Paradise Pro and Con

People who do not live in Florida tell me that I live in paradise. And in some ways it is true. The sun shines almost all the time, tropical and sub-tropical flowers bloom almost all the time; bougainvillea, oleander, bird of paradise. The scent of orange blossoms and blooming magnolia trees is intoxicating.  Sunrise and sunsets are heartbreakingly beautiful. 

I am, however, averse to the wildlife here. There are bugs the size of my hands, there are alligators in almost all bodies of water, there are snakes. There are tiny lizards that rule the world. There are a ridiculous number of different types of frogs. At certain times of the year the chorus of their voices at night is intense. 

But it is the flowers in New England where I rarely get to go in full summer that speak to me. In part their voice is the voice of memory. Tiger lilies, day lilies, hosta lillies, black eyed susans, daisies beautiful ferns, purple spikey alyssum, bleeding heart, blueberries, raspberries, peaches, cherries, the blooms of the apples to come.

I have become accustomed to sunshine and warmth. I have lived in the sun for many years, although not in the same place. I do not mind visiting the cold, walking in the snow with a frosty nose and cold feet. The weather cannot stop me from going where I want to go. Despite my willingness, I have no great desire to live in the cold and grey. I have so far found no incentive to permanently leave this almost paradise. There are others, to find or visit. We shall see.

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Lech L’cha ~ Where do I go from here

Every time I study this Torah portion I think of Debbie Friedman’s beautiful song Lechi  Lach.  Abraham is commanded to go forth, to leave his land, his birthplace, his father’s house to a place unknown to him.  G-d says I will show you the land where you are going and make of you a great nation.

I am always amazed at what Abraham is required to do, in Genesis, without knowing why or what, and at his willingness to to just do. As always, many other things happen in this portion, not the least of which is the birth of sons to Abraham and Sarah, the start of two great nations.  These sons come very late in their lives and I can relate as the mature mother of a son, but that is another story.  And G-d seals the covenant promising Abraham the  land that would be our eternal heritage, the land he will never see. Would we still be Israel if Abraham had not been so willing?

Leaps of faith, think of times in your life when you have had to make such a leap.  I have known those moments. I stood, for example, in a hospital lobby and was handed a five day old baby boy with only a promise, no papers, that he would be mine.  He was, he is, and he is 24.  When I needed help, I was told that there was a group of people that could help me change my life, I did not know how or them, but some 30 years ago they did and still do.

I find myself again at one of those life moments.  Much of the time, the future is generally somewhat predictable with the exception of extraordinary or catastrophic events.  But then there are those times when the future is not only unpredictable, it is unknowable, imponderable, unimaginable.  Where will I live, what will I do, who will I love, who will love me?  I no longer have my parents home to leave or return to, one left for good some six years ago, and one soon enough. Despite the roots I have put down, I feel rootless, grounded only in faith.  Is this how Abraham felt when he journeyed to Canaan not knowing what came next, knowing only G-d’s promise of the good to come?

There is a Lubavitcher midrash that says that this moment, the start of Abraham’s journey to becoming, is the start of the search for the spark of holiness in everything in the material world.  What a quest, to find holiness in everything.  Isn’t that the search we should be on?

So, blind faith. The willingness to journey on despite the not knowing.  The willingness to believe that there is yet good around the next bend.  Blind faith, the leap.  Abraham was willing and we became Israel.   I am willing, are you?

Shabbat shalom

 

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