wrinkled

One of the things that I love about living in Tzfat is the clean air. That means we (and by we, of course, I actually mean me) can hang our laundry outside to dry. The only thing that stands in our my way is that the winds are sometimes so strong that our hanging rack falls down.

Yes, that’s one of the things remaining on my original to-do list from when we were moving into the house is to put up a fixed clothesline.

Moving on…

But one of the results of this wonderfully eco-conscious financially-savvy way of drying clothes is that they get quite wrinkled. I don’t have enough Martha Stewart in me to figure out a way to hang them so they don’t. But mostly because another thing I love living in Tzfat is that it doesn’t matter. I can be wrinkled and no one would say a thing.

Oh, you thought perhaps I meant something else?

Now that you mention it, it did cross my mind, or in fact, my mirror. I had looked at myself this morning after putting on a particularly wrinkled shirt, adding a particularly not-flattering headscarf that matches the shirt’s color and was good enough for a day at home, and I did notice that my face matched the shirt (but not the scarf) pretty well.

And I thought to myself that yes, here in Tzfat, I can be wrinkled and no one would say a thing.

I do notice, though. I pay attention, sometimes in the back of my head, and sometimes more in the foreground, of the others around me. I am cognizant of how old everyone is or how old they act. But not how wrinkled their clothing is! I wonder often if I’m the oldest in the room, which happens often these days, or I wonder how old that old person next to me in yoga is older than me, even as she moves better than I do.

Yes, I am still touching my toes. But I’m trying harder to do more.

We tried out a class in watercolors at the senior center. There is one mother and daughter team, along with some verified seniors who are very talented. We are novices, although we have played at it some along the years. I appreciate how much work it takes to do it well, and how much there is to learn. We went yesterday to a shop in a nearby town that sells art supplies at a good price (for Israel). The store was recommended by one of the participants in the class, with the added suggestion that we ask the shop owner for advice. And so we did. He spent a long time with us, suggesting which paints to get, what brushes, paper, etc. He looked to save us money, which we certainly appreciated. When we were finally ready to pay for our multiple purchases, ISHI asked him if he works in watercolors. No, he answered. He used to be a photographer, but not anymore.

Now he helps people like us become better, stretching out our wrinkles.

And I will work on using my mirror to see farther.

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the last of the books

Well, hardly. We are down to one last box of books, but I was giving homage to a great book, The Last of the Just. This of course has absolutely nothing to do with my situation, although I am sure that a case could be made (badly) that living in Israel is an existential nod to the greater fragility of all mankind.

So let’s not go there.

Instead, let’s talk about books as a value. As something we should have; display; but most of all, use. The enjoyment of books is what is inside and then what can be brought out.

It is most ironic to me that there is a word in Japanese for having too many books. Tsundoku.  積ん読. A little of the history:

The word dates back to the very beginning of modern Japan, the Meiji era (1868-1912) and has its origins in a pun. Tsundoku, which literally means reading pile, is written in Japanese as 積ん読. Tsunde oku means to let something pile up and is written 積んでおく. Some wag around the turn of the century swapped out that oku (おく) in tsunde oku for doku (読) – meaning to read. Then since tsunde doku is hard to say, the word got mushed together to form tsundoku.

Ironic, of course, because of the whole Konmari movement stemming from Japanese minimalism.

I am not proposing that you should only have your books as a wish list. I am saying you should enjoy them in all ways possible. It has to be more than the thrill of the unknown, or the pursuit of happiness…

This is by no means a new insight for me (I wrote about it here); (oh and in March ’12! here); it’s just an essential one. The importance of books/anything should be for intrinsic and extrinsic value. I do get a good feeling seeing our books laid out properly, where they can be located easily, subjects somewhat related. And when need be, and that be a lot, shelved according to size. Large art books sit together sideways.

