Every once in a while, I find myself standing in a cross-roads of historical memory.
Today, we went to the Old City. My son has been lobbying for a small, portable Chumash to carry to shul. Now we have a Stone Chumash but it weighs a couple of pounds, unless we carry it to shul in which case it feels like it weighs 50 pounds. So Josh's request for a small Chumash is not unreasonable.
We went to a bookstore, found what we were looking for, and then walked down the long staircases to the area of the Kotel. On the way, we passed the Burnt House Museum, a clarinetist playing klezmer and the remains of a ruined house.
As we made our way past the musician, he began playing Oyfen Pripechek, a haunting Yiddish lullably known more famously in non-Ashkenazi circles as the background music heard throughout the ghetto massacre in Schindler's List. The familiar lullaby wafted down the stairs as we reached the ruin. From the landing by the ruin, we could see the Kotel. The ruin itself was soaking up scattered sunlight and hosting a bougainvillea in the last of its summer finery. Today was one of those indescribably beautiful days when the leaves are skittering along the walkways, the sky is crisply blue and embroidered with occassional grey clouds carrying their promise of rain. I stopped and stared at the ruin, Oyfen Pripechik echoing down the long staircase and off the stones and through the alleyways of Jerusalem, and thought of all of my People who have died in burning houses, wept over these stones and prayed for deliverance. For a moment, there was a dizzying sense of being in a time warp where the threads of past and present wove together. For that moment, I was overwhelmed both with a tremendous sense of loss and sorrow and a profound gratitude for being alive, here in this time, surrounded by the fiercely vibrant life of Jewish Jerusalem.