A pretty big word around here.
Here being Jerusalem, a city that many nations hold dear due to its history and importance in relation to their people, their culture, their religion. As a proud member of the Jewish religion and culture, I find this place resonates with me on an impossibly deep level. I feel the ties to the land, not magically or mythologically, but rather in a historical sense; with understanding and awe that my ancestors have considered this land sacred for longer than I can truly comprehend. That this land has served as a place of refuge and of tragedy, of life and of death. And that the experience I have today while living in Jerusalem is inextricably tied to the experience my ancestors had in this land so long ago.
Jewish liturgy and culture has been built around this land. Our words and prayers allude to it, our thoughts are encouraged to be constantly tuned to it, our actions are expected to be in support of its preservation and accessibility (disregarding for a moment the unbelievably complex and valuable discussion of which parties this accessibility actually extends to).
While much of Jewish liturgy comes directly from the Torah (bible), many prayers that are Rabbinic in origin were created in times of the diaspora after the destruction of the Second Temple, when Jews around the world only dreamed of life here in this land. At the time, it was out of their reach. At the time, there was no realistic consideration of ownership of the land, there were no human beings dispossessed of their homes in order for us to live here.
1948. Theodore Herzl, infamous for his involvement in Zionism and the establishment of a Jewish State proclaims “If you will it, it is no dream.” And he was right, at present moment we are living the dream that existed for so many before us. The dream of living in the land of the creation of our people, of spiritual grounding and connection according to our religious beliefs.
So what does that mean for us? Now that we are living the dream of our ancestors? Now that we are blessed with the chance to live out the deepest yearning of those who came before us, to embrace a way of life they could only imagine, and to develop their legacy in real life experience?
Questions I still struggle to answer. Legacy, I find, is both a beautiful blessing and an incredibly complex burden.
A Personal Addition:
While living in Israel, I have been able to connect to some of my older family members here, and to learn incredible stories about my personal family history that I had never heard before.
I learned about my grandmother, Beatrice (Batya) Abramowitz, who the B in my name (Shira B) is named after. I learned that she was a brilliant woman, that “Beatrice, she could do anything.” That she used to go to debates with all of the men, and that “nobody could stump her.” I learned that she was one of the few women of her time that received a University Pass upon graduating high school, making her eligible to apply to university in South Africa. I learned that she had no money for this university education, that her wealthy uncle refused her a loan, even when she promised to pay back every penny.
I heard more and more about the abusive man she married, about the way her life spiraled downwards as she was no longer allowed to attend the debates, as she was abused physically and emotionally, and as she fell into a deep depression after the death of her husband and the subsequent signing over of her two youngest children (including my father) to the local Jewish orphanage where they remained for the duration of her lifetime.
I was previously familiar of the tragic portion of the family story; I knew that my grandmother had fallen into depression, I knew that my father had grown up in an orphanage. I never felt connected to her. And suddenly, in my year of “connection,” in my exploration of self, soul, and spirit here in Jerusalem, I have found that the “B” in me was actually a bright, brilliant woman, full of life and dreams of pursuing her education.
I, at 22, with my university degree in hand and a world of incredible opportunities at my fingertips now understand why my father insisted I go straight to college/university from high school. Why education and academic achievement have been paramount in my life at home, and what an indescribable opportunity I have to live out the dreams of my very own grandmother.
Legacy, a beautiful blessing and an intense feeling of responsibility. Because as much as we often like to think that we live simply in the now, strong and stable and oh-so-independently, we all come from a legacy. We all hold within us a personal history that extends far beyond our lifetime.
In my previous post, I wrote about the ideas of paradox in Judaism, of multiple truths in context of recent Palestine-Israel conflict. Perhaps related to this is the Jewish concept of the interwoven nature of blessings and curses. That in every curse there is a blessing, that in all bad there is good, and vice versa.
When it comes to legacies, to burdens of living out the dreams of those who came before us, we all have the opportunity to feel the blessing and the curse, the gratitude and the stress, the beauty of opportunity and the burden of responsibility.
In the end, in the present, it’s our choice. Which way will we live?
Thank you to anyone who is taking the time to read this post, to provide any comments, personal thoughts, or private messages. All feedback is deeply appreciated.
Until Next Time,