We spent this past Shabbat in the mystical city of Tsfat.
I went on an underground tour of tunnels excavated by Livnot Ulehibanot from Tsfat’s golden era, the 16th century. Walking through those tunnels I imagined that I was transported back 500 years, to the time when great rabbis such as Rabbi Yosef Karo (the Shulchan Aruch), the Arizal, Rabbi Moshe Kordovero and Rabbi Shlomo Halevi Alkabetz (author of Lecha Dodi) transformed this remote, Northern town into a lighthouse of Jewish mysticism and Torah-learning for the entire Jewish world.
The tour ended at Livnot’s excavations of Beit HaKahal, which served as Tsfat’s community center for 500 years.
The central room of the Beit HaKahal is a large room with vaulted ceilings and benches on either side. Our guide told us that this was where people would meet, spending time together as they waited for their bread to bake.
And I imagined all those Jewish moms over the course of half a millennium sitting together — talking about the stuff Jewish moms talk about to this very day, sharing their personal struggles and hardships. As women and mothers and wives. In this space to share inspiration, encouragement, and abundant blessings.
And I dreamed that JewishMOM.com can serve as a kind of modern Beit HaKahal, for today’s moms who, for better and worse, bake and live our lives, with our families — largely alone.
Another highlight–the Livnot tour guide, Uriel Bashan, asked us why we think so many walls in Tsfat are painted blue.
Maybe you’ve heard explanations, as I have, that walls in Tsfat and other cities are painted blue to pull our souls and hearts upward, by reminding us of the Heavens.
Another popular explanation which you might have heard is that blue is thought to ward off the evil eye. But Uriel quoted Rav Asher Saltz, a revered Kabbalist and teacher from Tsfat, who explained the historic source of the blue walls.
Hundreds of years ago, Rav Saltz explained, women would paint their own walls with the standard white paint. Few families could afford the high prices of colored paints, but one woman, who was tired of having only white walls decided to spice up her walls by adding some laundry detergent to the white paint. And back then, the laundry detergent was blue. Other women in the community saw the blue paint, and thought it was pretty, and the idea caught on, and spread and spread. Not because of the evil eye. Not because of Heavens.
The blue paint originated with a Jewish mother who wanted to brighten up her home. Brighten up her family. Brighten up her heart? Her life? And maybe that’s how we Jewish mothers bring some Heaven down, from the Heavens to home.