The verse you select of course reflects you—mine is from Numbers 10: 29 in which Moses reprimands his loyal disciple Joshua for being critical of others attaining and sharing their prophecy. Moses words are: “Do you think I am jealous? Would it only be that all of God’s people were prophets!”
Some of those who will be sharing their favorite verses from Torah next Tuesday night will venture outside the scroll and have chosen “verses” from the oral Torah. If I were asked to choose one verse from Maya Angelou it would be the one with which she starts I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (the first installment of her autobiography) and which she repeats in her final autobiographical installment Me Mom and Me.
It is a quote worth tweeting about: “What are you looking at me for? I didn’t come to stay.”
There is a final tweet or verse for us all.