2014-04-03 – Forty years and a few days ago I spent my last night in Jerusalem after a five-month stay that transformed my life. On that last night, I had a dream. It was a dream of a tornado that struck my home town of Dayton, Ohio.
A day or so later, after a trip of 7,000 miles or so, I was back in Dayton. It was storming. Weather radar was showing a cyclonic shape. Indeed, a twister did hit in the Dayton area–Xenia, OH, to be exact. It was a major disaster. In Xenia. My home in Dayton was spared.
A premonition? Or just anxiety about returning to the Midwest during tornado season? Or neither of these?
As a premonition, I’d say it was imprecise in a way that negates the idea of premonition. The image in my dream of a tornado striking Dayton was an image of a tornado striking my home. The tornado didn’t strike my home. You could say that being only 20-25 miles off at a distance of 7,000 miles is pretty precise. But c’mon, the meaning of the dream was clear: “tornado strikes Steve’s home.” It didn’t.
The best theory I have is that I had vivid memories of spring-time tornados from growing up in Dayton. I had been away for a while and was returning at that time. Hence the dream.
My experience in Jerusalem durned out the opposite of what I had planned when I went there in the fall. I was a fresh college graduate at the time. I went to a yeshiva (seminary) in Jerusalem to spend some time studying Talmud in hopes of applying to rabbinical school when I returned to the states.
As I expected, studying Talmud was quite interesting. All the laws and traditions and lore. I still love that stuff. But I didn’t really experience the study as having a connection to living a good life. In fact, it seemed quite disconnected. It was all intellectual.
Now, Jews don’t talk about faith in the way that Christians do. But even with limited talk, it’s hard to convince yourself to embark on a rabbinical career without something. I didn’t have the something. I wasn’t seeing the good life. So I left the yeshiva.
I spent the rest of my time in Jerusalem that winter trying to improve my Hebrew language skills. When the time came, I returned to Dayton and, at the proper season, I applied to law school—not rabbinical school.
Most people I knew who spent a year (or part of year) in Israel came back inspired (or they decided to stay). I came back dis-inspired.
It was sad.
It still is sad. I had to find my good life away from the community I grew up in. It has been a creative search (which is good) but it has meant that I do it alone.
A few days after I returned to Dayton in the year of the Xenia tornado, it was Passover. In spite of my dis-inspiration, I’ve always had Passover. In those days, I had a group of friends that I could share the holiday with. Then we all left Dayton to follow our various paths.
I came to Chicago. And over the years I’ve usually hosted the Passover Seder at my house. Over the years I have created and recreated the ceremony. This year will be no different. We have invited family and friends to our house for the first night, which will be a week from Monday.