December 5, 2023 -
“By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, we also wept, when we remembered Zion.” Tehillim (Psalms) Chapter 137, line 1
It is the one year anniversary of my first trip to Israel, and I have Jerusalem on my mind. I am drawn back to the Tehillim (Psalms), as I have been before time and time again. It is within this ancient Biblical poetry that I find the very essence of human experience, messy and beautiful, and in many sections, an overcast of yearning. Since I have been to Israel, I understand yearning in a way I had never before. I can easily imagine the narrow walkways of the Old City, wandering for hours in the summer heat, moving into slivers of shade wherever it can be found. It feels so immediate still but as Independence Day approaches, it was a full year ago. Only now am I realizing how deeply my pilgrimage changed me.
“We hung our lyres on the willows in its midst.” Tehillim (Psalms) Chapter 137, line 2
It is no accident that my heart and mind are drawn toward Jerusalem this month, as my oldest child will shortly be called to the Torah as a Bar Mitzvah. We are already into what will always be in my mind ‘his Torah portion’ this week, Matot-Ma’asei. Family will arrive soon and we will be celebrating for days in full force. It will be lovely. But, the preparation has been a wild ride into the onset of teenage rebellion, fireworks and all. For a while, I wondered how so many parents that had come before me managed to say such glowing things about their own ‘13’ next to them during the service. And then, I felt the yearning: my heart pointing to last summer’s experiences; my heart pointing back to ‘12.’ I realized how much had changed in a year.
“How shall we sing Adonai’s song in a foreign land?” Tehillim (Psalms) Chapter 137, line 4
When it all came together, it was clear how to move forward. Shalom babayit (peace in the house) began to be restored. I am woman of actions. I began to plan when and how I can return to Israel. I readied the house for guests. With true gladness, I accepted last minute RSVP’s. One day, ‘13’ carried his sister’s laundry basket upstairs just as an act of kindness and I felt hopeful. At some point I realized that he was taking responsibility and finding his own voice, becoming more independent. When I sat down to write a few words to say to ‘13’ about how great he is, it came easily. And so, this week, simcha (joyful celebration), and next year in Jerusalem!
By Julianna Johnston Senturia, Coordinator of Jewish Lifelong Engagement