Tuesday, October 22, 2013

There is the sky.

The skies in the Negev are majestic. Somehow, they contain unimaginable powers. The sunrise that sets us off on our day of work at Aleh Negev also lowers into the colorful sunset that welcomes us home to Moshav Bitkha. The stars at midnight indulge my dreams. They sparkle through the exhausting aroma of my neighbor’s cowshed and create a dance floor for the moon to shine. The openness of the Negev permeates the land and the heavens in a call to fulfill the space in the partnership. It’s hard not to feel part of the program and soon I establish my addition to the the vibes of the South. My connection to the individuals at Aleh Negev deepen and my banot sherut become my family. I rely on them all for an education in patience and love, communication and determination. I experience an existence of total trust in others. Just like the skies rely on the heartbeat of the sun, I breathe from the help of others.

My first week of Aliyah allowed me to enter two societies. 1. Religious Israeli culture via the seminar for Sherut Leumi. And, 2. The Alliance of Olim while staying at Lisa’s apartment in Jerusalem. Both were plenty exhilarating and new, full of helpful advice and excitement for my newest life choice. They live an authentic experience of living the words that we have been passed down to follow, of taking pride in Israel and the challenges that exist here. They offer me the world of help because I am now one of them and the united front just sticks together.

The diversity of Israel highlights the fact that everyone either is an Oleh or comes from an Oleh somewhere in their family tree. My father’s words gallop in my mind teaching over my national memory of being kicked out the Bablonyians, scattered around the world and now returning- some of us a little more brown and some a little more blonde. And we return to a country that welcomes some persecuted populations and therefore our makeup is one of Immigrantville- but immigration home- not simply to a foreign land. As representative of my co-workers from Ethiopia and Russia, my friends' parents from France and Morocco. As an Olah Chadasha I am relatable to everyone who can appreciate being 2nd or 3rd or even 4th generation Israeli. As an Olah Chadasha, I am the empty blue sky that patiently struggles to understand Hebrew, the election system, the spoken inflection that drifts in the sunlight. As an Olah Chadasha, I can accept the assistance, because I am part of the body that delivers the help. I know that the day will come when I am in the complementary role, teaching another Olah the ropes, and therefore; the united flow of dependence actually becomes liberating.

I am proud to be dependent. It’s more genuine than pretending that my new citizenship only revolves around myself, that my family and that my beliefs are not braided into this collage of change. I am the product of the years in a factory and walking around the new workshop requires more tools that what I currently hold on my belt. When the overwhelmed tears pour onto the shoulders of my friends, the language barriers disappear from the scene and the bonds of unity tighten their hold. When doubts of patience itch more than my mosquito bites, I call my pioneer, Shayna and embrace the timeline of absorption. When the exhaustion gets the best of me, one of the residents at Aleh Negev will remind me of the tremendous gifts I was born with. When the Hebrew trips up on my Californian tongue, I breathe in the mediative skies and somehow gather the ability to mumble out the word.

My Nefesh B’Nefesh bracelet dangling around my wrist starts to fade. My unbarable ascent sometimes captures the correct tones and once in a while, I catch myself understanding some words. Today I have been standing as an Israeli Citizen for 10 weeks and while I celebrate the beauty of the progress, I owe it all to those who have journeyed before me and held out the flashlight to show me the way.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Ease is intimidating.

When making Aliyah, everything is scary.

Sitting in 2nd Ave Deli with Seth and Erin the night before my Nefesh B' Nefesh flight, my brother asks me if I am "nervous about anything.” Sitting in defiance to my outward excitement, my savings account of tears gets the best of me. The emotional outpour of my insecurities flood onto the restaurant table. The comfort of my family hugs my soul with love and soon enough I am at the El Al check in counter, surrounded by three hundred future Israeli citizens about to board the 50th NBN aliyah flight. 

