Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Happy Birthday, RivkA.

Yom chamishi, 4 Adar 5770.

You really ask so little.  All you asked for as a birthday present was a favorite story involving you.  The problem is that I don't have one.  I only have your smile.

We had been corresponding anonymously for a while, due to your remarkable attitude and writing on your notable blog, Coffee and Chemo.  When we met for the first time at the first J-Bloggers' Convention -- may we meet at many more! -- you smiled that amazing smile.  It said, "Hi, friend.  Good to see you again."  I felt like we had know each other forever -- at least since Har Sinai.

Every time I have seen you since -- at the Second Annual J-Bloggers' Convention; at the J-Bloggers' Picnic in Gan Sachar; and the special surprise of seeing you at my dear friend's daughter's bat mitzvah!  (Who knew you were her auntie???) -- you have bestowed upon me that special RivkA smile.


We're all one entity.

We can get through whatever @#%! the world throws at us, as long as we do it together.

That's what that smile says.  (Would that we Jews could ALL give each other that encouraging smile!)

That smile, my dear RivkA, is the only present I want from you for my birthday, for the next 76 years.  Do your best, okay?



Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Whatcha gonna be for Purim?

Yom revi'i, 3 Adar 5770.

 Even though Sukkot is my favorite holiday of the year, the build up to Purim has its own special magic.

My favorite part is the Great Costume Hunt, which plays itself out in posts in the local online networking list.  Never boring, even during relatively normal times of the year, the posts leading up to Purim are food for delightful mental images:

My 10 year old Indiana Jones is in search of a rugged looking brown jacket or button down shirt.  Anyone ready to help him find the holy grail?  : )

This Sunday - February 14th, we'll have our second annual Purim Costume Swap, at Nerissa's Place! Bring your old costume and exchange it for a new one!

My class is having a Shuk Purim tomorrow.  We would really appreciate any old or new makeup that you could give us. I am happy to pick it up from your house.

My daughter needs to wear monkey ears to school on Sunday.  Anyone have a monkey ear headband or anything else that could work?  Thanks!

My 3 yr old wants to be a fireman. Does anyone have a costume we could borrow?  We have a Chinese girl and boy, a tiger, a baseball kid costume.

We’re giving away two clown costumes.  One which Rafi wore when he was 2 (but is marked 6 years old), which needs some cleaning, and one that Shlomo wore that same year, which is now laughably big (but not laughable in a Purim way).  Any takers?

I am offering Superman, Ninja Turtle, Robin Hood, soldier, Moshe Rabeinu.  Looking to borrow a cowboy, and Rivka really really wants to be a parrot - any good suggestions????

Does anyone have a dwarf costume for a 9 yr old to borrow for tomorrow?

Does anyone have a lion costume for a 3-year-old?

Anyone have a Mickey Mouse costume or any part of for an eight year old girl?

Anyone have a constume/Chinese hat/any item of clothing an adult could wear if they wanted to dress Chinese for Purim?  Thanks!

Does anybody have a red curly wig we could borrow for Purim?

Happen to have a boy's cheetah costume lying around that would fit a seven year old?

Does anyone have cowboy boots (or something similar) size 36 / 37 that we can borrow for Purim? Also, any Cowboy vests out there for the lending?

Anyone have a Cat in the Hat hat that they wouldn’t mind lending out for Purim? Thanks. 

Is there such a thing as a porcupine costume?  And if there is, do you have one Daniel (age 3+) could borrow?

Here's wishing that everyone find all of the costume pieces she needs to add joy to the Purim holiday...  and that we are equally successful in finding all of the other pieces to play our parts in this holy and special day.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Look what the cat dragged in.

Yom sheni, 1 Adar 5770, Rosh Chodesh Adar.

One of the delightful things about my early morning sojourn to ulpan is the stroll down Rechov Emek Refaim.  You never know what you'll see.  This morning, the cats were all lined up for their appointments at the local veterinary clinic.

