It is most appropriate that today (to the day) marks the one year anniversary of my very first trip to Israel.
Though the flight left on 11/9/14, I arrived in Tel Aviv on 11/10/14, without sleep.
The Ambien that I carefully timed and took after my meal had the complete opposite effect, and left me frustratingly awake, with nothing to show for it other than a pounding headache. Yes, I should have done a “test run.”
Yet somehow I hit the ground running… Not that I really had a choice in that matter… Every single step of this trip was detailed and planned out… Almost…
And every, single step was magical… powerful… holy!
And though my body never adjusted to the time change and the time zone… I felt more alive and connected there than I have ever been before.
So the purpose of this blog… of Six Degrees Of Kosher Bacon… is to mark the journey Ben and I are on, as we more fully delve into the religious and spiritual elements of Judaism. It is kind of like our stopping and smelling the Kosher roses… as we share bits of knowledge and stories we are picking up along the path.
While he is younger, I concede that Ben is a bit further along than I am… in practice and study… and while I also know it is not a race, I am aware that many of my posts veer away from the intellectual debating of Parsha and Torah… and tend to move into the personal and perhaps even emotional reactions I have to this journey… and to life itself.
I keep saying that I want to get back to the “book” if you will… get back to the HUGE reading list I have created for myself… and I will.
But the fact is, had I not gone on the JMI Trip through Aish… Thank you, Hashem… and thank you, JMI and Aish… this blog would not exist in its current form.
That trip was the true starting point of my journey into Judaism… and the lesson is this… It is never too late to start… never too late to go back and explore and learn and discover…
To quote Olympic athlete Dara Torres: “Never put an age limit on your dreams.”
And this one, which is almost too profound for me at the moment, but one I wanted to share nonetheless: “Swimmers know full well that every second has a beginning, a middle, and an end.” I think that one requires some wine!!!
The point is this… I did not have a strong Jewish belief system in place… until ONE YEAR AGO TODAY. Yes, I was Bar Mitzvahed and raised as a Conservative Jew. Yes, I have had many wonderful Rabbis, especially in my more recent years… Rabbi Steven Leder at Wilshire Boulevard Temple… Rabbi Paul Kipnes and Cantor Doug Kotler at Or Ami…
But it took going to Israel and Jerusalem to change me…
Traveling with my good and dear friend Rob changed me… My new bond of brothers (each and every one of you) changed me… Rabbis Shlomo Seidenfeld, Azriel Aharon (Az) and Aryeh Markman changed me…
Studying Kaballah with Julian and Rabbi Avi Rabin changed me… Listening to so many lectures from Rabbi Shalom Denbo changed me…
Aryeh Kaplan… David Aaron… Abraham Twerski and so many others changed me.
Jason Katz, my mentor and teacher from Partners in Torah changed me.
Being embraced by Rabbi Dovid Horowitz and invited to a Tish by Bobby Blinder with the Pittsburgher Rebbe changed me…
Studying relationships and the Siddur with Jonah Light… and Pirkei Avos with Howard Witkin changed me! And especially being invited into their homes and lives!
Torah and Beers with a new and year-old bunch of brothers changed me…
My partner on this blog, Ben… changed me… and challenged me!
If there is anyone I forgot, please forgive me… This is why specific lists can be dangerous…
But the crazy and amazing this is this… All of this… ALL OF THIS has happened in the course of one year! ONE!!! That’s astounding and wondrous and powerful.
We go home to Jerusalem… and bring that journey home to where we live now… and home again when we visit our parents or siblings…
We are always coming home.
And Shlomo… while the Kotel is most definitely back here… and home with all of us… go bring it home again!!!
So I say to Israel and her people… to the land and the history and the calming, peaceful holiness… to all of my family and friends… and to all of you, many of whom I have yet to meet… Thank you.
“So let me say before we part
So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you
You’ll be with me
Like a hand print on my heart
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have re-written mine
By being my friend…”
“Because I knew you, I have been changed for good.”
(Stephen Schwartz, Wicked)