When I arrived in Israel, my grief came rushing in. The feeling was so close to the surface that I felt fragile like glass, glass at the edge of a mountain. In a strong wind. It took all my strength not to break into tears – and into pieces – at any moment. So I hardened my heart. For safety.
I began to have a fantasy: I’m sitting on a park bench next to the oldest Chasid in the world. He has a long white beard and soft smiling eyes. His black coat lies across his lap, his white shirt glistening with sunlight. I’m yelling at him. “What gives you the right to be so certain, so sure? How dare you? How dare you? To think you think that you know. That you think you have secrets.” My intestines boil and my bones shake. His eyes continue to smile, his hands folded across his lap. I shout and I yell and I scream and then I collapse onto his shoulder. I’m crying the tears of a thousand men who haven’t cried for a thousand years. Sobbing. Wailing. He takes his arm and lays it gently across my back.
In Tzfat, I met some dear, sweet Jews, young and old. I didn’t yell at any them, Chasid or progressive. I cried a few tears. Not many. Instead, I listened. Then I started to sing again. And to open my heart. As they would say, Baruch Hashem.
This shift is reflected in the changing emotions of the three prayers that I’ve completed so far in Israel, written in this order:
I’m now a little more than halfway through my journey. I’ve slept in six cities and 10 different beds. I’ve met, spoken to and hiked with more than 50 people: families and students, young professionals and travelers, long-time olim and olim chadashim, old friends and friends-of-friends, secular Jews and Chabadniks. More to come.
© 2011 Alden Solovy and www.tobendlight.com. All rights reserved.
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