help from heaven

I’m not one to look for miracles. After all, I consider the day to day life itself, wonderful and amazing… and often beyond my understanding. So why look for that exception to the rule, that crops up occasionally to wake us up from taking it all for granted… But as I’ve lived and learned from this life, there are some phenomena that I’ve experiences… rare experiences… some might even call them extreme… yet still believable to a rational mind like mine. We have an expression in my culture, that refers to such an experience. It is called ‘help from heaven’.

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gazing at the temple mount

Now we’re not talking about a situation in which a person is desperate, and everything he’s tried has failed… and he lies on the floor with his eyes aimed at the ceiling and waits for a miracle. Though I’m not saying I’ve never been in that posture myself. But that’s a different story, and I might find the strength to discuss it one of these days. For now, I’m talking about a completely different experience. You set out to do something, and you plan and prepare yourself for it, making no compromise. You don’t look for the coupons that promise a 20% discount, or say to yourself, ‘as long as I’m going that direction anyway, I’ll take the old bookcase over to my brother’s as he’s been reminding me lately… and it might give me some needed space in the hallway’. No. You focus all your attention at the task at hand, and you try to do it as elegantly as possible. You sleep the night before, and you put on new socks in the morning. And when you go out the door, it is with a steady step, your glasses clean, and as ready as you’ll ever be.

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touring Jerusalem on Segways

And then, as you do your work, everything falls into place as it’s supposed to. But there are unexpected surprises. You just happen to find that the tool you never used before is just perfect for this job. Or that the chair that someone left behind works as a perfect support… and just as you pressed your finger on the shutter button, a seagull came out of nowhere and glided into the picture, leaving its memory just a little above the shoulder of your subject and a bit to the right, making it one of the most beautiful portraits you have ever done in your life… Now how did that happen? We call it help from heaven.

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in prayer with phylacteries and witnesses around him

And that’s what happened when my virtual friend, Bill, came with his wife, for their first visit to Jerusalem. I didn’t know what was awaiting me. I didn’t know how well we’d get on together, and I didn’t know what plans or expectations they had. And yet, on the strength of having known him for some years in cyberspace, I managed to clear my calendar for a week, rearranging my different chores and work, so that if all went well, I would be ready. The camera’s battery was charged; there was gas in the car, and my mini laptop was in my backpack… just in case I’d have to wait for something. I really don’t like to idly wait. I didn’t know that the battery in my ‘easy-park’ was about to play dead, and that it would make it next to impossible to find a parking space downtown. But you never know what’s going to come around the corner. You can only do the best from your side.

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even the market can be a delightful experience

And what I got, was that little extra something. I think it’s like what they say about the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. I have experienced that knowledge too, in the most sober of circumstances… and it has since been etched in my consciousness… but that too is a different story. Together with my two friends, incarnated in this world now, we went off to discover Jerusalem together, and then the dead sea, and the remains of the fortress, Massada, where the Jews of 2000 years ago stood off the Romans in a losing battle. All of which, was familiar to me. But in partnership with them, I had the pleasure of seeing things with new eyes… and each day brought little gifts from heaven that added to my joy, and had me sailing in the wind and rejoicing in awe.

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ibex on the shore of the dead sea

Of course (!) there was water in the pond where I used to sit with my father and discuss philosophy… and some new very beautiful fish as well, and there was a middle aged man putting on phylacteries to remember his father in a beautiful nook in downtown Jerusalem, and some youngsters going by, were sweet enough to tell me that if I stood in the center of that nook, and said a few words… I would hear those words coming back to me in echo… and I never knew that… and there was the young man who explained that ‘eating like a bird’ is a misnomer, and why. And there were the deer drinking from the sweet-water springs at the edge of the dead sea… and the nuns dressed in black, allowing themselves the rare pleasure of dipping their toes in the lake. Oh, my friends, I had the most wonderful vacation… right here in my own home town.

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23 responses to “help from heaven

  1. Hello,
    Your story moved me very much- I found myself wishing I could also join you. I am so happy to have come across you here in the cybospehere… I hope that we, too, may become friends.

    Warm Wishes,
    Melissa

    • Thank you very much Melissa. It does take a while sometimes, to find like minds in the blogworld, because there are so many people out here… but I think that if we just follow what truly interests us, little by little, we find ourselves a part of a society of like minds. Thank you for dropping by.

  2. Lovely piece! I agree that the real miracles are in our daily lives. Friendship is such a rare gift–It’s been wonderful to read about your experiences.

    • Thank you so much Jordan. Friendship is really a great gift. And you know, knowing this friend just by correspondence, I worried that maybe I wasn’t seeing everything… and might be disappointed. But when I met him, I realized that there was much I hadn’t seen… even between the lines… but it was all very positive. And so the friendship became that much better and more precious.

