Saturday, July 4, 2009

Freedom and Liberty...and Just How Lucky We Are

Thirty years ago, it poured in New Jersey on the Fourth of July. My family and I were spending the day with Natasha and Felix Brevender, brand new Soviet immigrants who were celebrating their newfound freedom and their newfound Judaism. (You can read a bit more about our experiences together here.) We’d planned on a cookout and fireworks, but ended up eating pizza and watching a movie instead. That day, I was reminded of freedom and liberty and just how lucky we are to have them in our lives.

Two years ago, it was sunny in Tel Aviv on the Fourth of July. Actually, when I arrived at the new Ben Gurion Airport on an overnight flight from Prague in the wee hours of the morning, it was still dusk, but having spent the previous 10 days in Poland’s empty synagogues, overflowing cemeteries and emotionally exhausting concentration camps, it was a homecoming like none other. I bid farewell to the NFTY kids and their leaders, stopped at an ATM for some shekels, and stepped out of the airport into the balmy dusk of early morning. Overwhelmed, I sat on the ground right next to the airport's sliding glass doors, legs outstretched, eyes closed and palms pressed to the ground, trying to put as much of my body as possible in true physical contact with the land. Only after sitting this way for a few minutes, breathing deeply, was I ready to get up and get in a cab to meet a friend in Jaffa. That day, I was reminded of freedom and liberty and just how lucky we are to have them in our lives.

I have no recollection of what the weather was like last year in New York City on the Fourth of July. I do know that I wrote this blog post about another long ago Fourth and was reminded, yet again, about freedom and liberty and just how lucky we are to have them in our lives.

Last night was a beautiful night in New York City. Comfortable temperatures and humidity combined with a cool breeze and clear skies--complete with a nearly full moon--made it a great one to be out and about. At Shabbat services, when “America the Beautiful,” was sandwiched between the kaddish and the kiddush, I was reminded about freedom and liberty and just how lucky we are to have them in our lives.

Today—and everyday—let us be thankful and grateful for our freedom and our liberty and recognize just how lucky we are to have them in our lives.

Happy Fourth!