Dear friends and family. I write to you sitting on the side of the road waiting for an angel to pick us up and bring us to our destination for Shabbat.
Yoella is standing with her hand out trying different creative methods to get people to stop for us. There is a puppy dog face technique, the cute dance, or standing in the middle of the road so that the car has no choice but to stop. Yoella thinks that the key to catching a ride is all about the eye contact. If none of that works, we start doing acrobatics on the road. We’ve done leap froging, cartwheeling, and one time I even whipped out my favorite trick, the back bridge. But that was a terrible mistake when I smashed my head onto the cement ground and lay there for a couple of minutes until I overcame the shame and the blow to the head. Yoella claims that my blond hair has special powers, so I usually stand on the side of the road and give my hair a flip or two. But now I’ve given Yoella the responsibly to track down our magic carpet ride, as I sit and reflect upon my week. I am recording my thoughts on a “Jews for Jesus” flyer that a nice lady at the corner store gave me. As I sit here, I dream about taking off my hot heavy hiking boots to give my feet a chance to inhale the fresh breezy air that they cry for. I ask Yoella if she thinks that that would be an immoral act against the unlucky driver that would pick us up and have to smell the stench of two girls that each own only one pair of socks. She nodded.
Sometimes, it can be challenging living with so few items. But when you have to carry everything, each item becomes a lot. Each item becomes extremely versatile. My scarf, for example, is my towel, a skirt, a hat, and the elegant piece that ties my Shabbat outfit together. And this flyer with a biography about Jesus Christ is now my new journal. Living with just a backpack makes me extremely portable. I can always be on the go without being tied down to any physical object. I call this, the beauty of the homeless life.
This week, I spent time wandering through the desert and thinking about what it means to live like a nomad.
You might say that being a nomad represents total freedom, for one is not tied down to anything. He can wander as he pleases when he pleases based on what he pleases.
This week I was lucky enough to hike with a man who I would put under the nomad category. Niki, originally from Germany, joined us on our hike in the Ramon crater and shared with us some deep insight on his outlook of life. Niki is in his mid thirties, and looks like my older brother that I never had. We have the exact same head of long wavy blond hair. I had some competition when it came to catching cars.
Niki has been “couch surfing” and hitch hiking his way around Greece and Poland for the past three years. He now arrived in Israel and has no plans to head back to Germany. He said that people are all too scared “to jump of the cliff and see the world”. He explained that before his travels, he asked his friends to join him, but nobody was willing to leave their jobs because they all live in fear of losing what they have. He believes that man should not be a slave to their jobs, to other people or other things. Niki started his own private school in Germany and then quit in order to travel and not be tied down to one place. His life now consists of exploring with the people he meets, sleeping on a different person’s couch every night, and experiencing the world around him. Niki feels that he has found freedom.
So what is this so valuable sensation called freedom, and how can I truly embrace it?
I am free from expenses, work, social pressures, and responsibilities. I am free to go wherever I want and whenever I want because I am a nomad. I have no place to return to and no place to start from. My house is located on my back.
So am I free?
And now I look over to my forefathers, the children of Israel who as well were nomads wandering in the desert and I ask, were they free?
This week, the children of Israel are loaded with a heavy list of do’s and don’ts. As I read over law after law, I ask, can one live a life of freedom with so many rules and regulations that bound him?
I believe, that ironically, the things that bound you, are the things that give you meaning in life. I am committed to my family, to my friends, and to my moral responsibility to bring good to the world. These things can be binding as they load a heavy burden, but they are the beauty in my world.
As well there are the commanents of the Torah. The rules that we are told to follow force us to sacrifice some of our freedoms. However, it is the way of the Torah that elevates my life to a life of meaning. And that is what I call freedom. Because once you have found meaning, you are no longer a slave to the search. You are free.
And so this week, I am thankful for this time that I have to feel nomadic, yet I crave the sensation of real freedom, freedom from the need to search. I remind myself that what truly gives me the sensation of freedom are the things that tie me down in one place; my family, my friends and my country Israel.
Enjoy the day with the most amount of rules, and the greatest sensation of freedom.