joie de vivre here only intermittantly
Here is one way it happened:
I looked at the schedule for the day, and saw that, after we saw “the Jesus Boat”, we were to go to the Mount of Beatitudes. Then we’d go to S’fat. OK, I thought, “some Christian stuff before the holy city of S’fat. That’s cool.”
After seeing the boat museum, we got on the bus. En route, our guide read the Sermon on the Mount to us. We got to the Mount of Beatitudes and filed off the bus. Defying a notice that we needed permission from the resident nuns to use a little seating area, we all sat down, with a view of the Sea of Galilee and the surrounding hillsides.
Rafe sang, and led some singing and chanting. He read the beatitudes in Aramaic and also some interpretative translations.
When it was over, some of us continued to sit there. Since the church was closed, others simply walked the gardens. I did both – sat there, looked at flowers, sat there, looked at flowers, and sat there. Finally, we got on the bus, and went to S’fat.
That is one way that it happened.
Here is another.
We were totally unprepared for what would happen at the Mount of Beatitudes. I was unprepared. Our tour leadership was unprepared. That’s the way we felt, and said, when it was over.
Or maybe we had prepared, and just didn’t know it.
The preparation started with a morning meditation, and then a program at the cistern at Masada. This is a large cave that was used for water storage in Roman times. We climbed into the cave, and we did some singing, chanting, and dancing there. We had a few moments when I might have had a glimpse of what was to be.
We continued meditating every morning, another part of the preparation. More group activities led by Rafe and Olivier. Then we had a Nishmat Shabbat celebration in the desert. If you’ve been to Nishmat Shabbat at the United Methodist Church in Queen Anne? Try to imagine what it would have been like in the remote desert, so clear, so far from any light pollution that the nearest outpost of any sort of civilization, is an astronomical observatory, such that the night sky has more stars than maybe you have ever seen in your life. There, maybe most of us had shed enough of our self-consciousness, enough of our ego-minds, that maybe for much of it, many of us were fully present. Enough sang or chanted or danced, wild and free, that all were elevated into some other space of consciousness for a while.
So we pack up from the desert, and have a long day’s drive up to the Galilee, and the next day see the Jesus Boat, and hear the recitation of the Sermon on the Mount in the bus, and arrive at Mount of Beatitudes.
And maybe we had been preparing, unknowingly, for that place. I was aware, after we sat, of the presence of a host of angelic beings ready to assist if we wanted the doors to be opened. Just sitting there, looking over the hills and down to the Sea of Galilee, before Rafe even opened his mouth I think, tears started to run down my cheeks.
What was going on energetically, I have no words really to convey. Yes, Rafe sang, and led some singing and chanting. Yes, he read the beatitudes in Aramaic and also some interpretative translations. Something else was happening, too, though.
When it was over, many of those who remained seated were simply crying, the sort of tears you get when your heart is so full it has simply burst open. Those who walked around did so stunned.
Is it any wonder that our time, thereafter, mostly in S’fat, was so odd? People wandered off, and got lost. I sat too long having a tea and writing discombobulated scribbles in my journal, and when I leapt up to find the group, they were all gone. I wandered the narrow twisty streets, and only found some portion of the tour because they too had gotten separated and lost. The teaching that was supposed to happen at the old cemetery never materialized. Instead, portions of our group wandered the cemetery unable to find each other or the way out.
The next day, or later, people tried to come to grips with what had happened – and what was it? – in different terms. “I was skewered to a wall. Not painfully, but with that intensity.” “I held her hand, and I don’t even know her, and I said, ‘we are all One’.” “It was like I had been ripped open.” “It was the most amazing experience of my entire life.”
The reality is, none of us had the words to describe it, really. It was what it was, and it was something else.
One of the reasons why we were so unprepared for this was because it happened at a Christian site. S’fat, where great and mystical rabbis taught and are buried, was supposed to be where maybe a peak experience would happen. We only stopped at the Mount of Beatitudes because about a third of our group is Christian. But I think it’s precisely because we – especially our rabbi – had no expectations that we ended up having the experience that we did.