So, I had to get my daughter’s gift-given mirror repaired, and I found a fix-it guy at the edge of downtown Tiberias. He’s got work clothes on, and me, sneakers.
He asks me where I’m from, and I say Yavniel, which is just outside Tiberias.
‘Breslev?’ he asks
‘Jewish,’ I reply, and he smiles.
‘Baruch Hashem,’ he says. ‘We’re all Jewish. Do you know who I am?’ he then asks, and I keep myself from blurting out ‘the mirror repair guy’.
‘No,’ is what I actually reply.
‘My family’s been in Israel since the Spanish expulsion of 1492. We’ve been in Tiberias for over 300 years.’
Wow! I think. Jackpot!
He then vanishes behind a block of lined up ceiling-high plates of glass and mirrors and eventually emerges with some photocopied pages.
‘You like this kind of stuff,’ he asks as he shows me the pages.
‘I love it!’ I answer in earnest, and he gives me the pages.
Someone had researched Jewish families who came to Israel via North Africa and particularly Morocco since the church purged Spain of Jews, and wrote an article on the mirror fix-it guy’s great-great-…-grandfather, the Rav Shlomo Haliwa, who wrote over 200 poems in Hebrew.
Another page lists the “Tveriani’s” genealogy, which includes names none other than Donash ben Libert (the Hebrew grammarian who Rashi refers to much regarding Hebrew grammar issues) and Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi (author of The Kuzari and poet of over 800 Hebrew poems, including his famous “my heart is in the east and I am at the end of the west” – just don’t forget that this “west” is before the Americas were discovered).
The other pages are copies of a few of Rav Shlomo’s poems.
As I fold up the pages with a few hundred year old Hebrew poems and leave the repair shop, I think, ‘I’m in Heaven’.
Living here – among Am Yisrael in our divinely-promised Eretz Yisrael – I am living in Heaven!