Next is the sending off ceremony jittering next to Emma who articulates the perfect advice- ask for help, Talya. The swarm of Olim creates a bubble bee buzz that lifts me off my feet and twirls me in a breeze of a surreal reality. I am not there in my body in JFK, I am still at the beach in San Diego, still with my Grandma two nights earlier, still in Jerusalem at seminary; still dazed that the fragile possibility that I have been caressing is indeed transforming into the reality of my Israeli identity. The nine hour flight of excitement and story sharing, of unity and song singing, of nerves and socializing; culminates in my head during my Shacharit conversation with Hashem. I pray for everyone on the flight; to overcome challenges and receive some divine assistance. I look around at the those that are helping each other put on tefillin, embracing the mitzvah within the larger mitzvah and I smile out at the sunrise glistening through the windows. 

The pilot's announcement welcomes us Olim Chadashim home and my private press photographer Ofir captures the Led Zeppelin moment walking down the stairs. Unreal only captures the feeling to an extent, but what I can break down of my sleepy nervousness offers me a distant understanding of what occurred. I recognize in awe the tremendous support I felt from my Midreshet people, my friends and my family greeting me at the welcoming ceremony. The dreamlike connection to the excitement of being home falls buried under the stones of anxiety raining down in anticipation of the next 3 days of my entirely Hebrew seminar and the isolation of not joining the IDF with all 125 heroes my age. My body trembles in doubts and aches of the unknown waving hello. 

But the scariest thing about making Aliyah is when it all just works out. When I drag my bags over to a group of Israelis and introduce myself to be greeted with amazement and when my jet lagged brain can translate the world, it just makes me take a step back. When I stare at the Israeli identification card and open my Israeli bank account and find myself with my health insurance card and make my way over to Sherut Leumi office, capable of all the tangible achievements; I find myself confused of the ease of it all. I don't deserve for all the Israelis I live with to be so incredibly embracing, for my job in Sherut Leumi to make me feel high with fulfillment and for all the puzzle pieces to fit together so perfectly. 

Taking my three steps back before entering one-on-one time with Hashem centers me in front of the king that has given me so much attention. My fear of not appreciating the gifts to the extent that they deserve strikes me as the answering of my tefillah in my initial isolation from the normative Aliyah path on my flight. I now realize that the attention I asked for scares me more that the situation that beckoned the request. 

Strutting around Yerushalim with the announcement that I live in Israel playing on repeat in my head, my surroundings emulate my newfound possession of my land. In America, I didn't realize the extent of how much I missed the land and oh, the hills... Transfixed staring out the window, like a partner mesmerized by a lover, I can't tear myself away. 

During the Sherut Leumi seminar, a presentation included a moment about aliyah, probably something about Ethiopian Olim, but a few girls sitting next to me gave me that look that brought tears to my exhausted eyes. I'm here. I've made it. Later that day our teacher for the group of us entering a year of special education expresses the significance of our service as a representative of Am Yisrael. I am not here simply as Talya, but Talya of Am Yisrael, serving my people in the large scale of my nation, training me to become an active member of the community that I am blessed to be born into. 

I sit at the Hebrew speaking Shabbat table, unable to understand the general conversation but somehow I feel at home. Lucky Talya wakes up with a support system of the other banot sherut (girls doing national service with me) and stand in mutual admiration of the other's life. They might call me brave but I strive to emulate them. Slowly my Hebrew vocabulary fills that little blue notebook of new words I come across, and the normality of my life in Israel fits me way too naturally. 

I take those three steps back and think about what more to request. Dumbfounded, I cry that the mazel bestowed upon me reaches out to others. I quiver in trepidation, humbled by the phenomenons of the past month and stand freaked out in the most wonderful way. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The step waits.

"Mazel Tov." The manager of the Apple Store in San Diego is quick to show me the photos of him at the Wailing Wall with his apple kippah on his recent trip to my about-to-be-home. Last minute preparations and frantic attempts to understand the crazy Aliyah process during the Israeli Foreign Ministry Strike tests my family's mental patience and rattles the strands of my parents' worries. 

Enthroned by the role of the baby in my family, I announce my plans to step away from my birthplace and claim roots to this distant land in the Middle East. Eyebrows are raised. Glances shift to my parent's nod, confirming the truth. A cautious smile arises. Questions finally torpedo towards me as my well repeated affirmations echo from my passive mind. The oxymoron of Being In The Moment taunts my insecurities, for every action is merely completing a task based for the future. 

