Last month, in our opening circle at Pardes, we were asked to introduce ourselves and say where we were from. I didn’t know what to answer, so I said, “Heathrow Airport—because I feel most at home when I am either coming or going.”
I’m used to jumping into new cultures and countries. I’m no stranger to culture shock, new food, new languages, customs and practices. I’m used to walking through that little tube from the airplane to the airport, entering a new and exotic world and forgetting the world I’d just left.
But this time is different. I’d never been to Israel before. And I’d never left Israel before. It’s not jetlag. Yes, I’m a bit sleepy, but it’s not the change in time zone that has me feeling disoriented. Rather, it’s leaving behind a mental and spiritual zone that had me zooming through the skies on a fabulous magic carpet ride, where all I had to do was open my eyes, open my ears, open my heart and the manna would rain down from heaven.
I had teachers who opened my eyes and challenged my mind, met powerful spiritual seekers whose faith and love brought tears to my eyes, met the kindest strangers who invited me into their home for Sabbath meals, and I lived for a few months on soil that definitely felt charged with holiness. It’s hard to leave that, and in many ways, I feel as if I left a piece of my heart in Jerusalem. But my heart is also here in St. Louis—with my husband and three children, with my friends and family and community.
The Baal Shem Tov said, “Whoever knows the secret in everything can bring illumination.” These powerful words touch me deeply, as I find myself simultaneously holding a space of love for Israel and love for my family. In every place and every person and every situation there is the opportunity to bring illumination, and often this illumination is found in the longing rather than the having. Longing is a beautiful, powerful, bittersweet antidote to apathy and complacency. It ignites the soul, clears away the dust, and returns us to our source.
I am grateful for my time in Israel, and I am grateful for my loving and supportive family and friends. I am grateful for the gift of longing and the power of yearning. Let it never cease. Let me always desire more clarity, more love, more light in this journey without an end.