Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Holy Tsfat!

Time travel is possible! We did it today; no fancy rockets or sound barriers, no high tech contraptions.  We didn't even have to reduce ourselves to millions of tiny particles, float through the atmosphere and reassemble ourselves in 16th century Tsfat. Nope, Today, on our JWRP/JWI trip in Israel all we needed to do was be on time for the bus, put our hands on our hearts, inhale the mystical air around us, listen to the swish of our shoes brushing against ancient stone and "vwalah!" We are in the holy city of Tsfat, as elevated as we can be in the Galilee, climbing gracefully step by step to the exquisite Mikvah of Tsfat where we are welcomed with warm hugs and gratitude for simply arriving; for being in Israel. From our early morning class in love and relationships we journeyed on the echoes of women's voices who are lieutenant colonels in the IDF, who are mothers of eight children, who are artists, who are wives, who are passionate Jewish Women, who are funny, who are smart, who are beautiful in every way.  They echo what is in our own souls; the holy Jewish woman inside each of us, the powerful and enchanting Jewish woman with the desire to connect, the will to believe, the strength to act, the commitment to a people and to traditions that hearten back 20000 years.
Down to every detail, the Mikvah visit was the highlight of the day.  The shopping in cobblestoned pathway for colorful inspiring art, Jewelry and Judaica pleased everyone including the artists and merchants of Tsfat who sold more than $2000.00 in goods from Los Angeles alone.  The beautiful "blue" synagogue, and holy synagogue of Tsfat revealed layers of history as we sat amongst worn and holy books including a  Sefer Torah girded in its beautiful hard casing.  The Jewish men and women who prayed daily through the years and still today can be felt in the walls.  But the Mikvah was extraordinary as we learned about the practice and significance of dunking in waters of hope.  Sitting in a stone building in a stone city that has been built and rebuilt by generations of Jews who long to have holy relationships and to continually elevate the physical, and transform every moment into a holy spiritual and meaningful experience or exchange is beyond compare.
In holy Tsfat, a sale warranted a special song and prayer,  coffee came at a discount after the owner witnessed one of us giving tzedaka (charity), "You helped that man, " the merchant said, so " I help you.".   Young men pass the day strumming guitars on the courtyard steps, cats dart in and out of  colorful doorways, children smile as they skirt down a tiny path from school, jewelry makers create customized works of art before your eyes, artists share their imaginations and their hearts and the Mikvah educators and JWRP teachers share their wisdom, friendship and inspiration. And the Mikvah sustains us all with its powers of renewal.  As we approach the next holy city, Jerusalem, we are filled with gratitude ourselves to be here. We join our Israeli brothers and sisters in solidarity with the new strength we have brought from Tsfat where the physical elevation matches the spiritual height.  The amazing songs and the dances from our dinner at the 700 year old mosque turned magical indoor/outdoor Jewish special events plaza/hall resonate as we
lean slowly toward our pillows and pray for the safety of our people of our land. "Am Yisroel Chai"
There are amazing women on this trip already wanting to live in Israel, curious about everything and everyone, and envigorated and full of energy, good humor, kindness, strength and wisdom.  I am grateful to the almighty for orchestrating this opportunity for me and I am looking forward to tomorrow and to taking our prayers to the kotel.  Ok, yes I am also looking forward to shopping in TelAviv.  Laila tov, good night.

Friday, October 16, 2015

KosherCool (TM) The Site For The HIP and HOLY: Going to Israel?? Now?

KosherCool (TM) The Site For The HIP and HOLY: Going to Israel?? Now?

Going to Israel?? Now?

