This month, the biblical narrative is Bamidbar, "in the desert". I would like to share an experience that happened while we lived in the Southwest desert.
About eight years ago, my grandmother undertook the trip from Paris to El Paso, TX. She was 98 years old, with all her marbles, and perfectly aware that she was probably going to pass there.
Our house was on a mountain, and the view was an even higher mountain that changed colors throughout the day on one side, and a valley on the other side. It was majestic and breathtaking. A spiritually inclined person could easily feel a great sense of connection. It was so beautiful seeing my grandmother in love with this place. She spent her days meditating, doing yoga and praying outside, inspired by the powerful landscape, intensely connected with the Divine.
And so, one Friday morning, while I was preparing for Shabbat, my wife called me at the Shul to tell me to come home, as my grandmother was suddenly leaving us. What happened that afternoon could be categorized as an STE, a Spiritually Transformative Experience. You see, my wife, my aunt and I felt my grandmother's soul leave its body.
That morning, when I arrived home, we decided to make my grandmother comfortable in a lounge chair, facing the beautiful mountains that she grew to love so much. I held her in my arms and delicately installed her on the chair. At that moment, she gave me the most amazing present: a beautiful smile and a wink. Slowly, she closed her eyes. We thought she had died, but no. Her heart was as strong as it was generous. So we chanted Tehillim (Psalms) while I took her pulse regularly. Suddenly, we all felt a strong and warm wind that swooshed around us. We looked at each other knowingly. I took her pulse. Yes, she was gone.
The experience was spiritually transformative, as her soul lovingly embraced us before continuing its beautiful journey in the World of Truth. This experience confirmed what I already knew; that the soul, of course, lives on when liberated from the body.
At that moment, I had the feeling G-d let me peek at the Upper World. Why did G-d allow it? There might be a myriad of reasons, but ultimately, my grandmother -and G-d- gave us an STE, a Spiritually Transformative Experience. I might not know the reason, but I do know I was granted an opportunity to grow.
Ultimately, STE's come in various sizes. Some will be overwhelming, while others will be a soft whisper. And these experiences will take different shapes, mystical or not. But they all offer us a chance to evolve. And when we evolve, the world does as well.
In the desert, "Bamidbar", the Bnei Israel truly learned about the Divine, they cultivated their awareness and grew into a beautiful nation. This awareness has been handed down to us. May we all recognize Divine smiles, winks and glimpses whenever we are blessed with them, and may we all learn from them.
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