I’m going backwards now to the day after my arrival in Israel. I walked from my friend’s place in Jerusalem, after wishing her a mazal tov on her son’s engagement, to the Old City and eventually to the Kotel (Western Wall). It was still in the last throes of warmth that day, so I was particularly happy to be walking on my own, and on my own timeframe. That is not something small. I had the opportunity, perhaps the only one I’ve taken for myself, for just saying hello to an old friend, the Kotel. I couldn’t even approach the Wall itself, since it was so packed that day with pray-ers and visitors, but I got as up close and personal as I could and I started to pray the afternoon service.
Happy are those who sit in Your house. They will be always praising you, Selah.
:אַשְׁרֵי יושְׁבֵי בֵיתֶךָ. עוד יְהַלְלוּךָ סֶּלָה
I could hardly continue.
This was, after all, G-d’s house. And we were so very happy to be there. Tears of joy, from me, the skeptic.
Maybe because it was Hanukkah.
Maybe because I allowed myself to feel.
Maybe because it was time.
I continued slowly through the rest of that first prayer. Each line took minutes, not seconds. Each line spoke to me and I listened for the first time.
I finally finished Minchah, the afternoon service, and thought I would love to illustrate each line with a photo or more. Here is the first installment from that day.
Look how happy and satisfied these people are to be in G-d’s house!
(You can click on it to open it up big!)
Do I wish that everyone could be so comfortable in G-d’s house?
Do I ever!
But that really is the meaning of the second line of the prayer:
:אַשְׁרֵי הָעָם שֶׁכָּכָה לּו. אַשְׁרֵי הָעָם שֶׁה’ אֱלהָיו
Happy is the people who are just like this. (The word כָּכָה is used in Hebrew to say “because; I don’t have to give a reason!”) Happy are the people for whom G-d is their Lord.
So maybe two lines for every photo?
Oh, here’s another that works.
This was at the Bloomfield Science Museum in Jerusalem, where we went right after visiting Kever Rachel. This was right at the entrance of the museum. It had started pouring outside, that time just rain, but people were a bit overwhelmed by the downpour. But do you see the woman standing on the left side? She is making herself at home, saying her afternoon prayers.
Just like that.