That may not be the most original title, but it pretty much sums up my recent trip to Jerusalem. Arriving just a few days before Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, meant starting off with an intense prayer experience. Yom Kippur is an annual occurrence, and unfortunately, it is often wrongly perceived by many Jews and presented in many synagogues as an ordeal – 25 hours to endure, spending most of those hours in synagogue as prayers drone on, with no food or drink for either sustenance or distraction. That is a perversion of the holyday, keeping the externals while missing the soul. In Jerusalem, at our children’s synagogue, the day was meaningful and exhilarating. Rather than feeling drained as nighttime ended the observances, the atmosphere around us was uplifting and invigorating. It was precisely what a day which allows us to start our relationship with God anew, clear of the past year’s sins, should be.
Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, followed with its own special prayers and activities. This is a holyday ideally meant to be observed in Israel, especially in Jerusalem, and each day was precious. The entire country was bathed in a festive mood and as we reconnected with long-time friends and family whom we rarely get to see, the week of celebration unfolded joyously. We had the privilege of joining my aunt and uncle for his eightieth birthday celebration, re-connecting with cousins and meeting their children and grandchildren. An added bonus during our visit was the opportunity to attend thought-provoking and inspiring. shiurim – Torah classes.
As for love, it permeated the entire trip. For starters, I was sharing stimulating days and evenings with my husband, surrounded by family and friends. Even more, there was the opportunity to step into our daughter and son-in-law’s lives, seeing how their relationship has grown. The piece-de-resistance, of course, was the arrival of their first child, our new grandson. I had reluctantly missed the early days of our most recent two granddaughters’ lives. Waiting for their appearances I helped with older children, allowing my daughters to head into labor rested. But the babies each delayed coming until I was no longer able to stay. My help was appreciated, but I was absent for the miracle of birth and those first irreplaceable days.
This time I shared in a long, arduous labor, marveling how my daughter stayed focused and calm throughout and at my son-in-law’s unwavering support. I heard the first breaths of a new life and participated over the next ten days as mother, father and son eased into being a family. I was re-introduced to the feel, smell and blessing of newborn being. I had the added gift of watching my own child emerge as a loving, competent and entranced mother.
Throughout it all, as the title suggests, food was an overwhelming presence. We enjoyed numerous top-rate meals in private homes. But, in addition to that, there were dozens of kosher cafes and restaurants within walking distance of us. So many, that despite prodigious effort, we were not able to try them all. Since we do not live in an area which provides much opportunity for kosher eating out, dining in Jerusalem was an incredibly fun activity. It wove its way around each of the other more important happenings, accompanying us back to the States in the form of an extra pound or two as a physical reminder of a trip which overflowed with spiritual and emotional bounty.