Safely back in St Charles Hospice, really does feel like home, and the Sisters look after us so well. Meals are varied and delicious, room are all allocated singly and are ensuite, the garden is beautiful and so peaceful - coming back to regular daily life in WSM is going to be a big change of pace .......
Today started as usual at 8 a.m. with Siddur with Maureena. As usual the session starts with silence, followed by singing together The Shema: 'Sh'ma Yisrael, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Echad!.' - Hear, O Israel, Adonai is our God, Adonai is One!
The theme for this morning was the holiness of God - Isaiah 6:3 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.' Kadosh is the Hebrew for Holy, set aside. The Holy One is singular, awe-inspiring, even terrible or dreadful (Neh. 1:5, Pa 68:35). Kavod is Glory - the whole earth is full of His GLORY, something which can be seen, which is near. We had discussion on two schools of thought:
Rabbi Ishmael who claimed that direct encounter with God is not possible and that, because God is a 'consuming fire' (Ex. 24:17)whose throne is 'fiery flames' the distance, between God and human can only be bridged indirectly through sacred places and sacred times, sacred liturgy and sacred ritual, sacred writings and sacred individuals (priest, lawgiver, prophet and sage).
Rabbi Akiva who claimed that direct encounter with God is possible. The created world is invested with divinity; the earth is heaven and earth together. A continuous permeablte flow passes continually between the two. Hence, direct encounter with God is possible - 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might' (Dt 6:5)
Do we need a mediator, or do we have mediation through God's presence in the world and our love for Him which is our response to His love for us. These words helped me, I hope they help you also:
Days pass and the years vanish,
and we walk sightless among miracles.
God, fill our eyes with seeing and our minds with knowing;
let there be moments when Your presence, like lightening,
illumines the darkness in which we walk.
Help us to see, wherever we gaze,
that the bush burns unconsumed.
And we, clay touched by God,
will reach out for holiness and exclaim in wonder:
'How filled with awe is this place, and we did not know it!
Blessed is the Eternal One, the Holy God!'
(Page 81 Mishkan T'fillah - A Reform Siddur)
Then the silence - what a great start to the day - I'm with R. Akiva - where are you?
One could spend all day reflecting, praying and reading around that session alone, but Rabbi Dr Dalia Marx was on the dot at 8.30 to give us another inspirational session on Parashat Tatzria 'A window to Women's Religiosity in Antiquity' Absolutely fascinating session which will be opened up in the forthcoming notes and presentations.
Onward then to a lecture by Ester Lapian on Parashat Kedoshim (Lev. 19:1-37) which starts with the words 'The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 'Speak to the whole Israelite community and say to them: You shall be holy. for I. your God, am holy,' - a thought provoking time of discussing personal behavior towards one another, particularly gossip, rebuke, etc. - as pertinent today as when written. Again I will unpack this is detail later.
After lunch, the afternoon was free so I decided that it was time for me to lay claim to walking The Land on my own - everything so far had been with others. The only way I could get to the old city without arriving shattered before I started was to get a taxi and to go to Gethsemani. It was a beautiful way to spend the afternoon, to be alone and to wander and sit and reflect. There were not crowds of people, but on two occasions when I was going down a huge flight of wide uneven stone steps with no handrail and then again going up another steep flight, I was given a hand by a young man who said he was visiting from Taiwan - what a blessing and what a lovely gesture he made in helping me. Just to be able to be in these ancient and beautiful places was beyond my wildest expectations .... I hope the photographs will bring you the peace and holiness they brought me in their taking. I returned to St Charles refreshed, inspired and with a longing to know more and more of this Land!
Long though the day had been, it was far from over. In the evening there was an optional extra - a visit to a scribe. When would this opportunity ever come again? It just had to be done; we were to go to his home/studio - another long walk for which I was about to book a taxi when someone said Maureena was looking for me. It seemed that Kasia had asked her to drive me there which was much appreciated not just by me but by Vid and Bino who also hitched a lift. The map we'd been given was not very so it took a couple of stops to ask until we finally found a man with an App on his phone, and so eventually arrived and shared a brilliant evening. The work the scribe does has to be immaculate, perfect, and certainly if he makes a mistake when writing the name of God, he has to start the whole section again, but he is allowed to correct other words by a special means. We spent the evening outside whilst we heard the story from unborn calfskin to parchment, feather to pen, and many other aspects of this ancient craft. Even the smallest scrolls for mezuzahs on doorposts, etc. have to be perfect. The evening was topped off with a sessions of wine sampling - the scribe doubles as a vintner, an excellent one too. What an evening, and so home to bed!