Last October, when brainstorming my Aliyah timeline and my plans for Sherut Leumi, I quietly plotted and broadened my knowledge of the embedded textures of my dream. The profound confidence in my decision fueled the momentum of my zillions of emails and phone calls to the individuals that I plan to follow. Dedicated to the schedule of my Jewish studies, I had breathing space to digest the feasts of life planning. With each bite of decision making, I excitedly absorbed the reality of it all: What this would mean for my university experience, my career, my future family- and their relationship with the ones who hold my heart back in America.

My first Israeli bureaucratic experience of signing up online for Sherut leumi interviews in the limited allotted time wrung out my frustration with being a newbie here, but more importantly instituted a deep appreciation for the endless care Israelis and older Olim will dispense. If generated, my nerves from the first interview day had the potential to fuel the world. Shaking out the Hebrew from my stunned mind, I realized the extent of my intelligence trapped in English. Yearning to open the doorway into my translation-less world, I smile and attempt to explain my commitment to helping people with special needs. 

Rolling away the defeat post interview, I focused on my next opportunity swimming up 3 days later. I rearmed myself with confidence by translating my college resume to hand to my interviewer with a letter of recommendation, and drilled myself on Hebrew terms I would weave into my pitch. Aleh Negev interview day only replays in my memory like a dream. I am calm and collected sitting on an egged bus to Beer Sheva when I look up and see Sharona, an sabra from Olim parents. With her helpful translations during the tour of Aleh Negev and exceptional friendliness, the day swings by in excitement. When answering questions in Hebrew, I refuse to surrender. I imagine my year of service and I am here. I am doing what I love. I am improving the lives of others, flexing my compassion and communicative skills. I am immersing myself in Israeli culture and language, experiencing independence and reliance on those more familiar with experience here. I am helping the Negev bloom and the individuals at Aleh grow in their abilities. I am serving my country, as a member of Am Yisrael.

Relaxing in my perfect San Diego backyard, I tear up looking at the gentle clouds. Talya is alone, leaving the familiar to go home and postponing university for life education. The step before jumping might be more nerve racking than the sky diving below. I climb into the childish mindset I store for selective occasions. All of a sudden, everything is beyond overwhelming. I feel small inside my shell, distant and standoffish. Sensitive to the world, I present a tap dancing princess playing in her mother's wardrobe. My unproductive mode shifts into place and baby me longs for empowered Talya. Curious eyebrows ask me why Aliyah. Baby Talya responds from her array of available answer cards: it's home, it's my Jewish San Diego, it's available and accessible to me in this generation like never before, and it's the only place that for thousands of years is constantly changing and yet equally familiar. 

Standing up for my choice dismantles my shell little by little. Merely the ringing of my aliyah date arriving makes me relate to the face wash commercials, waking up with the rush of a tingling sensation across my skin. I am about to claim my spot in Jewish history, unleash my potential, and face my fears. I am going not only alter my identity, but the ones who come from me. I will assert my commitment and struggle along the way. And there I watch the jumping board emerging.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Worth the walk.

In my city there is a wall; a wall designed to support but now occupies way beyond the stones' physical mass. The wall clutches the collective memory of my nation; absorbing the holiness of our efforts, the tears of strangers unperturbed by the public stage, the symbolism of our goal for unity and our unabashed love for God. 

In the past few weeks, I just can't help but pay attention to my wall. The streets on Yom Yerushalim flooded with what seems like the entire nation dancing in a mosh pit at a rock concert. Everywhere I pushed, blue and white flags and clothing colored my vision. Unable to dispose of my goofy smile in the glory of this liberation day, shivers, and watery eyes graced my steps to the Old City. The gun shots and yells from soldiers from the ramparts above screened in my mind as I imagined the stones' sight 46 years ago when Jewish history was once again startled by God's presence in our strength. Prophecies mirrored in the unleashing of modern day war, the soldiers couldn't believe that they were liberating the city that we obsess over in our conversation with God three times a day. As the sun melts into the mountains, we fly in dancing circles at the Kotel, unable to fathom our luck in experiencing this freedom foreign to us for centuries. 

