Shakun, Ms. Leah and I came in from celebrating the Jewish New Year on Friday night w/ the Israelis in Kathmandu, a contingent of 300+ young people, mostly traveling through Nepal, at one of the city's ubiquitous 'party palaces', this one right behind now deserted Royal Palace.
These party palaces are usually the locations of Nepali Hindu weddings, pasnis (six month of birth), bratabandha (sacred thread for boys) or similar quasi-religious celebrations. They've become a feature of modern Kathmandu life, in lieu of more expensive hotels, where they cater mass 'fooding' (as they say...) to hundreds or thousands of family, friends and acquaintances for such evocative life events
I doubt, however, that many bar mitzvahs, Pesach seders or Rosh Hashonah celebrations have rattled these walls, much less seen bearded, impish Reb Kresky once again up on his make-shift chair singing to his heart's delight, black suit & black hat swaying to his own tune, to usher in the joyful fragrance of a new year.
Once again, the ecumenical and syncrenistic tendencies of sacred Nepal bridge even the deep cultural Jewish divide between a grandchild of the Ethical Cultural Society of the Upper West Side with the generations of European, now Brooklyn, mystical Hassidic culture. What the East River divides, Kathmandu can unite! Proving, once again, in the words of the ancient prophetic voice that even the secular can lie down with the religious on such peaceful and thankful occasions as the blessing of a new year.
We always enjoy these festivities with our dear friends, Reb Kresky and Chani, the Chabad rabbi & his wife. They are dear and pure souls. After all, Chani was the woman who first taught Joshua and Ezra their struggilng, inchoate Hebrew years ago for their bar mitzvahs in Haifa. In truth, she's a modern boddhisattva rebetzin (rabbi's wife), always full of joy, kindness and single-mindedness. Even when her best friend, the rabbi's wife, was murdered in Mumbai last year, she never lost her love for g-d, her family and the gifts of life. The spirit indomitable.
So we sat at the long table covered with plates of humus, challah bread, honey, pomegranate and salads with vivacious young Jews of all varieties. The ancient tribal identity singing in the sweetness of the year 5769. Of course, it's just a number, but it does offer some wizened and, hopefully, wise perspective on our sense of our selves and lives in this transient, fleeting, curious and miraculous world.
It seems that there is part of that Jewish identity which always looks back to find one's way forward. The ancient historical-theological imagination and pride. The grounding of the spiritual dimension in the daily reality of our lives. The silent, rapturous, yet cacaphoneous inner voice of G-d reflected in all of our thoughts and actions. More mystery compounded, I suppose.
Although, for me, these centuries offer too much precious and hard-earned cultural history to let go of easily after so many scores of nearly forgotten generations. A lasting gift and debt to my loved and respected parents and grandparents, who toiled long for our gifts in this world.
A gift and debt, as well, to my beloved children, whose lives are still being formed in the raw earth and spiritual values around them, and to whom we will leave this fluttering and uncertain world one day.
And on it goes, our human circle game with an artifice of numbers given to mark each cycle around the sun. Numbers that anchor us in all of the haze and mystery of existence.
An understandable human effort to provide some logical perspective on the immense twirling beauty of the planets as we make our way through space and time amid the riches and tragedies of our own history in the making.
So with Shakun and Leah by my sides, Josh and Ez on my proverbial shoulders, I am reminded once again of what a lovely circle game it is...