All good things must come to an end, and so we have returned to Montreal after 3 more lovely days in Hawaii. We toured a bit more, spent a lovely and interesting Shabbat at the Chabad house in Kona (a mere 15 minute walk from our condo), met some rather unique individuals who have, in their retirement, made the big island their home, and spent a final day on Maui on a very hot (34 degree) day at a waterfall and then touring the town of Paia (seeking air conditioning wherever we could!). We then took the long (overnight) flight home (Maui-Vancouver-Calgary-Montreal) and then it was back to reality.
This was the end of a long and rather amazing trip, and it is juxtaposed with two more sobering events, the anniversary of the passing of Barbara’s father, Mike and the second most solemn day in the Jewish Calendar, Tisha B’Av. The ninth day of the Jewish month of Av is a day of fasting and mourning, the culmination of the three weeks of remembrance and mourning in memory of the destruction of both the first and second temples in Jerusalem. In this light I thought I would jot down some reflections that seemed appropriate.
Spirituality: The sheer beauty and diversity of the Islands is a powerful reminder of our humanity and the immense respect we should have for the Creator of the Universe. As we floated along a coral reef on one of our snorkeling trips, looking at a stunning array of multicolored fish, the clear warm waters and hum of the waves, a line from Psalms that is in our daily prayers kept coming to mind: Mah Rabu Maasecha Hashem Kulam Bechachmah Asita; How great/many are Your deeds Hashem, All of them You have made with wisdom –the earth is full of Your creations. The beauty and oneness with nature is indeed awe-inspiring; and the native Polynesians who made up the Hawaiian people certainly had great respect for nature. Their connection to the volcanoes such as Muana Kea and the bays and reefs continually reinforced the importance of these life giving natural resources. However, our amazement and appreciation needs to be tempered with a very healthy respect for the power of nature and the frailty of our own beings. The same warm nurturing coves and corals could easily be tsunamis; the same volcanic lava that even today expands the island and provides the ideal soil for growing coffee and other foods has caused destruction and desolation in its path.
Cities of Refuge: In recent Torah portions, there was a commandment for the Israelites entering Israel to create 6 cities of refuge. They were to be used in case a person killed another accidently, with no intent and through no clear negligence, the guilty person could escape to a city of refuge (Ir Miklat) and thus be protected from the family appointed “avenger of blood” who would try to execute the killer (in this case unjustly). On Hawaii, we learned that they had a similar system, but for a different reason. We visited the City of Refuge at Puuhonua (Puuhonua O Honaunau), which was one of 6 on The Big Island of Hawaii and one of many on the islands. In the Hawaiian native religion, there was a strict code of law called the Kapu (taboo). For example, it was forbidden to cast your shadow upon a ruler or a member of his family; and men and women could not eat meals together, among others. If one transgressed a Kapu, the teaching was that a natural disaster would occur and the village you lived in would be adversely affected. The guilty individual would have to escape to the Honaunau before the village guards killed him for his transgression. This was often perilous, as the refuge was always in a cove and one needed both hiking and swimming prowess. There, a priest would absolve all those who survived the treacherous trip of their sins (a just reward). Ultimately, in the 1800s during the rule of Kamehameha II, there was a realization that one could transgress without a natural disaster happening (he had dinner with his mother and the Queen (his father’s favorite wife, not his mother, who was a bit of a rebellious soul). Thus ended the Kapu system and the cities of refuge.
D’var Torah in memory of Mike Samuel, Michael ben Mordechai Z”L:
What do Hawaii and Tisha B’av have in common? The book of Eicha (Lamentations), is structured in a very interesting and unique way. The book is written as a plea to G-d; first blaming the Jewish people for their sins (more about that soon) and their shortcomings leading to the calamity. The next chapters beseech G-d and ask if the disaster of the destruction of the Temple and the exile are truly just punishments for the foibles of man. Yet, as the chapters transition, these intense lamentations show signs of optimism. Rabbi Hayyim Angel explains that there is a lesson we can learn from the poetry of Lamentations: the first 4 chapters are written as an alphabetic acrostic. However, in the second and third chapters, the Hebrew Letters Ayin and Peh are reversed, Peh before Ayin. Interestingly, Peh in Hebrew means mouth, and Ayin means eye. The lamentation reverses these letters to show that in the early chapters, the lament is all emotion, simply coming from the mouth (peh), and not really surveying the situation or using your ayin (eye). In the 4th chapter the order is restored, as the lamenters curb their emotions, and use their other senses to start to restore some optimism. This resiliency is crucial for survival. Resiliency was strongly personified by Mike and by his family. The 6 siblings did not lead and easy life, having lost their mother during their childhood and having to work for a living before completing high school. Yet these things did not curb the Samuel enthusiasm, their hard work ethic and their commitment to family and friends. Even during times of illness, nothing stopped Mike (or his siblingss for that matter) from persevering, rehabilitation, doing the utmost with his time. Insted of just using his Peh, his mouth, his emotions, complaining, he used his Ayin, his eyes and intellect, surveying the situation, know that with the help of G-d and the strength of family and friends, things would improve. However, it is not enough just to push forward; we much also be mindful of where we come from. That is why a Yahrtzeit memorial for a departed one is important. We can celebrate a life, and learn from the special people who have come before us. We see the bad and the good and we know we can persevere. This mindset has kept our people alive for the past 3000 years, and allows us to go from one Yahrtzeit to the next, and from one Tisha B’Av to the next, with the hopes that before the next one, there will be renewal and peace.
Wishing you all a wonderful Shabbat and a meaningful fast (for those fasting)
Let this year be the last time we fast for the destruction of the Temple
Refuah Shlema to Zysel Bat Bella
Refuah Shlema to Noam Shmuel Chaim ben Yehudit
Happy Birthday to Yayi!
Happy Birthday to Aiden and Haley!
Happy Birthday to Aiden and Haley!
Happy Anniversary to Mara and Andy!