Splitting The Sea

Splitting The Sea We might have a hole in our roof. That’s okay... it will be in good company with the hole behind the couch. It’s not that we don’t care about our home. In fact, that’s how we got the hole behind the couch in the first place. We were replacing a broken pipe, and on his way out, the plumber sheepishly mentioned, “…Mayum, you may want to call a drywall guy to look at the hole in your wall.

“But we don’t have a hole….” Well, at least we didn’t until he arrived. At that moment I knew with perfect faith that Moshiach would be here before the drywall guy, and we might never again be able to move that little couch.

In the late 1900’s BCE (Before Children Existed), I could not understand how children with mismatched gloves were out in public places, and how much time and effort really can take to change a light bulb, hang a fixture, or spackle a wall. Even once children did exist, we ran our home with the precision of a well-oiled submarine crew, with schedules and command posts for each ensign. Ours would have been the submarine rocking side to side, but we tried.  

As life flourished, I found myself promoted to head of triage, dancing as fast as I could to keep up with the incoming wounded and special requests. At this stage, a dent in a wall or a roof that doesn’t actively leak gets elevated to the level of a mitzvah: Our home does not forget the destruction of the Beis Hamikdosh, it weeps alongside it. Life is full, boruch Hashem, and it seems frivolous to get over-excited about a roof that leaked only once. Besides… I only seem to remember it on Shabbos. That’s when it rains, and that’s when I remember things that I can’t do anything about, including remembering them.

I can’t even remember the circumstances that caused the roof to leak. It had never leaked before, and hasn’t leaked since. Not even the time I heard we were getting one of those great Pittsburgh downpours and came running home, as if standing there looking up at the ceiling would actually help in some way. I put a shissel in the hallway – providing the children a second chance that day to put their foot into one – and started researching roofers. When the storm ended, the shissel remained empty of both drips and feet. I thanked Hashem and got back to our crazy wonderful dance, forgetting the roof once again. One time it rained for days – no leak. Even with the hurricane, no leak! Truthfully, though, even a one-time leak could have caused damage along the walls, ceiling, and furniture, right down to the foundation. Water could have gotten in, weakening the stones and mortar, allowing mold, mildew, and other undesirable things to grow, chas v’sholom.

I was thinking about the roof the other day. It was Shabbos and I should have been thinking more Shabbosdik thoughts, but my heart was aching over news of a different type of destruction – that of a wonderful family. They live in a faraway state so I would not be seeing them that Shabbos, but as much as I tried, my mind kept wandering back to the family and the roof. There seemed to be a connection.

Somehow, in that family, there was a vulnerability. Perhaps even a small hole that no one was aware of, a weakness just large enough for something unwanted to slowly seep in, allowing something undesirable to grow. In time, the foundation was ruined, the walls and furnishings destroyed. Lives changed forever. This family would now be living under two separate roofs.  

Don’t all of our relationships have those vulnerable spots? Sometimes they form over time, from wear and tear or difficult circumstances. In one small moment the roof can give out, allowing an unkind thought, word or action to seep in. If only the repair was as easy as calling a roofer. But Hashem would never leave us without instructions.

The Talmud states: “Making a match between two people is as difficult as the Splitting of the Red Sea.” Oy. These may be comforting words when the going is a bit rough, but as far as ad campaigns go, it is not very inspiring. Can you imagine if the army advertised this way? Instead of, “Join the army, see the world,” or, “Be all that you can be!” try, “Join the army and fill your body with shrapnel.” I’m not inspired.                                                                        
But what if we hear these words not as a warning, or even as words of comfort, but as an instruction. …Go split the sea! Hang in there with me. This actually works!

