I was talking to my friend Paul the other day about Hawaii. The conversation took place during a rather mundane, everyday stressful event (grocery shopping with kids) so it’s possible that at that particular moment, Hawaii seemed even nicer than usual. Nevertheless, when Paul asked me how my recent trip to Hawaii was, all I could think about was the sunset.
“Mana Food” sounds Jewish, perhaps a reference to the manna from heaven that the Israelites ate in the desert. But on the island of Maui it’s a lovely health food supermarket in the town of Paia. The “Mana” here refers to a Hawaiian notion of spiritual power, one of many Hawaiian words and concepts that bear a striking resemblance to Hebrew and Jewish ideas, despite the small Jewish community on island, which numbers just 3000.
Somewhere between Philly and Phoenix, I picked up a nasty cold. It started as a small sniffle as I was squished between two large men during the take-off during this second leg of my 28-hour journey. If I had been on my way to anywhere else other than Hawaii, where I was once again invited for by the Jewish Congregation of Maui to consult on Jewish education and development, I might have considered that this wasn’t worth the effort. By the time I took off from Phoenix, I clearly had a temperature, as well as that horrible lump in the throat which felt depressingly like strep, and I begged the flight attendant to switch me to a row with no other passengers so I could just lay down for six hours and nurse myself back to health in the clouds. It’s terrible to be sick anytime. But when you’re on your way to a mere 14 days in paradise, you don’t want to waste even one moment.
One of the most life-altering events I experienced in Maui was going to an Uluwehi Guerrero concert. Uluwehi, or Ulu as he is known to his friends, is a beloved Hawaiian folk artist who is dedicated to preserving not only Hawaiian language and music but the entire Hawaiian culture and heritage. Leslie Granat, a fabulous Jewish philanthropist and businesswoman — a Brooklyn-bred Maui resident and one of the major sponsor s of Ulu’s concert — told me that if I could go to only one Hawaiian concert in my life, this should be it.
Last week, for the first time in my life, I was the tenth man for a minyan, so to speak. Although on the first night of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish Congregation of Maui had a packed house, by the second morning, the dropout rate was noticeable. So when I walked into the synagogue on Friday morning, the nine men waiting to pray were very happy to see me.
It’s 3:30 a.m. and I’m getting dressed. We have to leave right now in order to arrive by sunrise. I put on warm socks and grab sweatshirts because, even though it’s August in Maui, the mountain peak we’re headed to is freezing. I’m finding it hard to imagine being cold, but I’m covered and we’re off.