     It's 8:30pm ,Tuesday night, in Los Angeles.  I'm on the wood floor of my son's room, leaning against his bed as he falls asleep.  We read a chapter of Through the Looking Glass, as usual, said the bedtime shema, snuggled for a few minutes and talked about our mosquito bites.  He has one on his eyelid.  Earlier, while we played a competitive card game of Spit, He tried to help me understand that where he comes from, "planet Cumfrum, where everything comes from", you are not one person like humans are , but you are actually five. People.  "Yes" he said, "Five people. It's a bit complicated.  It is not something that can be easily explained." He said.
    Did I mention, he is 8 years old?  Normal conversation.  I think, of course we are from different planets; that's what he's telling me.  But then again, despite our generation gap, I  wonder if we're not from the same planet after all.  
    I'm scheduled, as staff,  to meet the JWI/Jewish Women's Instituse Aish LA and JWRP /Jewish Womens Renaissance Project leaders and participants in Tel Aviv on Monday, when our Women's Momentum trip begins.   As a city Leader on the trip I hope to be not only a model for other Jewish women but a partner with them as we all grow and deepen our Jewish connection together.     Right now, I am at least five people, mother, wife, independent Jewish woman, daughter, entrepreneur, and there are more; friend, teacher, student.   How am I all these things and still so certain that "all of us" want to take this trip into Israel with 45 women from LA and hundreds of others joining us from around the country and Israel?  How can I be a mother and choose  to spend the next 13 days a world away from my son? How does this mother, and this wife pray for safety and choose to go on a trip to a country where there is apparent physical danger from random terror attacks happening as she prepares for over a week away from her beloved.   How does a good friend make this journey and still be a friend and comfort to her soul sister who is grieving over the loss of her father? How can this entrepreneur take so much unpaid time off of work?   How does this daughter explain to her parents who worry for her safety that she is honoring them as she heads to our home land during a time of serious unrest.  There are  reasons to not even have considered going on this  trip in the first place,  but now with the recent escalating violent random terror attacks in Jerusalem, and elsewhere, and several women opting out of the trip, it is a more complicated decision.   How do I get all of these voices all of these competing values to stand with me with confidence as I embark on what feels so important and necessary to the me that is Leah Faygel, the soul that encompasses all of these women, as well as every Jewish soul that ever lived in the past, present and future. 
   Well.  Well what?  Just, well,  I'm going! The trip is on! The itinerary has been revised, security increased and we are doing this.  9:30PM finished packing.  12pm asleep.  From 4am until 8:30am I deliberate.  I struggle with fear, with responsibility, with freedom of choice, with all my selves.  Is this the right time to go?  Am I walking into a danger zone?  I call my dear friends in Israel,  I meditate, I talk with my husband, I talk with my friends here in LA,  I think and think  and weigh and wait for clarity.  At 8:30AM I call El Al to change my flight plans to fly on Sunday, with the rest of the group, rather than on Wednesday, which would have been that morning, to spend four days with my dear friends in Ramat Beit  Shemesh.    As I am deeply aware of what I am giving up and giving in to, in order to "feel" more secure, I am already relieved that I will be traveling only with the group who have planned for the tightest security possible.  I am saddened beyond measure to disappoint my friends and to miss a most special few days of reuniting and relaxing with brave and committed friends who made Aliyah many years ago.  I am sad that the terrorists pushed my buttons and got to me from so far away, but I have to listen to my body and my own wisdom of myself, and what I needed to do was simply delay my departure.  I am going on Sunday with the rest of the tour; we will fly together, we will land in Israel together, we will discover together, we will support Israel together, we will be moms and wives and daughters and independent Jewish Women; we will be friends, we will be a renaissance, we will be soldiers and sisters and we will learn about god, about ourselves and about each other and Israel.  Not because we want to travel without our families; not simply because we want some great adventure for ourselves, not because of the opinions of all the people that we are at any point in the day or week or year.  But, I suggest,  because we are bigger than those selves,  we are something beyond them, and in order to be the best mom, wife, friend , Jewish woman, and human beings we can be, we stretch and reach and sometimes live in the tension, and we allow many truths to exist at once.  Our partners, children, friends and colleagues should deserve the best of each of us  and those true supporters want to see us grow, learn and bring back home all the strength that is Israel; all the wisdom of our forefathers and foremothers, the courage of our Israeli soldiers, the compassion of our brothers and sisters, the commitment of our Jewish leaders, the essense of Israel's soil and soul.    Our friends there need us too.  We have our immediate families and we have our larger family and all are connected by our solid roots that go deep down and far back in time.  So I set off to have fun, to connect, to learn more about other Jews and more about God,  more about myself and more about home, about Israel, about the planet "Cumfrum", where we all come from. 
Come with me.  Stay tuned.

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