RETURNING HOME HUNGRY: LONGING FOR SOUL FOOD
I got off the plane last week, after returning from America, feeling extremely ravenous, (hungry enough to eat a bear as they say). This wasn’t a hunger for food, even though it is very challenging traveling in America with its lack of Kosher restaurants in airports, malls and resorts. This was a hunger for the spirituality present in our beloved Holy Land. It was a hunger for G-d conversations. It was a deep hunger for the multitude of mitzvot, AS ABUNDANT AS BEES ON FLOWERS, which abound in the Holy Land. It was a hunger for connection to our people and land due to what was going on. It was a hunger for spiritual sustenance: “REAL SOUL FOOD.”
I had been away for five long weeks visiting my precious family whom I dearly love. But during that time, I felt as if I was suspended in two worlds and two vastly different realities were at odds in my soul and psyche. I left G-ds beloved garden and traversed the foreign lands of America. Not only is it on another continent, it is on another plane: a more material plane, a more ego-centric plane…….a plane that is very distant from the world of the Jew in the Land. I state this as a fact not a judgment and I say it because it is true. Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook OBM states in the book WAR and Peace, “In the Diaspora, our national format is shattered and our strength and light are buried. Transplanted to our soul, the seed burst with new life and flowers and the blossoms send forth their sweet perfume to all the earth.”
Upon exiting the plane in Tel Aviv, I immediately reached for the Mezzuza located on the first doorpost I went through. I grabbed ahold of it, cherishing it, like a long lost friend. My heart and soul caressed its words hidden inside…..the words of the Jews’ declaration of faith in G-ds oneness. I immediately felt that I was in G-ds country: G-d, the creator of the universe…I am in His house, His garden. It is so mind blowing to grasp: I exit a plane and enter through a doorway and my world is transformed. I exist on another plane: a more spiritual plane located ONLY in the divinely chosen Land, which G-d Himself bequeathed to the Jewish nation.
I felt so deeply humbled. I felt so small and yet so expansive. I immediately began to think of the mitzvot awaiting me in our ancestral homeland in the days ahead. I could barely wait for the transformative energy of Shabbat in the Holy Land, not to mention walking in the Land itself in order to attend Shabbat services. I imagined the energy of the Sefardi men singing Shabbat prayers and tunes and my soul grabbing hold of them as they rise heavenward in the Beit Kinneset. And then I dreamed of my soul being drenched in the beauty and power of the Priestly Blessing, which is the ultimate gift to Jews living in the Land. In Israel, the priestly Blessing is recited every day and on Shabbat it is recited twice a day whereas in America it is only recited on holidays. These blessings are extraordinarily powerful and are given by the descendants of Aaron, our first High Priest. The Kohanim gather together and say the following,” May it be your will, G-d, our G-d and G-d of our forefathers, that these blessings, with which You commanded us to Bless your people Israel, be a perfect blessing and may they not contain any hindrance or iniquity, from now and forever. Then they bless the entire congregation with love, with G-ds protection and request that He shine HIS countenance upon us and then the last Blessing of Peace. I couldn’t wait for Shabbat.
I was getting carried away with my imagination, so I began to quiet my mind. I felt exhausted yet aroused and excited. I felt pained at the current situation yet joyous to be home, to be a part of it all and more importantly to do my part in the all of it. I felt the life force of the Jewish nation coursing through the energy present in the air, coursing through my heart and mind and I wanted to scream out……….I love you Eretz Yisrael and Klal Yisrael! I embraced the inner joy bouncing around inside of me like a happy baby and I walked to the car with my wonderful husband, my hero. Homeward bound I said and off we went!
It was the wee hours of the morning and the land was still slumbering in spite of the war going on. I gazed lovingly at the various cities and towns along the way. I prayed for the safety of our people and our land. I felt great pride in our accomplishments as a nation, as I rode three hours north to our home in Tzfat and saw all the developments and communities. We stopped in Rosh Pina, which is ten miles from our home, because Hashem gave us a precious mitzvah of giving rides to 3 people. I felt giddy and so full of gratitude for the welcome home miztvah, I wanted to cry. Soon, we arrived home and I collapsed on my bed in the Holy Land. I fell asleep quickly and easily, like a baby feeling safe and content in its mother’s arms. I awakened the next day to prepare for my first Shabbat at home. Every aspect of preparation was sheer pleasure and even though I was jetlagged, we hosted a wonderful guest who is like family. It added to the joy of my homecoming and brought the deeper connection to the Klal that I was missing.
