Remembering the Cold

My earliest ties are my shoelaces and my hat strings on the coldest days of the year. My father is bending down to tie them so that I shouldn't trip and my ears shouldn't be cold. I am his beloved daughter although he has never told me and will never tell me how much he loves me, if one could even say how much.

My father walks ahead of me pushing back the curtains. He walks ahead of me, standing in the corridor and scanning the names or numbers on each door. He walks ahead of me and bends his back like an aspen under a strong wind.

Oh, how we thought those measurements were in our hands and how we sweated them outIn my childhood, it is always winter. We are always securing the windows and doors. We are always coming in from the cold and running our hands along the small open space where the front door is not quite flush with the floor. A matter of centimeters too much or too little could mean our lives. Too much fresh air, or too little. Oh, how we thought those measurements were in our hands and how we sweated them out.

Only now do we realize: G‑d. Only now do we add up all the faint reminders in the darkest time of our Exile. How dark it was in that corner of the world where G‑d's Presence had removed itself to the edges.

One more of His steps back, and we would have been lost forever. One more of our steps forward, and one more of His steps back. We were dancing with Him. He was the Silent Partner, the One we didn't see Who was all the way in the other room.

I still suffer from these memories. I am alone. I didn't see and I didn't know. Have you ever tasted a loneliness like that one? From such loneliness, one rarely returns.

But He, in his infinite love and compassion, He returned me.

Sea Voyage and Landings

I am walking through rooms. In one room, an old friend lies on the couch. I pull over a chair and sit down next to her. She looks up to the ceiling and begins to tell me the story of her life. The words fall down gently. The way she tells the story, it doesn't matter if I am listening carefully or just catching a word or a phrase here and there. If I just enter the mood she is weaving, that's enough. She needs company in there with her thoughts or just the sense of a witness to the proceedings.

There are no sharp edges here. It doesn't even matter if we are sitting in her house or in my house. We are all renters, and the houses have a slight tilt that gives them away—they are built straight up from the earth without any thing anchoring them, no roots or cement foundations.

It strikes me that I've entered a primitive society, just one step away from tent dwelling. We could as well be traveling on boats the way I feel as I walk from room to room. How pleasant to be on a sea voyage, but how strange that it goes on and on without every sighting land, without every going ashore.

Once a month, I go into the forest and lie down on the earth just to feel its hard strength and endurance holding me up. I push away pine cones and sticky bushes. The earth is cold at first, but soon the warmth at our interface is restored. We are old friends.

I go to the place beyond words and other creaturely company. Now the earth and I commiserate. I hear its story in very low tones. It sings to me of "before" time and space. It erases differences. It sings to me of "One."

Wherever I meet the earth, it meets me back. Its mother energy finds my mother energy. It sustains and nourishes. The earth within me listens.

The trees and wind are making a big fuss. I promise them that I will get to them also. That later, after my deep sleep in the earth, I will move over and sit with my back up against the bark. The trees also have stories to tell. Theirs is a womanly voice with a twittering refrain. Something they heard from the birds. Their branches grow and wander. They sing like troubadours about yearning and searching. Their stories surging up with the sap.

The trees remind me of growing. They take me back to green. Each one is a masterpiece, and I am awed. I am also "masterpiece," and I am also unfinished. The old branches falling off, the new shoots appearing out of my center on knarled, old stumps

Like a Flash Flood in the Desert

How can I ever explain it? It came suddenly over me, as if I had been caught in a flash flood in the desert. In spring when the rain has accumulated in the Judean Hills and comes down in mighty torrents through the valleys. By the time it reaches the parched earth of the desert whose only water is the Dead Sea, it has so much momentum that it literally comes crashing, and everything in its path is swept into the torrents of water.

That is what happened to me one Shabbat afternoon as I stood at the Western Wall just like any other tourist. Within moments of touching my fingertips to the stones, it reached me. I was smack in the path of a might torrential flood. I had an experience of complete tshuvah, a word that has been translated as "repentance," but which works better in the sense it carries of a complete return to G‑d.

I can only describe my experience as complete. I was standing at the Western Wall in Jerusalem like just another tourist without any warning that I was smack in the path of mighty waters, and I was suddenly swept up off my feet.

I had lost My Self, and in that moment, my Soul stepped in as so totally whole and complete where My Self had stoodI lost consciousness of My Self. I felt myself being turned around and around in the current. I did not stand my ground, but rather I had no choice but to let go. It sounds frightening and disorienting, but it wasn't. I had lost My Self, and in that moment, my Soul stepped in as so totally whole and complete where My Self had stood.

I knew G‑d then as I will probably never know Him again. I saw Him seeing me. I knew then that everything that had happened in all my years was meant to get me to this moment which I can only describe as a holy moment. My clarity was uncompromised. I had been given the gift of sight. There was no doubt in my mind. I didn't have to make a reality check with another human being. I was completely returned to Him.

I cried as I had never cried before. I was completely broken, but also completely whole. I couldn't stop the flow of tears. There is no stopping a flash flood in the desert.

I wasn't just crying. I was sobbing. Partly, I was devastated by the understanding that I had been living like one who is blind. Partly, I had an overwhelming sense of gratitude at being given the gift of sight. Partly, I realized how deeply exhausted I was in my bones from all the life I had so far accumulated, from all the mileage. Partly, I just cried the way babies cry sometimes from the tension suddenly released.

I don't know how much time passed. It must have been a couple of hours. I didn't want the tears to stop. And they didn't. What I had thought of as "life" was not life.

I sobbed out of my helplessness, but what I felt was the opposite of despair. G‑d was real and true and how lovingly He had led me back.

Amazing was not the word for it. There were no words. I shook and sobbed. The waves of tears kept coming. Partly I trembled when I peered back to see where I had left. How had He gotten me out of the darkness. I knew it had been dark, but only now did I see how dark it had been. I stood outside now. All I wanted was Him. All I wanted was Him.