Rosh Hashana in Oaxaca

by Rabbi Nachum Shifren

Mention the word "Oaxaca" to any surfer and the image most likely to flash in his mind's eye is a stretch of beach known as "Puerto Excondido." To those unacquainted with the explosive power released by these breaking waves, one need only to reflect on its nickname, "The Mexican Pipeline," to understand that this is not a "kickback" place to paddle out and have fun. If you're a gambling man, then try your hand at "Puerto"- where the sky is the limit.

And there's no shortage of adventure! (i.e., river-like rip currents, maniacal shifting peaks, 18 foot-long sharks- if you get hurt here, better pray the next flight back to the states precedes the beginning stages of gangrene and other maladies). On the other hand, if you're really sharp, are on the peak early, and you've positioned yourself in the right slot, you just may be on the best wave of your lifetime!

Well, seeing as it's new year's time, we thought you'd like this short narrative by Jeff Green of La Jolla, California:

"My buddies and I arrived at Puerto about a week before Rosh Hashanah ( the Jewish New Year). Our intention was to stay and leave for L.A. our last day before the holiday. As luck would have it, the waves were great and we were adequately compensated for our sunburns and mosquito bites. What we weren't ready for was a guerrilla attack near the airport, canceling all departures due to security precautions. Not even the American embassy could extricate us.

I felt guilty and miserable- what would my parents say (or worse), think, if I don't show up at the synagogue on the holiest of all days?! A perfect scenario: THE day, the day of judgment, that auspicious time where the Master of the universe judges his children as a shepherd discerns among his flock, waving his staff: this one will go, this one..., a day where each person's merits are recalled from the previous year.

No matter, though I'm not an especially religious person, I know the value of the New Year Day. Since the New Year Day gives life and sustenance to the rest of the months and days of that particular year, it follows then that the oceans will certainly be affected by what happens on this day!

And then, a miracle! I remembered from a friend that there was an American expatriate who owned a bar at the end of town, who, true to rumor, had a collection of old English books that were either donated or abandoned in the local hotels. Lo and behold, there was an old Machzor (new year's liturgy) in his vast collection.

I reckon that we were the first people ever to make kiddush (the festive start of the traditional meal) on tortillas and XX Beer. We all shared some of the insights of the solemn prayers.

At the end of the day, we strolled down the beach, together at sunset, the deafening pounding of the waves making any conversation nearly inaudible. As we, instead, turned our thoughts inward, we could perceive a directing hand on the whole of Creation. Somehow, there is a plan, a reason for events. As the Mexican twilight soon cast a shimmering velvet of a thousand different lights upon the churning ocean, we were happy to be a part of it all."

From Surf and Soul:

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