It’s hard to believe—but I am now beginning the last nine weeks of this extraordinary 10-month sabbatical in Israel. Pesach is vacation time for every Israeli family with school-age children. Each day of the holiday, all five of us (my husband Bradley, and our daughters Ela, Gila and Nomi and I) piled into the car for one adventure or another-Jerusalem’s zoo, a children’s theater festival in Haifa, hiking in the Negev, picnics in Nature Reserves…. It’s a happy time. The whole country seems to be in celebration mode with flags waving, free cultural programs in the cities and towns. The weather is ideal, warm but not yet oppressively hot. It’s just right.
In the midst of this happiness comes preparing for our transition home to Boston in June. This year I am finding deeper meaning in the counting of the Omer (measure of wheat), marking time between Passover and Shavuot, between leaving Egypt and the giving of the Torah at Sinai. The idea is that we (Israelites) are eager to receive Torah so we count the days, counting up rather than down. (Click for a helpful article on MyJewishLearning.com for more on the Omer.)
It’s an interesting idea to count up. Rather than thinking about all that we have to do before a deadline we can focus on all that we get to do once we’ve reached that momentous day. Counting also provides that helpful reminder to be mindful of each day, to be aware of time passing. To be “present” regardless of whether the day or hour or minute brings joy or sorrow.
This is my goal for the remainder of the Omer plus the remaining time before our return. I pledge to be as present as possible. To keep my eyes open, drinking in the surroundings, hearing, smelling, touching, tasting and engaging with Israel. I promise to immerse myself in these last precious weeks of an unforgettable year.
Will you join me in this pledge?
What tools will we need to keep this promise? What rituals will help us focus our energy and time? Meditation? Long walks? Deep breaths? Time away from our electronics? Shabbat? Mikveh?
I am certain that I will need all of the above – plus some. I am anticipating major life transitions, starting with my family’s departure from Israel, extending to my upcoming departure from Mayyim Hayyim – and from there into the unknown future for my career in New York.
Counting up is optimistic. Counting up implies growth and opportunity and welcomes in the unknown.
Bring it on. I am ready.
Aliza Kline, Founding Executive Director, has led Mayyim Hayyim from its initial stages, overseeing fund raising, publicity, design, construction, staffing, recruiting volunteers, and board development. In May, 2009, Aliza was awarded an AVI CHAI Fellowship (best described as the “Jewish MacArthur Genius Grant”) in recognition of her accomplishments, creativity and commitment to the Jewish people.