BLESSING THE SEA – ISSUE 16, August 2022 “What Pilgrims Learn”

At the entrance to the Tombs of the Patriarchs, Hebron © Lane Igoudin, 2022

Go and open the door.
Maybe outside there’s a tree, or a wood, a garden, or a magical city . . .
Go and open the door.
If there’s a fog, it will clear.
Go and open the door.
Even if there’s only the darkness ticking, even if there’s only the hollow wind,
even if nothing is there,
go and open the door.
At least, there’ll be a draught.

Miroslav Holub (Czechia)

I’m back, my dear friends! Back from my pilgrimage – close to 2 months spent in Israel this summer. It filled me with new knowledge and memories, reconnected me with friends and family, but also left me unsettled.

A pilgrimage isn’t a pleasure cruise. One goes into it with an intention, but it’s hard to say where that intention will take you. A pilgrimage expects of you to continue to learn, transform, and give back even after it ends. And while my sojourn clarified my path in some ways, in others, it left me yearning with more questions than answers. For example, how do I translate my awakening in Israel into my daily life here in the U.S.? How can I make my life outside Israel not feel like a beautiful galut (exile)?

Coincidentally, or not – the older I get, the more I believe that all coincidences are pre-destined occurrences – while I was in Israel,

Zen Center of Los Angeles published my article reflecting on a particular aspect of pilgrimage – transformation of intention. It came out as part of a layered, collaborative piece in ZCLA’s Water Wheel quarterly [ . . .] .

Another publication this summer was a chapter in the literary studies volume Writing as Performance: Accounts of Autoethnography published by Cambridge Scholars (UK). My chapter “The Legal and the Human” investigates the social context of our adoptive process in my memoir.

It also explores the dialectal relationship between myself as the book’s writer and as its main character. The two are certainly not the same. (Please contact me if you’d like to read it.)

Still processing my time in Israel, I keep going back to the tour of Hebron, a holy site in the Jewish and tradition, second only to the Western Wall. I described some of this unforgettable experience in a short travelogue on Facebook.

What I didn’t put there is an unexpected sense of connection I felt to the place when I laid my hand on the floor, directly over the Machpelah Caves where the Biblical patriarchs and matriarchs are buried; the words that came to me from nowhere, and stayed to this day.


Yiscah Smith is a truly unique spiritual teacher. I’ve been taking her classes and listening to her podcast since 2019, and just had the pleasure of spending with her one of the best Shabbats in Israel.

Starting September 5, Yiscah will be offering a weekly Zoom course “Discovering a New Self – Within and Beyond,” based on the teachings of Rabbi Kalman Shapira (the Piaseczner Rebbe). The Rebbe’s writings, saved from the rubble of the Warsaw Ghetto, are a rich resource of Jewish mysticism imbued with meditative practices. [. . .]

Who hasn’t heard of Jack Kornfield? He is one of the pre-eminent meditation teachers in the West. I find his teachings deeply poetic, while echoing the Jewish culture he grew up with.

Kornfield offers a live, donation-based online meditation class once a month, which I’ve been following since winter. An hour and a half of wisdom and bliss. The next one is Sept. 12.

And so I’m back from Israel with, figuratively speaking, a suitcase of new ideas and experiences. I will continue to unpack it in the coming issues of this newsletter. Thank you for being part of this journey.


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