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Tuesday, May 22, 2007


A Steep Climb Up…to the Kosel!

My free translation of a story appearing in this week's "B'Sheva" newspaper.

Dror liked to spend his time in the huge library in Dharamsala (northern India), which had just about every book written about every religion or cult in the world. During his many hours spent there, he would translate (into Hebrew) and summarize what he read into his notebook. He yearned to become a "master," one who wore the red cloak, who would spread the word of the Dali Lama throughout the world, especially to the Jewish People.

One day, in a visit to the library, he came across a booklet, written in Hebrew, called "Masa" ("Journey," written by R. Erez Moshe Doron). He was infuriated: "I ran away from Jerusalem, and they’re chasing me even here to 'bring me back' to Judaism?!" In his fury he took the booklet out of the library and decided to burn it. Then he thought, "Hey, before I turn this 'missionary work' into ashes, let’s just see what’s written in it…"
He went into a restaurant, ordered something, and began to read a story by Rebbe Nachman of Breslov called, "A Story of a Teacher and his Student." This was the first time he found anything spiritual about Judaism. He read the entire story, not fully understanding it, but he clearly felt that, for the first time in his life, he had encountered the truth. The holy tongue [language], the powerful story, and the idea of a Tzaddik [righteous man] moved him deeply, and he began to cry.
Only then did he realize how emotionally frozen he had become. The Tibetan spiritual methodology was based on sharpening the mind and nullifying the heart. The many books that he read here did not touch his soul, yet suddenly, a few lines in a small booklet brought him to tears…What’s happening here?
He decided he must check this out thoroughly. During his stay in India, he meditated on many subjects. This time, he decided to do a focused meditation on one topic. If he finds it to be the Truth, he would follow it through completely, and if not, he would abandon it. He prepared his backpack with a month’s worth of provisions, and headed into the Himalayan Mountains, where he found an isolated place, at the edge of a forest, near some water which was flowing from an iceberg.

After several exhausting fasts there, he continued his journey, but soon discovered that he had lost his way. Although he was an expert in navigation, he couldn’t figure out where he was. The melting snow and ice had erased the path. And although he was equipped with a map, its scale made it difficult to navigate. He continued a bit further, until he was completely lost.
He arrived at a jungle, full of pits, where humans didn’t tread. On his way, he descended a steep hill of some 1200 meters [around 4000 feet!], with the hope of finding a path below. As time passed, he increasingly felt that only a miracle could extricate him from the complex mess in which he found himself.
As the sun was setting, Dror arrived at the bottom of the steep hill. But instead of a path, he found a raging river, whose torrential waters could split stones. There was no way to continue any further. A piece of wood that he tossed in soon became splinters, and he lost all hope of finding a path. His food supply was dwindling, and with his last bit of energy, he pitched a tent before nightfall.
His grasp of nature was finished. All that he learned in the cult turned out to be false. Nothing was left in his soul except the decision that when he would return to Israel, he would check out Judaism. It was then that he remembered that his sister had told him that one who experiences a miracle has to make the "HaGomel" [thanksgiving] blessing, and he also remembered that there is a concept in Judaism called a neder [a vow], which one makes when in dire straits. From the depths of his heart, a prayer was uttered: "If You are indeed here, and if I come out of here alive, I will go to the Kosel [the Western Wall] to make the HaGomel blessing."
He then fell asleep. In the morning, he awoke, renewed with hope. He remembered that when one is lost, he should retrace his steps, till he arrives at the point where he began to stray. Although it was crazy to ascend the steep incline that he had descended, he found new strength. Climbing to the top, he found a path leading to a flock of deer. Looking around, he discovered a promising sight – in the midst of the forest, some smoke was rising.
Where there’s smoke, there’s fire; and where there’s fire, there’s a human. He headed off in the direction of the smoke, and in two days arrived at his destination. He found some locals who were herding cows in the forest. They gave him some bread and butter to eat, and showed him the way back. When he arrived in the city, he bought a plane ticket to Israel.
Dror landed in Israel on Shavuos, before dawn. A year after he left, he surprised his parents and siblings in Jerusalem. His mother greeted him warmly, and then he woke his brother Yaniv up.

"Let’s go to the Kosel, I have something to settle there," he said. Yaniv was shocked to find his brother leaning over his bed after a year’s absence, and even more so asking him to go with him to the Kosel. They set out on foot from their home to the Kosel. Upon their arrival, Dror asked someone in one of the many minyanim [prayer groups] if he could have help with saying the HaGomel blessing. The men were astonished by this request, coming from a young man with long hair and Indian style clothing.
Nevertheless, someone gave him a kippa [skullcap], and showed him the blessing in the Siddur. Then they went through the Old City towards Jaffa Gate, where they encountered many more Jewish men, clad in tallises [prayer shawls], heading for the Kosel for the holiday prayers. He was suddenly overcome with a strong feeling towards them, and said to his brother, "Wow, how beautiful! What a privilege it is to be a Jew! For what do I need the red cloak? Is there anything more beautiful in the world than a Jew, clad in a white tallis, heading for the Kosel???"

Chag Sameach to all! Have a Joyous Shavuos holiday!

btw I thought you would appreciate that The Modzhitzer 'tiskabel' niggun is on Yehuda Solomon's Beyond Words 2 disc..

it was the first time i ever heard a modzhitz niggun, and it carried me through shavuoth, especially the whole walk to and from the kotel in the huge throngs of people.. i'm not very good at remembering niggunim at all, but thankfully i was able to remember large chunks of it and it repeated itself over and over again in my head (and on my lips) and gave me strength through the whole chag..

could you tell me anything more about the niggun? like who created it?
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