I have not had a truly sacred moment in my life until now.Though I have the blood of God’s chosen people coursing through my veins, I have not given God serious thought. I have gone about my life in Jerusalem somewhat defiant to the onslaught of spirituality whirling about me in this holy revered city. There are also many historical tales to be heard, of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim origins. As a history professor, I have told them all.
The Israel Museum opens today. Here the history and accomplishments of my nation to 1965 can be experienced. If grandmother were alive she would be so happy about my honoring her wishes. Perhaps in the expanse of blue skies overhead, she’s smiling down at me. Her treasure, housed here, now belongs to the nation of God’s chosen ones.
Peacefulness permeates the air as I stroll the museum park grounds. Finding a garden bench near the pond, I recall grandmother’s words to me as a child. She loved telling stories of Exodus passed down through generations, the parting of the Red Sea, God’s manna raining from heaven to nourish His people, and their gratefulness in building the Mishkan (Tabernacle) for His glory to reside. Stories I pushed aside growing up, now stirring within my spirit.
“When they were preparing to build the Mishkan, Anna, the people brought gold, silver and bronze to bring splendor to God’s house. Then God asked that those who were weavers of fine linen bring blue, red, and purple cloth to adorn His temple and the high priests who served like Aaron, my ancestor.”
“Bubbeh, why did God ask for those three colors, are those His favorites?”
”Well, Anna, blue represents God because it is the color of the heavens where God lives. And red represents man who walks the earth to which we are rooted…it is our home. Now purple, called argaman in those times, was a special color, highly valued …”
“My father said it took 12,000 special snails to produce 1.5 grams of this pure dye called argaman, very rare and precious. Anna, do you know that when you mix blue and red it becomes purple? Now child, bring your crayons and let’s make purple!” , she said with sparkling eyes.
“Yes, yes, right away, Bubbeh!”
Looking upon my lovely created shade of purple, Bubbeh said, “Anna, purple represents the place where we and God meet.”
When I became 25, grandmother shared a secret with me. She guarded a treasure handed down by her grandmother and in fact had been handed down for many, many generations, awaiting return to the “promised land” of Israel. At various times, this treasure had been in Russia and Europe with those who had been entrusted with its safekeeping until the Israelites could return to their homeland.
Bubbeh handed me a large golden key but never told me what her treasure was, only that it belonged to the people of our nation and she trusted that as a history professor I would know what to do with it when the time was right.
My beloved Bubbeh passed on from this life one year later. I kept the golden key in the mezuzah along with her written instructions and the usual Torah pages. The mezuzah was tradition…historical.
In January of 1965 when the opening of the Israel Museum was eminent, I embarked on the journey to Safed as grandmother instructed. I was to meet with the rabbi at the Ari Ashkenazi Synagogue and present him with the golden key and a letter from Bubbeh.
The rabbi’s head nodded with understanding as he read the letter
and looked at the golden key.He escorted me into the synygogue and to the Holy Ark where he produced an ornate jeweled case that had been concealed in a vault under the marble floor.
Opening the case, I gasped in awe at the priestly breastplate constructed of blue, red, and purple cloth and covered with twelve precious jewels.
“It is history…” the rabbi said, “part of your heritage, the breastplate of Aaron; now it belongs to our nation, professor.”
“May I have some time alone, rabbi?” He nodded.
Childhood visions returned… a little girl making purple from blue and red crayons. Bubbeh’s voice echoed in my spirit…purple is the place where we and God meet. I gazed again at the breastplate of my ancestor. In the silence of this temple, I experienced argaman, my sacred moment.
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