Friday, April 22, 2016

Freedom is a Tiny Desert Bird

My feet are sore and raw from walking barefoot in the rocky desert as I brush away some rough stones, making a small clearing for me to sit.  I’m in my festival mode – no worries, no problems, just presence, all love.

The four of us sit under the hot sun, singing familiar songs and exchanging stories.

“I’d rather be a […..] than a snail. Yes I would, if I could, I surely would…” Sings my friend, Adi. I smile, remembering the harmonic Simon and Garfunkel melody that brings me back to long car rides through the suburbs of New York.

“What’s that other word, Leora? I can’t remember.” Adi asks.

I scratch my head, racking my brain for the answer.

“Well I guess we can look it up – Rabbi Google always knows.” I say as I whip out my trusty pocket iPhone friend.

In less than 20 seconds the answers appears before me on a 2 x 4 inch screen:

I’d rather be a sparrow than a snail.

I let out a gentle chuckle, finding beauty in the small gift of being reminded of my late sister, who also went by the name “Sparrow.”

I am transported back to 2008, when in the middle of that same desert (near the large crater at Mizpe Ramon) I lead a memorial ceremony for my sister on the anniversary of her passing. It is nighttime, and thousands of stars sprinkle the ebony sky. Candles flicker in her memory while her voice fills the empty desert with a transcendent beauty. I am there, right there with her eternal spirit, feeling her presence like a warm hug.

Then, almost 8 years later, returning to the same desert—this time, as a permanent resident of Israel—I feel her presence again so close.

I am curious: “How do you say Sparrow in Hebrew?” I ask.

“Dror,” Adi replies, which also means ‘free.’”

How fitting, I think. A free spirit, once chained by gravity and matter and things that hurt, now eternally free.

I guess sometimes things just make sense, in a big way.

Just as it is no coincidence that the word dror is repeated again and again throughout the festival, and just like that tiny sparrow that landed on my sisters’ grave at my grandpas funeral, and how the only plot left for my grandpa in the entire section of the cemetery was right across from my sister—so too is the entire world held up by miracles.

After such experiences, I realize that sometimes the truth sneaks up on you, and sometimes it pursues you. Sometimes it is in the stranger holding a door; in a smile at the checkout line;  in the crystals forming on an icy windowsill or in a baby’s first crawls and falls.

Sometimes it’s that missing song lyric--the one that reminds you of what freedom really is.

And so tonight, as Jews around the world embrace the passover spirit, we shift into "freedom mode."  We sit around a beautiful table--where we recline and drink wine-- to retell a story of our past bondage, relish in our present abundance, and look forward toward a freer world. 

Last year before Passover, I wrote a blog about my “definition” of freedom. My wise, philosophical grandpa said in response to my post, that (I paraphrase), freedom is a vague notion that only makes sense when juxtaposed with something specific, such as  “freedom of speech,” “freedom of expression” or “freedom to vote,” and so the word “freedom” alone lacks inherent meaning.

This is certainly true, and I’ll add one thing. The ultimate freedom—which is our natural right—is the freedom to love and be loved, for love is the source and sustainer of all things.

My blessing to us all is that we experience real love this year; free love, unchained by the shackles of ego, shame, and doubt.

May we first have the courage to fully love ourselves—every blemish, bruise, and bump—and then may we look outward to radiate this love with the world.

!חג כשר ושמח לכולם