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 you.is.." 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.