Ariella Cohen

I Opened The Shades

The sun sets over Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel. (courtesy)

This morning, I opened the trissim (window shades) in my bedroom for the first time since last Saturday night. I love natural light. I always keep my shades open during the day to bring in as much natural light as possible and because I like to see what’s going on outside. I feel very closed in and uncomfortable when I am in a room with the shades closed during broad daylight. Obviously it makes sense to keep them shut at night for privacy, but never during the day. At least not on my own terms. I also hate waking up in a dark room. I’ve done it plenty of times during the phase of my life (not all that long ago) in which I would get up before dawn to exercise. It’s not the same thing though. Waking up in a dark room when I know it is light outside is very disconcerting. Generally I just shut the curtains at night. I have not shut my trissim since I arrived in Israel seven weeks ago. All this is to say that it was a very big deal for me to have my trissim closed for so long. Eleven days.   

I shut them on Saturday night because I was scared. I needed to feel some extra level of security. I was scared because the idea of someone infiltrating my home is incredibly frightening. Scared because I know I couldn’t actually protect myself if I were God forbid to encounter an armed terrorist. In my own home or elsewhere. I cringe at the thought of it. Scared because we were shown what atrocities human beings are capable of committing. They’ve shown us that they have the capacity to do whatever they want, wherever they want, and whenever they want. Things that should not exist in this world. Things that other humans seem to think are “exhilarating.” But those days are over. They are quite literally going down. 

Can we dare to compare these acts to the “חמס” described in this week’s parsha (Noach) that was so awful that the world could no longer continue to exist? It does sound eerily like our current day חמאס (Hamas.) I’m sure that’s not a coincidence. Is anything a coincidence? None of this seems random. Artscroll and Rashi translate the biblical word as “robbery,” but it has to have encompassed more than that. The world was not destroyed simply because people were stealing other people’s physical items. What does robbery include though? Our nation was severely robbed of human life. Of normalcy. Of privacy. Of safety. Of sleep. Of power over our own bodies. I would certainly posit that we were robbed at the highest possible level. The world at large was also robbed. Of whatever moral compass it had left. And of way too many pure souls. 

Ancient history is being repeated. We are back to the times of Noach. What will be our Ark during this modern day Flood? Individually? Collectively? I somehow don’t think my trissim will serve any purpose in this regard. So I opened them today. It took me a while, and it made me very uncomfortable. I’m still thinking about it. Hours later. Why are my trissim triggering me? Perhaps because one of the first things I did in order to feel like I was protecting myself was to close them. Opening them makes me vulnerable. It feels like pulling the bandaid off a wound that has not yet healed. But I think that’s a good thing. Because sometimes wounds need to breathe a bit in order to heal properly.

Opening my trissim reminded me that I have been emotionally wounded. That I need to heal. And that I now need to allow myself to heal. It is not an easy task. The parsha song for Noach that I learned when I was a small child (and still remember to this day) highlights this idea. It is referencing why Noach was told to build the Ark in public. “Hashem told him to do it so people would ask: ‘What are you doing? It’s a hard task.'” The healing process is helping me build my personal Ark. It’s hard. Whoever wrote that children’s song explained it well. But I can do hard things. Doing hard things is what helps me become a better person. Physically and emotionally. In all areas of life. The pain may ebb and flow. Our collective suffering ebbs and flows. But I am taking baby steps to heal while the pain is still raw. Will I ever fully heal?  

I feel exposed. I need to build myself an Ark. But how? I’m trying to build a protective Ark while simultaneously breaking down the barriers that are stifling me. And the need that I feel to stay holed up inside. I went running yesterday. I felt safe enough to go out cautiously. To stay within less than 90 seconds of a covered space. It was good to be out, but I felt unprotected. Maybe the Ark that I need to build is spiritual. Removing the physical barriers while building the spiritual ones. Easier said than done, but it’s a nice idea. It’s a confusing thing to work out. But I am doing my best. As I always try to do. And I most likely won’t have it all worked out today or tomorrow. But I’ll get there. If I give myself grace. If I am patient. I’ll get there. 

I’ll close my trissim again tonight to bring back a tiny bit of the feeling of safety. Everything feels scarier at night. So I’ll do myself that small favor to help me sleep. But I promise myself that I will open them again in the morning. To strengthen myself by doing something that is out of my comfort zone. To break down the physical barriers. Because I can. Something seemingly so trivial that does not feel trivial at all. And I will continue to figure out how in the world to build my Ark. Because I’d very much like to survive this Flood. Not by myself, but with everyone who stands on the Good side of this war. We will survive together. 

About the Author
Ariella Cohen grew up in Far Rockaway, NY and made Aliyah from Bala Cynwyd, PA in August 2023. She is an engineer and amateur musician with lots of other hobbies on the side.
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