My heart is in the East

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East signA few days ago Leora and I visited High Point State Park, where the view at more than 1800 feet is truly magnificent. It is a spectacular panorama of rich farmland and forest, soft hills and lush valleys in three states. They say that on clear days when there is no haze you can see the skyline of Manhattan. I remarked to Leora (and she agreed) that the rich farmland and lush valleys reminded me very much of the view from the Golan Heights in Israel. Now that I think about it, there are many times when sights in America immediately conjure up memories of things that I have seen or experienced in Israel. Our children often tease us about this habit. Perhaps it is an indication of our constant yearning to be in Israel – and the way we enact the prophetic injunction to always “place Jerusalem above our greatest joy.” In the words of Judah HaLevi, the famous medieval Spanish poet, “My heart is in the East (i.e., Jersualem) even when I am at the farthest ends of the West.”

After ascending the 298 steps to the top of the High Point monument (phew!) we wound our way through the small surrounding towns to explore their quaint downtowns and antique shops. In one of those shops in Sussex NJ Leora shouted ecstatically that I had to come see “the perfect mizrach.” In case you’ve never heard of this Hebrew word, it means “east.” Jewish law prescribes that Jews face the site of the Temple in Jerusalem during prayer – which is to our east. In addition, mizrach also refers to an ornamental wall plaque used to indicate the direction of prayer in Jewish homes. (You may have heard the leader of a shiva minyan ask which way is East in order to orient those gathering for the consolation service in a mourner’s home.)

I rushed over to see what excited Leora so much (thinking how odd it would be for this antique shop to have a mizrach). Much to my surprise she pointed to a road sign that had once hung on a post on the Garden State Parkway. It simply read “EAST.” There it was—the most perfect of all mizrachs–no special design, no Hebrew, no fanfare, just the word EAST that reflects light at night. We knew we had to have it, and can hardly wait to display it on the eastern wall of our vacation home in the Poconos.

If you don’t have a mizrach in your home you can purchase one online or from your local Sisterhood gift shop. Or, if you have artistic talent, you may want to create your own mizrach depicting a scene in Israel, a rising or setting sun, or a biblical verse such as “from the rising of the sun till the going down thereof, God’s name is to be praised” (Psalm 133:3) and mount it on one of the eastern walls in your home.

Speaking of Israel, Leora and I are now designing the itinerary for our next group trip to Israel. We are planning a family experiential adventure leaving the last week of June 2017 that will be fun-filled and inspirational. More than 30 people have already expressed interest in learning more about the trip. If you would like more information, simply drop me an e mail (isaacsrl@gmail.com). We will be sure to send you information and invite you to an informational meeting.

Wishing you bright skies and thoughts of Jerusalem…

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