Here’s a fellow who takes his books to a new art form:

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How did you and your best friend meet? 📚 Liz (@elizabeth_sagan ) is back in one of my pics. Yeeey (actually, she made write that😂)! Seriously now though, for those of you who don't know, Liz is my official photographer (and I am her photographer) and, also, my best friend. We've been knowing each other for 11 years now (I think?) and oh boy, we've been through a lot. Answering what is still one of the most popular DMs I get – NO, we are not in a relationship. We have been sharing everything else though. Our love of reading (which is actually how we met – on a site that dealt with book reviews), of writing, of trekking and sport in general, of music, of drawing and photography. It is kinda like we are soul mates without the relationship part haha (like seriously, we even think of things at the same time and complete each others sentences😂; freaky really). #WHPbestfriends 📚 Anyway, how would you rate your week, guys? Mine was a 7-8. Not bad. 📑 📑 📑 #bookstagram #book #reader #sundayfunday #shelfiesunday #shelfie #bookshelf #bookshelves #art #bookish #readersofinstagram #poetrycommunity #wordporn #myartwork #artoninstagram #lifestyleblogger #czytamy #bedtimestories #friendshipgoals #euamolerh #theweekoninstagram #postitforaesthetic #norsemythology #aesthetic

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So, is it true with books as with clothes, that if you haven’t worn them in a year, just let them go?

No.

And yes. Some books you should grow out of. Some just aren’t worth a second or third look.

And oh yes, there are some found treasures in those last boxes. I am happy that we have the room to store them and hopefully the days to sit down and rediscover them.

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Our guests now have a little something to read

And yes, kudos to ISHI for finally putting up the shelves!! But yes, we still need one more bookcase for the last of the boxes.

Tsundoku of our Tzfat house.

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Yes, dusting is required. The plastic bit is from the plastic shelf that the other books were sitting on. That has been disassembled and taken to the yard where it belongs. Yay!

 

 

expanding normal

Here we are, back to normal. Laundry needs to get done, the neighbors are still arguing, the smells of the fields in the daytime are blocking out the nighttime jasmine fragrance. It’s the day after all the holidays, and really, this becomes what matters most. What do you do when it is not subscribed how exactly to act?

It is known as שגרה here, routine. But the word שגרה reminds me of שגור בפיו, fixed in one’s mouth, often used to refer to someone careful about praying consistently so that the words of the prayers are always fixed in one’s mouth. In a way, being so in tune with the words that you don’t require any metacognition to pray, but just in flow. So this is the possibility of moving this time into fulfilling all the promises we made to ourselves since Rosh Hashanah and before (and always) to change. Make the words flow fixed in our mouths. But so yes, we need a lot of help. How to actually make the change? How not to fall back into the old routine? Do you plan?

I have a list of new to-do’s.

Here are the items on my new list:

buy new indoor plants for bathroom
put up bookshelves
buy bookcases
buy some kind of machsan for outside chairs/cushions
display family pictures–install glass small shelves in living room

Yes. For sure, these will make all the difference.

These aren’t necessarily new things, either; just a new list. Many of them are on multiple lists. You might note, for example, that bookcases/shelves have been on to-do lists for a year now while I’ve been not writing. Most of the books have found homes, but there are still too many sitting in the upstairs storage on plastic shelves that should be holding plastic bins, which in turn are sitting on the basement floor…

Which makes me think I do need to restart the book about how we place importance on things that I had been thinking about for the past 5 years…

Which is how perhaps I can re-find my voice, which has been quiet for at least a year…

I had injured my hand last year in a stupid stupid self-inflicted accident. It took a lot out of me emotionally; cutting me down, so-to-speak. I tried to slough it off, but it didn’t work as well as perhaps I thought I could. One of the results was my shutting up. I didn’t feel I had anything to say that was worthwhile. Nothing was fixed in my mouth, in other words.

I continued to observe; I took a lot of photos. It’s not a bad thing to observe. I have been watching how to frame things; in photos, in life. How we see things is often a matter of setting the boundaries.