  3. Shimon, As I also follow Bill’s blog, I am so fascinated by both your blogs/posts right now. You’ve both been changed by the experience. That’s what traveling is about! Today the internet and social networking/blogging add an element of heightened awareness and further connectivity. With it, it brought a new set of eyes :)

    • Yes Marina, I imagine that following us both has given this story a sort of 3D effect. It has really been marvelous, because we knew each other quite a while in cyberspace before we actually met. It has been a beautiful experience, and also taught me a valuable lesson about expectations. Thank you so much for your comment.

  4. I like that, “gifts from heaven.” What’s the Hebrew? For a while I was a student of Thich Nhat Hahn, a Vietnamese Zen master one of whose books was titled “The Miracle of Mindfulness.” Really just experiencing a “normal” day “with clean socks” – with unsated eyes, with eyes and heart and mind empty of preferences or worry-wrought agendas, expectant with little to no formed images of what’s coming, like pure rainwater the experience touches us in a way that for me recalls what humans call God – that ineffable spirit of experience beyond the rational, strategizing mind, beyond what the senses say and speaks instead with our hearts and, yes, souls if soul is the sum of heaven’s gifts.

    • In Hebrew we call it seeyah deshmayah. When I was a young man, and traveling in far away places, I found myself very interested by other religions, and of the different ones I encountered, that which most attracted me was Zen. I found it similar to a school of thought we have here in Judaism. Your description of a human being aware of his maker is exactly like what I’ve experienced as religious awareness… except, perhaps, that in my experience the senses sing. Thank you so much for your beautiful comment.

  5. Sorry it has taken me so long to read your posting, but, you know, all the hustle and bustle getting ready for Christmas! I have always been intrigued about the simple things in life which would never appear in an autobiography or which we might never remember until we are old and suddenly all the small things form a wonderful picture to the background of our lives.

    One of the first books I read as a tenager was about the discovery of the dead sea scrolls, and although I am an anglican Christian I have always been intrigued by the cities and towns of the Biblican lands. Thank you for the pictures.

    Tonight we shall be at St Mary’s Cathedral in Glasgow at our Christmas Eve service, when we will again marvel at a little miracle. I shall raise up a prayer for all those who still wonder at this world and appreciate the ‘help from heaven’ of which you eloquently speak.

    • Thank you very much for your comment, Harry, and there is absolutely no need for an apology. Life keeps all of us busy, and whenever you read my postings, it is a great honor for me. I do hope that you had a beautiful Christmas holiday. And surely, it is a part of the wonder of this world, that coming from different backgrounds, and in distant places, we meet in spirit… and in similar prayers.

  6. Thank you for sharing your photos, I love seeing your part of the world.

  7. You write wonderfully, with a heart well-trained by your intellect. I have enjoyed reading your posts and will sign up to receive them regularly. After reading this post, I realize I need to buy a lot of new socks for the coming year, so I am ready for that ‘help from heaven.’ So lovely.

  8. Such a beautiful and insightful post. I am so glad to have found your blog.

  9. I love reading your posts. This one kind of reminds me of a post I posted today. There is an old barn on the family farm that I have never been able to quiet capture in a way that shows its interesting aspects as I envision them. Yet today after editing it for the umpteenth time, it came to me how I should capture and process it. I got close with the post but I want to do one more shot sometime now that I’ve figured it out.

    I’ve often been amazed at how ideas have come to me just by keeping on working one picture at a time.

    • Thank you so much, BoJo, for your kind words. I have seen some of your photography that I found very attractive, and understand why you insist on getting the very best out of this barn. When I checked out the photo you mentioned, ‘Down on the Farm’, I too had the feeling that it wasn’t quite there yet. Though I’m not sure, what the problem is. Was this a night shot? And if it was, how much light was there on that night? I can look at the image and love it… and then have the feeling that it’s a bit too contrasty, and that the trees in the background, are a bit too dark. It also seems to me that it might work better if you were a little further removed from the barn, and we could see more of the farm around it. On the other hand, you could move in much closer, and get really intimate with a part of it, while leaving traces… hints of its great size going off in the corners of the image. I look forward to seeing your continued work on the subject. It is fun when we work on something that matters to us.

  10. Happened to read this post. A coincidence? With God’s help? (I don’t believe in God), but I believe in kindness and openess, and you have both. Beautiful pictures, and touching post. I’ll keep on reading.

    • Thank you very much for coming by, Rachel. I am on vacation now, so a little slow in responding to comments, but I look forward to getting to know you a bit better. Glad you liked the post.

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