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Our Many Colored Selves, Our Singular Holiness

Our Many Colored Selves, Our Singular Holiness


I love to go running in the early morning. I leave my home before the sun comes up, and I welcome the new day as I run along the trail located in a nearby park. It’s a precious moment of quiet in the day that I value and treasure. Who else is out there with me at 5:30 inShe’s different. She’s alone. the morning? Just a few fellow runners and walkers like me. Do they, too, love to feel the cool morning breeze? I savor these moments of solitude, where I am alone with my thoughts and my dreams.

As I’m running, I glance at the vast expanse of grass in the middle of the trail. The birds flock there in search of food. In the darkness, before the sunrises with its light, all the birds pretty much look the same. I see many black and gray crows—flocks of them. I see many pigeons, most are brown and gray, but I see some white doves, too. The sun comes up; it illuminates my surroundings. And then I spot her. I spot her because there’s enough light. There is enough light to see that this bird, she’s unique. What a beautiful bird! The other ones—with their browns, grays, blacks and whites—they all blend in, one to the other. But this bird, this bird ... she’s got yellow on her and beautiful spots. She looks regal, elegant. She’s different. She’s alone.

I have lived in Jerusalem enough years to know that there is no such thing as a “Jewish look.” I see Jewish people with every color of skin that you can imagine. Jews with big eyes. Jews with small eyes. Myths are myths, and facts are facts, and I can tell you that there is no such thing as a “Jewish nose or Jewish eyes.” I have tall Jewish neighbors and short ones, blond Jewish friends and brunette ones. In one family alone, you can find three different-colored-haired children with three different eye colors. You get the idea; we are a diverse people, and because of that, you can find a Jewish woman who looks Hungarian or Russian. She could look Swedish or Persian, Indian or Chinese. Jews who lived centuries in Iraq will look Iraqi, and Jews who lived centuries in Germany will look German.

So if it’s not the skin color or shape of the eyes, what makes a Jewish woman Jewish? What makes her part of the Jewish nation? What makes her different than anyone else? What makes her unique? What is her true beauty? It’s her soul!

In the winter months, the nights are long. The days are short. It’s a time governed by darkness. In the dark, it’s very hard to distinguish. Even a beautiful bird’s beauty goes unseen in the darkness of the night.

When the Greeks ruled over Israel, they had a mission: Extinguish holy light and make everyone the same. Among other Jewish observances, they outlawed the observance of the Sabbath. Why? What bothered them so much about the Sabbath?

Shabbat is the holy light that distinguishes. When a woman lights candles on Friday night, she’s making a distinction. She separates the holy from mundane. She makes a distinction for her entire family, her entire household. With those candles, she illuminates the darkness, and brings out the inherent beauty of herself and each member in her home. “Here,” she says, “in this Jewish home . . . here, we stop.” The world might be filled with darkness—a darkness that overshadows each one of our beautiful internal lights, ourShe separates the holy from the mundane souls—but in this home, not only is there the internal light of everyone’s soul but here, we can see it!

This is what the Greeks tried to destroy. They tried to destroy our holy light. They tried to destroy what makes us different and beautiful.

King Solomon writes: “The soul of man is G‑d’s candle” (Proverbs 20:27). Each Jewish soul is a light that has the potential to illuminate its surroundings—to illuminate the entire world. When we light the menorah’s candles during the Jewish holiday of Chanukah, we reclaim the light that they tried to extinguish. When we usher the Sabbath in each week with the lighting of candles, we’re making a statement. We’re opening our homes and our hearts to holiness—a holiness that is already there, but that we don’t openly exhibit all the time.

This light shows the world that yes, we are unique, we are different. We are beautiful, and we are holy.

Originally from northern California and a Stanford University graduate, Elana Mizrahi now lives in Jerusalem with her husband and children. She is a doula, massage therapist, writer, and author of Dancing Through Life, a book for Jewish women. She also teaches Jewish marriage classes for brides.
Sefira Ross is a freelance designer and illustrator whose original creations grace many pages. Residing in Seattle, Washington, her days are spent between multitasking illustrations and being a mom.
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Carol Dempsey Saint Petersburg January 3, 2017

Be'chol Lashon We are African as well and many are recovering from our siege ~~~ I am a child of the hiding ones~~and I am as diverse as we can now imagine~~~Thank You for this article I enjoyed it immensely~~~Joy Reply

Eric Metzenthin Saint Louis, Mo via December 31, 2016


jim dallas December 28, 2016

yes to all that you have written, yes to sefira illusration! glad the greeks failed and HaShem won, thanks to all the jewish/hebrew people who make it possible on/in earth and heavens. Reply

Ana Atlanta December 26, 2016

I do feel a distriction in my home , with my family, a great separation from the mundane. In observance of the many holy times of the year and years to come. Reply

M. DIane Flushing, NY December 25, 2016

Chappy Chanukah Elana! Nice Article as always. Since one way to Jewishness is by birth to a Jewish mom, shouldn't we share physical traits with each other & our ancestors? Living all over the world in exile results in different looks; but, it seems G-d, knowing Jews would be in exile & often almost impossible to identify by sight assured we would be special & identifiable. G-d did with us as He did with the pear. He put a seed with DNA inside a pear so if the pear were planted far from its birth place, it would grow into a tree bearing fruit with seeds containing DNA characteristics shared with prior generations & the original(even if environment & 'cross-pollination' (^.^) made the new pears look a bit different than the original). Some humans who don't 'look Jewish' -like me- have shared DNA 'signatures' with people from areas Jews lived from the start & through places of exile after 2nd Temple. Why require 3 year conversion if new ways not available before exist? I like science evidence over oral & man created documents. Reply

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