Tuesday, after attending a dynamic Torah class, I had lunch with a group of friends including a young woman, who lost her mother 2 years ago. She was bravely visiting from Denver with a group of over 200 women. After lunch, I drove her to her destination point and we parted. As I began making my ascent up a long, winding, dusty road, I spotted two young people walking. They looked very hot, so I offered them a ride. Once again, I was so thankful for the precious mitzvah Hashem was putting in my path. When I performed the mitzvah, I had in mind, the intention that it should bring protection to our nation and especially our soldiers. The young woman, named Shalva, was 18 and had left South Africa five months prior to come home on Aliyah. Her 16 year old brother Yossi was visiting and she was showing him around. Her pride and joy at being home was enormous. Our joy and enthusiasm for the land of Israel and the people in Israel was like a bubbling brook spilling over in the car. She couldn’t stop talking about her love of the Jewish nation and how soldiers adopted her and looked out for her because she was alone. She is taking ulpan and in one month will be finished and will search for ways to help her people in the Land. We were chatting on, high on each other’s love, joy and pride when suddenly I accidentally rammed my front tire into the concrete. I knew from the sound that I had gotten a flat tire. Yossi, slight of build, who was 16 years old yet looked 13 at most, said, I can change the tire for you without any problem. He stated, in South Africa, you learn to take care of yourself at a young age and I have been changing tires since I was 13. I wondered how many American 13 year olds could change a tire. Anyway, I believed in his ability and his sister confirmed his adeptness, so I pulled over and he proceeded. He went to work like a master. I watched in complete awe as this young man took care of me and my situation. As most people know, a flat tire can present a stressful reaction but honestly, it wasn’t the case for me. For me it was my first adventure since my arrival back in the holy land and I was enjoying it . I was engaged with the Klal and it felt wonderful especially since they felt like family. In Israel, no Jew is a stranger….everyone is family. As soon as Yossi started to get to work, I requested that he grant the merit of the precious mitzvah he was performing for the protection of the soldiers and our nation. He smilingly agreed. I then called my husband to appraise him of the situation. He happened to be near-by, so he came along on his trusty 3-wheeled scooter. He met our new friends, saw that Yossi had things under control and took the small tire out of the trunk to fill it up with air at the gas station. While the young man, loving every minute of showing his expertise at changing the tire, was hard at work, another Jew came along to offer help. The sister was admiringly watching her brother, whom she adores, and we were continuing to chat about life in Israel. I asked her why she left home at 18 years of age to come to Israel. She said, she could no longer stand to be on the sidelines of her life as a Jew. She needed and wanted authenticity and could get it nowhere else. As Yossi finished the job, quite filthy from it all, but smiling from ear to ear, I looked up to the Heavens and with a radiant smile and a heart full of gratitude, thanked G-d for sating my hunger with the delicious mitzvah He had given me. I was feasting on the Soul Food I had been craving.
I believe every Jew wants the purest SOUL FOOD but their appetites have been destroyed or impacted by the tastes of foreign cultures. I believe that every Jew that returns home has at some level tapped into that longing for nourishment, whether he knows it or not. They too want real SOUL FOOD. I believe they too are hungry for all the delights that await those who come home: both the spiritual and physical. They want it all and so should every Jew.
American, Max Steinberg OBM, who was killed this week in Aza yielded to his cravings for the nourishment of the Holy Land. He told his mother that he felt it was his calling to come home to Israel and give to his beloved country. He explained to her that he couldn’t remain on the sidelines of his life as a Jew. He knew what is worth living for and he learned that there are things worth dying for. He paid the ultimate price with his life but I believe that along the way HIS SOUL WAS SATED FROM ALL THE DELICACIES IN THE LAND BOTH SPIRITUAL AND PHYSICAL.
Friends, do you realize that your soul has taste buds? Are you depriving your palate of what it is longing for? Why? Do you know what you are living for? If not, please take some time to quiet your mind and stop the busyness and listen to your soul. Become the Jew that you were destined to become in the Spiritual Epicurean Epicenter of the Universe where the Tantalizing Tastes of the spiritual and physical merge to uplift body, mind and spirit and How Sweet it is!
With Love, Peace and Blessings from Ariella Bracha
Please light Shabbat candles early on Friday, avoid petty confrontations, seek peace, make amends, do teshuva, pray for our holy state, leaders and soldiers and live life passionately as a Jew connected to G-d, His Torah and His nation in His Land.