This month, Israeli media is full of political information (or misinformation…) in honor of our upcoming elections. Every day brings new and breathtaking alerts and alarms, earthshaking deals and decisions, breakaways, breakthroughs, treaties and intrigues.
Unlike the media, which often seem to be a catalyst for national depression, the view out my window looks great. Smells good, too. Nice and refreshing. Crisp and clean. The sun continues on its yearly journey across the heavens. No longer as high as it was during the hot summer months, its light is whiter, more like crystal than gold. And wispy cumulous clouds, Heaven’s own cotton candy, float lazily by, dotting the blue sky and leaving swathes of shadow in their wake.
G-d’s rainbrush has also swept over the mountains. Each year, after the first heavy rain, the sandy, brown mountains of the Judean Desert are covered with a veritable carpet of green. The neighboring Bedouin hurry to bring out their flocks before it dries up and disappears. For a few verdant weeks, it’s fresh, free fodder for sheep, camels and goats.
After our long, hot summer, it’s wonderfully brisk and pleasant outside. Unlike Jerusalem where people are already in coats, a sweater or light jacket is usually all you need around Maaleh Adumim. When it starts to get chilly here, it’s already cold in Jerusalem. And when it’s cold here, Jerusalem is into full-blown winter! Tzfat and the Golan undoubtedly take the prize for Frigid Winter Weather but here, in our semi-desert climate, it’s pleasantly balmy nine months out of twelve. (G-d bless air-conditioning for the remaining three!)
Yesterday, I saw my first Nachlieli. Rain may be our first sign of winter, but the Nachlieli is our harbinger of fall. Nachlieli belong to a group of migrating songbirds called wagtails, so called because their long tails constantly bob up and down. They are found across Europe, part of Asia and parts of North America. “Our” Nachlieli is the White Wagtail – a slender black and white bird around eight inches long. (In other countries wagtails may be black and yellow or orange.) These jaunty little birds land shortly after the Chagim. Chirpy, cheerful and utterly delightful, they are a national favorite.
Since our fall season is short and subdued, it can slip by without anyone noticing. But when every kindergarten kid in the country is singing “Nachlieli Katan, ra’iti ba’gan, zanav lo aroch v’yafeh…,” you can’t help but pay attention! Young and old alike delight in their arrival, and seeing one makes you smile. Even on a bad day.
Many other autumnal marvels can make you smile on a bad day. Blessings abound. In rural or more open urban areas after winter rains, Israeli skies are often illuminated with rainbows – full ones that stretch across the horizon and display the entire spectrum of color. The light of the rainbow is symbolic of the light of the Shechina and, indeed, there is definitely something otherworldly and divine about the glowing, translucent colors and graceful arc. On occasion, we’ve even seen double rainbows, which left me wondering if one makes a double bracha. (I was told, no. A single bracha suffices.)
Most of the time we don’t even notice the magnificent canvas above our heads. Once, on a trip to the United States, a six-year-old grandchild looked up at the skinny slice of visible sky between Manhattan’s mighty skyscrapers and solemnly proclaimed, “Imma, look! There’s no sky in America!” His mother assured him that there was, even though G-d’s handiwork is sometimes hidden by the work of human hands.
So while spring may be the season of rebirth, after our long, hot summer, fall is the time to rest, restore and renew our energy. Soon Tu B’Shvat will be here. Sap will rise in the trees, buds will fill the branches and new life will begin again.