Those of you who know me personally, know of my love for Jerusalem… that it has accompanied me all the days of my life; and when one sits in a place one loves, contented and happy, it’s not so easy to get up and go out, to visit with the world. True, there are the beauties of nature, there are mountain tops that one hears about… and the face of a lake like glass in the high altitudes… and another lake that one can lie upon and float , as if on a mattress. There are unique and special sites to be seen, and no end to the beauties of the creation. One could go and go and go… and find wonders without conclusion. But though I went to the ends of the earth, and stood on the edge of the new world, gazing out at the pacific, my heart yearned for home.
And yet, though I have all I need and all I could possibly ask for, in my beautiful home, there is a little village just an hour’s trip away, which is a home away from home… and there reside my two youngest sons, and their wives and children, and their friends… in the hills of Benjamin. And it happened, that that this week, in the heat of summer, the village had a celebration, and put together a fair, meant to bring joy and smiles to old and young, and so it was my honor to venture out to the village of Holy Fire to celebrate and give thanks, once again… and enjoy the sight of my grandchildren in their fun and games.
The truth be told, I am an odd fellow, who once put on the path of learning at a very early age, by my cruel father… never found anything that could compare with the heights and depths of learning, but the humble awareness of the power of nature. Other boys played stickball, and tortured frogs and insects… and threw stones to great distances for their dogs to find and retrieve… and I sat over books, in the light of day, and with a lamp at night, a patient cat keeping me company… and found my bliss in study and thought. I am usually at a loss at the country fair, and more than a little uncomfortable in the circus. Yes, I have known such ‘pleasures’. for as a young man, when I had little children of my own, I tried to be a better father than my parents were to me, and took my children to such places, to have a good time… but the truth is… that I always felt alien at such places.
I remember, almost fifty years ago, spinning around in a gigantic tea cup, with my little daughter, when she reached out, and took my hand, reassuring me, and saying, “it will soon be over, father” with the wisdom and confidence of a child. And I remember watching a bear doing tricks in the circus, and it was all I could do to restrain myself from rushing to the inner circle and embracing him, and crying on his neck in compassion at this humiliation that he was forced to endure. For in those days, I would hike and camp in the high mountains, and it was not that rare that I would walk with mountain bears on the unmarked paths of the thick forests, and would sometimes share my meals with wild animals who would visit with me in mutual respect.
So it was with trepidation in my heart that I set out for the country fair, and how grateful I was, when my grandson Hillel took me in hand, to explain the sights and attractions. There was much to see, and for an innocent such as myself, everything needed explanation. For those of my readers who are more familiar with such pleasures, you have my permission to skip these lines till you find more interesting tales.
There were a number of very large objects, which seemed to have been erected on the open spaces found here and there within the village, and were made of inflatable plastic, some as high as two story buildings, upon which children could climb, and slide down, and bounce around. In one such structure, there seemed to be separate chambers, and many children enjoyed bouncing up and down and up again, and from the illustrations painted on the outside… not to speak of the words ‘sea world’ adorning the structure, I had the feeling that there might be water on the inside… but unfortunately, I was too timid, and taken aback to actually go in and throw myself into the waves, so to speak. But I did see some grown ups, among the ecstatic children.
We passed by some bored, lazy, dinosaurs, who appeared to be contemplating moving to more quiet grounds where children wouldn’t be screaming and climbing on their backs all the time… but as long as I was there, it didn’t look as if they’d taken a solitary step. Could be that they were frozen in fear, or waiting for Steven Spielberg to take them out of there. And then there was a large tent which was filled with animals that had just been released from the confines of Noah’s ark, and hadn’t quite found their way to return to the solid firmament and their lives as usual. There were birds of many colors, and beautiful shapes, who seemed not at all intimidated by the proximity of young children, or other wild animals that would normally represent a threat to their natural life styles. Goats and rodents and lizards of all sorts, including iguanas and some very large turtles, as well as very large snakes, and other rare animals that I don’t usually run into when I’m visiting friends, all of which seemed completely relaxed in the company of each other, and the many children who took an unabashed interest in them. I couldn’t help but wonder… in my personal thoughts… if they’d been smoking funny cigarettes before they’d showed up at the fair.
There was a fine sturdy horse too, accompanied by a loyal and caring cowboy, who walked him around in circles, and fed him slices of watermelon. Children stood in line, with mothers and fathers and grandparents. Each child would be fitted with a riding helmet, before going off to ride the horse in a circle, with the cowboy holding the reins, and seeing to it that these young kids did not perform any somersaults on horseback.
And there was a fine juggler who did not think it enough to demonstrate his ability to keep endless objects in the air at the same time, spinning and bouncing and twirling, as he rewrote the laws of gravity, and entertained children and adults equally. No, he went to the trouble of teaching all the children there to be jugglers themselves, and it seemed to me inevitable that the young citizens of Holy Fire would soon be traveling to the far places of this world to entertain others, and we old folks would be left abandoned and forced to entertain ourselves…
And all the while, anyone who had any appetite, could eat watermelon and cheeses, and crackers, and candies and popsicles, or could munch on hot dogs or cotton candy. There were many things to choose from.
Meantime, I found myself drifting towards the synagogue, if just for the pleasure of sitting in the shade for a while, and reflecting on the pleasures of this world. But it was then I discovered that quite a few of the local citizens had had much the same idea, and the synagogue was near full with men and women and even children. And the old Rabbi, when asked to speak, turned out to be no slacker, and was able to amuse us no less than the snake charmer or the juggler, and shared with us his appreciation of some words that were only very rarely mentioned in the bible, but could provide great insight into the attitudes of the holy texts to certain sophisticated concepts that have given rise to occasional disputes in our modern and post modern society.
And when he was finished bringing smiles to all our faces, and a few other stand up citizens had spoken, applauding the good deeds of their fellows, and blessing the community for all the many acts of caring and contribution, without asking for a reward of any sort, and reflecting about how nice it was to live in such a wonderful village. And after everyone had broken out in spontaneous dancing to the sound of live music played in the most nonchalant manner for our continued pleasure, some of the children took it upon themselves to read a few lines from the ancient scroll of the bible written on parchment. And we all listened in silence as they read the lines, encouraged by the fact that our children or grandchildren were continuing on the path of past generations. And then a prayer was given, as evening was approaching… and after that, I went to the home of one of my children to have a cup of coffee.
After the coffee, someone remembered that I was fond of Jack Daniels, so we had some of that too. We were sitting in the front yard, and neighbors were coming by, and the colors had turned golden. It was a pleasure to get together with some old friends that I hadn’t seen for a while, and equally a pleasure to try and catch their faces in the golden light, and then someone looked up towards heaven, and brought my attention to a nearly full moon. In far away Paris, happy faces were celebrating Bastille day, but most of the people here didn’t even know what that was, let alone that it was happening on the same day. Here, the celebration was in a completely different context, and by a different calendar… but I’m sure that looking down from heaven, it was a pleasure seeing so many happy faces.