I originally told her that was a crazy idea and I can't just get on a plane and fly across the world. I can't do that without any planning. It just doesn't work like that.
She said "why not?"
Well, later that shabbos afternoon I told a friend of mine what she had said, thinking that he would agree with me. Instead he said, "she's right, you should go and I'll pay for the ticket".
And with that I was on a plane to Israel.
My wife and I have two children in Israel. Our son is in Yeshiva in Jerusalem and our oldest daughter is finishing up her service as a Lone Soldier in the Israeli Army. Because this trip was so spontaneous, neither of them had any idea I was coming. We decided not to tell them at this point and surprise them only when I arrived.
The morning after I arrived my son was quite shocked to see me show up at his Yeshiva. I couldn't surprise our daughter the same way since she was on an army base hours away from Jerusalem. Instead I began texting her photos of me with people she knows are in Jerusalem.
She sends back two texts that simply say;
"Where is this??"
I sent several more photos, one of which was me with her brother in his dorm room.
At that point she called. and asked "Where are you?".
"I'm right here. I'm in Jerusalem."
She then said "I"m going to hang up now so I can cry and then I'll call you back".
She called back and said she received leave and will be in Jerusalem the next day to spend the rest of the week together.
After all the years I spent living in Jerusalem and running many trips and programs I can't believe I had never been to Kever Rachel (Rachel's Tomb). My daughter really wanted the two of us to go together during that week. It was a bit of an adventure getting there but that story is for another post perhaps. When we did finally arrive the two of us went our seperate ways into the men and women entrances. It is hard to describe the layout of the site but because I had never been there before I didn't know right away where the actual kever was. The kever itself is quite large and positioned around a corner so I actually didn't realize that it was there at first.
When I entered the area where the men were praying, I was hoping to find a minyan for mincha, the afternoon prayer service. One minyan was already in the middle of their service so I would have to wait for the next one. While I was waiting a gentleman handed me a booklet with some Tehillim in it and told me that they were going to say the entire Book of Tehillim together. I figured while I waited for the minyan it would be fine to join them.
The man who handed me the booklet was standing by the main bima. While I took the booklet, another man picked up a shofar that was sitting on the bima and attempted to blow it and then put it down. I thought that was strange. Even though we are in the month of ELUL and the custom is to blow the shofar every day leading up to Rosh Hashana, the custom is to do so in the morning not in the middle of the day.
It became more peculiar when a few moments later, after I sat down to say the Tehillim, someone else came over to me with a plastic crate filled with approx. 50 shofars and asked if I wanted one. I shook my head no and decided the offer must be some weird Jerusalem custom. What I didn't realize was that he wasn't simply asking if I wanted to randomly blow the shofar. He was handing all of those shofars out for a specific purpose.
Minutes later the group finished saying all of their Tehillim and the man leading the group recited some prayers that are customary to say upon completing the Book fo Tehillim. Then all at once, fifty shofars began to blast. The sound was so sudden and powerful that I jumped to my feet and began to cry uncontrollably.
When I pulled myself together and opened my eyes, I finally saw that I was sitting directly across from the actual kever. It was right there in front of me the whole time and I didn't even notice. I walked over and put my arms on the kever and said "Rachel Imeinu, mommy, I'm home".
When I went outside to meet my daughter at the arranged time, she came over and the first thing she said was "How about those shofar blasts?". We then both said at the same time "I burst into tears!"
These weren't tears of sadness. These were simply the outpouring of all emotions. The tears of coming home.
We are told in the Torah that the ablility to be close to God isn't something that is up in the Heavens nor over the oceans that someone has to travel to great lengths to find. Rather it is near, so near to us. It is right there in our very hearts, that is how close it is. The reason that it seems closer during the Ten Days is because that is when we are so focussed on it. Our eyes are finally open that we can see it right in front of us. But Hashem is always there. The shofar is just the sudden blast to remind us. It is like getting a phone call while we are stuck on our own individual army base, in our own little life battles.
The shofar is meant to open our eyes and allow the sudden realization cause our tears to flow.
Hashem is calling us and saying "I'm here, I"m right here!"