Traveling in the Realms of the Spirit

Actualizado: 18 de ago de 2020

En Uzbekistán

Hoy tengo el privilegio de compartirles un artículo escrito por mi maestro, mi fuente de inspiración y amigo, el rabino Eliyahu Birnbaum. Tuve el gusto de conocerlo, hace 35 años cuando, durante nuestro viaje a Israel con el colegio, el rav Birnbaum nos dio varias clases y nos acompañó a más de un evento o paseo. Muchos años después, volvimos a reconectar porque nuestras pasiones por los viajes y por la historia judía son las mismas. Además, me atrevo a opinar que filosóficamente –si bien no soy un judío ortodoxo practicante- también compartimos el concepto de la visión y misión de nuestro pueblo.

Desde hace cosa de 10 años, he tenido el gusto de colaborar con él labores en pro de algunas así llamadas “comunidades emergentes” y, a menudo, también comentamos sobre destinos a lo ancho y largo de nuestra judería. A varios de los lugares que he visitado y de los que he escrito varios artículos en esta Valija, llegué por referencia del rav.

Ahora, en plena pandemia, buscamos a nuestra manera, la forma de conectarnos con esas juderías, bien sea de manera virtual, espiritual o literaria. Este artículo es perfecto para el blog y estoy seguro que se lo gozarán.

Traveling in the realms of the spirit

By Rabbi Eliahu Birnbaum

These days I am completing a period of 120 days devoid of journeys to the Jewish world and Jewish communities. My last visit was to the Jewish community of Guatemala on Purim, and since then I am fulfilling the verse "Blessed are those who dwell in Your house" – and office! Over the years, I was used to traveling almost every week to different Jewish communities, altogether close to 220 days a year, to visit the Straus-Amiel emissaries, give shiurim, hold sabbaticals, research communities and distant tribes, and in particular to meet Jews and live the Jewish world up close. Now that flying is impossible, due to canceled flight, restrictions on entry into different countries, synagogues that are closed for the duration and the risk of having to self-quarantine, I find myself contemplating the significance of my journeys to the Jewish world.

Besides the real journeys, which describe places and situations through an observant eye, there are imaginary and mystical journeys, spiritual journeys. All are true words of G-d and what is important is to depart on a journey

I always say that I am not traveling to tour the world, but to journey around the Jewish World. I believe there is a deep difference between a tour and a journey. One goes on a tour to see the views, take photos, visit museums, get acquainted with the local culture and sometimes also taste the local food, buy mementos and return back home.

A true journey is different. A journey has a route and a destination. One goes on a journey to search, meet, hear stories, deal with challenges, questions and dilemmas. Behind the journey there is a motive and a reason which defines it and accompanies it along the way. A journey allows a different view of the world. A journey is not only a geographic movement from one place to the other, it is also movement in time, a journey in the spiritual and historic worlds. One goes on a journey and returns a different person. The journey leaves its mark, influencing one's way of thinking, emotions and acceptance of the other.

Indeed, over the years I felt that one Eliahu leaves on a journey and a different Eliahu returns from that journey. The question is not how you leave or which route you take, but how you return. Throughout the journey one undergoes a deep and complex experience and returns different from the way he or she left.

I am not referring specifically to exotic journeys to lost tribes, but to any journey, to classic and well-known communities, small or large, close or distant as well. Throughout the journey I discover the secrets and charm of the communities and integrate these discoveries into my personal and Jewish world.

The artist draws inspiration from visions and views he encounters on his journey. The painter, sculptor and composer receive outer enrichment when they go on a journey and come across a new world. But I believe there is also a Jewish creation born from journeys, when through our affinity with the world we discover, a new creation results.

The secret to a true journey is not to be an outsider, but to be a simultaneously both a viewer and a participant. Organizing meetings and conversations, seeing sights, undergoing experiences, formulating insights. During a journey to Jewish communities one must understand the communities and their needs, the Jews and their situation, with empathy and respect. Not as a researcher studying an anthropological phenomenon and not as a tourist asking to photograph pictures from the community’s life, but as an equal, as a partner and with the understanding that the Jewish existence is a secret that must be understood and deciphered.