I believe in the realness of things unspoken, the truth of things unquantified. I believe in sparks – mystical, figurative, theoretical, invisible to the naked eye but familiar to the naked soul. I believe In moments like these – When we arrive in Jerusalem and tell all forty of you to close your eyes as you hold onto each other for support when you stroll off the bus. We had closed the curtains on the bus, darkened the area to hype up Jerusalem’s light, though it needs no flattery or facades. You all stood there, ready to receive and perceive.
We told you about the meaning of Mt. Scopus’ name, Har HaTzofim, about how it stands for the way נפש יהודי צופיה, the Jewish soul anticipates. Beyond looking or seeing or observing, we yearn visually, imagine possibility beyond the reaches of our corneas. I watch you feel something. You’ve never been here, you’ve never seen this or heard this explanation of Rav Kook’s ideology that seems so “classic” to me, a Modern Orthodox day school alum. I see you standing still, moved.
On the one hand, I can’t explain your tearful outbursts or speechless awe. Why should you feel anything, besides perhaps an appreciation of the beauty of this landscape? It is a lovely overlook; but there is more to the way you’re looking over. We could be anywhere. But I do see your sparks.
I see the way you feel something you can’t justify or break down into an equation. The way this land speaks to you in whispers and gusts of refreshing wind. You wonder how to explain this to your friends back home, how to tell them about this new and ancient romance, without being dismissed as an idealistic, brainwashed
product of the Jewish communal infrastructure’s investment in your enthusiasm about how really, this was like, totally the best trip everrr and how like, seriously, like, Israel is so amazing and the dank falafel is a bonus. You wonder how to convey that your soul glows here, gushing with vision. That you feel something real real real real real, and all you can articulate is “wow”, and all you can do is keep looking outward toward the Temple Mount.
Ours is the gift of vision. Of seeing what lies before us and beyond us, the blueprints in the distant vista, the past, present, and future at the ends of our fingertips. Ours is the legacy of צפיה לישועה, anticipation of salvation, manifested in the labor of love and looking forward.
I believe in the truth of Jews getting excited when they encounter something, that thing that resonates with them, even if they can’t explain it. I believe in the sensation of soulful stirrings, of spiritual striving. I believe it when I see it, though not with my retinas. Seeing is believing, and believing is seeing beyond.
Thank you for lending me your soul-eyes, to glance upon Jerusalem’s beauty, and to peer into something intangible and enduring. Your eyes were open all along.