28 Jan 2016 Reflections
It is Wednesday evening, January 27, 11:30pm in Jerusalem. This week’s post is not a dvar Torah that is based on the parsha and it is not a recipe of foods that I like to eat.
This week’s post is simply Reflections…
What words shall I pen as I sit reflecting on the past three days that I have spent in אָרֶץ הַטּוֹבָה, אֲשֶׁר בְּעֵבֶר הַיַּרְדֵּן, the good land that is on the eastern side of the Jordan River? What words can do justice to the beauty of this Land (even in the rain and snow), to the pain in this land (even in the bitter cold, high atop Har Ha’Menuchot), to the hope and courage in this Land and her people (even in the danger of “you have 15 seconds to get to the shelter” of Sederot)? Despite the feeling that I lack the words, I cannot not write.
Shall I tell you of the food court in the Malcha Mall in Jerusalem, where the meat restaurants are on one side and the dairy are on the other, because otherwise it would not be kosher? Or of the note on the Telma box of cornflakes that tells you the bracha is ha’adamah (on the box of state cereal)? Or shall I tell you of the cab driver who took us to the mall on Monday, and when I said to my husband, “Is Tu B’Shvat today or tomorrow?” the nahag immediately replied, “ha’yom!” How could you not remember that it is today!? (Apparently, our nahag did not know of post-travel exhaustion that may cause one to confuse days!)
We tend to get used to these ‘stories’ of Only-In-Israel, but each is to be appreciated and cherished and each is a reason to give thanks.
Shall I tell you of the sign on the bus that asks you to arise for the elderly in the front two seats? It does not say, “get up for the elderly,” or “handicapped priority seating.” Rather, the sign says three words…מִפְּנֵי שֵׂיבָה תָּקוּם, before an older person you shall rise (Lev.19:32). Only in Israel do they tell you to stand for your elders on the bus while quoting divrei Torah.
Shall I tell you of the fruit in the shuk, the dates so sweet and so soft, the figs perfectly ripe, the arils bursting with their dark red juice…Shall I tell you of the halva that melts in your mouth, or of the fresh chocolate rogolech that we bought and shared with a stranger while waiting for the light rail in the rain, or of the spices, salad toppers and fresh tea mixes the vendors sell – in all different flavors, colors, combinations, and textures?
The produce of the land of milk and honey is a delight to all of the senses; so perfectly created by the Creator for our enjoyment and benefit, so that we may thank Him עַל-הָאָרֶץ הַטֹּבָה אֲשֶׁר נָתַן-לָךְ, for the good Land that He gave you.
Or perhaps I shall tell you of our all-day visit to Sederot, the southern city battered by years of Kassam rocket fire from our cursed enemy in the Gaza Strip? Shall I share with you that at the beginning of our tour, the guide said to us, “I do not mean to scare you. But if there is tzevah adom (code red), you have about 15 seconds to find shelter. Be aware of your surroundings and keep an eye out for shelter, should you need to run.” Shall I tell you of the Ethiopian children, two cousins, aged 2 and 4 years, who were in the yard while the family Sukkah was being built, ten years ago….who became the first casualties from Kassam rockets, when they were killed in a direct hit on their home? Of their grandfather who said, that Chol Ha’Moed, in an address to the people of Israel: “Now my grandchildren’s blood is mixed with the blood of your children, and now we too have given and contributed to this land, as you have.”
Or perhaps you should know of the slogan of the town of Sederot during Operation Tzok Eitan in the summer of 2014: b’achdut u’be’gvurah ni’na’tzai’ach – with unity and courage we will prevail.
Do you know of the huge kosher menorah, made of Kassam rockets, that sits on the rooftop of the Yeshivat Hesder Sederot that is lit every Chanukah, eight torches blazing? As the Rosh Yeshiva said – they think (in Gaza) that they will make this into a ghost town; let them see our Menorah, let them know that we will win.
Should I smile for the camera when holding a Kassam rocket that landed in the backyard of our guide’s home? Well, it is proper to smile for the camera…but this is a Kassam rocket, so heavy, so deadly, so painful and bad…So I half-smiled while I held back my tears that threatened to burst forth.
Or perhaps I shall write of yesterday afternoon and the two hours that we spent on Har Ha’Menuchot, in the freezing cold? But how can you complain that your toes are cold, that you are wet from rain, that you forgot your scarf and hat, when a beautiful young woman, Shlomit Krigman HY”D, who yesterday was alive, who yesterday was smiling, who yesterday was productive, is today is being buried in the soaking wet, cold ground? Her crime? Living as Jew, shopping in the makolet as a Jew, being a Jew.
Shall I tell you of the hesped of R’ Lau, the Ashkenazic chief rabbi of Israel, who noted that her name, Shlomit, is from the words shalom – peace, and shlaimut – completion/wholeness. Shall I tell you that he mentioned Dafna Meir HY”D, who Shlomit is buried next to, high atop a mountain, a mountain of Eternal Rest? Two women brutally, cruelly taken from us, their deaths coming one week apart from each other; two families bereaved, one nation mourning for two women who came together in rest, atop this mountain so full of pain.
You might have guessed that I could not understand most of the other hespedim, for the Ivrit was fast, at times quiet and at times loud…Did you know that Shlomit’s grandmother spoke of her beautiful granddaughter asked forgiveness from her, “Shlomit, selicha.”
Shlomit, selicha that we could not help you in your moment of great need; Shlomit, selicha that this is how you met your end; Shlomit, selicha that we could not protect and save you. Shlomit, selicha…
You may have guessed that her best friend spoke, but almost could not speak, because of her great sobs. That her parents spoke last, bidding farewell to their slain daughter.
Shall I tell you that even though I was unable to understand most of the hespedim, the language of sobs and tears, of loud cries that shook a room, of weeping and lamentations, is a universal language which every Jewish heart understands.
בָּכוֹ תִבְכֶּה בַּלַּיְלָה, וְדִמְעָתָהּ עַל לֶחֱיָהּ, Bitterly she weeps at night, her tears upon her cheeks.
Oh, to be a Jew…To share in the fate and destiny of our people…
The mayor of Sederot said that we can learn from our enemy. They know that they have time; they are patient, they will wait.
To this the mayor said, we also have time! We have Am Yisrael, we have Eretz Yisrael, and we have Torat Yisrael. And we have time. And we too shall wait.
…Blessed are you Hashem, she’lo asani goy. Despite all of our pain, we are a beautiful, hopeful, strong, and courageous people; in a beautiful, hopeful, strong and courageous Land.
Rav Lau, in his hesped for Shlomit HY”D, repeated words that we have all heard many-a-time, yet sometimes it is helpful and inspiring to hear them yet again: Am Yisrael Chai.
בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום,