I love going to Rachel’s Tomb (the burial place of our Biblical Matriach Rachel, wife of Jacob). Like Jewish women from throughout the centuries, when I have a problem, I unburden my heart there. Sometimes I go just to visit my “grandmother”, and sometimes I go to pray for the nation.
Usually, I concentrate on my family – each member, asking for that when s/he needs. Today I went to pray for myself. I talked to the “charity lady”. We’re old friends. We share with each other our thoughts. She's very wise. I think the Ministry of Religion puts wise women in key spots in the country in order to give good advice to people like me.
I was standing near the Kever Rachel memorial stone when it started get crowded – very crowded – and suddenly I felt myself pushed into a corner. I turned around and there were dozens, then hundreds of women behind me and beside me. Women dressed modestly. Women not. Women with their hair covered. Women not. All sorts of women. They studied the names on each of the books on the bookshelf (they more or less all said, "Psalms") and carefully picked one, leafing through its many mysterious pages. They began reading. Maybe had "instruction sheets", following what was written to a tee. Some had lists of people to pray for - for good health, prosperity, a spouse. They pushed forward toward the large stone in the middle of the room. Not many could reach it, but as many as possible did their best to touch it. Some cried. Some whispered. They had clearly never seen anything like this before.
I finished my prayers and wiggled my way out.
In front of the building, I asked a cigarette-smoking blonde woman where she came from. She said, “Hidabroot brought me from Beersheva.” Wow.
I asked two Ethiopian ladies, both of whom were dressed very nicely, where they came from, “Hidabroot brought us from
There were more with doilies on their head from Ashkelon, slacks-clad ladies from the Krayot,
north, south, east, west.
They spent the day – this Elul day, three weeks before the High Holidays – on a trip to discover what preparing for the holidays spiritually is all about. They traveled to Chevron, the Cave of the Patriarchs, and witnessed a giant shofar blowing ceremony there; Beitar Elite in order to perform a favorite women’s mitzvah of dividing the dough (hafrashat challah); and then they came to Rachel’s Tomb.
All of the women (most of whom had never been to these places before) that I had spoken to, said that this was the most amazing day of their lives. They had never felt so full and complete before. Their excitement about our Jewish roots and all they had learned about our heritage in one day excited me as well. I also felt proud of the Hidabroot organization, http://www.hidabroot.org/, which introduces Torah and mitzvoth to the most uninitiated Jews around with video clips, lessons, learning partners, weekends, events, etc.Sometimes you wonder if these organizations succeed in their work. I saw their success right before me!
As the buses lined up to pick up the women, I was moved beyond words. I was so stunned, I didn’t even take a picture (and for me, that says a lot). Good for you, Hidabroot!!!
The Hidabroot site is in Hebrew, but there are also lectures with English translations. Try them: http://www.hidabroot.org/MediaCategories_List.asp?CategoryID=207.
Make the most of the next three weeks before Rosh Hashana. Happy new year.