Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Is G-d a He or She?

It was a beautiful day in Tzfat.  I caught a ride halfway, took a bus the other half.  The fact that I was on my way to a job interview didn't stop me from from casually strolling through the city's winding streets.  I paused to admire the view between buildings.  At 800-900 meters above sea level (varies depending which street you are on), Tzfat has incredible panoramic views of the surrounding forests.

In the Artist's colony I stumbled upon many rare treasures.  Colorful musical instruments, matzah plates, paintings and jewelry.  I thought of the story of the angel flying over the earth with bags of souls to distribute.  In short, the bag of stupid souls got caught on a mountain peak and they all spilled out into Chelm.  He must have been holding a leaky bag of creative souls when flying over Tzfat.  There are galleries on every corner, overflowing with every imaginable art medium.

I gave myself more time than necessary and--even with my wanderings--arrived at my destination about an hour early.  Livnot U'Lehibanot offers programs for English-speakers where participants learn, hike, work, live and explore Judaism together.  I first came across their organization some years ago when my husband, who had a sound business at the time, did a pro-bono gig with Naftali Abramson at a retirement home in Jerusalem.

I was enjoying the time out of the house--without a diaper bag--for the first time in a month, and lingered in the visitor's center.  There is an archaeological dig behind the campus buildings where volunteers have excavated.  Discovered artifacts are on display.  You can also read about famous personalities of ancient Tzfat or buy a walking tour map in English for a couple of shekels.

I came across a neighbor who works in a nearby gallery and we walked together, talking and laughing, until it was time for me to turn off in the direction of the shuk.  In Jerusalem, I used to bump into friends on every trip.  I didn't realize how much I've missed that since moving up north and it's nice to see familiar faces again when I'm out and about. 

The shuk was bustling.  Fighting the crowds, I picked up socks for Hemdiya, a one shekel treat for Teneya and Puriel, and fresh produce: cucumbers, tomatoes, a giant head of crisp romaine lettuce, fragrant mint leaves for tea, bananas and three pounds of strawberries for making jam.

Barely missed the bus and had to wait 25 minutes for the next one.  Sometimes I miss having a working car, but we do save a lot of money and "reduce our carbon footprint" by walking and using public transportation.  Made it home in time to hang laundry and organize the gemach before a few customers came in the afternoon.

The day was flying by and dinnertime was nearing.  My husband made whole wheat flour tortillas from scratch and chopped vegetables for a salad while I mixed tehina and set the table.  We are adjusting to living in the same house, the same country, again.

Many have asked the question, is G-d a "He" or a "She?"  In Hebrew, we use plural names to refer to G-d, though the pronoun used is the singular "He."  Everything has a gender in Hebrew, whether it is a book, a tree or a shoe and "he" is also the generic pronoun for when we don't know the gender.  But there is a feminine side of G-d, the Shechina (divine presence).  When G-d created the first "man" it was a complete being "in His image," but very lonely.  So He split Adam in two and it's only when a man and woman are unified do we actually represent the image of G-d.  This is also portrayed in the numerical value of the words אהבה (love) and אחד (one, unified), which each equal 13 (aleph = 1, bet = 2, gimel = 3 etc.) and together these equal י - ה - ו - ה (the name of G-d, numerically 26).  So G-d is both, and neither, and if we want to be a conduit of G-d's light in this world, then we have to get along with our spouses.

May we all be blessed with shalom bayit (peace in our homes) and love for all of Am Yisrael (the people of Israel).