Or so I thought.

I observed in sociological fascination to learn that Israeli cats wait in line much as Israeli people do.  ("Are you before me?  Who is after you?"  "I'm after him, and her, and before you.  Watch out for the big one.  He always slips in at the last moment, claiming he's in pain and can't speak Hebrew.")

Then the veterinarian stepped out, and cleared the matter up for me.  "They're just waiting for the most recent issue of Haveil Havalim," she explained, in perfect English.  As the cats devoured the "Rosh for Chodesh Adar, Not a Joke" edition, I marveled at how fortunate we humans are.  We don't have to wait in line for some well-meaning but overburdened physician to bring out copy out.  We can just pop over to Batya's place at Shilo Musings, and pick up our very own copy.

Ulpan: intensive Hebrew-language immersion class
Rechov: street

Thursday, February 11, 2010

"Okay, People. Settle Down!"

Yom chamishi, 27 Shevat 5770.

I'm not given to ranting.  But I've had something on my mind for a while that I need to say.  I'll be happy to hear your opinion.

Would it be too much to ask that we get off each others' backs?

Let's start with a couple of short examples.

Plony, living in the United States, tells his friend, "You will destroy your teenager if you move her to Israel.  She will have trouble adjusting to the language, to the culture, to having less -- and she will hate you forever."

Plonit, living in Israel, tells her sister in the US, "People who refuse to make aliyah have no G-d!  Look it up in the Talmud.  It says that it's as if you worship idols!"

There are many stories on both sides of the equation colored by verbal abuse and discouragement.  As if either side can know what is going on in the hearts and minds and lives of those on the other side.

It reminds me of the debate that raged throughout my child-rearing years over which was superior:  being a stay-at-home mom, or being a working mom.  By the time each side got done talking over the other, mothers on both sides of the argument felt like losers.

Since it is impossible for us to know G-d's mind, I wonder if it wouldn't be more helpful if people validated each others' choices, instead of sabotaging each others' efforts to live healthy, productive lives.

People who want to take on the challenge and the dream of making aliyah should be encouraged for their noble goals, rather than dissuaded by "modern-day meraglim."

People who have made other choices have unshakable reasons -- at least at this time -- and shouldn't be verbally battered or belittled.  Besides, they have plenty of rabbis on their side of the argument, too.

We recently read in Parashat Beshalach that Moshe is instructed by Hashem to strike a rock, causing it to produce water for the Jews.  Later, in Parashat Chukat, Moshe again will strike a rock to bring forth water for the complaining masses, and will be punished for it by not being allowed to lead the Jewish people into the Holy Land.  Years ago, I heard one of those paradigm-shifting Torah explanations from Rabbi Ephraim Becker.  I'm paraphrasing, and any errors in transmission are mine.

Rabbi Becker asks why Moshe Rabbeinu was punished so severely for striking the rock.  After all, he was justifiably angry -- and not on his own behalf, but on Hashem's.  Which of Moshe's grandchildren, in our day and age, cannot feel defensive of our great teacher for this seemingly excusable lapse in patience?  Rabbi Becker explains that Am Yisrael had finally climbed back to the level of kedusha from which we had fallen since the time of Adam's chet.  In other words, if Moshe merely had spoken to the rock, the rock would have obeyed.  And the Jewish people would have come to the conclusion that if a rock can listen to G-d, surely we can.  And we would have been spiritually able, at that moment, to cross back to that exalted level of holiness as a nation.  From there, we would have been one tiny step to returning to Gan Eden...  and to Eternal Life.

But Moshe struck the rock.  And we all understand that in the short term, one can beat obedience into anybody.

We lost that moment for collective salvation.

And now we must crawl and scratch our way back up a mountain of spiritual scree to that moment of possibility as individuals, blind to a clear path, with decreasing guidance with every succeeding generation...

According to Rabbi Becker, for this error in judgment was Moshe kept from entering the Land.

