Sunday, April 06, 2003

heene matov oomanayim. shevet achim gam yachad

if i had sat down last week and thought hard about how this weekend would end, I might have been able to anticipate the ending of the Jews In The Woods shabbaton, but I don't think I would have believed it. SItting next to Ben in a sauna packed with naked and semi-naked Jews from New England schools; the ice I had just rolled around in evaporating off my body; singing hee-ne matov with ruach that would pride a gospel choir.
I don't know if I have ever so potently experienced the sense of completion in the legions of the world, that covenenant of klal yisrael renewed upon generations. The essense of shabbat.
The shabbaton set expectations high, toward nothing less than a sort of Jewtopia, and somehow blazed right through those expectations.
Un-affiliated Jews, inexperienced Jews, orthodox Jews, reconstructionist Jews, convservative, reform Jews, renewal Sephardi Jews, Ashkenazi Jews, non-Jews.
Brown, Wesleyan, Yale, Vassar, Barnard-JTS, RISD.
All praying together. Eating, studying, sleeping, hiking, dancing, singing.
All together and compromises flourished easily and uninhibited, and everyone learned from each other, because none of us were that experienced with an environment this rich and challenging and loving.

The drive there was a test. Rather scary. An ice storm erupted as we entered the mountains of Massachussettes, and as we climbed in my trusty Camry, road conditions deteriorated rapidly.
As did the quality of our directions. We got lost numerous times. We arrived in the mountains within 15 miles of our destination by 4:30ish, and did not reach our destination until after 7pm. We skidded once and were saved by some feet from a collision. The windshield froze, and then the windshield wipers froze. At one point, we stopped on a hill so Zach could de-ice our view. Zach got out and almost fell over, but with all the slipping he managed to clear the winshield and the wipers. But when he got back in and pedaled to resume our climb up the hill, we found the hill and the trusty camry unresponsive to our request. We backed up some feet, and tried again. And then back some more and again, and back perhaps some part of a mile before we could turn around. We did not realize quite what was going on until we got out to find a house where someone could give us directions. We discovered the road--and everything around it, in fact--was covered in a solid layer of ice.
Out of cell-reception areas, pushing the edge of shabbat, we continued on carefully, climbing and winding about the terrain at rather unnerving angles.

But we arrived, finally, and Andy welcomed us into his home. Andy is Jewish, and he and his wife had just moved into their new home last year, in anticipation of their desire to have children, they told us, and start a family. They love their house, and were clearly nervous about yeilding it to thirty college kids for a weekend--they were teachers/guides of some sort at the retreat where we had been mistakenly been-double-booked, and so decided to welcome us in. They stayed elsewhere most of the weekend, urging us to love the house as much they did--with good reason. The house was unassuming from the outside, but spaciously framed by soft, smooth wood and centered about a room that extended three stories to the beams of the roof. Perhaps the only beautiful prayer space I have ever felt spiritually uplifted by. Windows offered panoramas of the ice-coated mountains, which rolled down, up, and away into the mist.

I have a lot of say and reflect about what happened, but much of that will wait a little bit. The providence ethnic arts festival is coming.
Shavuah tov.