Death and Birth in the Garden

This week… I read a Facebook comment that one of my holy teachers, Mora Yehudis, made about Tu be'Shvat. "The mystics say (on Tu be'Shvat) to daven for a beautiful etrog (a citrus-like fruit for Sukkot) and that it is a special opportunity to be able to look straight into our dark sides and to be able to extract the gift hiding within them ("them" being our dark sides)."

This week…, at 2:30 am on Wednesday morning, I awoke to my cell phone ringing. My little brother was on the other end of the line and told me that he had just found out that our mother had succumbed to her cancer and died, sometime last Sunday.
This week, on Monday night, something sharp landed in my eye, right as I was bedding down for the night. I tried to wash it out, but it kept hurting, so I figured that I had scratched it. To try and sleep I had to press my eye into the pillow to feel some tiny relief; but, every time I rolled over I awoke from the pain.

This week… I considered going off of my cholesterol medicine. I started taking it a few months back, but because I ran out I thought I might give it a rest, maybe forever. I started to take the medicine because my wife and kids said that they wanted to keep me around for a while. Even though I am a true procrastinator... how could I argue with that kind of love-logic and pressure? So, with that in mind, instead of permanently going off of it, I just continued with my silent debate whether or not to continue taking it.
This week, on Tuesday, at work, I couldn't concentrate. My eye was killing me, so I decided to go see the doctor and maybe I could even fill my cholesterol medication as well... a real bonus for such a procrastinator, like me! I left from work early to walk to the doctor's office, and as soon as I got out of the door a gust of wind seared across my eye, which had been steadily leaking for about 20 hours, but this time, as I winced from the pain, the wind caused my eye to 'gush' with tears. Immediately, my eye felt better, but since I had already left work, I decided to just go to the doctor's office anyway and have her take a look.

This week, on Wednesday morning, I woke to my brother's phone call with the news of our mother's death. It was Tu be'Shvat, which is the 15th of the Hebrew month of Shevat and the Tree New Year. My understanding is that the significance of the new year for trees is based on a Torah verse (Deut. 20:19), in which the commentaries compare a human being to a tree. The Lubavicher Rebbe makes an analogy that a tree is made up of roots, tree, and its fruit. The roots, even though they are hidden under ground (in other words, signifying faith), are extremely important to the tree. The roots provide the tree with nourishment and essential minerals and they also stabilize and support the tree, protecting it from high winds and bad weather.
This week… actually started with a long hike the day before, on Shabbat. I had planned on going to Synagogue in the morning, but mid-stream I changed my plans. I emptied my pockets, since I was headed out of the Eruv and can't carry anything there on Shabbat, and took off into the woods near my house. It was a beautiful day, but very crowded on the trails. As soon as I found myself untangling my legs from an oblivious dog-walker-on-a-cell-phone's leash, I changed my plans again and went straight into the bushes, off-trail. I bush-wacked around the graves of Baron Rothschild and his wife, down the hill, and into the valley that the antelope sleep in, all the while avoiding trails and people. I took a quick break at the Roman bath house ruins, where I drank from a natural spring and tried not to notice the tourists crowding around, evidently wondering who had just emerged from the bushes, had drunk from the ground with a cupped hand, and then disappeared again, as the trees closed behind me. I bush-wacked down another valley and up a little mountain to a rock with a view of Judea and Samaria. I sat down, just me, the angels, and God… and then I cried.

This week, when I left work to walk to the doctor's office, an angel told me that I was supposed to live 'at least' as long as the cholesterol medicine is supposed to help. The angels had evidently put something in my eye and kept it there for a night and a day, just to get me, the eternal procrastinator and excuse-maker, into that doctor's office to collect my medicine. When I finally realized that I was only duped into going to the doctor's, ahead of my ego's schedule, I really felt God's hand supporting me, literally carrying me, helping me to get to the goal, my own goal.
This week… I think I saw my roots, slipping and squeezing through the dirt and nutrients that they reside in. I saw that my life is what I make it and that all I need to do is open my eyes to see the goal. I saw, for a brief moment, the inner workings of the world, until, inevitably, my mind was numbed over by physicality, confusion, and the mere possibility of Infinite 'potential.'

This morning… (is it Wednesday?), I gingerly opened my Tallit, unfurled it with awe and reverently hid beneath it. I unzipped my Tefillin bag, wrapped my 'Yad' with pure intention, concentration, and dedication, I placed my 'Rosh' with a vision floating in front of me of countless angels wrapping around a stadium, and then I prayed with all my heart and soul to the Creator of the Universe, right in the midst of the chaos that was 'supposedly' swirling around me. I thanked Him for everything, for absolutely everything, from the root of my soul, up through the wood of my trunk… my tree, and under my breath, I sang to the angels until my branches were laden with fruit, and once again, I cried.
Khag Sameakh and Shabbat Shalom

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