Yom sheni, 8 Shevat 5769.
There are two quiet, holy mornings each year, that are really just for women.
In many communities, the men and older boys have spent the entire night learning Torah for Tikkun Leil Shavu'ot, a night of perfecting the world through the holiness of constant learning. This custom derives, we are taught, from the need to "repair the damage done" by the Israelites sleeping the night before the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai. (The argument is that when one is about to receive the greatest gift mankind has ever received, he should sit up all night in anticipation. An argument in response is that sleep is the first refuge of the utterly terrified...) In any case, the men and boys learn until the wee small hours of the morning, in gatherings at people's homes, or at shul. Then, the weary soldiers daven the early morning prayers, and drag their spiritual swords and shields home, where they indulge in a few hours of well-earned rest.
The town is absolutely quiet, filled with a special aura that exists only in a world free of adult testosterone. Small children people the streets, giving the community a Lilliputian feel. Soft voices of women fill the air, chatting quietly, singing, laughing softly. It is a world inhabited only by women and children.
It is a few months' time until Shavu'ot, with its particular sweetness.
This morning I am enjoying the other, less-holy "women-and-little-ones day." This morning is the quiet, man-free morning known of as "Super Bowl Monday." Who would have thought that the American Super Bowl would follow us to Israel? (The only difference is that, while in America, the kickoff is around 6:30 PM EST, in Israel, game time is at 1:30 in the morning. Imagine spicy chicken wings and chili at 3 AM!)
As the last warrior came home, a huge smile on his face, as he anticipated hours of sleep, I remarked on the similarity between the two days. "Feels like Shavu'ot, doesn't it?" I asked him. "Yeah," he answered, his six-foot-plus teenage frame stretching into a big, satisfied full-body yawn. "Except less kadosh," I added.
"Whadaya mean?" he asked. "I just got back from making a siyum with the guys I learn with. We just finished our first perek in Brachot. After I finished davening."
"Yasher koach!" I responded, proud that he hadn't immersed himself only in the secular.
"Besides. Ema. It's the Super Bowl. C'mon. That's kedusha." Fortunately, this profane comment was uttered tongue in cheek, as he wandered off to his bed.
Ahhhh. Quiet. Blessed femininity. The birds even seem to be singing more sweetly.
Now if we could just train those Arab workmen on the roof next door to take up the holy study of American football...
(Sexism disclaimer: It may be that there are secret enclaves of female football fans out there, wearily making their way back to their beds after a night of popcorn, chips, and insult-hurling at Sling Box TV hookups. I just didn't notice the ad in the online chat list.)
Shavu'ot: holiday observing the giving of the Torah
siyum: completion of the study of a holy text
Brachot: one of the books of the Talmud
Yasher koach!: Way to go!
*** Two important links: Haveil Havalim, The "Did You Love Leah?" Edition, is out at Ima on (and off) the Bima. And West Bank Mama has put together a roundup of commentary on the Gaza War by new immigrants to Israel. ***