Thinking in the box, as it were. (so-to-speak)

Such as buying plants for our bathrooms. We have a moisture problem, but lots of light, so embrace the possibility! Wabi-sabi and embrace the brokenness.

This past year I spent a lot of time out of the country. Out of my box. It was good visiting people and places, but it gets hard to be away.

I prefer to be in my own space. I love people coming to visit me. We had some visitors, but I hope to have more. That is why we wanted to have a big space, or big enough for guests. I hope I can make people feel comfortable while they are here. I know how much it makes a difference for me.

I see that thinking out of the box is how Donna Strickland, one of today’s recipients of the Nobel Prize in Physics, describes her success:

When asked this morning about the groundbreaking discovery, Strickland said, “It’s thinking outside the box to stretch first and then amplify. Most people were amplifying and trying just to compress whatever they had amplified.”

What else is different? I know more deeply how fragile we are. The veggies we put in for the summer got attacked by nematodes, a worm I knew existed but never realized how much damage they can do. Best laid plants…

I have so much sympathy for Yonah and his gourd; I watched my gourds dry up and there wasn’t anything I could do after the fact. I sat behind Ari Fuld’s zk”l wife in synagogue last Shabbat in Efrat when we had come back from Australia. She was in her box and that I imagine brought comfort.

How do we stretch first and then amplify?

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The charity box in the Abuhav Synagogue in Tzfat. Yes, that’s supposed to be a unicorn, which is the artist’s conception of the Tachash animal used in the Tabernacle, according to the Ari z”l, which represents the public’s need to donate in order to support the holy structures.

looking inwards

We’re here. It’s already been four weeks; that is, we have spent four Shabbatot here in our new home. It’s certainly feeling homey now. The boxes are banned to outer corners so we don’t have to bump into them all the time, nor even deal with them. I am not in a hurry to get to those boxes,  since they are basically ISHI’s books.

35 boxes of books.

I counted them in order to estimate how many bookshelves we need. You know you can Google that–how many books fit on a shelf. We need approximately 24 shelves. So now come the requests for handymen who can build us these shelves, and then comes the wait for the estimates.

Yes, we knew we would need to spend money on this side of the mountain. And realistically, there are always things that pop up that you would never have expected. Replacing our shower doors turned out to be much simpler (and less expensive) than we thought. Putting up fixtures is more complicated…wires that should be working are not; some are in the oddest places and makes access quite ridiculous. But the primary lists are getting whittled down, and other secondary things are taking their place.

And with all of this home improvement, we find ourselves also in the month of Ellul, when we are supposed to be getting ready for the New Year. Thus the title of this post; the need for some introspection. I can easily find many faults that I have to work on, really, much too easily. And there is a lot of negative in the world, as if I had to remind anyone…We have heard recently of too many people who are battling diseases of too many kinds, and the heart aches for each one.

With my tendency to go negative, though, I am working on looking at the positive. And I’m grateful that I’ve had a little nodding in this direction today from social media, no less.

The words “soul searching” or “confession” can be menacing. They usually remind us of that which is not OK, of that which we have to fix. But this week’s Portion, Ki Tavo, presents a different kind of confession: Vidui Ma’aser (confession upon tithing). After performing the instructions related to Ma’aser (tithing), one says a series of moving verses. Here is just part of this confession: “I have not turned aside from Your commandments nor have I forgotten any of them… I have obeyed the LORD my G-d; I have done everything You commanded me.” This is a positive kind of confession, in which one looks back on all the good things one did, and also talks about it.
Rabbi Kook writes about it wonderfully: “A person needs to sometimes rejoice by expressing with his lips the good things that he did… Therefore we need the confession over the Mitzvot from time to time, in order to strengthen our heart in the path of G-d, just as we need the confession over transgressions”.
Meaning, along with the confession over transgressions (“Ashamnu, Bagadnu… We have been guilty, we have dealt others treacherously…” and the entire confession of the Ten Days of Repentance) Rabbi Kook also talks about “confessing our Mitzvot”. One should sometimes confess one’s good deeds, because soul searching is not only about that which we need to fix. It is also a call to pay attention to everything that is good and beautiful, fixed and excellent – with us and with all those who surround us.

