In Judaism, Havdalah (literally meaning "separation") is the ceremony that symbolically ends Shabbat and other Holidays. The ceremony uses a cup of wine, a spice box and a braided candle. A blessing is said on each item and then a final prayer for the separation of Shabbat and the rest of the week, ending with the candle being extinguished in the wine.
Over the past month (and even longer) I have been preparing to move onto the next stage of my journey. In many ways I have been performing my own version of Havdalah from saying good bye to friends, family and colleagues to driving cross-country to visiting the mikveh (the Jewish ritual bath).
I have been in Crestview, FL for the past week and I'm realizing how much I miss everybody in Los Angeles. After spending over 12 years there, I was ready to leave the city, but I'm not sure if I was ready to leave the people I met. The last couple weeks are a blur, with various social events, some surprises and some planned and of course leaving SCELC. Knowing when I would leave for Israel, I had plenty of opportunities to say good bye, but I'm truly realizing how many people touched me in LA. This was the beginning of my separation from the LA community.
In Los Angeles, my last couple of days were hurried, as I packed, sold, donated and threw away many of my things. I found my self thinking about George Clooney's character in "Up in the Air" when talks about strapping your belongings to your back and how much easier it would have been. Anyway, everything came together in the end. I was happy to get on the road to Crestview. It was a 6 day, 5 night trip, where Jessica and I would drive through 12 states, stopping at 2 Presidential Libraries, eating at various fine (and not so fine) establishments and buying beer (I ended up with three 6-packs from Denver and Kansas City). Though exhausted, I finally made it to Crestview on January 6th, where I've been since. I'm happy I had the opportunity to see parts of the country that I had not yet visited (including one new state) and some friends.
Before I left LA, I did something I had never done before, I went to the mikveh. I hoped the mikveh would serve as a spiritual separation and prepare me for the Holy Land. Well it did. I submerged myself several times, reciting the various prayers, including the Sh'ma. The prayer reads: "Hear, O Israel, Adonai is our God, Adonai is One." When saying this prayer in a worship service, many Jews cover their eyes to concentrate on the words. It was a remarkable sensation to recite while fully submerged, not only could I not see anybody else, but there was total silence. When I was finished, I felt almost reborn, ready to move forward on my journey.
As I spend my final day in the states with my family, I can't help to think where I would be with out the experiences of the past weeks, months and years. Though I'll be physically separated from many of my friends and my family, I hope the relationships will continue into my next stage and future stages.