But the journey began sixteen years ago. With a Sunday morning dream.
I walk through my house with a realtor. Every wall, shelf, and table full of memorabilia. Each one a work of art, recalling an event, project, or value. I know I have to sell it all. But how? I ask the realtor.
Somehow it is accomplished. I am in a new home in a city on a bay. Through the window I see houses, across the water, built into the hillside. Sun gleams on their walls and sparkles in the water.
Our new house is narrow, urban, almost flush with the house next door. But we go to a party in a big building. There, Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi carries my young son on his shoulders.
It was a rare Sunday off from teaching Hebrew school. So, I could lie on the floor, writing. Next to me, my husband read and my children played.
Right then and there, I wrote out the dream in great detail. My notebook, I remember, was small. It had a red cover. This dream, I wrote, is about life review. Reminding me to walk through my memories. To think critically about them. But it’s not a literal dream about selling a house. Because we have no plans to move.
Nine months later, our family flew to Vancouver, Canada. By then, I had applied, interviewed, and accepted a job in a Jewish Renewal synagogue. One affiliated with the spiritual movement inspired by Reb Zalman. So, we were selling our home and hoping to buy one in Vancouver.
My husband and I wanted our children to love their new city. So, we brought them on a special vacation. To choose between two schools we pre-selected. Then, meet some new friends at the synagogue. Next, visit the aquarium and hike on the cliffs. And finally, enjoy a few days playing in tides and watching wildlife on the Sunshine Coast.
We drove across the Lions Gate Bridge to the ferry. I gasped; I knew this view. Here we were, in the city on a bay. Looking across the water at houses built into the hillside. Gleaming sunlight and everything. We were home, for sure.
What a dream it was! Every scene came true — literally. But the metaphor of life review? I forgot about it. We were too busy.
It wasn’t easy to be an immigrant. We spoke the language. Joined a community. Found a great landlord. But we were far from family. We didn’t know where anything was. And nothing worked the way we knew it. Traffic lights, school records, health care, banking systems. What people really meant when they said or didn’t say things. Everything was different.
But we learned. And we loved it. For ten years, I worked at the synagogue. My husband worked in in-patient child psychiatry. Then, he built a private psychology practice. Our children finished high school and started college. They went to camp and wove a network of friends. Then got involved in youth leadership, local theatre, urban empowerment, and environmental issues. Finally, we bought a new house.
Canada was home.
But the life review? I got busy and forgot about it. So, I worked myself sick. Then, I found a slightly easier job. But with a more complicated mission. Help make Canada more multi-cultural, inter-spiritual, and open to reconciliation.
Finally, it was time to apply for citizenship.
So, I filled out dozens of forms. (It’s the Canadian way.) We passed the interview. In a few months, we were told, we could take the oath of citizenship.
Then the anxious dreams started. We miss our appointment for the oath. Or: we show up, but the citizenship judge doesn’t know what she is doing. And, in the worst dream: my children get arrested the night before.
None of these dreams came true. Well, one did. The judge really didn’t know what she was doing. She mis-read the script. Indigenous peoples, she said, have “inhibited” Canada for centuries. Then, she mispronounced the names of all the local nations. Including “Squamish,” whom she called the “Squeamish.” You can’t make this stuff up. But you can’t laugh at it either.
Life review? Yes, it’s time. But its terms have changed. Because my values and commitments have changed. Did I help Canadians speak their truth? Understand each other? Know more about each other? Find a shared spiritual language? Connect more deeply in community? If so, then my life is a good one.
For those who love weekly Torah, here it is.
This week, I am inspired by Joseph. He dreams: My wheat stands, while my brothers’ wheat falls. The sun, moon and stars bow down to me. Sold as a slave by angry brothers, he comes to a new land. He lives through challenges much harder than ours. But he reviews his life, and sees the hand of God. Later, he realizes his dreams were not just about family dynamics. Not just about his present life. Instead, they were dreams of the future. And they literally come true. He has both food and political power. And he sees his own life as part of the life of Egypt.