H onestly, it’s not hard to see why Rabi Shimon burned everyone up after those first 12 years in the cave.

I’ve just walked in the door to the tziyun and I’m bewildered by the eclectic, colorful assortment of Yidden here on this ordinary Tuesday afternoon: shiny silver heels, sensible orthopedic shoes, fluorescent pink sneakers. I try to stay balanced on my own two feet while I navigate the crowd.

A lady at the door, who looks to be several months past her due date, calmly and persistently approaches every single person who enters, asking for donations for needy kallahs. Meanwhile, an unseen woman jubilantly tosses out Sephardic-flavored brachos and handfuls of candy; they shower the kever as those around her answer “Amen!” with equal parts bemusement and fervor. Ladies in sleeveless shirts adjust their borrowed headscarves.

A smiling woman, holding a newborn in one arm and a toddler in the other, poses for a photo. She’s flanked by an indeterminate number of other children. Women hold animated phone conversations in front of the sign that reads PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CELL PHONE. A lady with pink fingernails wearing pants places a bottle of arak on the kever, murmurs fervently for a few minutes, and then removes the bottle and leaves, apparently satisfied.

After the three-hour bus ride to Meron, I have some trouble getting my bearings in the midst of this holy bedlam. I find a seat in the corner and try to focus. Immediately, I’m distracted by a stream of cold air from the air conditioner blowing directly on my face. A small bird alights on a shelf and begins pecking at a forgotten cookie. An elderly woman struggles to open a metal folding chair. I give her my seat; she smiles gratefully, says something incomprehensible in a language I may or may not know, places a tray of rugelach on the seat I vacated, and walks away.

I wander around, displaced and unsettled. This is what goes on at the gravesite of one of the holiest people who ever lived? How can I find the sense of balance and deep inner connection I’ve been craving when the room is filled with all these characters?

Until suddenly I realize: I’m burning up people who came to visit a tzaddik.

See those two little girls in shorts? Dark, beautiful eyes. Their mother brought them to Meron to see a tzaddik. Once, I was also a little dark-eyed girl in shorts — and the most interesting place I ever got to visit was the science museum.

See that lady adjusting the sheer scarf over her sleeveless top? She has enough kavod for this place to put on that scarf. Do I have that same kavod? Though I’m dressed more appropriately, I’m watching from the sidelines and can’t even manage to be wholeheartedly present. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 590)