A week later, my feet find themselves on the trek to my Kotel once more; although this time, the sun hasn't begun to rise. Shavuot- my favorite holiday marks the anniversary of Hashem giving us the Torah and us presenting to him our loyalty and accomplishments in return. As Jews, we stay up all night to immerse ourselves in Torah learning and eat infinite amounts of dairy products. Our book sets up three pilgrimages to our house every year- one of them being Shavout. So here I stand this year in Jerusalem, for the first time able to make these journeys and not just commemorate holidays, but actually insert my actions into the tradition of my culture. After teaching my first Torah class, the adrenaline pulsating through my body motivates me up the "Aliyah b'regel." I turn to the right and see a few couples walking toward us. Behind me, the group is no longer just of my school, but many more of my siblings. The crowds grow as we near the Old City, quickening our pace to reach the Kotel at the earliest time to pray. We breathe in the holiness of Hashem blessing our efforts and exhale praise for the magnificence of his handbook. From the rooftop of a yeshiva, I watch the heavens welcome us with colors of celebration and the rhythm of the tefillot echo through my frizzy curls. 

And yet 26 hours later the same launching pad for our spirituality becomes tarnished with spiteful intolerance. For Rosh Chodesh, Women of the Wall, the protest group that recently won the right for women to wear prayer shawls and lead public Torah Reading services brought their revolutionary presence to instate their dominance on the women's side of the wall. In reaction to their subjective offense, Charedi men spat and yelled, while a chair was thrown and mob mentality took over. The desecration of identify, throbbing of immaturity, and defilement of our nationhood was felt throughout the communities. I cringe with a stab of pain watching my fellow siblings fight with each other and refuse to acknowledge that maybe our family can allow an expansion of idea. Call me crazy but maybe a Jewish state created with Zionist sweat means that this country and her laws protect, enrich and give voice to all types of Jews. It's equally ridiculous to me that WOW won't accept Natan Sheransky's plan for an egalitarian section and that the most religious of my people neglect the laws about loving and respecting your fellow Jew. My mind plays with the idea of what it means to represent our contract with Hashem and the wall I look up at holds more shadows of our turmoiled history than at first glance. 

Looking out the porch window from Yeshai and Malka's apartment in Har Zaitim and watching the sun dance upon the stage of where our house of godliness stood, I ask why sacrifice children's safety and live in this Arab area? I catch the irony of the question in regards to our location because where that gold dome now sits was where this question was initially answered. "It's all about inheritance, what we leave for the next generation. I'm leaving Yerushalim for my children." The intensity of my celebration of Jerusalem will only keep her alive to an extent. She needs to be protected and cultivated, economically strong and spiritually revitalized. Walking to the Kotel this time captures an elevated tone of urgency in living for the the ideals we pass down to generations. The soldiers of the Six Day War only had something to liberate because we forced it to be the factor to liberate. The constant reexamination and repetition of love for God's favorite city escorts the continuance of its existence and our determination to follow our word. Our Yerushalim bears the floodlight of attention for us, whether direction to pray too, historical connection, words in songs, political views, or spiritual focus. My thoughts bounce off the wall in front of me. And what a wall I am lucky to have. To listen to her observations is a gift I am blessed with and the burden of respecting her with love falls on us. The Kotel will always have attention; our choice is the topic of attention we assign to her. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

It keeps me.

This year, my mistakes have totaled into a collage of embarrassing stories, tearful moments with Rivka, and pains of apathy. As I consider the weight of my neglect of sleep and health, the distressful disagreements with others and my own pressure that I weave into my schedule, I ponder the waves of decision making that I swam with grace. Tallying up my goals that I can check off, observing Shabbat has towered over any other success. 

Every week, I await Shabbat; the rest day that I used to prioritize in my life when it was convenient for me, now with the excitement of a love letter flying its way towards me. I plan my introduction to amazing communities throughout Israel, testing to see where I could imagine living, what family values I would like to emulate, what unique stories and personalities tap me on the shoulder. The shivers from the wacky family in Elon Moreh during that stormy weekend in December, and beautiful songs from the following Shabbat at Mizpeh Yericho rustle in the pages of my Shabbat Siddur. 

