Outside the Old City of Jerusalem on Shavuot, there was a big tent.
The tent was full of tables laden with an assortment of dairy pastries and milk and coffee and even small plastic cups filled with whisky.
Hundreds of people passed by the tent and took a snack or poured themselves a drink and said a lchaim – to life! – while Haredi men in streimels eating bright red popsicles wished them a Chag Samaech — a joyous Shavuot.
I stood to the side for a moment with a friend – a little awkward, and unsure if I belonged there — my arms bare except for the tattoos which cover them — I said something to my friend like “I guess 9:15 am is as good a time for whisky as any,” when a man in a black yarmulke and a white shirt handed me his little cup of golden liquid and said, “here, it’s yours.”
“Lchaim and Chag Samaech,” I said.
The air shimmered in the morning sun.
The tent was full to brimming, and when I looked more closely, I saw all kinds of people — Jewish and not Jewish — a group of men smoked cigarettes, a family chatted. Russian pilgrims took selfies. The Arab bread seller by Jaffa gate poured himself a cup of coffee.
Today we celebrate the day when we received the Torah from Hashem as we gathered by Mt Sinai — this is when we first met each other all those lifetimes ago: We saw each other at Sinai.
And while things are rough between us now – while there is very real anger and frustration and even fear between us – once we were all together – a mixed multitude of people – together – for that moment in the shadow of the mountain.
And outside the Old City, under that big tent that fit us all for a few moments on Shavuot, it felt like a reunion.
Lchaim, everyone and Chag Samaech.
It is so wonderful to see you again.