Have you ever heard someone say, “I’m drowning!” In laundry, paperwork, to-do lists, e-mails, challenges, even hachlotos. I recently heard a speaker say that if we don’t wake up with ADD, then we are certainly there by the time we go to sleep. There is technology we can’t figure out, and technology we have figured out that is now figuring us out. There’s too much information. We can’t even make a simple dinner anymore. We need to chop the right vegetables in the proper color spectrum sautéed in the correct oils. Have you tried to buy shampoo or band-aids? Why are there so many types and so many places to buy them? There’s an ever-growing sense that nothing is good enough.

We live in a time of great abundance! I have a friend who often reminds me that the many tuition bills to pay, shoes to buy, and clothing to mend are truly all signs of great brochos. It’s all good! But even wonderful can be overwhelming. I love dessert. I adore curling up on our little couch with a book. Jewish music can feel like oxygen to me. However, I would not be soothed by being forced-fed cheesecakes while duct-taped to the couch as Shalsheles played loud enough to melt the speakers. It’s all good… but maybe just a little more than any of our senses can handle.     

So how do we split the sea?

It’s almost the end of another normal busy day. Your mind is in two places and your body in a third. You find the happy helpful crew in the bathroom. The three little boys are helping you by “washing” the baby. Your toddler smiles at you proudly as he scrubs the commode with your husband’s toothbrush. And the twins who have been bathed and dressed are now back in the bathtub, still bathed and dressed, and are playing happily in the water you forgot to drain. You could laugh, but your mind is going over the list of things you need to accomplish once they are all tucked into bed, which now seems like a faraway dream. Your husband walks through the door.            

What if you drop everything and “split the sea.” Dive in to his presence – greet him with your full attention as if you are “walking through on dry land”: a place free of all that you were drowning in the moment before he arrived. You know what dry land is… It’s that place your mind goes when you decide you are on vacation and nothing else matters. As a kid it was a snow day. What if in the middle of the week you “split the sea” by putting everything and everyone on hold and go for a walk or a cup of coffee together. Pretend you are on vacation. Only talk of positive matters, and do not try to solve anything. Spend a moment simply to reconnect, giving uninterrupted attention – a moment of intimacy. Perhaps you could even go away for a few days. The fantastic thing about doing this is that it all just stays there, just as the walls of the Red Sea did, and it will all come crashing right back down when you return. But a few days on dry land can be amazingly refreshing for a relationship. By connecting with each other, you bring down the Shechinah. When the waters return, now it’s truly the three of you, and there is nothing you cannot handle together.

What if we split the sea for our children and really tune in: Taste his feelings of success as he memorizes his maamar; join her as she shows you the video she made; listen as she describes her dreams for her future and favorite memories from her past. Really look at her. Pause and say nothing. Look at him and listen to his mind, instead of your own.

What if we get off our e-mail when our children call home from yeshivah or seminary (they hear us typing), and go to that spot. You know the one. That spot on the couch that you gravitate to when an old friend calls, where you sit on one knee and gaze out the window into nothingness, where time does not exist, dinner is happily burning, the kids are all wearing your old sheitels and strumming brooms and mops while the smoke alarm sings high harmony… and it’s all beautiful, because you are connecting with someone you love.

But what if they don’t respond? What if no one wants to join you on dry land? I once asked one of my boys why the good can be so hard to notice. Why is it so much easier to complain than to appreciate? Why, in a day where seven things go right, does the one thing that went wrong block out all the good, the way holding a thumb up to an eye blocks out an entire room? He explained to me that negativity is the default mode in the world we live in right now. Positivity is actually stronger, but needs effort in order to be used. It needs to be activated.

“Splitting the sea” is a recipe for intimacy – something humans cannot live without. Intimacy is the glue of our relationships, the protection against the elements, the glue for our roofs, our lives and the lives of our families. The potential is there, we only need to activate it with our efforts – our thoughts, speech, and actions.

So what are we waiting for? There are only a few moments remaining to activate the positive before Moshiach… and the drywall guy... arrive. With our new recipe and Hashem’s help, none of us will ever have to think about a hole in a roof again.

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