I just returned from an extraordinary trip to Israel with the Rabbinical Council of California and it reminded me that things are not as black and white as people would have us believe. So I’ve been tempted to create a "Reality Dictionary."
For example, we were all taught only liquids evaporate. However, anyone with children knows that even solids (game pieces, socks etc) evaporate as well!
Science would have us believe that volume and mass are clearly defined measures. However, if you give a small amount of juice to a child, it manages to stain the high chair, floor, your new outfit, and make the child sopping wet. Where did all the liquid come from?
That's where my Reality Dictionary comes in. Webster's would say that volume is the amount of space occupied by a three-dimensional figure as measured in cubic units. My Reality Dictionary says volume is tied to the circumstances we are in. If a child needs a drink when you are trying to get him to go to sleep, one gallon of water is not sufficient! It shrinks to a ½ oz and the child howls "I’m still thirsty," and if it spills on the floor 1 oz turns into 3 quarts etc.
My trip to Israel disproved many commonly accepted definitions and assumptions. So here are my latest additions to my Reality Dictionary.
Silence -- Webster's defines it as the absence of sound. However, at the Kotel, the Western Wall one minute before sunrise one hears a pot-pourri of different voices of men and women in prayer -- Israeli, American, Chassidic, Lithuanian, Sefardic. Then, at the exact moment of sunrise there is total silence, as all Jews begin their own silent prayer of devotion. This is not the silence of being devoid of something, but rather a powerful uplifting silence that symbolizes the unity of the Jewish people in their service of the Almighty.
Soul -- Science tells us that the existence of a soul cannot be verified. However, in Israel it can be felt and seen in different ways. When we pray at holy sites like The Tomb of Rachel, you can sense something transcendent is going on -- you are in the presence of the Mother of the Jewish people. As we pray and cry there to the Almighty, and for Rachel to be a divine advocate for her children during these troubled times, our words have greater feeling and potency.
Rabbi Seth and Sherri Mandell clearly have soul power. They took the terrible tragedy, pain, and darkness of the brutal murder of their 13-year-old son by terrorists and turned it into healing and light. The Koby Mandell Foundation provides summer camps, respite, encouragement and community to all families of terrorist victims regardless of their religious observance or background. In Israel you become aware that there are holy souls you can actually see!
Occupied Territories -- This implies it was someone else’s land that we are "occupying." In fact there never was a Palestinian country that "owned it," and many parts of the West Bank were not taken away from anyone -- some were purchased, and others had Jews living on them from before 1948!
Settlers -- The press would like us to believe that the settlers are extremist and dangerous. In fact most "settlers" are articulate, cultured, everyday people who want to live in peace even with their Arab neighbors. Some have lived in peace with them until this recent Intifada where the Arabs can’t continue the relationship because they will be labeled "collaborators" which is a death sentence. You may disagree with the "settlers," but to believe they are like the caricature that the press paints them as would not be a fair depiction of the reality.
Library -- Our vision of a library is a quiet place with many books. The library of the Mirer Yeshiva in Jerusalem is filled with books, but is far from quiet. Thousands of students are crowded together, studying aloud, discussing and arguing about the intricacies of the Talmud and Jewish law with fire and joy. What a sight and sound!
Visual Aids -- Webster's says: Charts, maps, models or films that chiefly appeal to vision. But in Israel they are much more. You can see, feel, walk and hear the study and stories of the Torah and Talmud!
Israel -- CNN would like us to believe Israel is a war torn country. In reality, it is a vibrant, safe, functioning, beautiful land. While as Jews, our pain for the injured and killed is immense; one of the real dangers confronting Israel is economic. Tourism is dramatically down, which is having a terrible impact on the economy in general and individual businesses specifically.
Trip -- Something you take for pleasure or business. In the Reality Dictionary, a trip to Israel is pleasurable, but also instructive and inspiring! It can help you find the reality about many things, and maybe even about yourself.
Take a unique trip to the Holy Land of our illustrious history and help our fellow Jews in their time of need and call me with your additions to my Reality Dictionary.