Monday, December 6, 2010

walkin' the streets of jerusalem..

"i walk the streets of jerusalem and my head is bowed..cant let you go now.." - moshav band

woke up this morning to a blessed rain. amazing how the day after the horrible fire finally stopped raging, we were showered upon with bountiful, beautiful, glorious rain.
it's incredible, how the rain changes moods here. ill never forget that rainy days in ny are dismal, gray, gloomy, and all around no fun. here, however, there is nothing more that people love than to be caught up in a rainstorm. it means that good things are happening. it means, on some level, maybe, just maybe we're doing something right. it means we're being blessed. and we feel that so strongly.
just wanted to share two funny stories that happened to me on this lovely, cold, rainy evening in jerusalem.
i was all decked out in my bright orange-ey red poncho (which i love btw, it protects me so well, and is quite the smart piece of clothing) and i had just exited a wonderful show that i had seen with my sister. she got into her taxi to head home, and i decided to stop into the supermarket as i was in dire need of something to drink.
when i walked in, the dude at the cash register took one look at me and started cracking up. i was like "whaaat?"  he says, still laughing, "zeh ma ze keyf lirot otach kacha" (its super fun to look at you like that) and continued by saying how awesome it is that it is pouring outside.
i was cracking up to myself, as i continued walking along the street, thinking how funny i must look, when all of a sudden i'm  waiting by the light, and some guy walks over to me and says totally seriously "efshar l'hatzia lach shidduch?" (can i offer you a guy to date?!!!) whaaat?!!! dude, have you seen the poncho i've been wearing?! i gave him my biggest smile and said thanks, but no thanks..
continuing along, i realized there is nothing i love more than walking the streets of jerusalem. where all things are bound to happen. where my head CAN'T stay bowed, because then i would miss all the beauty and craziness that goes on around me. and where i cant let you go now..

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Light and Love

 It is 3:45 a.m. and my head is racing from the events of the past two days. I have so much running through me, and I dont know how coherent this post will be, but all I do know is that I feel compelled to write...

What does G-d want from me???!!
This was the theme of the last two days here in Migdal Oz, the beit midrash I have the honor of learning in. As part of a two day yom iyun (intensive learning) for Chanukah, they invited people from the different streams within religious Zionism to speak to us about their hashkafot, their world views.  The goal was to hear ideas and opinions that would be different from ours, to encounter people we might not normally encounter, to listen to ideas with respect even if we dont agree with them.

We sat for two days, listening to one person after the other describe to us how they view the world, how they view the State of Israel, Am Yisrael and Torat Yisrael.  We heard from those who disconnect themselves from the state because of how its run by secular Jews, from a rebbetzin with thirteen children living in a settlement called Har Bracha,(which is near the city of Shechem), from a chareidi woman living in Bnei Brak, from a woman who is trying to make Jerusalem more secular-friendly, and from a man who is a Rosh Yeshiva of a pre-military academy. 

Each person who spoke had such different beliefs, different ideas and different focuses.  It was very easy to see how even in the "religious camp" in this country, we are extremely divided.  I have much to say on the ideas that were raised, on the points that were brought up, but I will please G-d, save them for another post.
It was two days of intensity.  People in the audience often disagreed, and there was much tension in the room.  The speakers spoke adamantly about the path that they live, each convinced that their "truth" is the one truth.  For me, in all honesty, it was painful to see how drastically apart we are, how we live, how we view each other.

Tonight we were treated to "Playback theater" from a group of improv guys who did a phenomenal job.  Someone tells their story, and the actors play it back, doing a great job of mirroring the persons story-from different angles, and it is their "interpretation" of the story. The stories we focused on were encounters we have had with those who are not like us. How we react both practically and often emotionally. They really struck chords deep within.

And then..and then, we all heard about the horrific tragedy that occurred, and is still occurring, in the Carmel, up north, near Haifa. And tonight, after dinner,  we had a "pegesh", a Migdal Oz term for sitting in a circle and sharing your thoughts and feelings with everyone.  It was supposed to be about the yom iyun, and it was eventually. But it began with talking about the fire.  That killed 40 people, and is devastating an entire region. 12,000 people and counting were forced to evacuate, thousands upon thousands of dunam were destroyed. "Who will die by fire, and who by beast?"...These facts became too difficult to comprehend. A fire that has spun out of control. On the 2nd night of Chanukah. A holiday where we are supposed to be increasing light. Where light has been increased--to a horrific proportion.  Where we are remembering our battle against the Greeks.  Who are now coming to our rescue with their planes. None of it makes any sense.  Like rain that falls on Sukkot, being likened to a master throwing the cup he receives back into his servants face, where G-d is saying "I dont want you to perform this mitzvah", here too it feels like G-d is somehow not happy with our fire.  Throwing the fire back in our faces.