We don't know what G-d wants.  We can only learn as much as possible, and strive -- individually and collectively -- to understand.

And it is my humble opinion that Hashem would be more proud of us for supporting each other than for cornering the market on The Right Answer.

Plony: the "John Doe" of Talmudic discourse; Plonit is my feminine version
Meraglim: the spies who gave a bad report of the land of Caanan, convincing the people that they could not successfully take the land -- even though G-d had brought them to it for that purpose (and would presumably back their effort)
Parashat Beshalach, Parashat Chukat: specific weekly readings from the Five Books of Moses
Moshe Rabbeinu: Moses, our Teacher
Am Yisrael: the nation of Israel
Kedusha: holiness
Chet: sin (the chet of Adam refers specifically to his decision to eat from the forbidden fruit)
Gan Eden: the Garden of Eden

Okay, Benjie.  I used your title.  Happy?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Amazing, but true.

Yom sheni, 17 Shevat 5770.

Warning:  If you are at all bothered by the concept of G-d taking the time to play with His creatures, this post is not for you.

Over the course of more than twenty years, I have become convinced that Hashem involves Himself in the day-to-day minute details of every life, including my own.

I also believe He has a sense of humor.  And I believe that He takes enjoyment of some sort in teasing His children.

I have been attending a wonderful ulpan called Ulpan La-Inyan for almost two months.  On the first day of class, we encountered several new words to express delight.  One of those words was "מדהים."  Transliterated as "madhim," this word means "amazing."  Great word, no?  Couldn't make it stick in my brain, no matter how hard I tried.  But as I stepped out of my classroom and made my way home via Emek Refaim Street, the word jumped out at me on the side of a truck.
The advertising slogan says: "Amazing what is possible to create from the simple things in life."
Naturally, I wanted to digitally trap this image, to add to my growing collection of Hebrew signs that I can actually understand.  But getting this photo was to be an eight-week obsession -- and I couldn't help but think that Hashem was having a bit of fun with me.

Several times, I could see the truck in the distance, but not close enough to get a good shot.
Or another truck would viciously move into the path between me and my quarry.
There was the day that two of the Strauss trucks went by...  and I couldn't unravel my camera from my handkerchief and keys.  "Two trucks, Hashem?  Do You have to rub it in?"

There was the day that I decided not to take my camera at all, because who wanted to take photos on such  a bad-weather day?  When we arrived at the pharmacy, there was my madhim truck, sitting in the parking lot, just waiting for a photo shoot.  "Thanks, G-d.  I got the message:  carry the camera always."

And there was the day I was on the bus, heading out the front gate of the yishuv, just as you-know-which-truck came in the gate to restock our makolet.  Where it would no doubt be sitting still for several minutes.  But I was on my way to ulpan.  "Thanks, G-d," I murmured.  "I am glad you are paying attention to me."

I discovered that there are plenty of Tenuva trucks on the roadways -- far more than their dairy competitors -- and that they like to sit still and pose for the camera.  But I did not give them the satisfaction.

Finally, I decided to try an end-run.  I pulled up the Strauss site on my computer.

It wasn't as clear and colorful as I might have liked -- but at least it took the edge off of the obsession.

I went back to a more-or-less normal life.  I had to admit that I was grateful to Hashem.  After all, I was so ready to photograph that truck at a second's notice that I got a lot of other interesting shots.  (I plan to show them to you in future posts.)  And with this philosophy, one does feel an intimate connection with one's Creator.  Why wait for illness or tragedy, G-d forbid, to remember that He is there for us?  He is capable of creating connection in myriad ways, after all.  If Hashem is up for a bit of teasing, I'm game.

Like any good father, He knows when the fun's gone on long enough.  Today He presented the prize.


Ulpan: an intensive Hebrew language-immersion course
Madhim: If you don't have this one by now, you weren't paying attention.
Yishuv: small community; settlement
Makolet: small grocery store
Strauss and Tenuva: two competing dairies