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A Dreamless Sleep

A Dreamless Sleep

Musings on the 3 Weeks, 3 beautiful boys of blessed memory, and the 3rd of Tammuz


I’m sitting in the Jerusalem Pizza restaurant, housed in the suburban Detroit JCC, on a hot and humid Monday afternoon, enjoying a lunch with my elderly father and youngest daughters, newly fourteen year-old twins.

Dad’s eyes looked above my shoulder at the TV screen posted on the wall behind me, playing CNN. The sound is muted. Dad must have said something about Israeli boys. I turn quickly and see the awful words ticking out on top of the screen, calmly, dispassionately, obscenely. “The bodies of the three kidnapped Israeli teens have been found . . .”

“Oh, no,” I gasp.

My stomach lurches, my heart clenches, my eyes tear.

“What?” Chana and Fayga ask, alert to the alarm in my voice.

“The boys, they’ve found the boys . . .”

The boychiks we and so many thousands, perhaps millions, around the world have been praying for, adding mitzvot for, silently cheering on their brave families, their lovely, so graceful, so dignified, now so broken mothers.My stomach lurches, my heart clenches, my eyes tear

“They found their bodies in a field near Hebron.”

It’s very personal, of course not nearly as personal as for those in Israel, and for the concentric circles of those closer, closer, waves of pain closing in on them, their classmates, the soldiers who searched for them in scorching heat, in mortal danger, for their families. Their faces, these beautiful boys, talented, sweet, good, normal, their mothers’ faces seared into our consciousness.

But what does one do in the JCC of Metropolitan Detroit, a seemingly Jewish place, but muted, quiet, day camp kids playing in the lobby, businesspeople dining, waiters serving, CNN going on to another story on the economy of something, ticker impersonally continuing to spell out letters.

How can you all go on, I want to scream. Israeli men are eating next to us, and checking their phones. Don’t you know? Why are you sitting and laughing? What should I do?

I’m sitting with my elderly, delicate father, with whom I try to keep life on an even, placid keel. If there are waves in my life, I minimize them in his presence.

I want to tear kriyah, jump up and scream. But what can I do? Make a scene? My daughters look to me. We cry silently. Then pick up our forks and eat our suddenly tasteless salads. Dad is paying for our lunches and wants us to enjoy them. Will an emotional scene, not eating, crying, doing something, upset him?

I chew the wooden food, turning almost helplessly back every few minutes to catch yet another pundit interviewing another expert, analyzing the story, the implications—I want to be connected to it.

But I’m at the JCC—not Old Navy or another faceless place of American consumerism to drown, to water down, to anesthetize my Jewish soul. Can I get on the building intercom or something? I watch nice Jewish ladies walk through the lobby, chatting casually.

But we’re in the suburbs, it’s 2 PM on yet another mild-mannered make-no-waves, let’s-go-shopping day.

This is exile. This is galut. A Jewish heart is breaking but afraid to cry, to make waves. As a friend who grew up suffering from persecution in the former Soviet Union was describing life in American just last week: “We’re slowly drowning, in a velvet-soft, sweet, so soft, so somnolent slumber.

It’s the 2nd of Tammuz, the day before the 20th anniversary of the Rebbe’s passing, the Rebbe who fought to ignite the Jewish flame smoldering, smothering in a generation of the worst abyss and the sweetest materialistic apathetic haze. Hayinu k’cholmim—we were like dreamers, the Psalms tell us we will say, when the light of Moshiach finally blasts through the darkness and the haze, and we’ll see how upside-down our lives were, how tranquilized we were, rocked to sleep by malls and cars, empty bliss.

It’s Tammuz, approaching the Three Weeks, when we mourn the destruction of the Temple, and focus on drawing that lost holiness back into our lives, into our world.A Jewish heart is breaking but afraid to cry

The Rebbe and his shluchim continue to strive to wake us from our slumber, and make our Jewish hearts so sensitive, so alive, so aware, they can’t be bribed or sedated.

May the light of redemption blast us awake—through simchah, through bountiful blessings.

Let us feel the pain at what we’ve lost. These boys, lives of innocence and potential; our Temple, nexus of light and holiness.

Our Rebbe, whose rays warm and inspire countless moons, all reflecting G‑d’s luminous light.

Let these multiple shards of light illuminate all darkness and pierce the haze, wakening us to our true selves.

Miriam Karp is an award-winning writer, artist, Judaic studies teacher and lecturer. Her paintings explore intimate moments in Jewish life. Her first book, Painting Zaidy’s Dream: A Memoir of a Searching Soul, shares her story of search. Miriam lives in Cincinnati with her husband and family. Visit her website here.
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Daniel Masri Modiin July 16, 2014

Am Yisrael Chai!!!!!! Each soul is paired with a particular “parcel of land,” a unique destiny, a lot in life. The match is divinely ordained. Last week’s Torah portion reminds us that our soul is on a divine mission with a unique destiny to fulfill—to settle and develop a particular “parcel of land” with acts of goodness and kindness. The knowledge that this is a match made in heaven fuels our confidence, commitment and excitement in tackling our portion in life. Your words have inspired this now Israeli Jew! Blessings! Reply

Miriam Karp Cincinnati, OH July 11, 2014

Dear Daniel,
I hear you and personally would love to and dream of doing just that. Serving as shluchim, we are however committed to doing our part to touch neshamos and gather in the hopefully very last shards of light and sparks of holiness embedded way out here in galut. We're all, in the holy land and out here, working together to lift up this planet and bring it to where it was meant to be. Kol ha kavod to every precious soul who finds themself, by choice or by "chance" in the Holy Land and may Hashem shower you with protection and revealed good. Reply

Daniel Masri Modiin July 10, 2014

Pinchas, Zealousness & You Dear Miriam, Leave the spiritual hollowness of the galut. Come home to Medinat Yisrael where by the Law of Return you can immediately become a citizen. Volunteer for any of the many services the Medina is in need of. Reply

Leah July 8, 2014

this is so beautifully written. Reply

Margo Rose Cincinnati July 1, 2014

What a beautifully written post. Miriam captures the zeitgeist, the spirit and voice of the moment. Millions of Jews mourn this loss. Thank you for so eloquently putting this into words. Reply

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