But all of a sudden, with our minds focused on this tragedy--the pegesh and what we thought and felt, and the nuances of differences between all the speakers, and who we agreed with and who we were angered by--seemed trivial.  Because here we are, a nation facing the greatest threat of all--nature.  And in the end of the day, its not just us in this battle against natural disasters, we as a world are in this together.  We are bnei adam, fighting. Human beings. No longer is it important how religious you think  you are, whether you are religious at all, or even whether you are a Jew or not. Greece, Russia, Italy, Turkey are all coming to our aid. Because they realize that first and foremost we are human beings, up against a world --and a G-d who sometimes sends disasters our way. But maybe its time to hear G-d this time. Maybe just because we are lighting the candles, we are not REALLY lighting the candles. We are not lighting the fire within ourselves, within each other. Instead, we are lighting a fire that consumes.  We are not lighting a fire that increases light. Light. The holiday of so much light. But the world is so incredibly dark.

"We have work, begin to light the candles", sings Michael Shapiro, in a beautiful song called "Gentle Voice."
Two summers ago I participated in an amazing 3 day workshop with an organization called "call of the Shofar".  They do a lot of intense workshops, where the participants journey into themselves, finding their places of pain and constriction, and work through it, coming to a more whole, peaceful place.  Getting to know these women I was with for 72 amazing hours was an extremely special experience.
At the end of the time, we sat together and we each lit a candle. As we stood in front of our candle, each person was given the opportunity to say to the one who lit, "so-and-so, the light I see in"   It was most beautiful to see, to hear the wonderful light that each person saw in each other.  And it was funny. I wasnt entirely sure that there would be what to say to everyone. But as each woman stood there, with the light of the candle she lit reflected on her face, it was easy all of a sudden to see the light within her soul.

So I bless us this Chanukah, that as we light our candles, to stay there for a moment, look at those whom we are lighting with, see them for who they are, see the light within. To see the light within ourselves.  Because only from the light within, from the flame we light, from the source, from the shamash, only then can we add the light. And then, with G-d's help, instead of lighting fires that consume and destroy, we will be lighting fires that increase light and love, beauty and blessing within this world that we are all an integral part of.

Monday, November 15, 2010

End of week musings

Over dinner Friday night, the host asked a question - what was your Godly moment of the week??
And blessedly enough, I had one to share.
As the sun was setting over the Judean hills on Thursday evening, after a long day in Cholon (a city near Tel Aviv)--I was feeling overwhelmed by the blessing of sight. I had just spent my 2nd time in דיאולוג בחשיכה, Dialogue in the Dark, a fantastic place where you can experience the world as the blind see it. Guided by a woman who is completely blind, married and with two children, we got to experience a "boat ride", heard music, went to the "shuk" and bought chocolates, all in complete darkness.  It was incredible to see how all our other senses were heightened--you suddenly heard everything so clearly, you could touch things and know what they were.  You end up using your friends around you to help you out. Everyone holds each other for support. I was  blown away to experience this, finding myself lost and afraid at times, while our guide Michal was able to tell me exactly where to go. It was as though she could truly see.
The most amazing moment was when we sat around at the end, eating the food we had bought from the "shuk", able to ask any questions we wanted to. The girls I was with were extremely fascinated, and eager to ask personal questions just because they could. Michal was very gracious and answered most honestly.  The question that hit me was when they asked her "Isn't it weird that you've never seen your children?" And she responded so clearly, "Of course I've seen them.  Just not in the way that you do."
And thats just it. Most of us are blessed with the sense of sight. And we use it to experience G-d's world in the way that we know best. Only sometimes we let our sight take hold, and rule all our other senses. What would happen if we didnt see for a moment all the external trappings of this world, and listened instead? Listened to our brothers, to our parents, to our friends, and to our enemies. So much of what divides us is based on the externals. But if we listened--deeply, genuinely, and with our hearts open, we might be amazed to discover how much we are all the same.
Its so interesting. In Israel, we are faced with a scary, threatening rain shortage.  Its the middle of november, and we are experiencing summer conditions! It is brutally hot, dry with no rain in sight. And I am always bothered that it seems as though we are not doing something right, it seems pretty clear from the shema that we recite every day that if we only did certain things, we should be blessed with abundance and rain. But as my shabbat host pointed out so beautifully- in shema, it says "v'haya im shamoa tishmeu et mitzvotay..le'ahava et hashem elokechem..v'natati matar artzechem b'ito.." usually translated as "if you heed my love hashem..i will give rain.." but the word thats used isn't "ta'asu" rather its "shamo tishmeu" its all about the listening. We must listen deeply to what G-d wants of us. Only then will He bless us with the rain we so badly need. And if we listen, maybe we'll eventually be able to really see.