Friday, August 12, 2011

The Soul of the Matter

Generally, when I sit down to write a new blog post, I have a pretty clear idea where I'm going with it.

This time is different.

I've had a tickle in my brain for days and days, but no really clear direction.

When I was in the throes of adolescence, I wrote poetry like a fiend.  I would be seized by a sudden itch to write.  A word, a phrase or a line would enter my brain, fully formed, and I could not rest until I committed it to paper (and back then, I composed on paper, literally).

Sometimes writing is still like that for me.  But not this time.

This time I have a vague sense that I want to write about how much the spiritual aspect of life has been at play for me, but I'm not sure where to start.

I experience my life in Israel in two major ways.

Often, I am thinking about logistical and financial worries.  How to get from place A to place B by bus.  Who to invite and what to cook for Shabbat.  How to pay for tuition. Where to get the best price on orange juice or a new ceiling fan.  Whether we can afford to run the air conditioning today. How to get all our remaining funds out of America before the whole economic system crashes. My mind often feels like it's chasing itself.

But that's only part of the story.

I also experience my life in Israel as exceedingly soulful.

I live in a world where people talk openly about God and about the spiritual dimension of life.  I have tried, in recent weeks, to break my attachment to popular fiction and study more Torah.  I am almost through a 500+ page commentary on Sefer Yehoshua and plan to move on to Shoftim just as soon as I can.  I've all but stopped reading the newspaper and rely on the Facebook newsfeed to alert me to major events worldwide.  (You may laugh, but it's where I first heard about many recent global events.)

Every day, there is another reason to add a name to my prayer list. An illness. A family crisis.  But also engagements, new babies, weddings. I see problems, mine and those of other people, as spiritual struggles.  I attend events around town and cherish feeling my spirit moved by them.  I think about God and easily tick off lists of things I'm grateful for.  I believe so strongly in the inherent correctness of Jews living in Eretz Yisrael that simple moments here bring me great joy.

I once learned that, as we grow older and see the inevitable limitations of the physical, we come to better appreciate the meta-physical, which is infinite.  Although I am not yet old (except in the eyes of my children), I am already aware of this process happening within me.  It's one of the reasons why, statistically, outside Orthodox circles, adult Jewish education tends to attract people in their 50's and above.  Once the potent pull of the physical diminishes in power, the spiritual begins to attract attention, even if we don't fully understand the dynamic.

Side-by-side with worries about the price of orange juice are repetitive thoughts of where we are in Jewish history.  What does it mean that there have been recent, tragic slayings in all segments of Am Yisrael?  I feel the breath of Moshiach on the back of my neck.  I worry about the price of orange juice, but I also anticipate Redemption any moment.  It's a ceaseless dialectic, an unending tension.

This year, I listened to Eicha read outdoors, on an empty hilltop near our home, on land we don't build on because the US government pressures us not to.  But I am in Eretz Yisrael, listening to Eicha just a few kilometers from Yerushalayim.  The wind whips the pages of my sefer.  I am surrounded by Jews who also think it's important to come to this abandoned hilltop on the night of Tisha B'Av. My husband's voice leads the group in prayer and I feel the breath of Moshiach on the back of my neck.

At a program marking six years since the abandonment of Gush Katif, I listened to speaker after speaker who all know that the spiritual side is what's really important in life.  I listened to Shlomo Katz, whose music never fails to move me, remind us that all this turmoil in the world is temporary.  We will return to Gush Katif.  We will reunite with the rest of Am Yisrael.  And we will live in a world more spiritual than physical.

For now, more and more each day, I try my best to live with emunah, the unshakable belief that everything God does is for the good.  As time passes, I love God more and more and anticipate the Redemption with deeper belief.  I am, as I often say, unspeakably grateful to live here, where there are so many people who understand all this.

7 comments:

Tamar said...

So, so beautiful -- this resonates with so many of us who are privileged to live the miracle of kibbutz galuyot. Shabbat Shalom (or, Shavua Tov by the time you read this)

Batya said...

Sometimes there just aren't words...

Greta said...

Thank you, Rivkah. This is so beautiful.

Chanina said...

I love reading your blog. There are so many times that i've been thinking about something and then you write a post on exactly that! While I wish we were in touch more often, I like knowing that our thoughts are somehow connected

Chana said...

Last week a friend called at around 930 at night. She said hey, wanna go to the Kotel now? I said I'm game, let's go, just like that. Spent two hours there davening, contemplating and getting spiritually ready for T'sha B'Av. We are truly blessed to have the zchut of living here.

Sara said...

I can't even express how I feel being here, thank you for your eloquent words.

Tehillah said...

Excellent post Rivkah! We are fortunate to be able to tune in to something that those in the galut cannot (unfortunately) experience.