Following our magical encounters yesterday, I wanted to continue practicing awe and letting myself be surprised by whatever was to arise for me today. In fact, I had made it part of my guiding through our morning meditation. It is amazing what can happen when we simply say “yes!” to what life offers us in every moment.
Today on our itinerary was the seam line tour of Jerusalem. We started the day visiting the tomb of the prophet Samuel, right outside of and overlooking Jerusalem from the north. As we entered the building which serves both as a mosque and a synagogue (both recognize Samuel as a major prophet) our steps took us to the Jewish side where many ultra-orthodox families (men and women separately) were praying near to the tomb. In a common area, a Chasidic family had gathered together to celebrate the first haircut of their three year old twin boys. It is traditional for Chasidic families to either wait for Lag BaOmer in the spring, or to have the ceremony at an especially holy site soon after the kids’ third birthday. As we watched, the proud father was gifting his two boys their first Talit Katan (small Talit), and the whole family sang and clapped. Seeing that I was clearly enjoying the scene (these two little boys with their long curly hair were unbearably cute) the father invited me to participate wanting to give me the incredible honor to cut a piece of his kids’ hair. After saying “no” initially, I remembered that today I was supposed to say “Yes!” to whatever life was to surprise me with. And this young father was offering me the opportunity to practice. And so I did. I grabbed the scissors, one of the gorgeous curls of the little boy in front of me and, shaking with emotion, took part in this incredible Mitzvah. Unforgettable! (see the short video here).
Though we started at the northernmost viewpoint of Jerusalem, our tour brought us eventually to the southernmost historical site; the Herodion Fortress; southeast of Bethlehem. In order for us to get there, however, we needed to drive for a few minutes through parts of the West Bank. Now I don’t mean to romanticize my experience of the landscape we discovered—I will never be one of the shepherds we saw guiding flocks of sheep through the barren hills of Judea, nor could I live in a place with so few of the modern conveniences and basic comforts I take for granted—but I must admit that I fell in love with those hills, with the little Arab villages we drove by that seemed so calm and peaceful just a few miles from the chaos of overcrowded Jerusalem. I thought to myself that the worst thing that could happen to the Palestinian people is western civilization. Their way of life, which appeared to me to be in perfect osmosis with their surroundings, needed in my eyes to be not just preserved but, indeed, celebrated. I wanted to get off the bus, walk down the dirt road that led to one of the homes there, knock on the door and sit down over a cup of Turkish coffee with whomever I would meet, and ask them to teach me how to live in this land the way they have for generations. I didn’t expect to have this kind of reaction. I didn’t plan on having such an heart opening experience driving through these parts of the West Bank. I guess the Universe provided in spades opportunities for me to be surprised at my own reactions faced with the awe of these truly sacred moments.
Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote: “Prayer is our humble answer to the inconceivable surprise of living.” This entire day was, for me, one heart-opening unfolding prayer.