This morning, I had a change of plans.
Initially, I was planning to go to Ein Mabua again, to trek through the sparking stream there (while trying to dodge the Arabs and women in revealing bikinis….)
I’m digressing here, but if I learnt one thing at the beach in Palmachim a little while ago, it’s that seeing so much flesh everywhere is actually pretty disturbing, on a number of levels. We aren’t animals, after all, we are created in the tzelem Elokim, the image of God, but it’s very hard to remember that, when someone is shaking their cellulite all over the place.
Anyway, so last minute I had a change of heart, and decided I should hike somewhere ‘holy’ instead.
The weather was gorgeous – sunny, but not too hot and blowing a strong breeze – so I headed off to where Dan ben Yaakov and Shimshon the Gibor are buried, near the Eshtaol forest off Route 44.
I used to go there a lot when I lived in Yad Binyamin, but I don’t go so much these days, not least because the Government wrecked the yeshiva that Rav Arush built there a few years’ back, and all that’s left now is the small, one-roomed kever.
But I was in the mood to hike AND pray, so it’s a perfect destination for that.
I get there, and the first thing I saw was the mess, everywhere.
People had been BBQ-ing, I don’t know what, used skewers and plastic cups and empty coke bottles all over the place. So I spent the first 2 minutes stuffing whatever I could into an empty plastic bag.
It’s not totally the fault of the BBQ-ers: when the government got rid of the yeshiva, they also got rid of the bins (and the toilets….) so there is no-where to throw the garbage away.
I went in for 5 minutes, sighed a deep sigh, I’m not quite sure why, then headed off up the track to where Shimshon the Gibbor is buried at the top of a hill about a 50 minute walk away.
I’m doing my hitbodedut, chatting to God about this and that, when suddenly I start thinking about an awful article that appeared on Jpost yesterday, that involved the Rav.
Literally, as my mind flits to that subject, two big white dogs appear on the path in front of me – guarding the boundary of the illegal beduin farmers up on the mountain – and start barking.
Usually, I just stand still and they go away.
This time, the more ‘still’ I stood, the closer they got, and the more aggressive they got, until one of them actually tried to bite me. I was wearing a long dress, so he bit holes in that, instead of my leg, until a beduin teenage boy finally appeared and threw a stone at the dog, to call him off.
Strangely, I wasn’t so scared.
I think that’s because I knew why it happened, while it was happening. Rabbi Nachman teaches in Sefer HaMiddot that:
“One who gossips or who listens to it should be thrown to the dogs” (#17, Gossip and Slander)
All I did was read the yucky piece on Jpost – and here God was showing me just how dangerous it is, to get involved in even passively reading slander about the Gadol HaDor, even when you don’t believe any of it.
It was a very strong lesson.
I get to Shimshon HaGibbor, climb the mountain, admire the view, do a bit of praying and writing in my hitbodedut book, then come down again.
At the bottom, in a forested glade, there’s a middle-aged man sitting behind a table spread with drinks and things to eat.
This is the hachnasat orchim stop for Shimshon HaGibbor! He tells me, with a big smile on his face.
Come have a cup of tea, or some water, or a boureka!
The grave of Shimshon is literally in a forest in the middle of nowhere, so I’m impressed – and confused – as to what he’s doing here.
We get chatting, and he tells me his name is Levi Yitzhak – he’s a descendant of the Berditchever Rebbe, with Chabad tendencies.
He tells me he was doing hachnasat orchim at Kever Dan for a long time, but now, he feels he should do it at the grave of Shimshon instead now.
There’s a lot of kids at Dan’s kever doing drugs now, he tells me, the smile fading from his face.
I don’t know what to tell him.
I think to myself, that wasn’t happening when Rav Arush had a branch of his yeshiva there…
But the government prefers drug addicts to yeshiva bochurs, so what can we do?
I have some tea – he has a whole gas stove set up there – and light two candles for Shimshon and his father, Manoach.
Then, Levi Yitzhak tells me that he’s organising a Shabbat in the forest by Kever Shimshon ‘for normal people’.
Do I want to come?
I don’t want to burst his bubble by explaining to him that I probably don’t fit his ‘normali’ criteria, so I take his phone number, thank him for the tea, and head back down the track.
I go the long way around the beduin camp, just to make sure, but there are no dogs on the way back, because now I got the message.
Be really careful about the lashon hara, Rivka, really, really careful!
The generation has the face of a dog.
We spend so many hours a day stuffing our eyeballs with all the puke-making headlines from the corrupt media, and the spiritually tamei bloggers and Facebook posters.
Hashem should have mercy.
I’m not going to the forest for Shabbat (I like to have real toilets, spoiled Anglo that I still am).
But it made me feel so happy that there are other people in Israel who are also pinging off that ‘crazy-holy’ vibe.
Slowly, it seems more things are returning to ‘normal’ here now, although that by itself is so strange, if I’m honest.
How can we go through everything we’ve gone through since February, and have things go back to ‘normal’?
When I was walking up and down that beach in Palmachim, I knew there would have to be another dose of madness, and probably soon, because God doesn’t want to lose a single soul to crass materialism and that empty, secular life.
So, He has to shake things up again.
And it won’t be how it was last time, because God never does the same exact thing twice.
In the meantime, I sit here trying to straddle ‘normal’ and ‘abnormal’, and ‘geula’ and ‘galut’, and ‘change’ and ‘limbo’ again.
It’s not so easy, is it?
I don’t know if I’m coming or going. But this I do know: I need to savor every second of happiness God is sending me right now, and to be grateful for every last bit of freedom, and comfort, and food and health and gashmius, and ruchnius.
Because who knows what tomorrow brings?
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