Our building’s “va’ad bayit” (house committee) sent out an email letting us know that the building’s cleaning lady is now working from home, so please don’t be too messy in the public areas. And I thought, mmm… the next day, the va’ad bayit boss rang the door bell. Can I actually open the door now to anyone?? I did and moved back. He pointed to a set of new cleaning supplies and wished me luck. I heard myself thinking, “yeh, I have a job”! At a time when world-wide economy is collapsing, it’s good to know one can still do simple, much needed and appreciated, tasks.
The next day, wrapped in a colorful sh’mate around my head (I didn’t want anyone to miss the sight), mop in hand, I headed to the top floor (“mom, you need a strategy”, advised my daughter who knows this building well). Like many Haifa buildings, this one too, is only two stories tall when you come in, hiding the four other floors which meander into the wadi. Plus the entrance hall. Please the parking. Plus the garbage bin area.
Cleaning is good. Down to earth. Immediately satisfying. And done. It’s a great meditation. And it’s good for one’s ego. After all the degrees, experience and what not, nothing like dipping a rag in a bucket of soap to bring about some humility. Yes, this is good for one’s humility, I remembered yoga teachings; very good. For a moment, I felt quite proud how much humility this job brings about… Then again, there is no mitzvah to be humble. Even though it’s considered Moses’ greatest quality. Why not? Why not command us to be like Moses? Like Hillel, the elder, who stood (sat, actually) humbly before Shamai and others?
Because it’s impossible. True humility necessitates a state of “being” rather than “doing; a state of flow. It’s escapable. The moment one notices it, it’s gone. The closest I can get to barely touching it, is at the very end of 7th floor, dirty bucket at hand, feeling my lower back, lifting my head from the floor tiles, and realizing a. I’m done; b. I have not been thinking for the past few minutes. C. I wonder, will anyone even? And there. It’s gone again.
My neighborhood gives me presents. Within the 100 meters I’m allowed (actually a 628m radius, if figured correctly…) much is going on behind the shutters. People are cleaning. Because of Pesach. Because of boredom. Because of Corona. Or a sense that what was, is no longer. Mostly books: Yoga philosophy in Hebrew; reading books that were good for one flight (a relic from those days when flying was a thing); the Bible encyclopedia in three volumes; women magazines; how to be an army doctor. A picture frame. Some plants.
One day, there is a set of suitcases, in not too bad of a shape, near the trash, lined up, ready for a journey, as if their owners gave up that ever… I come home and look at my pink backpack, the one which for months was almost an inseparable part of my coming and going. Do I need to put hide you in the back room? Put you away? I pick it up from its place near the door and look at it. It’s slumped, a little faded from lack of sunlight and adventures. I dust it off and remember, an instruction from the building of the mishkan: the poles of the holy ark were never to be removed, ready for travel as soon as needed.
To be clear: I am not “hopeful”. I am not delusional. I am not an “optimist”. I operate in my day to day life as if all there is, is here and now; as if this can take a long, very long, time. Scary years run through my mind. 1914; 1933; 1939. Times when people thought, see you soon, and met after 4-5-6 years, if at all… And I worry for what’s going on now elsewhere and how will it all look after. But whenever that after shows up, I want my backpack to be right near the door.
It’s time for every Jewish person to apply for an Israeli passport. To plan to apply. To think they plan to apply… whatever works halachikly… No, not because the elections (already forgotten) or Anti-Semitism, but rather, the upcoming 3 days of combination holiday and Shabbat, mixed with quarantine and increased isolation. Two of those are plenty, seriously. And I do love the second day of chag. So I am not asking to “cancel” it, or “abolish tradition”, just to find a way to sanity. Seriously. We’ll give you a sink. Or whatever constitutes a “dwelling place” here. Of all recent challenges, this one is just too much.
Here’s to good news