Elizabeth: A Holy Land Pilgrimage is available in paperback and on kindle and is being reprinted on Catholic News Agency with author’s permission. Cheryl’s non-fiction book is called Our Jewish Roots: A Catholic Woman’s Guide to Fulfillment Today by Connecting with Her Past.Chapter Twenty-Three
All the ways of a man may be right in his own eyes, but it is the Lord who proves hearts. Proverbs 21:2
All three women agreed that they would get together the next morning and attend Chaim’s funeral. From there they would spend time at Miriam’s apartment and then simply walk the marketplace for Beth to pick up some groceries. Beth welcomed the idea of spending more time with her friends and felt thankful for the opportunity to do a mitzvah by attending the funeral. She was no longer struck by the fact that what some would call an imposition, others would call a good deed. It was becoming her way of thinking and she found a deep sense of serenity in its acquisition.
“Okay, I’ll see you tomorrow,” Beth said as she closed Rachel’s car door. Sipporah, sitting in the front seat next to Rachel, smiled out the window and waved good-by. Beth turned towards the apartment complex and heard the honking and beeping of passerby’s as Rachel maneuvered her way back into traffic. Smiling, Beth opened the door.
Beth considered checking in on Miriam before entering her own apartment and then changed her mind. She was tired and knew she wouldn’t be good company. Besides, tomorrow’s plan was in place and Beth would have a much better visit when she was rested and her mind was clearer. Right now she wanted to sit in silence and let the day’s sights and sounds take root in every cell of her mind and body. With that goal in mind, Beth decided to fill the tub. She had noticed some crystal decanters of bath beads alongside the bars of soap in the cupboard and could already feel the warm water enveloping her body.
Once inside Beth knew she needed to make a call to Luke. The only real question was if it should be before her bath or after. She decided that after her bath was a better choice. She made her way to the bedroom to get one of her clean loungewear outfits and then to the bathroom to fill the tub. She found the bath beads and probably poured in more than was necessary. She gave in to her indulgent feelings as she watched the bubbles rise and fill the tub, the sweet scent of gardenia filled the air. Undressed, she slowly immersed herself into the water. She had purposely made the temperature hotter than normal with the expectation of spending a good amount of time laying in the tub and letting the memories of the day soak into her very being.
In the tub Beth could feel the odd combination of exhaustion and elation in her body. It was difficult to believe that all she had experienced had happened in less than a week’s time. She thought of Ayala and the Goldfarb’s. She wondered what sort of accident or tragedy Miriam had experienced that had drawn Miriam and Ayala even closer together in the past few months.
Beth wondered what Luke was doing and how her boys were faring in her absence. She thought of Sophia’s demanding school schedule and had to admire her daughter. Sophia was bound and determined to attend the same east coast college that Luke attended and knew what would be required. Sophia’s mind, like Luke’s, was methodical and pragmatic. Both of them very much unlike Beth, who was more emotional and temperamental. Sophia wanted to study business and finance, ultimately practicing on Wall Street. Beth envied her daughter’s convictions and did her best to instill in her daughter a sense of morality and perseverance. Luke, too, admired Sophia, no doubt seeing himself some thirty years younger.
Sophia had made Luke promise not to use his alumni connections when she applied. She wanted to know that she earned her prestigious spot all on her own. While Luke agreed to Sophia’s request, Beth wondered about his sincerity. Beth knew that Luke’s heart would surely be broken if Beth’s college dreams weren’t realized. No one seemed to think of Beth’s heart being broken at the thought of her daughter moving hundreds of miles away. Beth decided to let go of those thoughts and concentrated on her bath.
As her mind and body relaxed more in the heat of the gardenia scented tub, Beth could almost hear the chants from Skull Hill and smell the incense. She could see the different denominations taking turns with their hymns and songs and knew that this was how Christ must have hoped the world would live while awaiting His return.
Thinking of the temple mount, Beth tried to imagine the depth of faith Abraham must have had to follow God’s request to sacrifice Isaac. Of course it didn’t happen, but still Beth had always struggled with the notion that Abraham moved forward as if he would sacrifice his own son. Beth had shared her great effort to understand this with Rachel and felt that what she had subsequently revealed to Beth was quite invaluable.
As Rachel explained to Beth, the story of Abraham and Isaac is called, in most Jewish literature, The Binding of Isaac. As the explanation goes, the binding was both a physical binding as well as a spiritual binding. As we know, Isaac was physically bound to the altar but like so many things in life, that was only the surface, or visible, aspect of the story.
Rachel assured Beth that Jewish scholars believe that God reveals Himself in the deeper, more hidden, covert messages of the overt chronicles in the Torah. This meant that while Isaac was literally bound at the altar, so was the realization that when we bind our own self-serving interests and are willing to make painful sacrifices, we are ultimately setting ourselves free.
The bath water was getting cold and as Beth got up to dry off and get dressed she asked herself, What self-serving interests do I need to bind at the altar?
Looking in the mirror she realized that the five stages of grief also applied to her physical aging. At first there was denial that her body was getting a bit saggy here and there. Then there was anger that her body could betray her so quickly, so easily.
Following anger was Elizabeth’s bargaining, that was more like pleading, in which she hoped that if she exercised and ate right then her body would show signs of firmness and verve. Depression soon followed as she realized that no amount of exercise was going to stop all the signs of aging. And, like all else, here she was trying to enter the final stage of accepting what was happening to her body.
She had heard all of the arguments against the five stages and yet felt that they best captured her own struggles in so many ways. But for Elizabeth, the last stage was really where she met Christ because it was with Him that she could accept all that life had dealt her, all that life held. And in that way, the stages made perfect sense because they were natural transitions that the Lord seemed to allow her to experience so that she could move into a very personal relationship with Christ.
The previous chapters are listed below: