Milk and Honey

Today is just like any other day, but different. It is one of those days where the first rays of sun make their way into my morning dreams, warming my pillow and inviting me to come greet the day. I wake up to my sweet baby’s curious face almost pressed up against mine and instead of closing my eyes and making a silent prayer that he will roll over and return to sleep, I am pulled into wakefulness, meeting the early sun’s invitation with curiosity and wonder.

We take our time getting out of bed, my newly crawling and standing boy and I. These quiet moments are becoming fewer and more far between as he excitedly learns to explore his new capabilities and more of the world around him. I am savoring this one like the sweetest sip at the bottom of the mug.

In a departure from the norm, I don’t reach for my phone to distract myself out of this usually uncomfortable, newly awakened state, passively allowing the notifications to fill me in on what I’ve missed since logging off. I wonder if I can sustain this state of gentle intrigue and curiosity a little longer, stretch it throughout the day into the moments where I need that softness, when it’s seemingly all curled up and retreated and all I am left with is the harsh realization of daily struggles and suffering near and far. Is it this easy to change the habit of comfortable despair – making simple choices that change the fabric of our days?

I sing to my sweet baby boy quietly, making my way through morning prayers, reminders of our place in this great universe and all that holds us. He laughs and pokes at my face. We cuddle and sing and dreamily look up and out the window at the quickly lightening sky, wondering what other sparks of refreshing newness the day will bring.

I wonder, perhaps naively, if we can somehow influence our surroundings by making these shifts internally. As I encounter the paradox of living in this holy land fraught with so much suffering and conflict, I strive to remain gentle. If I allow myself to open too much, I fear I will simply harden into another stone in the foundation of this impossible conflict and growing distrust.

The cultivated softness of the morning stays with us as we go farther into this new day. It is not in essence an easier or objectively more pleasant day – in fact my tiny companion is quite miserable with teething pains only soothed by cold pieces of watermelon and clinging onto me as go about our daily chores. Another day made up of similar events, of which we’ve had many, may leave me feeling irritated early on, seeking distraction or longing for nap times when I have a few moments to myself. Inspired by our shared early morning wonder, however, I stay with him, with the crying and clinging and vow, even if just for today, to approach even the smallest of harsh realities with gentleness, presence, and soft touches.

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Returning, again.

This is my first attempt to publish a blog posting since the beginning of my journeys in Israel in 2011. (For some history, check out these old postings: http://jennagoestoisrael.blogspot.co.il). I came to this land oblivious as to what was ahead of me. A wide-eyed, single girl traveling the world before settling into the coming five years of doctoral work. The world, this land, was my oyster…or should I say matzah ball? My mind, my heart, my eyes were open. I was completely ready to absorb it all, have a traveling experience, and then go right back to my neat and orderly planned out life. So what happened? Everything.

I fell in love, for starters. With the land of Israel, the history of the Jewish people, my own heritage and rich tradition, my (at the time) new boyfriend and now husband. Within a little over a year, I came to this country with no plans, fell deeply into seminary learning ancient Jewish wisdom, met an incredible man with a similar journey, decided to uproot my life in America and settle in Israel, and then had a fairy tale, outdoor, organic spring wedding in the hills of Jerusalem (Thanks Yehoshua Sigala for the amazing pictures!) Today, we are both working, learning, and planting our roots here, in The Holy Land. Happily ever after, right?

Almost. When I look back at the whirlwind of my last few months, I am overcome with more emotions than I know how to verbalize. Gratitude, first of all. Awe, excitement, a longing for the past – the moments before waking that now seem much simpler, the satisfaction of listening to my intuition through adversity, missing my family. Today I am faced with challenges in every-day tasks I never thought I’d find difficult. Striving to maintain my connections to family and friends across the ocean while becoming a part of and embracing society here. I am an immigrant. I am learning more and more Hebrew every day yet it never seems to be enough. I am building a life from scratch, rather than continuing on in a life of privilege. I am humbled by this process every day (some days more gracefully than others). I am a constant student (and now teacher) of yoga – a practice that keeps me grounded and lets me fly. I am an orthodox, married woman. A homemaker. An administrative assistant for an organization doing incredible work in the field of Jewish Personal Growth (shameless promotion for The Shalev Center – check them out). A happy baker and improving cook. I am choosing to connect to and plant new roots in Israel because I believe in this land, in our people’s dream of coming back to our land. Despite all I have seemingly given up in my American life, I am comforted and reinvigorated by the idea that we are investing in our children and grandchildren in hopes that if they choose to follow a similar lifestyle, connecting to Torah and this holy land, it will not be so alien and difficult for them. A jarring, jumble of translations that fall short, foreign land and new culture. This will be their home base, Am Yisrael (the people of Israel) will be their family, no matter where they choose to go.

So this is my journey through Israel, Yoga, Judaism, making Aliyah, marriage and hopefully someday kids that I am inviting you to witness. The concept in yoga that I have come to love so much and relate to in my daily life is what has inspired this blog. Just as when we root deeply into the ground, into the earth, we are able to rise to much greater heights than we even thought possible, I hope that in my return to this land (in hebrew called making “aliyah” – literally “going up”) I am able to raise up my life and the life of my future children to new heights – both spiritually and physically. No matter what each of our life’s journey holds in store, may this concept always help to take you to exactly where you are supposed to be.