Thursday, August 19, 2010

New Beginnings (8/19/2010)

Kudos to Motti Eichler. As I mentioned, we moved to a new home last week. Although the move was less than a three-minute drive, there is a huge difference regarding the location within the city. Motti, who made aliyah with his family two years ago, was concerned that I might miss the old neighborhood. So, he hand-printed a special “Tznius Dress Only” sign and taped it directly across the street from our house.

My first reaction was shock. Then, when I realized that it was just a joke, I had a nice laugh from it. I know it may sound funny, but one of the things we are looking for in this move is the chance to see Bet Shemesh from a different point of view.

Two days later, our dry cleaner came by to drop off some things we had given him before our move. I am not sure how she connected with him, but for almost our entire time here, Goldie has given any dry cleaning we have to a very nice French oleh who does pick up and drop off service each week. Each year on Rosh Hashanah, he gives us a special gift and we have come to really like him.

He usually leaves our clean clothing hanging by the front door on drop off day, coming into the house once a month to collect whatever money we owe him for that month. This week, he made sure to personally deliver our clothes to us, for two reasons.

The first reason was obvious; he wanted to make sure he was going to the right house. The second reason became clear once I opened the door to let him in. He came streaming through the house, handing me the hangers with our things on them almost as an afterthought. He excitedly explained that “we” (I assume he meant French Jews) have a minhag that is a segulah for wealth and happiness in a new home and asked permission to do it for our house.

We agreed. He said, “We throw coins into six corners of the house and they are the symbol” and proceeded to run from room to room and fling half-shekel coins helter skelter into the corners. He then turned and hurried out of the house to resume his deliveries with our thanks accompanying him.

No matter how long we live here, I think the cholent pot that is Israel will ensure that we continue to have similar experiences. We continually expand our circle of friends and acquaintances and with that expansion comes a variety of cultural and ethnic variations. From our first Ethiopian bar mitzvah, to a Frenchman madly flinging coins at the corners of our living room, our lives are enriched by the people we meet and interact with.

Israel is just incredibly full of unique encounters. In truth, there are unique encounters to be had almost anywhere in the world. What sets Israel apart is that in Israel, these encounters are with people from our own blood. Our paths may have diverged from each other’s as much as 2,000 years ago. We have developed different customs and traditions. But, the blood of a Jew is the blood of a Jew and we are always enthused to participate or encounter someone else’s traditions.

And there is no end to them. Each time we turn around, we find something new and unusual that makes us pause and wonder at how different things are in our new life.

Goldie’s parents were here for a couple of weeks and we spent a Shabbat with them in Yerushalayim. The hotel we stayed at was not going to provide us with seudah shlishit so I went shopping Friday afternoon for all our needs. I had bought everything except for bread and was walking by a schoolyard that had a farmer’s market in it and decided to browse the market.

I happened upon a booth selling fresh bread and was piqued by the many healthful varieties of whole wheat bread they had. I noticed their teudat kashrut. Astonishingly, this street cart vendor had kosher certification for his cart and, after inspection, I realized that I could buy the bread. He was surprised that I was surprised; to him it was obvious that he would make sure his certification would extend beyond the bakery to his cart.

That evening, we (the men along with Chaya) went to the Kotel for davening. I had not been to the Kotel for a Friday night in 30 plus years. We joined a group from Teaneck to daven, but the entire time I was struck by the crowd in the davening area. The minyanim were so diversely scattered, not geographically, but culturally.

There were several large groups seemingly competing with each other in order to sing and dance the loudest for kabbalat Shabbat. Despite the fact that these groups might have friction during the rest of the week, that they might be so politically opposed to each other that one would think they would never get along, they manage to unite at least each week in a common cause. Each, in their own way, publicly and lovingly express their joy at welcoming Shabbat.

The next morning, Chaim and I did something else that I had not done in over 30 years—minyan hunting. When I was a student in yeshiva here, I used to wake up on Shabbat morning, leave my apartment, and follow the first person I would see in the street. Half the time I ended up in his shul and the other half I would be following him home. I davened in a lot of different shuls that way and also benefited from a bunch of random “do you have a place to eat?” meal invitations from some very nice people.

Chaim and I woke up early for the minyan we had planned to attend and decided to go hunting for another. We followed one guy, but he took us to his house, and then after following another guy we ended up in the beis medrash of Yeshivas Medrash Shmuel, with which some of you may be familiar. We even enjoyed an aufrauf there for the son of either one of the roshei yeshiva or the son of one of the rabbeim, I am not sure which.

On the subject of smachot, we participated in two special bat mitzvah celebrations this week as well. The first was Leora Gottlieb, the daughter of fellow 2006 olim Marc and Miriam Gottlieb (formerly of Cedarhurst). Marc and Miriam live in Neve Daniel, and it was a treat to see them and celebrate with them (especially the part where I overstuffed myself on Ben and Jerry’s cookie dough ice cream).

It was terrific. It was very nice to see other families who came at the same time as we had and are having an absolutely terrific time with happy kids and a supreme satisfaction with their choice. I know a few families who, despite all their planning, ended up moving back for various reasons, and it is encouraging to see others who are fulfilled and happy here.

The second bat mitzvah was Tali Levi, who lived two doors away from us in Woodmere. Tali was born a few weeks before we moved in to our house. With Batya’s arrival seven months after we moved in, they got to be friends and played together until we moved. Her parents, Gabe and Anat Levi, are close friends who supported our aliyah from day one and have really done their best to maintain the bond.

I have said it before, but Gabe was incredibly helpful when Goldie was sick, helping us get the right diagnosis and getting our tests and results “express” treatment. Anat’s personal kindness on the day of Goldie’s surgery will never be forgotten.

It is always a special joy to celebrate with people whom you have such strong connections with. We loved the bar mitzvah weekend for David last year and the bat mitzvah was no less terrific for us. Maybe even more so, because all the kids came to the bat mitzvah. We enjoyed being with them (especially when Ezra Levi came to our house for a sleepover with Mordechai—another pair of boyhood neighbor/friends) and sharing their simcha here in Israel. Anat’s remark that they plan on having all their family smachot in Israel if possible, means that they will be back many more times.

Being here they can experience those special “only in Israel” moments. We had one on Sunday night at Ikea (yes, we went again). We had to return some things and buy other things more appropriate to our needs and decided to have dinner at the in-store restaurant. While we waited in line, one of the security guards approached me and said, “Sir, excuse me. Sir? There will be a Ma’ariv minyan in ten minutes in the beit knesset right over there,” pointing to a side area.

I couldn’t believe it. I mean, how often does store security stop you to invite you to join him for Ma’ariv?

No comments: