the fiftieth night from passover is phenomenally important to jews. how so? because this is when the sinai broadcast happens, when yhvh bestows upon the israelites the torah. so, this year, on this night, i tag along my jewish sis to attend an all night torah study feast. i call it a feast for two reasons. first, there's food, seriously nice food. i mean, for hundreds of people. second, there are teaching sessions from teachers of all threads of judaism. orthodox, reformed, renewal, hasidic and cabala. it's eight at night and the place is jam packed with people. the panoply of teaching sessions go on all night. being someone who goes to bed at eight i decide from the get go the most i can do are two sessions. three tops. so i look at the sessions list in ten thousand directions, trying to figure out which one i want to go. there are three or four that look kind of interesting. in the end i go to one because somehow i am drawn to the rabbi whom i spotted in the lobby earlier while i am wandering about. the first thing that catches my eye is a young hasid, in a wide hat, holding a folded wheelchair. a couple of feet from him is a cluster of people. floating on top of them is a huge fur hat. i shift myself so i can see who is under that hat. what do i see? a small old man in an immaculately cut, double breasted, black satin gaberdine. he has exquisite bones. rosy cheeks, robust, fair complexion. i am about ten feet away and i can't see wrinkles on the child-like face that is framed by a fizzy veil of bright white beard that conjures in me the image of morning mist. chinese say he has pure and clean bones. i realize i am in the presence of a bundle of dazzling divine lights. no wonder israelites can't look at moses directly after he speaks to yhvh. the lights are too bright for mortal eyes to take in. i turn to the person next to me and say, who is he? i am told, he's the samborer rebbe. and so i go to his teaching session.
he speaks softly. he sits behind a bare folding table. he barely moves. every now and then he would gesture. i can't take my eyes off his hands. they are hands of a child. i am no intellectual so i can't do justice to his scholarly prowess. but this much i know for sure. i am swimming deep in the sweet waters of torah. i am aloft in the beauty and majesty of his sound energy rather than their meaning. nonetheless a few nuggets stay with me. the essence of hashem descends on this night. men give in to tempations and the rest is history. meshiach is when the world is filled with the knowledge of god.
after the session, i position myself at the door. he is frail and at every step there are more than a few people who want to greet him, speak with him. i don't mind the wait at all. i am just reveling in his beautiful and marvelous presence. finally we are face to face. i say, it's an honor and joy to meet you, rabbi. his lively eyes sweep over me with such kindness and sweetness. in fact his whole countenance is just that. i cannot imagine avraham to be kinder than this. his rosy lips part and out come these words, wer d'yu come from? i say, hong kong. his eyes twinkle and sparkle. i can see worlds and eons pass by in a split second in his consciousness. he says, sher sher ni. it takes me a couple of moments to realize he is greeting me in my mother tongue. right then and there our connection transcends race, religion, gender and time.
i watch the young man help him into wheelchair. i am filled with gratitude. how fortunate i am to be able to meet a great presence without having to travel far and wide. truly the holy land is a state within, not a physical location.