(New to weekly blessings? Here’s more about them.)
Week 4? I’m not sure exactly what happened, but somehow I’m about to experience my fourth shabbat on the ark. This one also happens to be the last shabbat of 5776. Rosh Hashanah falls on Sunday night, and the Jewish new year will commence. You could say that there’s a holiday every week here in Jerusalem with shabbat, but Rosh Hashanah is the first “big one,” the beginning of a year cycle that I will spend largely in this place. I have a lot more to say about that and look forward to sharing about the holidays as they come, but for now it’s blessing time.
(As a side note, I think this week’s blessing might be able to nudge some of y’all who thought about writing me a blessing but decided not to because you were intimidated by the word “blessing” to follow up. With deep gratitude for those who’ve contributed and have told me that they will later in the year, I’m not at 40 yet and am looking for more! So if you think you shouldn’t write one because it needs to be religious or long or anything to be worth it, just keep reading.)
Right before I got on the plane to come to Jerusalem, I got on a plane to Minneapolis to visit some dear friends from college, because two of them, after nearly a decade together, were embarking upon a new shared adventure. Her name’s Matilda. She doesn’t do much at the moment except eat and poop and sleep, but I still think she’s pretty great.
As we visited the 2-week-old babe and her parents, her Dad (How? How is that possible? How is my first-year roommate a Mom? Why is time such a crazy thing?! Ahem–pardon the existential crisisetta) grabbed a sharpie and piece of paper and wrote me this:
This blessing is perfect especially for today. Today I’m beginning a 2-day moving process. I got to Israel with an AirBNB studio for the first few weeks. Today I’m walking most of my things about 10 minutes from here to an apartment I’ll share with an Israeli roommate. I’ll bring the rest of my stuff over tomorrow. When I got here, I really thought that I wanted to find a studio, but when I visited the apartment I’m moving into, I got a good feeling about it. I surprised myself by feeling kind of excited at the idea of having an Israeli roommate. I hope to learn a lot, even if we don’t end up being particularly close, and I hope very much to work on my Hebrew with her (even though if we’re aiming for clear communication I’m sure her English is leagues upon leagues better than my Hebrew). More than anything, I’m eager to settle into the place where I’ll be until late January, when I’ll pop over to Europe for a week or two and then move on to Tel Aviv.
This blessing is also perfect for scooting me into the near year. I need to have the attitude of “GO!” I mean, I’m here. I need to take care of myself, and sometimes that will mean saying no to things and tucking into myself, but more often I’m going to need to push myself to be in the world. And, with apologies to the definitely-not-religious new papa, I’m going to turn to Torah now. (Just think of it as literary analysis, English major.)
I think about the message in Torah of לך לך- the literal message to GO! that God gives to Abram before he’s ready to receive the holy ה that will complete his name. I think of Nachshon going into the Red Sea all the way up to his neck before the waters part. I think of Eve going for the fruit in the garden (yes yes, controversial I’m sure, but I’m convinced that this was a very good thing).
When it comes to this week’s parsha of Nitzavim , I think of the “GO” juice within each of us. Towards the end of the parsha, after going over some lovely and some not-so-lovely parts of the covenant, God says to the people:
“For this mitzvah that I command you today is not too extraordinary for you or far away. It is not in the Heavens that one should say: ‘Who can go up to the Heavens for us and take it and make us listen to it and do it?’ And it is not across the sea that one should say: ‘Who can cross the sea for us and take it and make us listen to it and do it?’ For this thing is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to do it.” (Deuteronomy 6:11-14, my translation)
In short, the energy to go where we have to go, whether that’s to shabbat services somewhere new or to a screaming baby’s changing table at 3 AM., can be found in us.