Hand in hand, Shlomo and I walk up to the Tel just behind our house. Not abashed at holding my hand even at age ten, he excitedly says, “Savta, this IS school!” His enthusiasm has me puffing a bit behind him as we climb the little hill walking the derech (road) recently paved, his hand pulling mine. This place is actually a mound of ancient layers of time dating back to when Abraham walked here. There are caves and cisterns hewn into the limestone everywhere we look, surrounded by gnarled olive trees and incredible bush.
Perhaps the most impressive feature of the Tel are the many water pits peeking up from the dusty ground. There are mikvehs and burial caves here as well; who dares to descend the steep narrow steps, heavy stone arches that decorate the openings invite us into what once were assembly rooms. Our forefathers found sustainable ways to deal with the treacherous summers. They were busy digging cisterns day and night. It’s what made home possible. “Isaac again dug up wells of water which they had dug in the days of his father.” Abraham dug and taught how to dig your heels into it. He earned the yoke of heaven by the steady digging of the earth. No lack of challenges were placed before him as he walked slowly through the Land bestowing the knowledge of the one G-d and the goodness and lovingkindness that humanity needed. The value of it passed to his son Yitzchak who passed it down demonstrating restraint yet when it came to digging pits, he immersed himself in complete pro-activism.
Yaakov who attained the perfect balance of material and spiritual was ready to be SHALEM, travelled the stairway to heaven yet destiny had it by the well, tradition channeling into his sons, the twelve tribes of Israel. All of our Avot, each in their own derech, dug in order to bring light to the darkest times; illuminating and enabling mankind. Efrayim later came to settle this Tel and was undoubtedly challenged for water sources as well as the Canaanite culture that pervaded here. Educating the next generation was no less difficult than digging pits for literal sustainability. Educating the future of Am Yisrael and the next generation has proved to be the foremost important thing to us as we face in every generation neglect, opposition, and even rebellion to plain sound Torah.
As we school and cultivate that special essence of destiny, bringing our sons and daughters to painstakingly face the challenges of BAAL, DIONYSYS, and TIK TOK we realize that our connection is not just a geological, historical and archeological one, but even more critical now than any other time, it is a an educational one. Israel and G-d is what we discipline for the next phase of history. Isaiah prophesized about it: “Listen to Me, you who pursue justice, you who seek the LORD, look at the rock you were hewn from, the quarry you were dug from. Look back to Abraham your father, and to Sarah who brought you forth. For he was only one when I called him, but I blessed him and made him many.” (51, 1-2) The vision we have we unapologetically proclaim. The cisterns are here to give us a startling reminder of how it all began here in the fertile crescent, how one man came to build the entire house of Israel. Today we are literally hanging by the skin of our teeth as progressive ideas infuse our next generation who just barely know their soul connection to Jerusalem. Yes, even here in Israel. Now is the time to teach about home, about the derech to this place and these people, about the unbroken links in the chain, about digging out these ancient pits. Shlomo knows it. We have to dig in deeper.
Shabbat shalom, Leah