And then on Brainpickings, Maria Popova quotes Martin Seligman’s

“What-Went-Well Exercise,” also known as “Three Blessings” — based on the interventions he and his team at the Positive Psychology Center and the University of Pennsylvania have validated in the random-assignment, placebo-controlled experiments they have been conducting since 2001 to study changes in life-satisfaction and depression levels.

“Every night for the next week, set aside ten minutes before you go to sleep. Write down three things that went well today and why they went well.”

So I will set down now to get into the habit, three blessings.

  1. Cats that can wander into our storage area because the door doesn’t close is a good thing, because they will take care of the mice. And the scorpions. And also the snakes. The guys who are fixing our doors let us know. And so did our gardener.
  2. Hiring one of our handymen, even though he is slower than others, is a good thing because we are helping pay for his wife’s acupuncture and alternative medicine for her cancer treatment. So I’m not looking at how he is putting in some of the things we asked.
  3. Our gardener is coming to lay down irrigation piping so we can plant things. Things will grow here. That is a blessing that is promising, but itself is enough.

And then reading about the importance of accepting negative thoughts? Icing on the Ellul cake.

looking forward!

I had started composing* a post last week that was all about what I won’t miss from the old neighborhood. I got to the end and realized I had to put in what I would miss. That made me realize I shouldn’t be focussed on the negative at all, and that wasn’t a good way to leave.

The best way to leave is to focus on the good. There were many good points about being here in the city for this past year, and I had to reframe my thinking. It should be all about gratitude for the past, and hope for the future. I then was able to see this year as an airlock between the states and our own home. So the airlock is not always the most comfortable, but it’s a process, and that’s what we are in, thank G-d.

And then I read an article I had been saving, How to Get Past Negativity Bias in Order to Hardwire Positive Experiences, so I had no excuses extra motivation!

I can truly pose all the negatives into positives, anyway…

Most of the complaints centered around the issue of privacy, so that is the top of the list right now. I am looking forward to our

own

space.

Privacy.

Country. I am simply a country mouse, and I accept that willingly.

Our own yard. I already bought a hose for watering what may come. And for our car.

Cleanliness. Of the air and the streets.

Quiet. Dogs run around, but don’t have the need to profess territoriality, so are happier, I presume.

Music of my choice, played quietly.

People who might be walking by and talking on their phones and walking by. Moving on.

Space, to put things, to have guests, to have space to do projects, to be creative in new ways. To expand and feel at home.

The stairs. Wide. Steady. Safe.

The views! The new views of the north and east. Our views from our porch were often wonderful, and that I admit that I will miss, but I can do that honestly and still look forward to the new views.

And since we’re not leaving Tzfat really, but moving to a different neighborhood, we will go back and visit the sunsets often enough. I can recognize what I want to see more of, and what is good to leave behind.

To smell the roses.

Yes, very much looking forward!

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*I chose that word carefully, having composed a song about our travails! I was inspired by our 4 year-old grandson, who wrote a letter I read as a song because why not?

gravity and revelation

Gravity means a few things. It can refer to importance; it also can refer to the physical property. Let’s use both, but start with the physical.

Last Shabbat, we had guests here, an old study partner of ISHI, from their days at YU, so that makes it 37 years ago. We had lost touch over the years, as this was before Facebook and even email. But with the help of a Google search, he did locate us and let us know he’d be here in Tzfat at this time with his recently-wed wife and his sister. We are in the middle of boxes, so we wouldn’t be able to house them, but they came for all the meals.

At some point at lunch, probably when I was pulling out serving trays, I dropped one of my favorite glass trays from Israel, and the decorative edge came off one side. It didn’t break, and we also realized it wasn’t fastened that well to begin with. And I sighed a large sigh of relief.