Raising up Shabbat raises up the rest of my week. Beautifying and celebrating Shabbat motivates spirituality that otherwise would slip away from me. The dvar Torah that submits my thoughts to an audience summons new parshah ideas to be investigated. A lick of time away from my school allows the questions and knowledge I have acquired sink into my endless mind. Guarding the mitzvot of Shabbat unites my very distinct Shabbatot and bridges the gaps in my active memory with deep appreciation for Torah. Inspired by location, my surroundings speak a language of effort and commitment that probe my cognitive dissidence with sparks of change. By enacting the mindfulness of the the laws I learn in Hilchot Shabbat, the 25 hours dance with growing into the future I desire. 

When I light those candles, I not only see the years next to my mom and sisters, but also my national memory of generations striking the match to kindle an elevated existence. Conscious of the prayers that have accompanied this action since I was a little trouble maker, I feel the intimacy of marking time with my creator. Invested in the moment, I smile with empowerment to continue my path for the next week. Friday night discussions taste just as delicious on my lips as the meal that sets the stage. I am stringing the Tzfat shabbaton during Amud Anan speaking with IDF soldiers training to become officers, Tel Aviv Shabbat with Olivia, Emek Refaim with Emma and her parents, the Maaleh Rachavam carivans watching the same stars that maybe were glanced at by Avraham- all these Shabbatot on the same necklace dangling from my heart. 

A diverse education of experiences signify a personal success of my year and by continuing to ensure myself  of this practice, the connection will only strengthen. By walking around Eretz Yisrael in the many shoes I have come across, I can proudly dance in my own. While the specific books I pile in every Shabbat allow resting a stretched definition, the time always rested me into a recognition of constant learning. And as I walk next to Ilana sharing Shabbat at the Kotlers, I begin to believe that Shabbat holds transformative powers. I can daven Friday afternoon mincha with a conviction bouncing around within and find myself through a car wash of eternal time and by havdalah Saturday night, the world seems different. Someone once told me that Judaism is a religion of time striving to sanctify time on holiness by separating the essence away from the mundane. To further that notion, I believe that Judaism releases time from the confinement of the mundane by sanctifying even the simple smells and sips, the casual conversations and elevates the daily tasks that we turn on their heads. I believe in Shabbat because Shabbat becomes me and I unto her. As much as I keep Shabbat, she keeps me. And when I do accidentally miss a step in our relationship, she is there still knocking at my door every next week, beckoning me toward elevated time with the King.   

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Pride grows in sacrifice.

Hatikvah, the Israeli national anthem sounds different here than it does in America. But so does Kaddish with thousands of others on Yom Hazikaron. The transition from Israeli Memorial Day to the following day of Yom Haautzmaut, Israeli Independence Day is an awareness very unique to this complex county. The pride and sadness embedded into the tears of remembering our fallen soldiers and victims of terror ignite the fire of celebration hours later. 

Masa Gap Year programs holds an annual commemorative service that deeply infuses personal stories into the start of Yom Hazikaron. Tears flood with awe of soldiers that made Alyiah to protect their home, that were killed while saving civilians in terrorist attacks, who donated their lives in exchange for saving their unit from a bomb, women whose leadership and joy of life reverberated throughout the battlefront. I shiver not from the cold of changing weather in Latrun, but from my understanding of nationhood pulsing through my body. The next day at Har Herzl, we silently stand for the siren along with the entire county. The tombstones read the Jewish names and young ages of the greatest people I will never meet. Their valor and strength tightens my love of Israel as I hear stories from their families of the lives they lived. 

If one were to play word association, I would bet American Memorial Day answers would include BBQing and huge sales. But in Israel, the prayer to elevate the memory of our bravest individuals wins. And it is no coincidence that the calendar accurately gives credit to the foundation of our country right before the celebration of what their accomplishments build.

The elation of Yom Haautzmaut brings on a different set of tears. I think back to how passive I felt in Poland as a Jew, needing to hold close to my Israeli flag for comfort. Here in Israel, in the streets of Neve Aliza, the yeshuv Rabbi Berglas and Vicky established, in the circle of my school, I dance with my flag; with my heart waving in the air. Dizzy from spinning with my love for Israel, I pause and simply hold up the flag, watching it dance in the breeze. Her movement does not depend on me, I am just the lucky one honored to uplift her in her splendor. We sing praise for the miracle of independence in our generation, enumerating the involvement of our creator reaching out to us, beckoning us to seize the purposeful opportunity. My gratitude blooming in understanding of our romantic relationship with Hashem twirls around my blue and white tie dye skirt and as I breathe in my first Yom Haautzmaut in the Eretz, I smile in excitement of many more to come. 

