So I’m reading the Torah portion of Balak twice!! How did that happen??
Last winter, I responded to an email our yeshiva sent out: an opportunity to be a summer fellow through Kulanu, a US based Jewish organization “supporting isolated, emerging & returning communities around the globe”. Little could I guess that six months later I would be sitting and writing my blog in India, where I am to spend a month with an “emerging community”, teaching Hebrew, Torah, Jewish history and more.
Outside my room – built especially for the “guest from the west”, with its own, private, western toilet, shower, table for my computer and much needed fan over the bed, the women of the community are busy making Shabbat – cooking, cutting, grinding, sweeping, laundering, mixing, and even squishing and boiling grape to a home-made grape juice. This morning, there were just bags of potential, and now there are pots in a row, steaming, sending scents and smells into my room which was organized for Shabbat with white sheets, white curtain, white towel and a new set of Indian clothing so I can blend in better 😊 This evening we (we!) expect 80-100 participants of all ages to join for Kabalat Shabbat and dinner. Everything is bubbling with spices and veggies, rice and fish: “your food is over there”, they say to me, chuckling, giggling, pointing to another set of silver, covered dishes, “not too spicy, less pepper, ah”, they shake their head from side to side, which I learn means yes, even though it looks to me like no-maybe-not-sure.
Earlier I sat on a balcony along tall coconut trees. Firecrackers sounded from the streets which sent the local crows up high; Low jet airplanes cut the sky in what would be an illegal speed and distance in my previous homes; kids were moving around swiftly, sweeping the floor with short-handled, long-straw brooms, pouring water on the floor. In all this prep, no one raised their voice once. I was trying to think about this Torah portion, again, about the great power of words, as well as their limitations; about blessings and curses; and about our complex relationship with the nations around us. We are the be like dew on Just then, the mu’azin from the nearby mosque (by “nearby” I mean next door-) started to sing, pray and yell in what I feared is anger, but my hosts told me was ok, and need no worry.
Still, India is hard to comprehend, swallow, absorb. I asked if there is any one person who speaks all the languages spoken here and am answered with a laughter. 35 years ago, on my way East, visas were denied because Indira Gandhi was just shot (yes, I know, it is that long ago). Ever since, I kept wondering if India was ever going to happen. I could have not imagine it with that much greater color and depth.
Shabbat Shalom (pictures to follow).