Living Out Loud
It was another 4:04 Sunday wake up that offered no hope of returning to bed. And I hadn’t even slept that much on Shabbos, certainly not enough of a nap to disrupt my R.E.M. reverie that night. It was the third rainy morning in a row, doing little to elevate my battered spirits. The husband awakened, bleary-eyed, morose, sipping coffee together with me on our glass-enclosed balcony before his morning prayers. We monitored the drizzle and I surreptitiously noted that his eye-bags matched mine after a night of tossing and turning as well.
My first thoughts went to our soldiers. The entire shabbos had been wet and bitter cold. The electricity blew just before I had lit my ten candles, eight for my family and an additional two for captive women who are unable to usher in the Sabbath for themselves. How are our soldiers faring in the cold? The ground is wet, the sky so bleak, and I’m not certain my son has gloves, a scarf, a woolen hat. He prefers to have less because that means less weight on his back when on a mission. Other mothers worry like me because their babies and mine are one.
My bed is warm, the house so toasty, despite the rawness of the weather and I woke up at 4:04 because maybe my son is cold. Sometimes I need a reminder to breathe.
Several years ago, I read a story about a young Ethiopian girl who had arrived in Israel with an older brother, married sister and others who were able to make the trek from Gondar to the Sudan, where they were picked up and flown home to Israel. This young girl was placed in a Zionist youth village where she rapidly acclimated to Israeli culture, language and safety. But she refused to sleep in a bed. Regardless of whatever the compassionate counselors told her, no matter how much they cajoled or attempted to reason, she stubbornly slept upon a folded, thin blanket that sat on the hard, cold dormitory floor. “When my mother can sleep in a bed, so will I.” When her mother finally arrived and the family reunited, a mattress would forever serve as a symbol of wholeness – shalaymut.
Shalaymut also refers to “perfection” and “completion.” When I can’t sleep, need more air, or can barely scramble an egg for dinner in lieu of a more robust meal, it is comforting to know that others share my destiny. Unity is always a good thing and dwelling in Israel during these most desperate days cements our stalwart family in ways that I cannot imagine experiencing while living in Galut – the Diaspora. Every day, myriad calls go out via the social network looking for apartments in which to house evacuees, able bodied men, women and teens to pick fruit, grandmas to bake challahs, and requests for donations of clothing, food, jobs, therapies, friendship. The communal response to these appeals are staggering.
The blessing of sitting in the front row of Jewish peoplehood and history is humbling, especially when a portion of the populace is frightened, wavering in conviction and needs bolstering. But by virtue of emunah sheleimah – full faith – we will reign victorious, despite having to defend ourselves in a rabidly anti-Jewish, international arena. Indeed, the temerity to defend ourselves against unbridled savagery!
The nation of Israel lives and prospers as the most remarkable, holy and magical society that has ever graced the God’s universe. Am Yisrael Chai.
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Reprinted with permission of San Diego Jewish Journal, January 2024