Being part of the chain of Judaism means that my segment is stronger than previous; not from my own merits, but from the sheer gravity of earlier sacrifices. I can casually sit on the walls of Chevron- the same exact stones that scared the 10 spies, punishing my ancestors in the desert to die out a generation and wander for 40 years before taking another look at the wall with a refreshed view- not because of my own trust in Hashem helping me conquer a land, but because they struggled to trust Hashem. My fortune in existing during Jewish independence crowns me with the fascinating question of what are we free to do. I yearn to live up to the gifts I am honored to inherit and giggle with excitement for my upcoming adventure working in a village for disabled adults in the Negev. Serving my home is the only way I can imagine starting my life here, singing my gratitude and working for future links. My tombstone will echo the Israeli pride in giving for the nation and my placement in history will dance in the songs of praising the opportunity. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

It is a struggle.

Growing up in a generation hungry to listen to Holocaust survivors, to go to the Museum of Tolerance, to speak openly and to learn historically what occurred, I grew to relate to the Holocaust as a weakness. I viewed the tagline of "Never Again" as a comforting lie we tell ourselves - "of course it will happen again; it's happening right now in Darfur!" My desire to be a strong and proud Jew didn't allow me to connect entirely to the inaction of stories told to me. I was affected, but at a shallow level that washed away within the hour. Even this year in seminary, as Vicky teaches us the specifics of the ghettos and camps, the residue of her words leave nothing.

But standing in a gas chamber changes everything. Feeling suffocated by my tears as I walk out of a room that my people didn't walk out of, wearing the flag of Israel as a representation of our survival, singing Hebrew songs crying out to the god that abandoned us; the complex array of emotions are impossible to tally up. 

The anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising claims the attention of tv and radio stations today: Yom Hashoa, the Remembrance Day for the Holocaust. Standing at a street corner in Jerusalem, I witness a city stopping- no a country stopping- every person standing next to their car, every conversation paused. The one minute siren at 10am doesn't just exclaim a mindfulness of history, it unites us in a conquest over Hitler's slashed plans, a pledge of faithfulness to this system of being a Jew, and a reconfirmation of our established state that fulfills our nationhood. 

Walking through Polish neighborhoods, I consider what the elderly people were doing at the time and who originally lived in their homes.The total destruction of Treblinka leaves no evidence of the mechanized death, except for the memorials and train tracks that we walk shivering in the snow. The  nameless 800 children smashed into the Zbilatowska Gora mass grave, the millions of shoes at Madjanek, the Warsaw cemetery that displays the life accomplishments and identities that were lived; my eyesight blurs with tears and my state of balance wavers from the information swimming around me.  

The question of how the Holocaust happened doesn't faze me. The same way I shoo the pidgin that was chilling in my dorm room out from the place he doesn't belong, so did the Germans. And the Poles were plenty happy to serve the cleansing process. It's not even why god let it happen. I think our relationship with our creator allows for excess free choice. The question that keeps me up lies in the definition of our covenant with god and our role as his people. Is this just the expected pattern and we should be waiting for the next one? If god has clearly walked away from being an overprotective parent, what do my tefillot mean to him, or for that matter to me? Are we born into this system of Judaism that calls on us to perform rituals knowing that even if I die as an individual, the nation will continue? 

During Shabbat at Krakow, I meet Malka. An adorable college international relations student at the University of Krakow, Malka doesn't "look" Jewish with her blonde hair and therefore she practices her Judaism hushed. As we get to know each other more throughout the weekend, our conversations hit intense notions of the beauty found through struggling in life. Yisrael does mean "to struggle with god" anyway. Malka understands the excellence in trying to be as Jewish as possible. She personifies the only true answer to my questions: live anyways. Live for the Jews that weren't able to question, to dance, to create a Jewish family. Our promise with god didn't say it was going to easy. Our agreement with god directs our survival through scraping by in these hardships and finding meaning in the daily tasks he laid out for us.

