What a wonderful day today was! Tisha B’Av at the kotel was deeply moving. Thousands of people were standing in the plaza. Not doing anything specific; just about everyone did maariv as soon as possible in order to make Havdalah and drink something. After maariv, there were about 15 minutes of just being.
Am Yisrael, just being
Men and women, children, old people
Traditional Sefardim, American yeshiva boys, old Yeushalmis. Jewish tourists who had little idea of why so many people were there (Last year, the entire area was so empty, Ethel). They all felt very much part of something bigger than they are.
And then it was over.
Getting on the bus was the same surreal experience of Last Chopper Out of Hanoi again and again. Even the driver was surprised by the instantaneous descent into real life. The general feeling was still one of being part of one basically big, happy, dysfunctional family.
Today we began learning again. The Ten Commandments seemed so much more part of our reality, they have been with us since we became a people who have no basic identity outside of the Torah. The fourth commandment, Shabbos, is one in which the unique nature of our identity is most physically observable. It’s only Tuesday night, but Shabbos is on my mind. The Neve girls who are leaving want to get in their last Shabbos. My son and his family who live in Bnei Brak want to escape its brilliantly sunny days and torrid airless summer days. The center of Shabbos, as you all know, are the meals. It doesn’t matter who is coming (or where you are going). There is always the unseen guest, Hashem, who provides us with everything we see, taste, and experience. Before you can relate to your weekly Guest, you have gotten to know Him. The first commandment opens your heart. “I am Hashem, your G-d who took you out of Egypt. That means that He is aware of you (the way He was able to differentiate between the Jews and the Egyptians during the plagues). He is not “distracted” by the limitless expanse of the cosmos, or the innumerable microbes on the head of a pin. You are central, and in ways that your mind will never fully grasp, so is everyone else. He creates nature minute by minute, and at the same time hides behind its mask. He made the rules that govern reality, and can break them if that’s what He finds best for us, His dear children. When you keep Shabbos, you are entering a space where you too aren’t distracted by life itself, and as you sit down to eat, hear the words, Vaishali, And He completed the heavens and the earth.
For all of us
For the people pushing their way onto the bus
And the ones who aren’t
For their ancestors
And their unborn generations
And the ones who wish they were
The sweet humble amcha
Who know Him even when they don’t know
That they know Him