Later on that day, towards night, ISHI went to close the dining room window and hit a vase on the window sill. This time, we weren’t so lucky, and the shards took a while to clean up. Worse, of course, is that it wasn’t ours, but belonged to our landlords. The only good part of that was it was made in China, so not that expensive a piece. I had looked at that earlier this year.

After nightfall, when ISHI went into the living room to pray, he quickly came back into the kitchen to say something wasn’t right next door. He had heard some screams, and we should go quickly.

Earlier that day, I had seen our neighbors up on the porch of the other neighbor, working hard as the neighborhood watch. I had wanted to introduce our guests to them, because they all had a number of matching points of interest. And the sister and our neighbor were indeed happy to speak for a long time, in French, a little Moroccan Arabic with the other neighbor, too.

So I went with the sister, both of us quite concerned about what we might find. Our neighbor opened the door for us, and we saw his wife on the ground, having fallen. Had she fallen down the stairs? No, she just tripped and fell there, but she’s of a certain age where falls are not simple. The sister, who just happens to be a physician’s assistant, was able to speak with her in French in the most gentle way, softly diagnosing her vitals and the situation. Once our neighbors could remember the phone number, I was able to call Hatzalah, an  emergency company that arrives by motorcycle, or even this time, on bike, which is enormously helpful in old cities without easy car access. They came with crowds of helpers. I was quite impressed.

She was fine; she was able to wait to go the next day to get x-rays, which were fine. Bruised, embarrassed, but dignity basically intact.

Thanks to our old friend and his sister. And Google. And fate.

But it left me thinking about gravity, near misses and full encounters. And Gravity of gravitas, importance. Tisha B’Av, the fast day recalling the destruction of the Holy Temple over 2000 years ago. We are living in such grave times, with people not making personal connections, but allowing themselves to be used to further someone else’s objectives. We are taught that the Temple was destroyed due to Baseless Hatred שִׂנְאַת חִנָּם, and the most direct remedy for that is the opposite,

observing the corresponding precept is the antidote that will lead to the restoration of the Temple. Ibn Ezra (Lev. 19:17) expresses this concept when he states that by observing the commandment to “Love one’s neighbor,” we will return to our Land, because this mitzvah is the opposite of sinat chinam, which is what destroyed the Second Temple.

But what came to me today, in mourning the loss of the Holy Temple, was that we need to make the personal connections work because that’s what we are truly missing. The Temple was a place of connection, of continued revelation of G-d to us, but it got lost even before the actual building was destroyed. We turned things into the essence, rather than the connections with G-d, and with people. So our redemption will come when we reconnect, first with people, and then with G-d. That our revelation will flow from us back to our Source.

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Do you see how much we all want to connect?

 

 

here we go again for the first time

A year has passed with us here in the center of Tzfat. It is time for some peace and quiet. But to get to there, we have to pass through another rite of passage, and we are again living with boxes. Again, we are weighing our possessingness. Again, we are self-judging why we have this stuff. Does it bring us such pleasure? Comfort? Right now, of course, since we are boxing up what we haven’t necessarily used in a year, to add to the boxes of stuff in our storage space that we definitely haven’t used in a year or even thought of, the answer should be “no.”

The question is in the should be.  But as I started this blog to figure out what possesses us more than what we possess, it’s the value that we inherit and also place upon things that matters.

I could continue playing with language about things and stuff and being possessed, but I’m finished. For the moment, at least. After all, I wrote about my battle with things already here  and  here and here (basically all of last August when we were first unpacking our life lift). What have I learned in the year? In the past 64 years, to be exact?

I am a person who thrives on order; place. I don’t like thinking about where things are; I like/need, really need, to know that I can reach into a particular drawer, and on the right side of that drawer, I will find that certain spoon I require to stir that certain dish. I like having specific things to be used as often as possible for specific tasks, not multi-tasking. Yes, it’s a level of comfort that I want. I was tired of grinding my fingers along with the cabbage, so we purchased a food processor, even though I had said we wouldn’t buy anything before moving into our new and bigger place. Thankfully, it’s also fun to use, so I’m feeling more productive with my cooking. We purchased fans to work with the air conditioners here. It’s hot and stickier than it should be.

