Blessed be the Name. This Shabbat I was in hiding. Israel's acceptance of the Torah took place in the desert. This fact may suggest, among other things, a teaching found in the holy book, Bet Aharon, which states, "Don't say that in this place it's possible to serve God, but in that place it's impossible for me. Rather, one must serve God in all places." Had Israel accepted the Torah in their land, the Land of Israel, they would have thought that it is only possible to fulfill it in their own place, in their own home, but not when they are in exile, disturbed. Therefore, God gave them the Torah in the desert, on the road, in transit, so that they must fulfill it everywhere--from Kalonymos Kalman Shapiro's Esh Kodesh.
Sunday morning I did a wedding and there was so much gratitude being expressed it was really rather remarkable. There were people happy for the couple; there were people happy for the parents; there were people happy for the weather; there were people literally kvelling over the fish (it really was extraordinarily good.)
I came home from the wedding soaring like a kite and was brought back to earth by a variety of urgencies--most of them having to do with drivers and Brooklyn street fairs and the generally impatient cast of characters who inhabit this city.
I decided I needed a holy book. So I got on my bike, rode through the Park, used the helpful green pathways around the Park Circle and headed down Coney Island Avenue to Eichler's where I went in search of Kalonymos Kalman Shapiro in the original Hebrew. They didn't have exactly what I was looking for but promised to order it and when I go back to get I think I'll take my bike again. Because I had a very pleasant time of it--it certainly beats driving on Coney Island Avenue on a Sunday, let me tell you.
I took Westminster to Avenue H and only then took my life into a whole new level of risk and headed up the Avenue but first stopped at the Golan grocery, purveyors of fine Israeli products. I was in need of chocolates and Bamba and pickles and shampoo and Turkish coffee with cardamon. You need to understand: this Omer has made me nuts for Israel. I am counting and counting and counting and counting the days until I can get back. Go figure. Like I want to personally wave a sheaf offering somewhere, anywhere in Jerusalem. Well, not anywhere. It's always struck me as a city big enough for us and them. But that's a topic for another time. Seems everyone these days has an opinion about moving forward or backward.
About this stuff I tend to be an optimist. We'll work it out. Too much good is at stake. Too much beauty. There's too much to be grateful for.
At least this is what I thought when I rode back down Coney Island Avenue on my bike, with my book and my chocolate and my other stuff, happy to have been once; thrilled to live at a time to be able to go again. I thought of Kalonymos Kalman Shapiro, and the noose around his neck, writing his sermons and placing them in milk cans in the Warsaw Ghetto, only to be found after he died. As I dodged cars on Coney Island Avenue in 2010 I thought of a Sage, long gone but very much alive, a reality for which I am quite grateful.