Work...and more work...and getting ready for my trip...and trying to figure out how I'll live my life in the coming week if there's a transit strike, not yet a catastrophe of biblical proportions, but which could be if it lasts too long...has kept me from thinking about chanting, or much of anything else, for the past few days. I plan to come up for air very soon. Meanwhile, we had our Israel trip orientation on Wednesday night, and I'm already overwhelmed. Every minute of every hour has been planned, and we even got little cards to hang around our necks with a name tag on one side, and the customized parts of our itinerary (did I choose a concert or walking tour from 8-10 in Tel Aviv on Dec. 31?) on the other. I've never taken a vacation where I had to make so few decisions, a welcome respite from the past few weeks. Since all 180 participants will be praying, non-stop, that by next Sunday all transportation issues in New York will have been resolved and we won't have problems getting to the airport, I'm confident that Someone will listen. (Even if it's just the president of the MTA, hearing encouraging voices in his dreams.)
At the orientation we studied Tefilat Haderekh, the prayer for travelers, traditional to say before beginning any kind of journey:
May it be Your will, Lord our God and God of our ancestors, to guide us in peace, to sustain us in peace, to lead us to our desired destination in health and joy and peace, and to bring us home in peace. Save us from every enemy and disaster on the way, and from all calamities that threaten the world. Bless the work of our hands. May we find grace, love and compassion in Your sight and in the sight of all who see us. Hear our supplication, for You listen to prayer and supplication. Praised are You, Lord who hears prayer.
Why, we wondered, does it begin "May it be Your will...God of our ancestors," rather than appealing to the usual "Sovereign of the universe"? We are where we are because of someone who traveled before us; had God not looked with approval upon the journeys of our parents or great-great-grandparents, we could not ask for this favor, or any other. To forget those people would render our own requests hollow and selfish. I hope, when I set foot in Israel, that I can feel a connection with those ancestors, and thank them for making the journey so long ago.