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Map of Souls

Adina Soclof

The spring morning was still cool. A light breeze caressed me as I gazed up at the Kosel. On the other side of the mechitzah, my son was donning his tefillin and preparing to be called to the Torah as a bar mitzvah. My happiness must have shone on my face because my old elementary school friend looked at me and said, “You’re glowing.” I nodded. “Where did you get this love of Eretz Yisrael?” she asked.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

I believe that every Jew has a special place in his heart forEretzYisrael. But sometimes we need someone to stoke the dormant embers of this love, or just to turn us inwards and show us that it’s within us. For me, that person wasMrs.Gopstein.Mrs.Gopstein was an Israeli who somehow found herself in our Brooklyn classroom. On the first day of the year she unfurled a creased map of Israel that seemed as ancient as the Land itself and taught us the geography of Israel: cities, coasts, mountains, valleys, plains, and the Kinneret, that one freshwater source that the Land depended on. When we had mastered that, with what seemed like the magical swirl of her weathered hands, she would draw a map of Israel on the blackboard and challenge us: “Rivkaleh, come make a dot and show us where Chevron is.” “Adinale, come make a dot and show us where Tzfat is.” “Malkale, come up to the board and show us whereYerushalayimIrHakodesh is.”Mrs.Gopstein knew Tanach by heart. She taught us Chumash with the map as her assistant, stressing the places where the Avos and Imahos walked, where she had walked and played as a child. She made a dent in the map with her finger: “Banot, here is Be’er Sheva, this is where Avraham lived, this is where he made a brit with Avimelech.” “Banot, right here is Yerushalayim, where Avraham brought Yitzchak for the Akeidah, and later onYaakov slept there and dreamed his dream of angels ascending and descending a ladder to Shamayim.”

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