Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Family Together

Yom shlishi, 8 Iyar 5768/13 May 2008, Tuesday.

I haven't written in a while. Too busy living, b"H.

What's news? We had the best Pesach of our lives. One Seder definitely rocks, as the kids say. I used a gimmick suggested by a close friend, in order to bring home the feeling of really getting out of Mitzrayim. When we reached the part of the Hagaddah which begins "Avadim hayinu..." (We were slaves...), I invited the family into a darkened room, lit by candlelight. Each person was asked to tell over his day under our slavemasters, the Egyptians. I started, and spoke of helping another midwife to secretly help a mother bring a new boy child into the world, and then to hide him. Abba told of a recent beating from one of the Mitzri. Aryeh, whom I expected to make a joke of the whole thing, instead spoke very eloquently about finding a toddler who had wandered from the "safe house," and helping him to find his way back. Dovid spoke of learning a Mishna, b'al peh, with three young slaves and a rabbi/slave, and how they had to be very secretive about their learning. And Dani lamented that a Mitzri had taken away the ball he had made of straw and mud, and how poor rocks were for secret moments of soccer. We have no clue whether or not there was any historic accuracy to our fantasies. But when we left our little stage set, and returned to the Seder, we shared a feeling of escaping from slavery.

Dovid, our yeshiva bochur, was visiting us from the States. As a visitor to Israel, he had to make a second Seder. It was to be his very first, without Abba or another adult at the helm. Several people in Neve Daniel had out-of-country guests, and asked if Dovid would let them attend his Seder. I was proud to hear that he was excited at the prospect. For one reason and another, only one guest was able to attend... and he ended up being an old friend of Dovid's from one of his yeshivot! They had a really wonderful time together, with lots of ruach and divrei Torah. I took a few photos (because I could), and monitored the brothers, so they wouldn't crash the party more often than was cute.

We spent the extra-long Chol Ha-Moed traveling to Meron, Tzfat, and to Avnei Eitan in the Golan. We spent time with old friends; and the boys hiked to the Black Falls. It was Dovid's first time in the north; and it meant a lot to him and to the rest of us to include him. There was much beauty, and many moments to experience the holiness of sacred places. In reality, it should have been an awful trip. It was very hot; the car overheated about a dozen times; we ran out of drinking water for a time. But, due to the amazing attitudes of three teenagers, it was our best vacation ever! They laughed at every hardship, rather than complaining. Dovid sang Breslov songs, with his arms upraised, in his Na Nach Nachman kipa (which he had purchased for the sole purpose of "freaking out" his beloved Rosh Yeshiva, for the fun of it). Aryeh made a documentary of "nearly dying of thirst" on the road. Because it was an Aryeh Eastman Production, it was extremely funny. We took lots of photos of Abba pouring bottles of water into the radiator. We played music together, and enjoyed ourselves, our friends, and each other.

In our last week with Dovid, we visited Ma'arat HaMachpela. This was also a first for Dovid. As with all spiritual experiences we have shared, the moments were made even more precious because he was there. Dovid always finds the deeper meaning, and shares it very articulately.

Yom Ha-Atzma'ut was spent with friends, participating in the holy Israeli ritual known of as "mangal." While I do remember barbecues as part of Fourth of July celebrations in the States, the nearly frantic urgency of the mangal makes it unique. Also, perhaps because beef seems to be less available in Israel (at least of the quality and variety one finds easily in the US), there seems to be an almost religious fervor surrounding the grilling and consumption of mass quantities of hot dogs, hamburgers, and steaks. In an attempt to be "true Israelis," Dani and Aryeh ate approximately one cow each. Our host wondered how we feed them the rest of the year...

Josh is now in Golani Brigade, and engaged to be married! It was good to have the brothers together again, after nine months. Although their lives and directions seem to be very different, Avi and I are honored by the way they love and respect each other. Avi has always told them that achdut (unity) starts at the Eastman table; and when the Jewish people truly have achdut among ourselves, the world will have true peace.

So now we are planning the big trip back to Baltimore, in July. Soldier Boy will get a few days off from his IDF responsibilities to get married, and then will return to training. (We try to be his cheerleaders, and completely close our minds to what he is training for, and where he will probably be sent.) He and his bride will live in Israel; but as of yet, it is a mystery exactly where in Israel. May Hashem bless them with finding the right apartment, at the right price, in the right location. In the meantime, we have reminded them that family is about being there for each other, and that the spare room can be made into something resembling "comfortable," at least for a short time.

Enough catching up for now.
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