I embrace adventure through trail running. I often begin on a familiar trail near my home in the Judean Hills, letting curiosity lead me down random paths that wind up and down through the countryside that eventually circle back to where I started. I start with certainty then merge into the unknown, bringing music, audiobooks or an attempt to pace myself with mindful breathing. I find both solace and purpose in movement through an early morning landscape of vast skies, dirt paths, rocks and life sprouting from earth with a steady mantra of lech lecha, go to yourself, fueling me for an hour, or two or more.
Usually when I go on my morning trail runs, I am treated to bounding gazelle in the distance. So I was very surprised when recently I rounded a curve and almost collided head to horn with a bounding gazelle! There was no time for either of us to stop, and as I braced for what I anticipated as an inevitable impact, the main thought in my head was that this adventure could lead me to the emergency room!
Can you guess what happened next? In that split second, in that blink of an eye, the frightened gazelle literally leaped over me, folding its legs so it’s hooves would not graze my head. I felt the powerful lift of the body weight and the movement of air as it soared over and landed behind me, then dashed out of view just as another gazelle veered sharply to the left then bounded off to join its friend. With a heart elevated way above my running, I spontaneously burst into laughter, transforming my initial fear and surprise into a wondrous marvel of my eye-blink save and the wonder of God’s creatures.
As I recount this unique encounter months later, my eyes are opened to the magnetism of chein (חן) loosely translated as favor or grace. In our morning prayers we ask God to grant us today and everyday grace, kindness and mercy. What are we really asking for when we recite these words day after day? How much grace, kindness and mercy from heaven and earth do I encounter each and every day without awareness… without acknowledgement? Does it take an “in your face” near collision to get my attention?
Grace and encampment, חן and מחנה , share the same root — an intense life vitality that influences one to stop moving and focus in that moment. As the eye blinked, the grace shining through that gazelle, that incredible life-energy, did indeed bring me to an absolute standstill and I used those precious moments to reflect on the kindness and mercy that followed the grace-embodied gazelle and left me standing there unharmed.
To reinforce this life lesson, a good friend of mine blessed me on her birthday, the fifth night of Chanukah, with the following words:
“I choose to bless you with the smallest thing, which is actually a great thing… with a good eye, with the ability to continue to see the light and the good, in everything and in every person.
First of all yourself.
And in your family.
And all those close to you.”
I pass on this blessing to all who are reading my blog – to pause and use that good eye, עין טובה , to recognize and acknowledge the grace, kindness and mercy that God grants you, your family and your community each and every day.