Tuesday, August 19, 2014

365 days later

Who is that girl I see, staring straight back at me?

Exactly a year ago I was sitting at home, eyeing the 30 pills of Xanax that my doctor so graciously prescribed for my flight.  Today, I sit in a room full of papers and computers, wondering where my gracious doctor could be found.  They say a lot can happen in a year but no one told me what I was about to sign up for.

You know those Claritin commercials?  The ones that are all foggy and then magically become clear thanks to drugs?  That’s what life feels like these days…and yes, Torah is my drug.  My wardrobe no longer contains pants, my vocabulary includes words like mamesh, assur, dafka, and stam (all of which need to be suppressed regularly), my diet has way too many rules around it, my actions are always surrounded by appropriate brachot, and my dating life is nothing like it used to be.  Okay, that last one is half a lie...maybe.  Everything I do suddenly has a purpose.  Whether it’s because I believe I’m in service of Hashem or because I feel like I’m one step closer to reaching my full potential as a person, these actions have brought about a completely new consciousness of the world around me.  For the first time, the fog is start to lift.

During the last 2 months of my time in Israel, there was one topic that came into conversation on a daily basis.  In one form or another, it came down to people arguing all of the reasons as to why I needed to stay in Israel.  “You’re going to teach kids in bad areas?  We have those too!  You can stay here.”  “But how are you going to keep Shabbos and kashrut?  It’s much easier here.  You have to stay.”  “America?  No, no.  I must introduce you to [insert male name here].  Then you won’t need America.”  They all brought valid points to the table.  So why is it that I’m so happy here?

Let me share a mashal with you:  I met a guy on the Subway platform.  His name is Thelmo, he teaches baseball, and he likes jazz music.  He wanted to know when I’d have some free time and, with half a smile on, I said “in a couple of years.”  Thelmo then tried to take my wrong answer and turn it into a learning opportunity:  “You’re going to need to find some time to relax otherwise you’ll get worn out!  I go to lots of jazz festivals.  What’s your number?  I’ll let you know the next time I’m going to one!”

For many reasons, it was a pretty funny conversation.  Yet the thing that stuck out was how strongly I disagreed with the need to find relaxation time.  I don’t need to find this time…it’s already been built into my schedule.  Every week, we end Shabbos with a particular prayer:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, הַמַּבְדִיל בֵּין קֹֽדֶשׁ לְחוֹל
Blessed are you, G-d, who distinguishes between holy and mundane.

I found it so hard to connect with these words while in Israel because there never really was a separation.  Even on days when I wasn't studying Torah all day, the streets were alive with kedusha.  No one questioned what you wore, where you ate, or why you were walking around muttering to yourself all day.  People on the streets wouldn't necessarily agree with your choices, but there was always a mutual understanding of the root of these decisions.  America may require more explanations of my practices, but it creates a space where my Judaism can become so special.  When I hear havdalah (chas v'shalom a woman makes havdalah), I'm actually pained to see Shabbos end.  I have to leave the bubble of crowded meals, communal davening, Torah talk, niddah studies, and long Shabbos walks in the park.  And then I hear those familiar voices in my head "But you can have that all week if you stay!  Why go back to America?"

As I say goodbye to one type of kedusha, I reenter another type of kedusha- the one defined by the rich, vibrant Hispanic community that I'm blessed to live and work in.
I'm even working on my Spanish...Yo no estoy borracho, sólo intoxicado por ti ;)

I miss Israel with all my heart, but I've found that my Judaism thrives in a place where it's not the norm.  The constant battle and decisions that need to be made are significant to this journey.  I didn't fight the system of 3 men so I could sit back and passively watch things happen.  Take away the struggle and the fog will quickly fill the space.

They say a lot can change in a year.  Peace of mind was enough, but I'm in love with everything that came along with is. 

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