So Sukkot was spent in a variety of family activities. I would like to mention just a few things that gave me an opportunity to revel in the privilege of living here in Israel, and just how fortunate we are to be here.
On Sunday Night of Chol Hamoed, my wife and I went to an open-air concert in Ir David. We'll get to the concert in a moment. But getting there was an adventure in itself! The Rova (Jewish Quarter) was packed - at 8:00 p:m - as I have never seen before. And the festive atmosphere was palpable! There was music in the streets, and people just milling about - in leisure mode - taking it easy, strolling, hanging out. It was chag! Whenever I visit the Old City over Chag, I feel that one gains a glimpse of Aliya Laregel, of:
עומדות היו רגלינו בשעריך ירושלים
ירושלים הבנויה כעיר שחוברה לה יחדיו
ששם עלו שבטים שבטי י-ה
להודות לשם ה'
And there they are... yes! - Am Yisrael - in their throngs, all the tribes together!
- An inspiring sight.
And so we battled the traffic congestion, and the crowds, to the Ir David concert. Shlomo Gronich was the singer. Maybe you know his music. He is a famous Hiloni (secular) artist. He is well known for the beautiful album he made with children of the Ethiopian Aliya, singing about the dream of Zion and the hardships of Aliya.
Now this concert is a new show, and it's title is "From the Sources - מן המקורות" In other words, all the songs come from Tanach. Shlomo Gronich intrigues me as a singer and a Jew. He has a very mischievous, secular side, and yet he is clearly attracted to Judaism and has recently been collaborating with Religious groups such as Ahron Razel, and Reva Lesheva. So when he comes out with a concert of religious verse, I just felt that I wanted to hear it. Oh ... I forgot... Shlomo Gronich plays a mean Shofar. His whole intro was him making the most incredible sounds from a Shofar (through a synthesizer!)
The experience of sitting in Ir David - our ancient Royal City - and hearing the words of teh Tanach was enormously powerful. In one piece he spoke of the first time he had personally encountered the words of Torah ... at his Barmitzva ... and then he proceeded to chant the Haftara of Parashat Yitro according to the trope - from Yishayahu ch.6 - according to a musical arrangement. That chapter talks about Isaiah's revelation of God in the Temple. And here we are... not 400 yards from Har Habayit! It was quite something! And when he sang Yishayahu's rebuke of ואשיבה שופטיך כבראשונה, the words of the prophet seemed to come alive. Just unbelievable how Yishayahu was walking on that very hillside prophesying and preaching those messages, and here we are hearing them.
He had a very beautiful piece for the words of Tefillat HaDerekh. In his introduction to the song, he explained that over the war last summer he was very distressed and depressed, and needed to find a text to give him spiritual sustenance. He opened the Siddur, and the Tefillat HaDerekh came to life for him. This "secular" man with such a religious soul.
Again... where else can we feel so connected to our past and present, to Arts that connect to our Tanach? I sensed this deep sense of belonging, of the organic flow of what it means to have a cultural integrity of a nation in its land with its heritage, and texts. Here it just clicks together.
The next day, we went to a kite festival at a small outlying Yishuv called Pnei Kedem. It is 20 minutes from our house, but the way there felt like we were entering the back of beyond! The terrain, as we made our way deeper into Midbar Yehuda , became dry, very hot, rocky, uninviting and uninhabited. And then suddenly we came across the Yishuv. 16 families live there, and this kite festival is an annual celebration of the Yishuv. There were arts and crafts stalls, and pitta baking, and inflatable jumping things for the kids, as well as - lots of kites! A concert by Soulfarm etc.
But back to the place. It is on the very edge of the desert, overlooking Ein Gedi and the Dead Sea, with incredible views over to Jordan. One can see (it was hazy on the day we were there) how one can see the whole Jordan valley from that spot.
It was only after I returned home, that the significance of the place dawned upon me. Pnei Kedem sits directly to the East of Hebron. Suddenly I began to imagine the scene in my mind, as Avarahm escorts his 3 guests... the angels... who he had served and welcomed into his home. He walks with them until they begin their descent to Sedom. This , or a place very much like it, is the vantage point from which one looks down at Sedom! It was in a place very much like this that Avraham argued with God for the fate of the city, (Bereshit 18:22-24) and the same place that "the morning after" he prayed again (19:27-28) as he looked down and witnessed the devastation and destruction. Just thinking about these pesukim, gave a totally new dimension to a place that had seemed just hot and parched, and now was filled with Biblical significance.
So this is about the past giving meaning to the present. בשוב ה' את שיבת ציון היינו כחולמים. we must appreciate how God has allowed us to live in a dreamy reality. Yes! I know that in these comments I sound hopelessly sentimental. But when it comes to these things, I feel moments of elevation and true powerful inspiration. It is truly wonderful to be able to live here in our dear Homeland!