A Military Family

My grandson Daniel has just concluded his final weeks in the IDF, sweltering in a bunker on the Golan Heights during this summer’s heatwave. He remarked, in a posting on his Face Book page “I’m witnessing a Syrian fox making aliyah… Welcome to Israel… You’re in a mine-field…”

I can easily visualize the scene.

Fifty-four years ago, at the end of October 1956, during the Suez campaign, I was lying in a shallow dugout at the perimeter of our position just west of the Jordan river, facing the Golan Heights. We were on guard against a possible attack by Syrian commandos. At two or three in the morning, after hours of boredom, I froze, sensing a rustling in the nearby thickets. I reached out to my sergeant to alert him. After a moment he chuckled. “It’s only a wildcat,” he said. “Welcome to the Holy Land.” Continue reading “A Military Family” »

Three Whitenesses

1. A few days after returning from a vacation in the Yosemite National Park, I dreamt that I was sitting by a large window in a train traveling through mountainous, alpine terrain. The landscape outside was blanketed with snow, flat and white, featureless except for two receding parallel ribbons of black, the railroad tracks. A moment of terror: did this vision presage the blank mind of plaque and tangled neurons? Then gradually forms emerged: the faint shining disk of the sun, jagged peaks etched on a background of billowing clouds, shadowed gullies and dark ravines, and below, a winding tree-lined river. I awakened, laughing.

2. It’s June, and our regular summer guests have arrived, a pair of albino ferruginous hawks. First we hear the harsh kaa-kaa of their rasping calls, and then spot them, perched, side-by-side, on a high branch of the 50-foot eucalyptus tree in our neighbor’s yard. They spend hours circling and hovering over the meadow beneath us, occasionally swooping down and immediately soaring up again, grasping in their bloody talons some wriggling prey, usually a small mammal; last year one of them caught a snake.

3. A Midrash: After Adam/Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden the Holy One of Being prepared for them garments of rawhide. Now these are understood as representing the leather straps of the tefillin, the phylacteries, those instruments of ritual that bind us and direct us with good laws and rules of right living. This is the way we Jews are to worship on this mundane plane of exile. But before the Expulsion, while still in that place of wondrous innocence, how were Adam/Eve garbed? In cloaks of light, we are told.

Oh that I may offer my orisons wrapped in that white light from Eden! It beckons me, but today I cannot reach it. Meanwhile, those leather ribbon-straps lie before me on my desk, demanding, summoning.
Jonathan Omer-Man ©2010

Older Musings

August 26: Prayer before going to sleep

בְּיָדוֹ אַפְקִיד רוּחִי, בְּעֵת אִישַׁן וְאָעִֽירָה.
וְעִם רוּחִי גְּוִיָּתִי, יְיָ לִי וְלֹא אִירָא.

The Sh’ma al ha-Mittah (the Jewish bed-time prayer service) demands of us that we not slip mindlessly into slumber, but rather make conscious the transition from the active, daytime world, of business, of relationship, in which we have relative control over our lives, to the realm of sleep, in which we have none, are powerless.

It opens with a dramatic statement, of intention to forgive anyone who may have harmed us, whether intentionally or not, in any way, physically, spiritually, or economically. Of course it is impossible to do this completely and irrevocably, and we are cognizant that many of those old angers and resentments will return, at least in part, on the morrow. Nevertheless, this is an essential accounting, a preparation for the journey into the unknown, into night, as we put behind us the dying day’s unfinished business.

The entire service is marked by a developing sense of humility, of progressively relinquishing autonomy, of faith in divine benevolence, and it concludes with the words from the Adon Olam, printed above, “and into Your hand I commit my soul, when I sleep or awaken, and with my soul, my body too. H’ is with me, I shall not fear.”

The next prayer we utter, on awakening in the morning, is an expression of gratitude for the restoration of soul, of consciousness, of aliveness, Modah (Modeh) Ani.

Continue reading “Older Musings” »