It is daybreak and we are in a cloud. White purity lingers over the hills and fine dew settles upon the land. The grapevines and olive trees awake, slowly, immersing themselves in heaven’s misty spring, sipping warm, cloudy morning coffee. From somewhere nearby a rooster calls and from afar the sun answers – hesitantly – as if peeking into a window through a translucent curtain, looking to see if anyone is home.
Morning on the hills of Judea, where history feeds present and every grain of soil, every stone turned and unturned, is bursting with purpose and promise; witnesses to the past, prophets of the future. Morning on the hills, ushering in possibilities endless: beckoning us from our dreams but only so that we can fulfill them. Awake! It shouts. Arise! It whispers – the world is at your mercy; the day standing at attention: awaiting your every command, clinging to your every breath; straining, begging, pleading for you to touch it, to caress it, to make it all it was meant to be.
You stand there, on the hill, between heaven and earth, between cloud and soil – wrapped in a prayer shawl, surrounded by it, engulfed in it, one with it. You are hugged in leather straps, and crowned by them: connecting body and soul, bridging mind and matter, unifying existence. The Shema on your lips, on your arm, on your head: the Oneness of G-d not just near your heart but with it, not just on your head but in it.
Morning begins to dissipate, along with it the clouds. Blue clarity replaces secure mist. Sun glares unrestrained, unfettered, running free over hill and through valley. It reflects off the clear streams – and eyes even clearer see life, nature, in a whole new light.
You see the Holy Land as it sits there, somewhat alone, somewhat broken – alone without its children; broken by their suffering. The soul, of course, is whole and complete, but, o, how the body trembles and weeps.
Such highs and such lows – such highs: hills running in wine and oil, sown in wheat and barley, adorned with figs, dates and pomegranates; such lows – valleys pierced by thorn and dust, buried in desiccated life and faded green, water long dry, its nectar forgotten.
The hills and valleys, all part of one land, all part of one people; but are the thorns really necessary – couldn’t we just have the roses? Perhaps the hills would be mere plains if there were no valleys?
It is strange, if not confusing, to be in a land, a Promised Land, where hills and valleys are next-door neighbors – where a person dedicated to cultivating the land and its holiness, committed to putting the promise into the land, devoted to learning the sacred books and following their divine teachings, can live beside someone who is seemingly so unaware, so unconscious to the fact there is sacredness in the land, that there is holiness in the air, that there is promise at our fingertips.
Do the people reflect the land or the land the people? Does wo/man climb with the hills and fall with the valleys?
Then, as questions rise and confusion peaks, you remember daybreak, when we were in a cloud, hugged in white purity and blanketed in heavenly dew. Things were clear in the mist of the cloud – it is morning and the whole land, indeed the whole universe, is there for the taking – or, for the giving: the giving of life, the giving of hope, the giving of promise.
So, now the cloud is dissipated, the dew is dry, and the sun shines brilliant and clear, defining things. But does that mean heaven and earth, hill and valley – neighbors – are any less connected? No – all it really means is that now they can see each other.
Mendel Jacobson is a 23-year-old writer, poet and journalist working for The Algemeiner Journal. Mendel’s education has found him in New York, Budapest and Jerusalem and he has been blogging for close to 3 years at jakeyology.blogspot.com
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.