MAGIC ON MASADA

BY DR. TERRY SEGAL
AJT CONTRIBUTOR

Rosh Chodesh Av began on Monday, July 28, 2014. According to Kabbalah, it is the month that love is felt in all levels of the soul. We’ve just moved through the devastating tragedy of losing Gilad, Naftali and Eyal and are currently embroiled in the conflict in Gaza. Our hearts and souls are touched at the deepest level. Av is a time in which we are challenged to turn the bad energies to good, culminating on the 9th of Av, or Tisha B’av.

Only a few short weeks ago, we were in Israel marveling at how safe we felt. For years, fear had been a major obstacle, preventing us from traveling to our homeland sooner. I had felt ashamed, once there, for having thought that, and yet, presently it is a tumultuous time again.

At this time of writing, Israel may not feel like an enchanting place to be and yet it is. Reports from friends, who live there, carry those same messages of strength and unity that have historically endured. We were told, repeatedly, that to give in to our despair is to grant power to the evil. And so we persevere.

Alongside of the pain and suffering are the qualities of vigor, beauty and joy in daily life. What follows is another snippet of our experience in Enchanted Israel.

It was Sunday, June 1st when our group left early for Masada. It had been 114 degrees the day before, so I had some concern about the heat. My husband, Fred, had decided he would make the arduous climb. Having nothing to prove to myself or anyone else, I chose to ascend Masada by cable car. Challenged by heights, I had trouble making this choice. Our group was divided into climbers and riders, and I knew that people were looking out for each of us. I felt such a sense of peace and security. I had used the Enchanted Key to Humor to assuage my fears, telling our new friends that I planned to lie face down on the floor of the cable car to muffle my crying. Then, an odd thing occurred. Maybe it was the desert heat, but all of my fears paraded before me as if in a cartoon. Having heard stories all week of the astounding bravery and courage our ancestors exhibited, my personal fears diminished. Not only did I stand in the cable car but I also felt no fear as I captured the expanse of beauty through my camera lens.

The younger members of our group trotted up the snake path in the expected 45 minutes, while the more seasoned took nearly twice that time. The rest of us, who were waiting at the top of Masada, marveled at the stone storehouses, mikvah site and frescos that had been built into King Herod’s Palace.

The sofer, a kind gentleman, was delighted to see us. To honor two of our young men for becoming a Bar Mitzvah, the sofer dedicated the next two letters he wrote on the scroll to them. When Rabbi told him that we were celebrating our 30th anniversary, he passed the quill to me and asked what blessing I would like to offer. “Tikkun olam,” repair of the world, I said. Fred said, “Shalom,” peace. The sofer wrote the words on a small piece of cardstock and then gifted us with the next two letters on the scroll. Mine was shin and Fred’s was hay. What a deeply moving experience and how fitting of an introduction to us renewing our vows.Fred and I were renewing our vows on Masada, in celebration of our 30th wedding anniversary, so I was especially relieved to see him arrive, safe and sound. As Rabbi Michael Bernstein selected the area for the ceremony, we saw a man who was a sofer, a scribe, hunched over a Torah scroll. On his small desk were a light and a fan. He poised a white quill in the air before dipping it in ink and meticulously penned beautiful Hebrew letters onto the parchment. One of our 613 commandments, in Deuteronomy 31:19, states: “That every person shall write a scroll of the Torah for himself.”

Another couple in our group, Rob and Michele Lederman, was celebrating their 18th anniversary. We joked that we were not as sweaty during our original wedding ceremonies. Visitors to Masada stood at the periphery of our circle and added their joy. A woman said she was familiar with the traditions but was unsure of the symbolism behind some of them. In order to explain them to her, I had to make sure I knew what I was talking about.

Members of our group stretched the Rabbi’s tallit above our heads, forming our chuppah, or wedding canopy, symbolizing the home that the bride and groom make together. It’s open on all four sides, as was Abraham’s tent, to be a place for guests to visit. Rabbi instructed each kallah, bride, to walk seven times around each chatan, groom. The tradition stems from when Joshua circled the wall of Jericho seven times, and then the walls fell. After the bride walks around the groom seven times, the symbolic walls between them fall, allowing for a complete union of their souls.

At that point, each of us spoke about the qualities of love that were and still are present in the other. The grooms simulated the breaking of the glass, reminding us of the destruction of the Holy Temple. It also symbolizes the delicate nature of a marriage. Since infidelity or broken trust cannot be undone, much like a shattered glass, great care should be taken to keep it intact so the marriage is permanent.

We all toasted with chocolate liqueur from De Karina Chocolate Factory that we had visited earlier in the week. Then we sang Hava Nagilah and danced the hora, brides and grooms in the center circle and everyone else in concentric circles around us.

We completed the final part of our ceremony, yichud, a few moments of private reflection together. Then we all headed for the waterfalls of Ein Gedi and then on to the Dead Sea.

These enchanting experiences in Israel deepened our already strong bonds to our homeland, to each other and to Judaism. As we are challenged to balance our extreme elation with heartfelt sorrow, we hope to move into this new month by turning what is bad into good again.

Meditation Focus:

If you truly felt love in all levels of your soul, what would be different about how you think and act? Using the Enchanted Key to Altered Perceptions, what is one action that you can take this month to make something bad, good again?

Dr. Terry Segal is a licensed marriage & family therapist, Ph.D. in energy medicine, hypnotherapist and author of “The Enchanted Journey: Finding the Key that Unlocks You.”