City in the Clouds

Dear Michael and gang!

First of all, I apologize for taking so long to send photos and my heartfelt thank you specifically to Michael, but everyone else as well (including the cutie-patooties). Right after the last guests left on Monday morning I plopped down for a bit and took a breather. I inhaled all the love and energy and mamash kavanah that had just filled the house and I settled into great feelings of joy for having had all my deep-soul connected sisters together again (I think we determined that all of us had not been together in one room for about ten years and some I had not seen since the last wedding which was over four years ago). It was an amazing weekend to say the very very least. It felt as if no time had passed save for all these new beings now running around….kids of my friends, some of whom I had never met yet!!! Wow. And beautiful great lil’ souls bringing joy and love and curiosity and kindness, not to mention they didn’t even break one thing!!! A little glitter glue here and there but nothing unfixable save for the one glass I broke, which thankfully I was able to replace!!

It truly was an amazingly special and surprisingly easy easy shabbaton to create. Everyone chipped in with preparations and food and cooking and cleaning (I was still eating the left over chicken, banana chocolate chip cakes, homemade challah, and hummos and matbucha salad all the way to THURSDAY!!) and sharing of wise words and experiences of the years passed. It was wonderful. A few husbands also joined and they brought with them incredible patience for all our crazy ways and davening and counseling and generosity of spirit and singing!! (Now if only we could manage to find a few more husbands….Oh Hashem what is taking you so long????).

And then there were the late night talks and “Ladies’ Nights” that brought us all even closer. It was such a special gift to all be together again. We’ve all had our share of experiences from the last many years that have included some true struggles, but I think I can honestly say that because of our deep connections to our Judaism we all managed to get through the hard times. I also think our “good” times were that much more meaningful because of our individual spiritual depths. Our varying faiths/observance levels and our deep passionate souls have kept us literally together (through rituals and daily life needs getting met) to figuratively (individually from the inside-out). I am nearly 100% certain that a part of all our individual strengths grew out of our experiences at Livnot and most certainly that included your, you Michael Even-Esh’s, teachings and hikes and informal impromptu talks and of course your most amazing D’var Torah. I had printed out copies of our (Michael’s and my) emails and Michael’s D’var Torah for everyone and it took all my strength NOT to read it ahead of Shabbat (for I wanted it to reach me fresh with all the others present). I kept it a secret even from Beth who arrived a day early and man was it hard to not spill the beans of this surprise visitor arriving via a D’var Torah.

Anyway, I decided we would read your D’var Torah similar to how we read on Pesach, reading all together one after the other. So, we each read a paragraph and went around the table as such. It seemed each of us read a paragraph that was meant just for us. Really. It was strange. There was also some debate about whether or not you, Michael, could actually have remembered ALL of us. Some felt that it couldn’t be possible because they supposedly had hardly spoke to you or hadn’t stayed in touch or for some other plausible reason. The debating didn’t last long thought, because the consensus was that YES you did and with each continuing paragraph it became clear indeed that you did “know” us all and meant that D’var Torah just for us. There are no words to describe how great it was to have your presence with us there on Shabbat. We had a bit of Israel with us and it helped connect us even closer and deeper to one another and to our individual relationships with Juadaism and the Jewish people throughout all of time. Your words, your D’var Torah, was truly a gift to us all. So todah rabbah, todah rabbah, todah rabbah!!! I know I gave you very little time to prepare one for us, but it seems you pulled through incredibly. Thank you.

It seems the weekend could not have been any better except for the fact that it ended. I am so grateful that evryone made the effort to come up despite packed schedules and long distances. I’m grateful my stepmother and father left town for a weekend and then offered their house to us to use for this weekend. I’m grateful for all things related to this wonderful shabbaton. It was truly a gift beyond belief. And, again, Michael I thank you for contributing to it too. I do believe we all have plans to make this happen again sooner rather than later. If anything it must, MUST, at least be an annual event! Please. And perhaps some day it will take place with even more kids and more significant others and more of all the love that was shared. I thank all of you for coming and being a part of this wonderful, most amazingly fun-filled and very spiritually moving shabbat. It certainly has added to my life immensely, beyond words. I look forward to the next one. With much love and admiration to you all.

Shabbat Shalom, again!

Sincerely, Dina (Livnot 120, 133)