Like many, I came to Israel with many ideas—of the people, the land, the history, and the current cultural and political situation. Nothing could have prepared me for the cacophony of diverse voices I am greeted with every day—the right and left and everything in between, the Ultra-Orthodox, secular atheists and the unaffiliated, the women with wigs and men with payos and teenagers in cutoffs and tanktops, and the Pride Parade tomorrow and the mayor who, out of respect for the Ultra-Orthodox, won’t attend.

Who is right?

One of my very wise teachers here said, “Gather your information, seek wise counsel, and in the end, do what your heart says.” It’s hard, because we’d like instant clarity—both inside ourselves and in the world at large. But, as I’m learning here in Israel, it’s not so simple, especially when the stakes are so high, and the environment so charged.

Rav Kook beautifully addresses the challenges of those facing such issues:

“One whose soul does not wander in the expanses, one who does not seek the light of truth and goodness with all his heart, does not suffer spiritual ruins – but he will also not have his own self-based constructions. Instead, he takes shelter in the shadow of the natural constructions, like rabbits under boulders. But one who has a human soul cannot take shelter in anything other than constructions that he builds with his own spiritual toil…”

So maybe it’s meant to be this way. Maybe this “spiritual toil” asks us to “wander in the expanses”, to grapple with issues, and seek for goodness, and emerge, hopefully, with a deep and powerful sense of who we are and why we are here. I take comfort in these beautiful words, as I attempt, one little brick at a time, to build my own constructions, and I wish you peace and joy and you build yours.

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