Monday, October 29, 2012

One broken man, with one broken heart

Yom sheni, 13 Cheshvan 5773.

The streets of my small community were unusually busy this afternoon.  We are a bedroom community; so it's very noticeable when there is a lot of foot and car traffic at midday.

People and cars flowed from many streets this hot afternoon, toward the main synagogue.  A bus poured forth its contents of holy and normal yeshiva boys, full of life and promise, who moved with us as one man with one heart.

As the Dearly Beloved and I arrived at our destination, we became part of the ever-growing semi-circle of hundreds of yishuv residents, around the entrance to the shul.  But nobody went inside.  We stood outside in the hot sun.  Few sought the fragments of shade.  It didn't seem right, somehow, to look for comfort, if you didn't happen to find it easily.

We watched as a small group of men surrounded a family, and began cutting the left top edge of each of their shirts.  Our hearts were rent by the sound of the tearing fabric that set off a wave of crying from people around us.

We listened as the Rav talked about the 18-year-old boy who ran to do mitzvot, who died running on a path between our Neve Daniel and a tiny community nearby, a community that is part of us, really.  He was probably fulfilling the usual practice of young people his age, preparing his body for IDF service, so that he would be strong enough to be the best soldier he could be.

We listened to a brother, crying through words about his brother, that broke our hearts completely.  We listened to a school chum, trying to tell the amusing things about his classmate, through his tearful voice, into our tears.  He was everyone's friend, everyone's brother.  Of course he was.  Billy Joel got that one right.

Some of us knew him.  Some of us knew his parents.  All of us know that it is otherworldly and aberrant to lose a child on the cusp of manhood who has not yet had the chance to live the life of a man.

We do not know why he died.  Was it his heart?  Something undetected, that made an apparently healthy young man a victim of a medical mystery?

He was my son's friend.  He was the child of my ulpan teacher, a witty, talented, funny woman who makes me quake every time I see her, because I so want to show her that she did a good job teaching me, and I know that I will be tongue-tied, and will only be able to speak English to her, or Level Aleph Hebrew.  And now all I can think is that our sons are -- were -- the same age.  And language doesn't matter, does it?

As a good friend said, "There is nowhere to channel the emotion.  There is nothing to be angry at.  The sadness is physically draining.  There's never an answer to Why. This time, even less so."

I walk with all of us, one person with one heart.  We follow the boy and his bearers as we walk toward the entrance to the yishuv.  Most of my community will walk him or otherwise follow him to the cemetery in Gush Etzion.

I talk with a couple of friends who give me strength.  Then, I break away to teach a class over the phone to a student in America who has no clue about the day's events.  Nor can she know the power of living as part of an entity that ceases to be about individuals when we lose a piece of ourselves.  It is painful to be part of the Jewish family.  And it is the greatest and most strengthening thing on Earth.

We all lost a son today.  And we do not understand.

In memory of Eliyashiv Lubitch, zt"l.  May your parents and family be comforted, among the mourners of Zion and Yerushalayim.  I know your memory will be for a blessing.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

It's a GIRL!

Yom shishi, 3 Cheshvan 5773.

Mazal tov to Yeshiva Bochur and Champagne Girl.


May you give each other as much joy as you give your parents, for long, healthy, happy years.

Nisan and Marietta, we're looking forward to being related. :-)

Besides granddaughters, this is how Chez Mizrachi adds the Girl Factor.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Party! Party! Party!

Yom chamishi, 25 Tishrei 5773.

Yesterday was our fifth "aliyahversary."  Woo-HOO!  How did we celebrate?

The Dearly Beloved coached his football team.  He had to wrestle with executive decisions about where to play which guys, who worked best on offense and who on defense, and which guys needed to be cut from the developing team.  This is a very difficult decision, as he knows that all of those guys want to fulfill childhood dreams.

Sports Guy went to the team doc and got a dislocated shoulder Kinesio-taped with pretty blue tape.  And then he stayed up most of the night with good friends from Baltimore, watching the Orioles and the Yankees duke it out over who will go to the World Series.  (I don't hear any fat lady singing yet, New Yorkers...)

Stunt Man sat in a classroom -- as all of his former rebbeim and teachers know, NOT his favorite pastime -- taking advantage of one of his Israeli army benefits: preparing to pass his bagruyot.  (Think high school finals combined with college SATs.  All in Hebrew.  Talk about combat!)

Yeshiva Bochur surprised his girlfriend, Champagne Girl, who is living with us temporarily.  (This precious girl has earned this sobriquet by being as uplifting and optimism-enhancing as a glass of champagne.)  It is always a delight when Yeshiva Bochur appears at the door after a long stretch with his army unit.  That delight is enhanced by watching her bubbling joy at his arrival.  (There is something very sweet about watching a beautiful young lady's appreciation for one's son.  Good taste, has our Champagne Girl!  What better affirmation is there that we parents did a good job!)

And how did I celebrate?

There's nothing as powerful as "sister support."
I had real coffee for a change with eleven of around thirty "virtual" friends.  We have been meeting in our special Facebook group for about eight months to chat over our morning or afternoon coffee; and it just seemed important to finally meet -- as one of our very computer-lingo-hip members says -- "f2f" (face to face).
Celebrating five years over Israel's national beverage.
There were two women-and-daughter teams in attendance (and one remarkably well-behaved and patient baby, our only male attendee).  We covered a range of ages, and boasted aliyah dates spanning from just last year to 1967.

We spent more than three hours together!

Women told amazing stories of struggle and survival, physical and spiritual and emotional in nature.  We shared various uplifting life philosophies: "You can't really know someone else until you hear her story."  "Think good and it will be good."  "I believe in living a purposeful life."  "Age isn't about wrinkles.  It's about giving up a sense of wonder."  "I've spent the last twenty years trying to earn the privilege of living in Eretz Yisrael."  (The one who offered that surprising revelation has given so much to Israel, she has more than earned her privilege!)

We ended our get-together by dividing up the recitation of the 150 chapters of King David's Tehillim, in the merit of those with serious illnesses, and of those looking for their life's partner, and in the honor of our founding member's father's neshama.  This would be meaningful at any time; but there was a very special glow in that room, filled by the stories and the appreciation of those stories, that made the prayers soar.  I was very moved by the fact that all of my designated chapters spoke so specifically about the character of the ladies I'd met!

As we know, nothing happens for "no reason."

May we share many more cups of virtual coffee, and also many hot, steaming, real cups -- f2f.

This post is dedicated to Paula, Tamar, Anita, Chaya Golda, Drora, Rachel Ann, Chava, Freyda Minna, Angela, Toby, Hadassa, Hadassa, Chloe, Rose, Fayge, Esther, Janet, Miriam Esther, Linda, Bracha, and Chava.  See you next time, gals?  Coffee pot's on, and your chair at the table is waiting.

Aliahversary: the anniversary of one's aliyah, immigration to Israel
Rebbeim: plural of rabbis, here meaning school Judaica instructors
Bagruyot: the tests all Israeli high school students spend their last instructional years to pass, to prepare for college entrance
Tehillim: Psalms, customarily recited in groups or individually in times of trouble or great longing, or even great joy
Neshama: soul