I’ve worn heels I think twice this year, both times to weddings, and not to all the weddings we’ve gone to. Again, comfort wins. But I’m not getting rid of the heels so quickly. I’ve gotten rid of the shoes I don’t like already. I like what I have.

I didn’t need to pull out the big guns of my heavy down coat last winter, but I definitely won’t give that away. It gets cold here in Tzfat, and it does snow every eleven years or so with some significant accumulation. The last storm was three years ago, so we’re due soon enough. We brought one snow shovel for then, and I’d rather be over-prepared than desperate.

I am so looking forward to having a place for my things, with a sense of purpose for all of them, even if they are only for nostalgia.

I’m looking forward to knowing where all the tools are, or at least where they should be returned after their use. I want to know where the toys are, again, at least in potential. Same with the broom, and the flour, and the machzorim, the special prayer books that are used only once a year.

I am looking forward to pulling out all the books we did bring and then figuring out what books we can now buy. Yes, the big birds of Israel book, once we are settled. That will be around the time of the next bird migration. We will be waiting for them at our new place.

I’m looking forward to all the musical instruments being in one room. Not sure which one yet, but we’ll figure that out.

I’m looking forward to figuring out where guests should stay, where they will enjoy the peace and quiet that we hope to gain there.

I am looking forward to guests having space, so we can all enjoy each other in ease.

Having guests, having adventures, enjoying nature. Space for our technology, the computer and camera accoutrements.

And still hanging our clothes to dry in the breeze.

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the view across our street; yes, that’s Mt. Hermon in the distance

 

 

original therapy

One of the things that I’ve taken on as a volunteer position rather than a paid one is work with young people visiting Israel/Tzfat and helping them write a dvar Torah, literally a “word of Torah”. This becomes a short discussion about some topic that interests them dealing with some aspect of Torah. Or ethics. Or Jewish identity. Or pretty much whatever interests them, my job being to help them connect to some Jewish sources. It’s quite fascinating, as you see the ones who think they already know a lot are unable to get past the [actually pretty little] information that they supposedly know, and the ones who are truly open because they have cleared their egos for knowledge and authority can really learn a lot. And when they learn a lot, guess who does, too?

I learn because I have to state things that make sense, but not because they are well-trotted out lines. Things that make sense for the moment, for the situation, for the person I am speaking to. So great truths emerge, or at least for me!

Sort of like writing a blog.

This past week, I made some connections about sacrifices, lying, and peace.

The young woman I spoke to who was open and clear in her lack of pretense wanted to develop something about how to be authentic, speaking truth [to power?], but also working with people in a genuine way. The model who came to mind was Aharon the High Priest.

Be of the students of Aaron:

Love peace, pursue peace, love people and bring them closer to Torah.

Hillel (Avot 1:12)

היו מתלמידיו של אהרן אוהב שלום ורודף שלום אוהב את הבריות ומקרבן לתורה

הלל, משנה, מסכת אבות א:י”ב

Aharon was a fascinating character. He was the older brother, but he did not exhibit any jealousy about the younger brother getting the limelight. He was able to be the interpreter for Moshe and Pharaoh due to whatever kind of speech impediment that Moshe had; he was able to be the go-between there which led to a greater role of interpretation later. For whatever reason also here, G-d chose to divide the governing of the people between the brothers. Moshe became the legislator; Aharon became the judiciary, of sorts. What was the priesthood? What was the purpose of the sacrifices?

