Wednesday, November 28, 2018

One Life to Live

If the message from Our Town is that the living don't get it, don't value it, life that is, perhaps the author hadn't spent enough time with some of the really special and inspiring people we have been fortunate to cross paths with over the years.

For the second time in the last few weeks we were in Jerusalem to pay a shiva call. Two very different families in very different neighbourhoods, each one though, in all its generations, a credit to the city and to the Jewish people. Modern Orthodox/dati leumi, Hareidi, secular - each person contributing so much to making the world a better place.

Tonight's shiva was for a longtime close family friend, a true Lamed Vavnik. So many people probably just passed her by on the street and dismissed her as another faceless, nameless generic older Hareidi woman in dark clothes, a drudge maybe, a drone, a media stereotype.

It would have been their loss though to have allowed that stereotype to blind them to this most special woman. She was a pillar of faith, of modesty, of loving kindness to the stranger and to her nearest and dearest alike. She touched so many lives, always with a kind word, a hearty laugh, a zillion watt smile, an infectious optimism, meals for the sick and the new mother, hospitality to the lonely and the new in town. And all with the utmost humility and modesty in her small Jerusalem flat.

She told her children that she hoped they didn't marry rich. "Don't let the material blind you". Not that she would have wanted them to lack for anything, but Torah and people always came before things and materialism. She was satisfied with living modesty because she didn't see things or external trappings, she saw souls, she saw people, whatever they looked like.

Her family straddles the divide of Hareidi and Hiloni, devoutly religious and devoutly secular, immigrant and native born, holy Jerusalem, hedonist Tel Aviv and the socialist kibbutz. In the crowded little flat in the heart of Hassidish Jerusalem this evening all those disparate worlds came together with love and warmth to honour her memory and attempt to comfort her grieving family.

She will not feature on the cover of Vogue or Time or The New York Times or The Atlantic. So many supposedly enlightened and modern people would have declined to give her the time of day or assigned her any consequence. But she is the sort of person who truly made the world go round, who healed wounds of many kinds, who brought incredible light in to the world as long as she was in it.

It was a privilege to have known her since I was a child. May her equally wonderful children, grandchildren and husband find great comfort in their memories of this humble tzadeket, and may Hashem Bless them all with many many more years keeping her light shining on through their kindness and good deeds.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

This is just a drill

Six year-old comes charging in to the flat after school "Imma, Imma! We had a what do you call it, where you have to run fast?"

"Sport class?"

"No, where you have to run fast because of the noise!"

"Targil? (drill)"

"Yes Imma! That one, a targil where there is an azaka (siren) and you have to go quickly with your tor (line) and get to the miklat (shelter) as quick as you can without tripping anyone up"

He has a huge grin taking over his little face, eyes bright, glowing with pride, hopping from foot to foot in a little dance of excitement.

"And my tor was first! I was first! We did it in 20 seconds! And I got a sticker! And it was such a BIIIIG miklat Imma! It's so big it isn't a mamad (safe room), it's a great big huuuuge miklat with room for everyone and my school is so big with so many children that we have to have FOUR miklatim like that! It's so cool, it's like a superhero fort with big windows with shirion (armour). I asked my teacher if I could bring my light sabre or a sword tomorrow but she didn't like that idea."

God Bless the teachers who made it so much fun for the kids to practice running to the shelter and thank God in our region it was only a drill.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Holy Tongue

I spent the evening in a large auditorium packed to the gills with a huge crowd periodically singing or shouting out Hallelujah, The Lord Is One and calling upon God in prayer.

No, I was not at a religious revival, women's spiritual event or Orthodox gathering.

Just your run of the mill Israeli folk and pop nostalgia concert performing songs by secular song writers with a secular band for a mostly secular audience.

That's what happens when your national language is Hebrew and all this biblical and Jewish stuff is just part of the general culture and frame of reference, so say, making a pop song based on Ehad Mi Yodea from the Haggadah makes sense when just about everyone at least knows the original from kindergarten and likely also their family seder.

Like the other day when I heard a song by Israeli rapper Subliminal where a quote from Jewish sources is juxtaposed with the F word (used for emphasis) and in a weird way it makes sense in the context of modern Israeli culture in a way that would be completely bizarre and out of context in English.

Call it ruminations of someone who absorbed Zionism with her mother's milk, but these kind of things just emphasise to me how good it is to be home and how blessed we are to have this home.