Wednesday, August 13, 2008

On Leaving Israel

Hashem put so many challenges in the way of my leaving Israel this time that it makes me wonder if He was purposefully distracting me so I wouldn’t have time to feel as sad as I usually do when leaving His Holy Home.

What I cherish most about this trip are the spiritual openings. Being in Israel provides me with the ideal environment to expand my spiritual vision. If the purpose of leading an observant Jewish life is to come to see Gd as present in more and more aspects of your life, the air in Israel excels in assisting with that quest.

Here’s an example. In Israel in August, I am especially careful to take a water bottle with me all the time. Last week, I took my water bottle, put it in an insulated holder, and went to the car. I forgot to pull the top of the water bottle holder closed and, as I bent to get in the car, my water bottle fell out and rolled away. I assumed that it had rolled under the next car so I waited on the other side for it to emerge as it continued its roll, but it never came back out. I assumed it was lost to me, stuck somewhere under someone else’s car.

Seeing Gd as the Cause of everything that happens to me, I accepted that the inconvenience of losing my water bottle was a potch, a minor punishment meant to keep me from having to face a larger punishment all at once. Although others may see the loss of the water bottle as a random irritation, I accepted that the loss of my water bottle came from Gd.

After our errands, my husband pulled the car back into the very same parking space we vacated hours earlier. From this angle, with the headlights shining in the dark, I could clearly see that the water bottle had gotten stuck under the tire of the next car. I walked around the tire and easily retrieved it. Having accepted that the loss came from Hashem, there was no reason to prolong the punishment and Hashem restored the water bottle to me.

Am I sure I’m right about my conclusion? I’m not sure. But I like this approach because it reads Gd into the story. Otherwise, it’s just a boring story about a small hassle of daily life.

Seeing Gd as present in more and more facets of my life, large and small, helps calm and center me. I spent hours trying to straighten out a booking error in our return flight. When we got to the airport, the error was still in our record, despite multiple assurances that it had been fixed. Since I believed that Gd sent this inconvenience, there was no point in getting upset. So I went through the stages of rectifying the error and, as I write this, EL AL has $100 more of my money, but I am on the flight.

Expanding my relationship with Gd is something that consistently happens during the time I am blessed to be in Israel.

I also consistently notice the profoundly Jewish things that make up every day life in Israel. As we were packing the car tonight, there was a man in the street, standing in front of the shul across from our apartment, shouting “Mincha! Mincha!” in an attempt to literally pull a minyan off the street. On Radio Kol Chai, there is a show where listeners call in and report acts of chesed they have witnessed. On a train between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, a group of, ahem… unaccompanied minors with a lot of energy ran through the train wishing their fellow passengers “nesiya tova!” – a good trip.

Jewish life is just SO INTENSE in the Holy Land.

Because my spiritual antennae are vibrating at such a high frequency when I’m in Israel, I was able to see a metaphor for geula in the escalator at the train station. The escalator in question was moving so slowly, it looked like it wasn’t moving at all. As I stepped closer in order to determine whether or not it was working, the escalator increased its speed gradually until it was at full speed.

Is this not an echo of the story of Nachshon ben Amidav, for whom the Yam Suf did not part until he actually stepped into the water? This is also a metaphor for geula. The escalator does not speed up until someone steps onto it. Similarly, geula will come more quickly if we take action, rather than passively wait for it.

Gd is so exceedingly real to me in Israel. A delightful clarity of spiritual vision is relatively easy for me to achieve and maintain when I’m breathing that air.

In America, the main thing that’s easy for me to achieve and maintain is a credit card balance.

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