Today would have been my father's 82nd birthday.
I've been thinking about Dad throughout this trip. He laid the foundation for our journey, with all of his genealogical research into our family's history in Lita.
Dad spoke about his Lithuanian roots at my ordination in 1988, connecting accounts of our ancestors with the week's Torah portion, Naso. He preached about how our individual and collective family stories can bind and inspire us, and he urged us to wrestle blessings from the past, even when it is difficult. Naso is also the parasha for this Shabbat, and tonight, back in Boise, Janet will deliver the d'var Torah. I'll be in Keidainiai, my family's ancestral home, thinking about Janet and Dad and the Finkelstein family and the Jewish past, present, and future.
But it isn't easy getting there. It takes a full day on the river, all-out paddling beneath sodden skies most of the way, with one more dam to ford. Exhausted from a demanding week, we finally arrive into town at 5:00 pm sharp to the ringing of church bells just as the sun breaks through. Five o'clock and all's well.
We meet up with our local contacts via Justus--Gertune and her husband--in their back yard, where they are waiting for us, on the left riverbank. Like all of the Lithuanians we have encountered on our journey, they are kind and generous. They're both at least ten years older than me, yet they insist on helping us haul the kayak and gear into their garden shed, then drive us to our AirBnb accommodations for the weekend, where we're greeted by our host, Audrius. He, too, is very gracious. He welcomes us to his Soviet-era apartment; it's stark and grey and depressing on the outside, but Audrius has done his best with the interior and, after a week in the tent, it's a beautiful respite. After we chat a little and unpack, Rosa and I go out for dinner, then stroll briefly through the town, which is quaint and quiet. We'll explore more in the morning.
For now, time to light Shabbat candles, make kiddush, and then to bed:
Praised are You, Eternal One, God of our fathers and mothers--God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob. God of Sarah, God of Rebecca, God of Rachel and God of Leah.
It is good to be home.