I have not figured out the Holocaust. I have not related to every story, nor detached from my love of strong Jews. I have however discovered the connectivity to the emotions of being a Jew in a nation of Jews. I am part of Am Yisrael and for the first time truly understand the definition of being a nation. I am never going to feel fulfilled by an answer to the Holocaust, but I will always celebrate the way those Jews lived holding onto Halacha and unifying. I will honor them by living a Jewish life and by continuing the work that was stolen from them. I will always struggle, but with pride. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Love written to my parents.

The feet surrounding me start vibrating and the smiles reflecting back at me widen as the pump up music sets us 8,000 10k runners off. My overly exhausted iPhone gripped asleep in my palms allows me the freedom from media and my thoughts of gratitude motivate my stride. The Knesset looks behind me and the many Jerusalem hills wave hello as shouts of support rain from the crowds. 

Siting in the eloquently dim restaurant with my visiting cousins, I attempt to answer the reoccurring question of what on earth my parents did to raise us Herrings to grow up into the individuals we are today. 
"A whole lot of love and in the best kind of way" finally tickles out of my lips. 

Through allowing me as a kindergardener to choose my school, as a 8 year old to define my hobbies, as a teenager to form their blueprints into my reality, and now as a 19 year old to uplift my sense of Jewish nationality; my parents have imprinted an innate confidence in asserting self choice.

The walls of the old city welcome me as I run down to the 7k marker. The spring sunshine reminiscent of San Diego godliness beats down on us and I passing by a few students from my school, I exclaim euphoria at the glory of the view. Remarks of approval of a very "Talya" thing to say dance in my hair and I connect my general appreciation to my parents. By their stubborn perseverance to infuse self worth into our upbringing, the understanding of gratitude fell into place. Attention to global history and history of self guide me to comprehend the beauty in humility. And my parents' sacrifices for us ingrain an awareness of a forward thinking mindset. 

Shabbat at the Kotlers (my newly discovered third cousins) mimic the liveliness of Herring meals. Transport the location of my knowledgeable Pops and adorably snugly Momma into Jerusalem for the past 30 years and pretty much you get the idea. 

The joy of connecting to new family reminds me of the completely ridiculous level of love I have for my parents and siblings. I thirst for the phone calls; especially the Aliyah questioning bombardment. Their incessant dissection, probing the microscopic cells of my plan demonstrate that our love is plenty mutual. My parents' love for me whispers in their understanding of why I am traveling to Poland to connect to our heritage, how my hair will never calm down, why the words of the Torah spark self discovery for myself, that my love affair with the outdoors and adventure sweeps me in, and that the dichotomy between our physical distance and heightens our emotional closeness. 

To my parents who continuously inspire me to identify my growth in tangible pursuits, I love you beyond words. I don't know how exactly you raised us. I'm not sure what discussions of values and discipline you enacted. I can't fully comprehend the intensity of your sacrifices for us. I can't even dispute the fact that you guys had a whole history before my existence, an elevated narrative of the past years, and an insight into the future that I presume must be fed to you by aliens. Therefore, I only attempt to write about love that was funneled through my eyesight. My cognition contains a footprint of your efforts and I for one, am so thankful for that. I love you for how much you make me, me and how much you allow me to continue to find me. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Time is redeeming.

Considering that time is relative to the viewpoint of the subject, my days are starting to fall into the previously camp defined time of miraculously packed full hours that disappear in a second. I look into the amount of pages highlighted, translated, commented, questioned in my Tanach. I review the pages of notes from my 27 classes, glance at the insightful books I have checked off. My binders fill up and my pens forget their ink. The buzz of the city welcomes me on my walks to town and I ponder the amount of times I my feet have led me down this path of familiarity. The halachic observances I have strengthened happily fit my freckled body as my lips murmur inspired ideas about the unity of klal Israel. I hike Nachal Og, breathing in the history of each step and proudly exhale with a teary eye my gratitude for being created in such a century. My mediation on that cliff reflects that tefillah for focus, and look right over there- that's my art, my letters, my lists of philosophical questions, my knitting needles snuggling into my realm of religiosity. 

