Beresheet: Cre­at­ing a new be­gin­ning

The Jerusalem Post - The Jerusalem Post Magazine - - OBSERVATIO­NS - MAAYAN HOFF­MAN The writer is The Jerusalem Post’s news edi­tor and head of on­line con­tent and strat­egy. [email protected]

Five years ago, I got di­vorced. I re­mem­ber the day I re­ceived my “get” – Jewish di­vorce de­cree – from my ex-hus­band. I was cry­ing so hard that I could barely breathe. I had wanted and even needed this di­vorce, but the get made ev­ery­thing so fi­nal that I felt like the ground was crum­bling be­neath my feet and there would be no way that I could take an­other step, let alone ever run again.

I crawled out of that small room in some off-the-beaten-path build­ing in down­town Kansas City, where they had to “rent a rabbi” from out-of-state to per­form the cer­e­mony so the get would be rec­og­nized in Is­rael. I went to my car, drove un­til I found a park, pulled over and stopped. With the win­dows rolled up, I al­lowed my­self to emote.

When I was fi­nally able to pull my­self to­gether, I drove home to my chil­dren.

Af­ter our di­vorce, de­spite an agree­ment that we had joint cus­tody, my then four chil­dren be­tween the ages of 10 and 18 months lived with and re­lied only on me. So, dur­ing my break­down, I came to the con­clu­sion that I would never let them know how hard this was for me – that I would hold it to­gether for them.

I would put on my happy face, go to work and work harder to make up for any lost in­come so that their lives would not change. I de­cided that no mat­ter what I was go­ing through, no mat­ter how bro­ken I was, I would keep those chil­dren whole.

There were many nights that I would climb into bed with my sleep­ing son, smell his freshly bathed hair and cry my­self to sleep silently.

Once my ex-hus­band started tak­ing the kids for Shab­bats – when they would all agree to go – and I was alone on Shab­bat, of­ten I would pick up a long novel at the lo­cal li­brary and start it as I lit the can­dles on Fri­day night. I would fall asleep with that book in my arms and wake up with it to con­tinue read­ing un­til the end. Lost in some­one else’s world, I would not have to face my own or con­tem­plate in the quiet of a kid-free house.

I used to joke that I had be­come a robot: work­ing, cook­ing, clean­ing, chauf­feur­ing, do­ing home­work, tak­ing them to their ac­tiv­i­ties or out for Sun­day Slurpees.

I didn’t let any­thing fall through the cracks and I didn’t let any­thing crack me. I started CrossFit and weight lift­ing. And I ran farther – af­ter all, the best ro­bots are made of steel.

Some­where in the mess of all of this, I re­con­nected with a long-time col­league and friend (who ul­ti­mately be­came my hus­band). Our early morn­ing Skype calls, on which we talked about pol­i­tics and chil­dren and life and love, slowly broke through the steel – with­out me know­ing it.

How­ever, the truth is that to con­nect with some­one else com­pletely, you have to ac­cept your own faults and com­mit to work­ing on them. Oth­er­wise, you will al­ways fall short. So, as our re­la­tion­ship be­gan to grow, I de­cided I wanted to take off the suit of ar­mor and in­stead fo­cus on what was be­hind it. Only then would we be able to build a life to­gether.

Grow­ing is best done up. Each day, no mat­ter what hap­pened the day be­fore, we start again, take an­other step. It’s glo­ri­ous on the top of the moun­tain.

THIS WEEK, I had the priv­i­lege of in­ter­view­ing Aryeh Green, au­thor of My Is­rael Trail: Find­ing Peace in the Promised Land.

“My Is­rael Trail is the story of my hike on the Is­rael Na­tional Trail fol­low­ing my di­vorce,” Green ex­plains in the in­tro­duc­tion to his book. “I med­i­tated on moun­tain tops and cried in dry creek beds; I wrote an­guished jour­nal en­tries and com­posed songs to lift my spir­its. I looked back, and in­ward, and up to the night sky, and over the val­ley to the next moun­tain range, and down at the ants in the dirt, and back along the Trail to see how far I’d come.”

In the 300-page book, Green iden­ti­fies five lessons he learned from the trail – per­son­al­ity char­ac­ter­is­tics that he says are key to a happy life: Hu­mil­ity, ac­cep­tance, grat­i­tude, for­give­ness and a sense of pur­pose.

He told me the story of how one day on his jour­ney, he was hik­ing up an ex­traor­di­nar­ily steep hill. About half­way up, he stopped.

“I was ex­hausted and hot and I could not be­lieve what I was do­ing,” he re­called.

Green had a 50-pound pack on his back and he nearly called the hik­ers’ emer­gency res­cue line “to res­cue me off the side of the moun­tain.

“In the end, I said, ‘This is your do­ing. No one is go­ing to come and save you from it. You are on the side of a moun­tain. You have to ac­cept that. This is your re­al­ity,’” he con­tin­ued. “Later than night, I wrote in my jour­nal that ac­cept­ing re­al­ity en­ables you to move for­ward.”

Green said that just as he had to ac­cept that he was on the side of a moun­tain and would need to make a proac­tive de­ci­sion about how to get off that moun­tain, so too, “You are di­vorced. You never ex­pected to find your­self di­vorced. This is your re­al­ity. You have to ac­cept it and move for­ward with life.”

But it was not a smooth path.

A mu­si­cian, Green wrote many po­ems and songs as he hiked. In one, he begs God, “Give me the strength for ev­ery new step, send a warm desert wind to dry my tears when I’ve wept, a bush with some shade for relief from the heat, an af­ter­noon breeze at my back to take the weight off my feet, show me you love me... Give me the wis­dom to ac­cept what I must.”

Ul­ti­mately, how­ever, he com­pletes the jour­ney.

“I knew I had achieved some­thing mirac­u­lous, had ac­com­plished more than what I had set out to,” he writes. “I had hiked the [Is­rael Trail], yes, but I had learned so much also, about my­self, about my peo­ple, about my coun­try, about hu­man­ity.

“I walked the Trail but I also found peace in this Promised Land of ours, and my com­ing home was not an end but a be­gin­ning,” he con­cluded.

THE JEWISH New Year be­gins on Sun­day night, ush­er­ing in what Jews call the High Hol­i­days. By the time we reach Sim­chat To­rah, the fi­nal cel­e­bra­tion of the He­brew month of Tishrei, we com­plete the an­nual To­rah read­ing cy­cle with the por­tion known as “V’Zot Habracha.”

In that To­rah por­tion, Moses blesses each of the tribes.

What is the bless­ing?

The an­swer is the par­sha that we read im­me­di­ately there­after: Beresheet.

A new be­gin­ning. Start­ing over. When Green re­turned home, he said he was think­ing about all the in­cred­i­ble pos­si­bil­i­ties that were now open to him – and to which he was now open.

“Whether af­ter di­vorce, you find love again, which I did, or you fo­cus on ca­reer or chil­dren or vol­un­teer work to make the world a bet­ter place – the most sub­stan­tial con­tri­bu­tion to our abil­ity to look for­ward and ahead is hav­ing a sense of pur­pose and goals,” he said.

That’s Beresheet. It’s un­der­stand­ing there is al­ways a new be­gin­ning, even if it comes af­ter an end.

QUOTE OF THE MONTH “Be will­ing to be a be­gin­ner ev­ery sin­gle morn­ing.” – Meis­ter Eck­hart


‘LOST IN some­one else’s world, I would not have to face my own or con­tem­plate in the quiet of a kid-free house.’

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