Ein Gedi Botanic Garden

Ein Gedi Botanic Garden
Seek the serenity of a Judean Desert sky in Autumn at the Ein Gedi Botanic Garden

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Buses and Burnings in Arad

On the morning before the Passover seder -- after the momentous Blessing of the Sun -- the menfolk of the family stood around the pile of burning embers at the curb in front of our house in Arad.

Men and boys like to do this. They are enthralled with poking flames and watching the sparks fly up in dangerous masses, somehow.

My daughters had already abandoned the fire in which our chametz -- leavened items -- was being extinguished, bored and busy with other things.

But then we heard the roar of an Egged bus come trundling down the street. That made no sense, because we live at the mouth of a cul de sac. Big Green Buses do not come down to the end of our Dead End street. They turn politely at the corner.

Not today. "Hey, come on out here!" my husband bellowed out to me. Obediently (yeah, sure, OF COURSE) I trotted right out there. NOT. "HEY!!! COME OUT HERE!!"

Okay. The bellowing was rude so I went racing out to scold him. Instead I found a bunch of grinning males, with my husband pointing at the fire. A Big Green Bus was roaring off into the distance.

"Paki dropped off his chametz," he said with a huge smile.

Two nights later, on Friday night, my husband returned from synagogue to the Sabbath meal, chuckling and telling me, "I saw Paki tonight."

Turns out that Paki -- an Egged bus driver and esteemed member of the minyan at the nearby synagogue -- had to work the day of the Passover seder, hours before the holiday.

He told my husband that he had known he would not have a chance to fulfill the mitzvah of burning his chametz, thus eliminating that forbidden substance from his existence prior to Passover, so instead he brought it with him on the bus, figuring he would find a fire as he drove through town.

Once he hit the corner of our street, all he did was look toward our house, and he knew his problems were solved, he said. Other people on the bus forwarded their chametz as well, making Paki a sheliach mitzvah (mitzvah messenger) and my husband the Grand Passover Firebrand.

How could you go wrong?

Blessing the Sun at Masada 5769

Nearly two hundred men, women and children made their way to the top of the Judean desert fortress of Masada on Wednesday, April 8, 2009 in the grey light before dawn.

It was the morning preceding the Passover seder, and there was still much to be done before the holiday began.

What could have brought anyone out at that chilly hour?

Only a rare event, such as the Blessing of the Sun, could have inspired such a pilgrimage.

Once in every 28 years, the sun returns to the exact place in time and space in which it was first Created -- and for this event, Jews around the world rise to the occasion with a special blessing.

But this year in particular was special; the unique positioning of the sun at the vernal equinox is not expected to fall on the morning of the Passover seder again for another 500 years, or longer.