What became clear to me was that Aharon’s pursuit of peace was an essential role of his priesthood; bringing people close to Torah, which in its essence is bringing people to their true selves. There is a midrash/fable from Avot de-Rabbi Natan how he acted to bring peace:

It is also told of two people who had a quarrel that Aaron went and sat with one of them and said, “My son, see what your fellow is doing, for he is in a state of emotional turmoil, rending his garments and, all choked up, saying:  How can I look my friend in the eye? I am ashamed before him, for it was I who did wrong.”

He would sit with him until he removed all jealousy from his heart.  Afterwards he would go to his fellow and say to him, “My son, see what your fellow is doing.  For he is in a state of emotional turmoil, rending his garments and, all choked up, saying:  How can I look my friend in the eye?  I am ashamed before him, for it was I who did wrong to him.”

He would sit there until he removed all jealousy from his heart.  When the two met, they embraced and kissed each other.  Therefore it is written, “all the house of Israel bewailed Aaron thirty days” (Num. 20:29).

Yes, it is tied into this week’s Torah portion as well; why Bnei Yisrael mourned for Aharon for a full month with full appreciation of his sacrifices for them. But what about truth? So, did he really lie? What did he know about what the other thought? And this was when I realized what Aharon was doing; he was being a therapist, helping the patient understand his emotions and the person he thought was in conflict with him. He was helping the person get past his stuck point-of-view.

This is what the sacrifices were about, as well, and why Aharon was the perfect person to take this role. We get stuck with our actions so often and can’t figure out a way to get past ourselves. The sacrifices were a vehicle of getting past; getting rid of our guilt; getting out of our rut. So it is only fitting that the priest who was connected to this process of moving on would be the one who was able to pursue peace between people and between us and G-d.

And that Hillel, who was known for his path of peacemaking, would offer Aharon as a role model? That becomes a lesson in itself about always looking to connect past yourself. Don’t take yourself so seriously, but take the other at his true word.

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The box of matzot held at the Ari Synagogue in Tzfat, characterizing the collective nature of community
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In a synagogue in Efrat, where our grandson celebrated learning the whole Torah

the year of living wackily

In Tzfat. Where you can always expect the unexpected. And we are so normal it’s not normal.

זה לא נורמלי!

It’s not normal! Is the normal thing to say.

I am thinking of our year here as Act I in the play about our move to Israel, our aliyah to the Land. I don’t know what Act II will be like yet. It hasn’t yet been written. But this year has been something [via Google Translate]

בֶּאֱמֶת
really, truly, in sooth, straight up
מַמָשׁ
really, very

not normal.

What has been normal for me, of course, is not normal for most people in the world. I have to go with my experiences. I also realize that one part of moving to Israel was my desire to be normal; to live in a place where you are not the exception; you don’t have to explain yourself to people about why you dress a certain way, why you eat certain foods, why you don’t travel on these days, why you wouldn’t go out to certain places, why so many things that seem normal are not my normal. It is a great deal to belong, to fit in, to not have to think about what other people are thinking.

לִהְיוֹת עַם חָפְשִׁי בְּאַרְצֵנוּ          To be a free people in our Land

is what it says in the national anthem Hatikvah.

So, do I feel free yet? Do I feel free to walk about?

As I write this, tons of people are passing by my window. Well, busloads.

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Tours of Birthright kids coming to find out what their birthright is to this land. It’s curious, if not outright humorous to hear what they are told about Tzfat. We can hear them from the comfort of our dining room when they give their pitch about art, or Tzfat, or what is Kabbalah, or what does holy even mean? Everyone has their story, and it’s not necessarily what I would say. But let them come and hear! When I get a chance, I tell them mine.

We are grateful to live here in the middle of the chaos so we can show our visitors around; so we can give them our version of the truth. We can show them our amazement at the stones, the places with so much history that they can hardly stand up, but most of all, the people.

But when it comes down to it, we will be quite happy to do this from a little bit of distance. We hope to move to a suburb of Tzfat in August. I can know that I belong and yet be happy to be on the other side of the hill, looking to figure out what Act II is all about.

I’m looking forward to smelling the roses there.

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