Lia Mandelbaum writes in response to Elka Abrahamson’s Jewel. [Read it here.]
About a month ago my brother and I traveled to Alaska to go on an adventure and bond with one another. The trip was a gift he had given me for my 30th birthday and graduation from school. I was hoping that the trip would allow us to spend time creating a space that would add depth and intimacy to our relationship. While staying in Seward we went on a boat tour of the Kenai Fjords National Park. At one point the captain stopped the boat right next to a beautiful glacier, and everyone became quiet so that we could see and hear the falling ice plummet into the water and sound like thunder. It was an intimate moment for my brother and me as we stood side by side and arm in arm, and I looked at him with tremendous gratitude for our relationship and for who he is as a person. There was a long time where I was closed off and unable to see what a special and dynamic person he is. I loved how Rabbi Abrahamson emphasized the importance of spending this Elul practicing demonstrative and spoken affection to those you care about. It is such a wonderful feeling when you can fully welcome the presence of another, and truly see who they are and tell them how much they mean to you.
As we were leaving the glacier, the captain of the boat mentioned something that caught my attention. I found out that although glaciers emanate different shades of blue, there is more to the picture that does not meet the eye. The ice is actually made up of crystals that act like prisms, however the ice is so dense that the white light is unable to pass through it and the blue wavelength ends up absorbing all of the other colors. The blue is brightest when it is overcast.
To deepen my intimacy with nature, I thought about finding parallels between the glacier and humanity. Similar to how a glacier is a dynamic being made of prisms, human beings are also very dynamic and colorful, but depending on how open our minds and hearts are determines the amount of light that is able to pass through us and what colors we reflect to the world. Similar to how the blue wavelength overpowers all of the other colors, when people get a “case of the blues,” it can be overpowering and we can get lost in that darkness. Things become right or wrong and good or bad, and we can become unable to see the full spectrum of life.
Glaciers are usually wedged between two mountains and are made up of different layers of ice that have been compounded over time. Similar to glaciers, we can become compounded by our fears and rigid beliefs, and feel stuck and frozen. It takes us out of the present moment, and hampers our ability to welcome intimacy into our lives. This makes me think about Rabbi Abrahamson’s words “Still, we minimize or forget the ways we pushed away those we cherish, how we have said, “No I am not present now.” We wince recounting the times we barricaded the portals to our own souls with or without intent.”
During Elul, similar to the thunderous falling of ice from the glaciers, may we welcome the walls we have built to crack and come tumbling down, so that we may let in the light and let love run through us.
Lia Mandelbaum has a blog, Sacred Intentions, which she writes for the Jewish Journal. She recently completed the Jeremiah Fellowship with Bend the Arc, and is about to start graduate school to get a master’s in social work.