These and Those

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

Revelation in a Food Court

Posted on August 31, 2015 by Eli Steier

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Hebrew Quote

In order to prolong your days and the days of your children on the land that the Lord promised your fathers that he would give them, as long as the days that the heavens are over the earth.


The above lines are from the second paragraph of the tri-paragraph Shema prayer. It is a paragraph that I have had a bone to pick with especially in light of the sensical nature of its companions: the first and third paragraphs. The first paragraph is about loving Hashem, and speaking and living Torah wherever you go. This makes sense to me. Likewise, the third paragraph talks about the tzizit as a tool to help you stay focused on the path of holiness. Likewise, this makes sense to me. However, the second paragraph, which is an incentive paragraph typically raises a wall and red flag in my consciousness.

What kind of reward is it to prolong your days and the days of your children on the land? I mean, it’s not a bad reward. It’s just not very flashy. It’s not about eternal life or happiness or great achievements. It’s just about prolonging your days and the days of your children on the land….which is nice, but, I mean, pretty run-of-the-mill by comparison to the other rewards I listed. YouknowwhatImean?

The Hadar Mall in Jerusalem is a mall in some ways like other malls: it has stores, a food court, and people. One difference I noticed immediately as I entered the mall was the energy of the people. Despite the general “mallness” around me, there exuded a warmth, a vibrancy, an “aliveness,” that struck me as so different from my general mall experiences in New York. There were people talking, eating, and shopping, and they were also just alive. I saw some kids running around a carousel, and was overjoyed at their just being.

Just being. People just being. There were Jews and people of other faiths eating together in the food court. Just being. I bought a salmon and salad dish from a restaurant front and sat at a table in the food court, and took everyone in.

After I ate, almost moved to tears, I understood. What could be more of a reward than to just have life continue? To have people, my people, along with members of the extended human family of which I am a part, to come together and eat in peace. To be in a place where it is normal to be Jewish, and normal to eat in a mall, to be in Jerusalem after so many years, in a mall full of just so much regular-aliveness. To have that to just continue for generations to come. To be alive. What a great reward that is.