Sunday, June 27, 2010

Hand Made

I love to run on Friday afternoons in Efrat. The atmosphere is super charged with the coming of Shabbat. The streets are almost empty, there are amazing aromas wafting through the air, and there are even a few children freshly bathed and ready in their nicest clothing. It is peaceful and serene. This past Friday, as I was finishing up my run, something caught my eye just before I was about to turn up my street. There was a chair with some pieces of pottery on it and a sign that read:

You are invited to take


Shabbat Shalom

The sign was in Hebrew and so I read it several times to make sure that I had understood right. It’s quite unusual for people to give things away here. Our local chat list has people selling everything from used crocs to three legged chairs. It’s just not that material around here. So I was quite taken aback by this gift of beauty and the grace with which it was given. I grabbed a delicate cream pedestal plate and three small brown nesting bowls. I smiled to myself and felt Gd smiling to. Here’s why. Just before my run I was speaking to my father and expressing to him a frustration that he most certainly did not understand. My sister had recently been the beneficiary of some beautiful furniture. The person who gave it to her is not only one of my dearest friends, but also the owner of some of the most gorgeous things I have ever laid my eyes upon. If I had a magic wand my home would look exactly like hers, only here. I was feeling very happy for my sister until I found out that several pieces that she had gotten were covered in toile fabric. Toile. I know this is very hard to understand if you are a man or a woman who has not yet encountered toile, but when I see toile I get weak in the knees. It’s kind of like how my husband gets around steak. For those who don’t yet know what toile is, here is how Wikipedia explains it. “Toile de Jouy, sometimes abbreviated to simply "toile", is a type of decorating pattern (originating in France) consisting of a usually white or off-white background on which a repeated pattern depicting a fairly complex scene, generally of a pastoral theme such as (for example) a couple having a picnic by a lake. Toiles also often consist of an arrangement of flowers.” I can’t explain it, but when I see toile, I just can’t help but think that all is well in the world. I’ll admit it. I was jealous. So when I passed by those elegant but simple pieces of pottery, I felt like I was getting some sort of a consolation prize and that is why I smiled. Thanks, but I still preferred the happy picnic scenes on a French countryside. However, it occurred to me over Shabbat, as we were sharing our meal with our new friends and neighbors (pure Israeli), that there was a deeper message in all of this. Toile is a machine made fabric with a repetitive depiction of a pleasant scene. In contrast, something that is hand-made is imperfect, unpredictable, and unique. No two pieces are the same. It is also created by a human being every step of the way. It simply has more soul. So here is the message: by moving to Israel, I may have left behind toile, but I have been given ‘handmade’ instead. I left behind a pleasant life of relative stability and predictability for one heck of a ride. We are building a life from scratch in uncharted territory. We are creating the unique story that will go down in generations to come as the narrative of our family. We have been given the opportunity to be partners in creating the fabric of Jewish history. Don’t get me wrong. I still love toile, and will gladly accept any and all gifts graced by its beauty. But I understand better now that there is an irrevocable beauty in all that is handmade. There is perfection in imperfection. I have learned to see that the chance to use my own two hands to create my life is nothing less than a Gd given gift.

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