These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem


Posted on May 19, 2013 by Shoshana Rosen

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From my blog:

Am I awake or asleep? Maybe a dreamlike state in between the two.

I leave my apartment 4:45 am to continue my journey

But all I am thinking about is my bed, snuggling between my warm blankets, head on my pillow. But then I thought of the people who used to walk, to travel for days, weeks during THIS day to get to the Beit haMikdash (the Temple) and I figured I could suck up the half an hour walk to the Kotel.

I didn’t even have to really pay attention to where I was going, I followed the people, each person coming from his/her home, learning center, dressed all differently, to walk to the same place.

And we walked fast, we wanted to get there before morning prayers. We walk with purpose.

As I head into the old city I look out at the mountains and I feel like I was in the deep ocean. The sky deep aqua blue, so incredibly clear, deep, and endless. I take a big breath in, let it penetrate my weary lungs.

I felt like those fish that know they have to swim upstream to go to the next stage of their lives. Nothing stops them. This is the next step, even though I had extremely mixed feelings of going back to the place where just a week before I was brought to tears by seeing the pictures, videos and stories of those who were at the Kotel.

I walk through the old city, and as I come up to the Kotel I see exactly what I would have imagined that it must have looked like during the 2nd Temple time period… Tons of people, socializing, catching up, playing Jewish geography, sitting down eating.

And the closer you got to the Wall, the more serious it got, you could hear the calls to G-d, the morning prayers, MODEA ANI LEFANACHA!

I walk through the people, to where I was surrounded by swaying movements; each on different parts of their prayers but all of us together feeding off each other.

I get to SHEMA, a prayer I personally struggle with

Sh’ma Yis’ra’eil Adonshem Elokeinu Adonshem Echad. Listen Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.

I felt oneness like I have never felt before. A wholeness, a community of those even very different then me, but together we stood, after learning all night, and prayed (each at our own time) but as I said – echad, I felt that we were all working to become one.

The next night, still a little dazed from weird sleeping hours, almost like I was jetlagged from Shavuot, a friend and I sit on a bench, with the Jerusalem cool wind blowing us, we talked about our Shavuot experiences. After I told him mine, he articulated the doubts that were running through my head, thinking critically and doubting the authenticity of my experience. He said “It’s not true echad, it’s oneness on THEIR terms, you couldn’t be yourself and still be one with them.”

Part of that is true.

But my friend,

But for that one moment, I was authentically myself, there was no “them” vs “me”, there was no “hareidi” “dati leumi” “hiloni” “masorti” and “me”. It was I, praying the same words that they pray, that my great great great great great… grandparents prayed, and for that one moment, even that one minute, we, the Jewish people were whole.

There are not many times in our complex lives that we feel whole, full, one.

When I look back, a lot of this year for me has been dealing with how to balance different parts of myself? Modern self with love of tradition? Taking care of self and in a relationship? Love of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv? Of NYC and Israel? Of being independent and a member of family? Being present and not in the past, or the future? Strong Love of Israel and struggling with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? How do you feel one among all these conflicts, these opposing sides, these broken fragments of ourselves?

Well I don’t. but I strive to. But I understand that only G-d is One. Maybe that’s why I pray that “listen oh Israel, G-d is One”. Because I hope to pray to be one also, or have those moments of oneness. Knowing that they are few and far between. Yet again, that is also when I feel G-d’s presence.

So that is something I have learned this year, to live with in the brokenness, to see beauty in the brokenness, but to continue to hope and pray, even though it is a dream and people defiantly think I am a little naive, but that’s ok, I’d rather have hope.

So now, when I say the Shema, I finally feel connected to the words. I can be a עד, a witness to pain, suffering in the world, but also those few moments of oneness. And praying that that maybe one day things will be better, and doing my best to help that process along.

I leave you with a prayer that I really understood for the first time.

“Instill in our hearts
The desire to understand and discern
To listen, learn, and teach,
To observe, perform, and fulfill
All the teachings of your Torah in love”