Time seems incongruous with rational definitions because time lies in the journey of the experience. Judaism has a tough time differentiating time. Yeah, we got down the zmanim for tefillah, the lunar calender, the candle lighting times, and the allotted matzah baking limits - but we truly fail at the functionality of moving on past certain times. The spiritual realm can't yet grapple with time and since we are physical and yet spiritual, we too suffer the consequence of expanding past the confines of time. 

A holiday rolls around. Life is transformed. An ancient ruin welcomes new guests. A land promised thousands of years ago identifies new battles. A student of a great rebbe passes down the masora with renewed curiosity. 

In history books, it's clear that as events pass us, the specific details fade and the dramatic emphasis dilutes into the ponds of memory. In contrary, the fiery dedication to end our exile and redeem ourselves pulsates through the Jewish people as if the destruction took place the day before yesterday.  

It's no wonder that the month of Adar actually exits as an incredibly joyful month. Time might have been divinely created, but our leader left its constraints up to us. We hold the ability of actualizing the past in our present lives and simultaneously live the dream for the future. We are handed gifts and opportunities with the hope that we actualize our potential. By silencing time as a restraint, we liberate our journey into a mindful state and thus traditions are held to a promise and our cry for redemption becomes a personal revival. By living with emphasis on the moments, the ideals of the whole nation, and the seriousness of impacting our surroundings, we are able to define time. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

There will be reminiscing.

Today is Election Day here in this holy land. Israelis take off from work and select the parliamentary party that best reflects their complaints and angry yells of which issue to focus on. As I start to understand Israeli politics and the hilariously complex system, talks about how far the county has come dances into the conversation. The underlining question in past elections was always survival and peace with our neighbors. Now, as Israel's population expands and modern lifestyles take hold, the government transitions to dealing with securing a middle class, equalizing social benefits, and fulfilling the diverse religious needs of the 6 million Jews here. It's truly the distinction between the past and present that acts as a meter stick gauging Israel's growing maturity and attempts at learning from mistakes. Accepting one's identity and watching the mold take shape is no passive action. 

My sister Rachel just spent the last two weeks with me. As she shared about her two years living in this country, showing me around where she lived, where she studied, where she drank coffee, where there is the best bathrooms, where she liked to have picnics, where she remembered that hilarious story and where there is the best shakshuka, I tried to reason the nostalgia. Although I do enjoy a good reminiscing sesh every once in a while, I couldn't fathom why past tense words were Velcro-ed to all sentences. 

As I review my class notes and organize my binders for second semester, I smile at the pages of learning I have absorbed. I joke around with my roommates about my mistaken use of laundry softener as a detergent and that time I missed my bus stop in the beginning of the year. We breathe in the comfort of familiarity and glance over our shoulder at the person we once were. If one month gave us a bond, look at us now at 5. 

The old stone that encompasses the architecture of Jerusalem whispers history and praises the past. The new construction screams into the future, relating the broadcast of a growing country. The young children with more skills of independence than their age summons stand up on the bus for the elderly woman to sit. My rabbi and his son bounce ideas off of each other about the parshah to review their base of knowledge as well as to gain a new understanding of the questions they hadn't considered until then. 

Reminiscing isn't my go to game. But on a long walk, I start to throw the ball around in my mind. Where was I last New Year's Eve? I mean where was I; mentally, emotionally, religiously, intellectually and spiritually. I think about my high school accomplishments. In the moment, each club, each tournament, each swim meet seemed well in the moment. And now I struggle to define the details, to highlight the intensity of my feelings and my drive to always learn and improve. It already seems so long ago. Just this past summer feels unnaturally distant; welcoming me to reminisce about my campers and fellow staff members. It seems that as I make greater strides towards the future, fond memories of the past take a presence in my mind. It's my sister's stories of Israel and the understanding that not only are we who we are because of our past, but we are also who we are because reviewing the past and learning from the self inspiring growth or lack of change beckons us to refine our goals and answer or questions of purpose. Israel's political future stands at an open gate. But the gate is connected to a structure, a beautiful 64 year old foundation. My next Shabbat, my next 5 months, and my next year find their way to the door of my childhood, the walls of Chabad, the entrance to Mt. Carmel, and now to my interviews for Israeli National Service.