Once again it is a bloody day. Terrorists went into a shul in Tel Aviv and into the Yeshuv of Alon Shvut, and 5 people were murdered. My Facebook feed is full of pictures of blood and death. They are full of posts of pain. It is not just France, Bagdad, Nigeria…unfortunately the list can (and does go on). But for me, it is a 40 minute bus ride away. It is in places that my friends live in. It is in places that I go to hang out.
With this, I was thinking about moments of Holiness that I experienced today (with slight hope that it will bring some light to the darkness that is happening in the world).
For a bit over a year now, I have helped one of the men at the nursing home put on his tefillin. He is a Holocaust survivor, who miraculously laid tefillin even while in the camps. He is unable to use one of his arms, and so I help him do the wrapping and placing them on their head.
Recently, we have a new man in the home that also needs help with putting on tefillin. This man was a pulpit rabbi for years, still even wears a black velvet kippa. He is able to unzip his sweater and unbutton his sleeve, but needs help to hold the box in place. As I am holding the box, he is pulling the leather straps tightly around his arm, stopping at his hand, to them put on the one for his head, which he is able to put directly in the middle just by feeling. This is done is complete silence. I stand next to him, trying to figure out how to help, while at the same time not be noticed so I am neither an imposition nor a distraction.
During this time I think about the physicality of tefillin, and what it would feel like to put them on my own body. I think about the amount of times these men have wrapped these boxes and leather straps to their own body, and how many people they have helped learn how to do the same. I think about the intimacy of this act- and what it means to be allowed to be part of it.
Today was also the HUC Israel ordination. It was an evening of singing and prayer. Each of the newly ordained rabbis spoke, brought quotes that were meaningful to them, and had others close to them share their stories. The moment of awe was watching the ordination.
Each of the students was called up, their quote was read, and a song they chose was played. The student went to the open Aron (with a Torah inside), and the rabbi was there. The rabbi and student had a quiet, personal, intimate conversation, that no one is the audience could hear but all could see, all while music played in the background. After whatever was being said, was said, he places his hands on their head and blessed them.
This ritual, that happened 5 times, stopped my breath each and every time. Maybe this is how Yaakov could have said he didn’t know of God’s presence until after he woke up from his dream. There are times that we forget about God, or that it is difficult to see God. But then there are occurrences that happen that make us remember that there is something holy, good, and beautiful in the world.
May all those harmed across the world find comfort. May we all find places of holiness and beauty in the world. May we find a way to fill the world with love instead of hate.
Question (please feel free to write your answer in the comments): What are moments of holiness that you realize? Have you seen or experienced something lately?