Monday, January 3, 2011

"There is a space for you... in the fortress of kindness."

Yom sheni, 27 Tevet 5771.

We've all heard the expression.  But have you ever felt your heart dance?  I did.  Last night, as I listened once again to the soul-stirring music of my favorite women's band -- indeed, one of my favorite Jewish bands.
Ayelet Hashachar, raising spirits and funds on behalf of the Carmel fire victims' families
Ayelet Hashachar, currently the premier Jewish women's band in Baltimore (since the loss of our beloved Dina Blaustein, z"l, who helped all of the Baltimore Jewish women's bands grow musically and spiritually) played last night -- totally free of charge for the band -- at Heichel Shlomo in Jerusalem.

Thanks to Frank and Danielle Sarah Storch of Baltimore, The Council of Young Israel Rabbis in Israel, and the I.D.F. Widows and Orphans Organization, my friends from Baltimore were able to come to Jerusalem to support efforts to lessen the horror for the Carmel fire victims' families.

One of the speakers of the evening was a woman who lost her husband in 1982, during the First Lebanon War.  "Several IDF officers came to my door, and told me that my husband, my best friend, was dead.  For a time, I ceased to be Nava, and became 'the widow'.  I saw myself only as the mother of our small daughter..."

We cried quietly, together, one woman with one heart.

Nava Shoham founded, with other widows, The I.D.F Widows and Orphans Organization to help "young widows" to cope with their losses, to feel less alone, to deal with the burden of making some kind of future for their fatherless children.  As only those who've "been there, done that" can help -- with our help.

Another lovely lady spoke to us about the Ahavas Yisrael Women's Project, which seeks to teach practical lessons in the "how to" of bringing out our higher, more loving selves.

Several individuals (Susan Taragin and Neve Daniel's own Daniel "Mush" Meyer among them) and these foundations deserve so much credit -- but this is a post about my friends in Ayelet Hashachar -- and about the varied and vibrant community of women before whom they performed last night at Heichel Shlomo.

 I remember being at their very first concert.  They were well-loved, and warmly received.  And yet -- when their signature number, "Stand Up," was played -- only a few of us stood.  I know it was not because the band's performance was lukewarm -- anything but! -- or because the ladies in their hometown audience didn't appreciate them.  It's just that in some circles, to stand and possibly call attention to oneself is so strongly discouraged that it doesn't occur to the majority to think that if we ALL stand, no one is embarrassed.

Last night, most of the ladies -- to include some who found it physically very challenging -- got up on their feet, one woman with one heart one set of sturdy high heels.  Women from Chareidi backgrounds, women from the Dati sector, woman with no apparent religious or political leaning; Israeli women, Anglo women, teenage girls filled to the brim with the irrepressible joie de vivre of youth.  Young ladies waved cell phones in the air in unison, while their elders laughed and reminisced about waving lighters for lesser causes.  An Israeli friend from the yishuv sang out to me, with eyes shining, "Zeh haya maxim.  Maxim!"  (It doesn't translate.  But it basically means she thought the performance was "tops!")  We all stood together, danced together -- and perhaps brought Moshiach a little closer by being so darn together.

The deeply spiritual women of Ayelet Hashachar would not wish for more.  It is what they pray for, and play for.  All of their songs remind us that we have a day-to-day relationship with Hashem, available to each and every one of us.  Their passionate music, sometimes to their own lyrics, sometimes to the lyrics of Judaism's most brilliant bards, reminds us that we are first and foremost spiritual beings, with the collective power to actually end sickness, destruction, fear, and to bring world peace -- just by starting with being kind to one another.

Tall order?  Yup.  And you thought "Chosen People" meant G-d likes us better.

For ladies only:  to gain inspiration for your job of saving the world, pick up the first CD of this remarkable group of musicians here:  I personally promise that your heart will dance.
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