I’ve grappled with my connection to God, at least since I left the yeshiva in 1979.
I didn’t relate to Halachah and most of the rituals. I couldn’t sense the purpose in shaking a lulav, or sniffing spices after Shabbat. While such actions would connect me to the community, they did not expand my soulfulness. I believe this is a challenge many people have.
Eventually, however, I found my place closer to God through my work at Ve’ahavta, a Jewish charity, and its mission to repair the world. Acts of tikkun olam often seemed to have a certain holiness attached to them, a puzzle with all the pieces, whether the project was construed as being successful or not.
Sometimes that connection is not enough. When it is not, there is a vapid feeling that overtakes me and leaves me standing in the courtyard of emptiness, looking in on our people and our religion.
Recently, however, I discovered another connection to God, through travel and friendship.
For one week in mid-July, my dear friend Burt and I drove out to Prince Edward Island in my RV. My 1989 Winnebago is fully equipped and sleeps four. It has a full kitchen and bathroom, lots of storage space and a solar panel on the roof. The Toyota cab sports a V6, which is considered to be a beast of an engine.
The camaraderie between Burt and I was special. There were no arguments, no fights, even when one of us let the RV roll away in drive after exiting the vehicle, and even when one of us locked the keys in the truck. While such moments could have been very aggravating, they were not. Instead, we laughed heartily. We were friends creating life-long memories together. The trip was perfect.
One day, after driving for 10 hours, we saw a double rainbow in the Alma, N.B., sky. It was breathtaking. As the day came to a close, we spotted the full moon, which lit up the road.
Beauty after beauty became our road map. It was as if I was sitting in a Judaic class, learning about creation.
If you have never seen miles of P.E.I. fields dotted with the lupin flower known as the “islands rose,” jot it down on your bucket list. Likewise, the redness of the earth, which is a result of its high iron oxide content, is Godly in its exquisiteness. I stood and I just looked. I could smell the fragrance of the flowers. It wafted around us and through us. That was my lulav, my Havdalah.
For those of you who have driven long distances in a vehicle, you’ll know that much of the trip involves simply looking out the window at passing towns, villages and cities. We watched people as they lived their lives and sometimes saw them staring back at us, in awe of the RV and the freedom it represents. My P.E.I. RV trip with my friend was mostly that – hours and hours of watching as we drove through much of Eastern Canada. It was a journey to discover this special country we live in and to uncover aspects of myself that were unbeknownst to me.
I’m not much of a traveller and never have been – agoraphobia has held me back. But I’m trying (hence our road trip to Prince Edward Island). And it was a good one. It was a Godly one.