It’s been a while that I’ve had this idea: a “Yeshiva-Ashram,” a place to combine Judaism and yoga, east and home wisdoms. A big dream. And at the same time, very simple. After all, we’ve incorporated things from all over the world, food and spices and clothing and music and dance steps, then why not healthy body maintenance, exercises, stretching morning and evening, deep breathing, healthy eating style as well… Just like King David Said, “all my bones will say a song” and also, “may the meditations of my heart be acceptable to You”… and all that, along with work for the other, for the environment, and of course, in depth Jewish learning….
And now, I have it.
Over a cup of tea. Lemon with ginger. With garlic. With cinnamon. With turmeric. With sage. With…. Silence. I realize. I’m at an indefinite Vipassana workshop. The place is filled to capacity – me, myself and I. we have a schedule, although not everyone is always following it. And yet. We try. Davening. Yoga. Learning. Some creative work. Sometimes singing — no one listens anyway. Sometimes dancing — no one watches anyway. To not forget to eat. A salad. Some fruit. And all the time, the sounds of home. The fridge humming. The soup bubbling. The wind through the shutters.
And on the other side, emails. And WhatsApp. And jokes… sometimes I want to say, enough, please; don’t send me anymore, funny clips, dark humor… please. I can’t do this; how do you have room for the nonsense? Everything inside me points inward… Enough. I can’t…. Oh, ok, ok, well, here, I opened it after all. Haha, that’s a good one! I’m laughing, wow, thank you, this one was really funny. Alright then, maybe just one more….
There are many moments that I think of my grandmother. Two World Wars. Moving from cultured Europe to the dusty Levant. Four wars in Israel. Buried two sons. At 82, 83, when TV made it to Israel, she saw Arthur Rubinstein on the piano. “That old guy is still alive?” she asked about her peer, laughing, as if the angel has already passed through and left. Without her.
I would go visit her in her room. The window shade rolled up. The vase had fresh flowers. The couch by day, bed at night, was made, colorful pillows laying diagonally, a bookmark in a book on the nightstand. She’s sitting up by the table, the cards laid before her; the radio paying a classical symphony. She gets up to put a few seeds for her yellow canary in the kitchenette, opens the window, taking in the scent of pines, shuts it, sits down. Pulls two more cards and places them “up high”, brushing an invisible spec from her dress, blue, ironed, white buttons, a necklace; pearl clip-on earrings at times. Her white-almost light-blueish hair perfectly made and pinned carefully in a delicate net.
I remember. It’s the Six Day War. Grandma didn’t come to the shelter. “Ima, ima, what’s with grandma”? Between sirens, mom sends me to check on her. My grandma sits in the same chair, in the same dress with the same cards; BBC reporter with reliable — and understandable — news, rumbles in the background. “Savta, savta, Omi, Omi, come to the shelter,” I beg excitedly, trying to pull on her arm. “you go, I’m staying here,” she replies after a long gaze. “But”…. “If He wants; if that’s what He is missing right now, me,” she puffs, “then he can come by right here and pick me up from home,” she continues in German.
I never asked her, how did she do it all. And she never spoke. But now I think that maybe, after all, she did tell me. I just hope that I actually listened.
Saturday morning, when the clouds open up a bit, I sneak out for a walk on the edge of my neighborhood to the spring’s green. Orange – reddish wild tulips among the rocks; yellow “Spanish Broom” (so it’s called, I checked); white rockrose; pinkish-purple redbud. Birds are zigzagging in the sky. The mountain air is crisp after the recent days’ rains. There are almost no people in the street. It’s so quiet, as if the whole world is holding its breath, turning inwards, more and more and some. Then suddenly someone passes by on bicycle: “there’s no chorus, just dance!” he yells a line from a song and a dance. I yell back, “Shabbat shalom, B’sorot Tovot! May we hear good news!” and it’s quiet again. And I walk on, thinking, today I spoke with a real human being. I hope I don’t forget how.