Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Blessings Of Aliyah

Traditionally, the set of blessings we say in the morning are understood as thanking God for meeting our basic, daily needs.

When I was pregnant with my second child, I noticed that all the blessings reminded me of some aspect of pregnancy and childbirth. The child that was born from that inspired pregnancy is nearly 15 today, but I remember that, at her naming ceremony, I gave a dvar Torah in which I related each of the Birchot Hashachar, each of the morning blessings, to the experience of pregnancy and childbirth.

Recently, with aliyah and geula on the brain as much as pregnancy and childbirth was 15 years ago, I see new things in those same morning blessings.

Blessed are you, Hashem our God, King of the universe Who gave the heart understanding to distinguish between the day of geula and the night of galut.

Blessed are you, Hashem our God, King of the universe, for not having made me a gentile who doesn't get to have a totally unique relationship with the Land of Israel.

Blessed are you, Hashem our God, King of the universe, Who releases the bound from the hold their lives in the diaspora have on them.

Blessed are you, Hashem our God, King of the universe, Who straightens the bent who have been carrying the weight of exile on their shoulders all these centuries.

Blessed are you, Hashem our God, King of the universe, Who has provided me my every need and demonstrated to me that I simply don't need as many material possessions as I thought I did.

Blessed are you, Hashem our God, King of the universe, Who firms man's footsteps and who makes every fourth footstep in the Land another mitzvah.

Blessed are you, Hashem our God, King of the universe, Who girds Israel with strength to thrive in the face of ubiquitous threats from our enemies.

Blessed are you, Hashem our God, King of the universe, Who crowns Israel with splendor very soon, please God, when the Moshiach arrives and clarifies the true spiritual role of the Jewish people.

Blessed are you, Hashem our God, King of the universe, Who gives strength to the weary who must work a while longer before accumulating sufficient merit to ascend to the Land.

Blessed are you, Hashem our God, King of the universe, Who bestows beneficent kindnesses upon His people Israel and brings us Home.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Special Things I Notice in Israel

NOTE: CLICK ON ANY PHOTO TO GET A LARGER VERSION.

I've been privileged to be visiting Israel

for close to a month now. Each day, I see and experience small things that remind me how much I love this county. Three observations came in rapid succession today, reminding me of the specialness of being a Jew in Israel.

As we were driving back to Jerusalem from Kfar Saba, it was just about dusk and the time for davening mincha, the afternoon prayer service, was rapidly coming to a close. Traffic was quite heavy, leaving people without sufficient time to get to their destinations before the mincha service could no longer be said. All along the side of the road, at least a dozen cars were pulled over and Jews were standing by the side of Route 1 to Jerusalem praying the afternoon service.I think this must make God feel very proud, like a parent whose children behave appropriately without being reminded.

Upon arriving in Ma'ale Adumim
we went to pick up a few things in the grocery store. On our way in, I spotted an older woman, not outwardly religious, wearing shorts and a sleeveless top. She reached her hand up to the mezuzah

and kissed her fingers so naturally, anyone watching would know she has made this gesture thousands of times before.

We picked up some fruit, milk and gum and, on our way out, a man crossed into the store as we were leaving. He caught my eye and said, "Chodesh tov," wishing us a good month in the earliest hours of Rosh Chodesh Elul.

These are small, everyday things here. These things I cherish because they are so consistent with my Jewish soul.

Most of the pictures I took on this trip have been of views that delight me because they are only to be seen here in God's Land:

A sign that warns us not to enter this street on Shabbat and Jewish holidays


Haredi children climbing and playing like children anywhere else in the universe


Modern Hebrew words that make me smile because they are so darn clever. (Afarshazif is a combination of the Hebrew words for peach and plum... nectarines!)


Really personal street signs


An old friend making challah on Friday morning


Special sensitivity to religious needs


Being part of a people who remembers our past


And being part of a people who holds fast to dreams of our future