Reflections on Blessings and Nationhood
By Ariella Bracha Waldinger
Yesterday was one year from the date I received my positive test results from a full body scan showing that there was no cancer present in my body. Additionally, one month ago my lung CT indicated all was fine in my lungs. Hodu l’HaShem! The kindness of G-d fills my heart and soul to overflowing. There are no words that I can find in my vocabulary to express to G-d my gratitude for the treasured gift of health and so I will share with you some of the words contained in my favorite prayer NISHMAT:
The soul of every living being shall bless your Name, G-d our G-d; the spirit of all flesh shall always glorify and exalt your remembrance, our King. From this world to the world to come, you are G-d, and other than you we have no King, Redeemer or Savior. He who liberates, rescues, sustains, answers and is merciful in every time of distress and anguish, we have no king, helper or supporter but you! G-d of the first and of the last, G-d of all creatures, master of all generations who is extolled through a multitude of praises, who guides His world with kindness and His creatures with mercy. G-d is awake, behold, He neither slumbers nor sleeps. He who rouses the sleepers and awakens the slumberers, who resuscitates the dead, heals the sick and gives sight to the blind, who makes the mute speak and releases the bound, who supports the fallen and straightens the bent. And to You alone we give thanks. Were our mouth as full of song as the sea, and our tongue as full of joyous song as its multitude of waves, and our lips as full of praise as the breath of the heavens, and our eyes as brilliant as the sun and moon, and our hands as outstretched as Eagles of the sky and our feet as swift as hinds, we still could not thank you sufficiently, G-d our G-d and G-d of our forefathers and to bless your Name, our King for even one of the thousands of thousands and myriad of myriad of favors, miracles and wonders that you performed for our ancestors and for us.
I believe this aptly expresses the depth of my feelings.
As a result of my uplifted feelings, I felt a celebration was in order. I decided to fully engage all aspects of my being: both physical and spiritual. I picked up a friend and drove to the indoor pool located at the country club in Tzfat. The country club is a lovely privately owned club with a fabulous indoor pool, large Jacuzzi, steam and saunas, exercise classes, state of the art exercise equipment and my favorite: a ping pong table. There are separate men and women’s hours and it is truly a blessing for the Tzfat community. The pool itself looks out on forested hills and lush grassy areas covered in brilliant red crown anemones and poppies intermingled with sunny yellow mustard plants and yellow crown daisies. The colorful flowers and trees, along with the vibrant blue sky, was a visual feast for my eyes as they were in my visual range, while I swam in the waters of the pool . I felt surrounded by G-d’s magnificence and it took my breath away and carried my soul aloft on wings of joy.
Afterwards, being in gratitude mode, I offered a ride to an acquaintance and drove towards the location of my Torah class. Along the way, I noticed a friend who also needed a ride so I stopped. It turned out that both women to whom I was giving rides were going to the same place as I: the women’s Beit Medrash to learn Torah. During the drive, we engaged in stories of Divine Providence in order to not only express our joy and gratitude but to make G-d’s name great by reminding each other of His constant interaction in our lives. It is so soul nourishing to share such stories, as they add power to the Jewish nation and bring great light into the world. The class itself was exciting and uplifting amidst lively discussion, joy and goodwill.
After class, I popped into a Pizza restaurant and had a yummy piece of warm, sizzling cheesy pizza for lunch. Pizza is one of my favorite foods and it is so nice to be able to have access to it so easily. Israel has everything your palate could desire and it is all available with ease from Jewish-owned restaurants.
On the way to my car, I was blessed to have the opportunity to give charity to four Holy Jews. Sharing the bounty of the riches G-d has bestowed upon me always brings me joy. I headed home to our beautiful house situated on a dunam (quarter acre) of land which looks North to Hermon mountain: the highest in Israel at 5,000 feet and east to the Hula valley: the migratory bird pathway. Our house also looks out over a grazing pasture for horses and cattle. I was gifted with seeing three handsome horses grazing very near the fence, close to our house. I was giddy with joy because horses hold a special place in my heart, as I grew up riding horses, which we kept on our property. Above the pasture is the IDF Northern Command center which is a very significant military installation. We frequently see helicopters landing there with important military personnel. This large installation reminds us of the blessings of the IDF and the protection they provide to our country and people.
Living in Israel, one can go from one mitzvah to the next and constantly interact with the people and land: in fact there is no escaping it and it binds us together in strong, magnificent ties. It reminds me of who I am, where I am and of my purpose in the world. After experiencing a day filled with connections to the Land and our nation, and with the memory of my good news, I felt the full weight of my blessings envelop me in a loving embrace. I went outside to quiet my thoughts and drink in the beauty of the view when a Torah commentary I had read the day before entered my mind.
This weeks Torah portion Vayakhel deals with the nation actually starting the process of constructing the Sanctuary and it relates a stunning aspect of our national essence. In the book titled “Sparks of Light” based on the philosophy of Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook, Ztzl, on the weekly Torah portion, by Gideon Weitzman, he addresses the dynamic of The Temple and Jewish nationhood and states the following:
Am Yisrael is the foundation of the house of G-d in this world. Through our existence, G-d has a house and a place to dwell in the physical world. Such is our strength and our task in the world. ‘Build Me a Sanctuary and I will dwell amongst them’ (Shmot25:8). This can be understood as referring not only to the actual Beit HaMikdash or Mishkan, but also to the Temple of our Nationhood. G-d dwells within Am Yisrael! The book of Shemot, in which this portion is read, is in essence the book of the birth of Israel. This birth is through a continuous process of meeting G-d.
If we look at Am Yisrael, we are, in fact, viewing G-d Himself. Here we have discovered the ultimate way of meeting G-d. When we encounter Am Yisrael, we meet G-d. We are His chosen people, and we are the foundation of His earthly existence. The Temple is built on us. We are the House of G-d. We are indivisible from our maker and we must be viewed in conjunction with Him.
What a stunning interpretation!
The wisdom and instruction of this week’s Torah portion of Vayakhel, solidifies in my mind the blessing of being actively engaged with my fellow Jews in our homeland, where the majority of Jews reside. May Rav Kook’s powerful, intimate message arouse a longing to help build the foundation of His earthly existence in His Beloved nation, in our Biblical inheritance which is the House of G-D! Enter it at Will!
Jewish friends, you are needed here, in G-d’s beloved Garden to channel all your gifts and talents and money into the building up of our nation and G-ds honor in the Homeland HE willed us. May you return home and just like the Jews in this week’s Torah portion who were involved in the task of building the Sanctuary, become involved in the building up of our land and nation so that you too can enter the Temple of our Nationhood in the Homeland of our Nation: Eretz HaKodesh.
Shabbat Shalom, Ariella Bracha