Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A little Pesach chizuk

Yom shlishi, 6 Nisan 5769.

My friend, Glenna, has a smile and a warm word or a story of encouragement for everyone.  Here is a story she sent to me.  She heard it from her friend, who heard it from her friend, who...

I’d like to share a favorite true story from a special friend of mine, Pearl K.  She uses the following to keep in a happy frame of mind while cleaning for Pesach.

Someone Pearl knows made aliyah.  She tells the following personal story:

"I was glad to be living in Israel, but one thing I really missed – besides family and friends I’d left behind, of course – was my washer and dryer.  I couldn’t afford those items as a new olah, and found doing laundry by hand an arduous physical chore.  I noticed, however, that my next door neighbor seemed not just philosophical about hanging up the wash -- she seemed to really enjoy it.  In fact, she acted as if it was her own personal celebration!

"I was so curious, I got up my courage to ask her about it in my broken Hebrew. What was such fun about hanging out laundry?

"My neighbor explained:

'I’m a holocaust survivor.  The concentration camp I was in was right near an ordinary Polish community.  I was a teenager, not at all sure that I would survive.  I’d look through the barbed wire enviously as Polish women nonchalantly hung out their wash.  I wondered if I would ever be blessed to get out of there, marry, have a family and the need to do large amounts of laundry.  It became my fondest dream.

'Well, with Hashem’s help, I did survive and was blessed in all those ways.  Is it any wonder that I’m thrilled by the task of hanging out laundry?'

"When I face making Pesach," continued my friend Pearl, "I think of that story.  It becomes not a personal chore, but a personal celebration.  There are, unfortunately, so many Jews who still have to hide to keep Pesach, and certainly more who had to in previous times.  Here I am, able to make Pesach openly, to go into major national stores and nonchalantly select kosher-for-Pesach items with no fear of a possibly-resurgent KGB or anyone else.  As I go through, cleaning out the junk from my life along with the physical chometz, how can I not – like my friend’s neighbor in Israel -- make it a personal celebration of thanks to Hashem?"

In these changing times and times of change, may all of us continue to feel how holy a gift is the freedom simply to live as Jews; and may we remember Whom to thank.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Warming a Soldier's Soul

Yom sheni, 5 Nisan 5769.

Sometimes I don't even have to do any work to get across an idea that is important to me.  This happens a lot lately, when I let Soldier Boy visit this space, and do my talking for me.

Please drop by his blog at Through Josh-Colored Glasses, and read his latest thank-you note to a wonderful organization, to the people working on coordinating its efforts with the IDF, and to you.

Photos taken on a recent lovely outing shared by father & son.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Here Comes the Sun!

Yom shishi, 2 Nisan 5769.

A current hit song in Israel cheerfully blasts the fact that "eize kef l'hiyot Yehudi!" -- "it is fun/cool to be a Jew."  One of the coolest things about being a Jew is that we bless practically everything.  Nothing is taken for granted:  we make a blessing on being permitted to awaken to another day; we make a blessing when our bodies function properly; we even bless the time period between sleeping and waking.  There is no moment in the life of a Jew that doesn't matter.  No such thing as "killing time," chas v'shalom!
Once every 28 years, we are privileged to bless the sun.
Why only once ever 28 years?  Because, according to our tradition, the sun returns to its exact point in time and space that it was at the time of Creation every 28 years.  (There are, as always, discussions on the details of the timing:  the division isn't exact, so how do the Sages deal with the discrepancy?  Easy to learn about; additonal fun -- and I leave it to you.)
While there will undoubtedly be newsworthy celebrations of Birkat HaChama all over the Jewish world, as there have been in the past  -- check out the 1897 observance in Times Square, for example -- there is something very special about being permitted to celebrate here in Israel.

For local readers, take advantage of the many opportunities to learn about Birkat HaChama.  In Neve Daniel, a class will be given over by Rabbi Zvi Ron on yom rishon, 5 Nisan (March 29) at 20:30 (8:30 PM) at R' Alonei Mamrei 411/4.  Men and women are welcome.

And for those who own a tee shirt from every major life event in the last several decades (you know who you are:  Woodstock --  "If you remember the sixties, you didn't live through them"; The Eagles' Reunion 1993 -- "We didn't break up; we just took a 14-year hiatus"), there is even a vintage Birkat HaChama tee shirt!  In Israel, contact David and Devorah Katz at 02 993 3936.  Free delivery for residents of Gush Etzion.  Get 'em while they're hot!
Here Comes the Sun, lyrics by G. Harrison 
Here comes the sun (du dn du du)
Here comes the sun
And I say
Its alright
Little darling
Its been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling
It seems like years since it's been here
Here comes the sun
Here comes the sun
And I say
Its alright
Little darling
The smiles returning to the faces
Little darling
It seems like years since it's been here
Here comes the sun (du dn du du)
Here comes the sun
And I say
Its alright
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes (four times)
Little darling
I see the ice is slowly melting
Little darling
It seems like years since it's been clear
Here comes the sun (du dn du du)
Here comes the sun
Its alright
Here comes the sun (du du du du)
Here comes the sun
Its alright
Its alright
Looking forward to celebrating with all of the Jews of the world.  Birkat HaChama, 14 Nisan 5769 (April 8, 2009).  See you there!  And may we all be here to see the sun rise on the long-standing Third Temple at the next Birkat HaChama celebration!
Hat tips to Chaya Gottesman, Yossi Baumol, Jameel, and Haim Makovsky 
Birkat HaChama:  blessing on the sun
Chas v'shalom:  "Heaven forbid"

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Hat Party! (Warning: serious chick-flick alert.)

Yom chamishi, 1 Nisan 5769, Rosh Chodesh.

Raising only sons, I am endlessly fascinated by the delightful differences between males and females.  For example, none of my sons -- even the most flamboyant -- would be caught dead at a hat party.

The last hat party I attended was on my first trip to Israel in 1991.  The delight of playing dress-up with a bunch of women, and the cute comments that floated around me, have stayed with me all of these years.
"Ooh, Tessa!  I never knew you had red hair!"
[After a knock at the door]:  "If you're a man -- STAY OUT!!!"   
[In a lovely Cockney accent]:  "Oh, not f'me.  Too frum!"
I found a couple of beautiful snoods, which I still cherish to this day -- mostly because they let me hold my first experience of Israel close to me all of these years.
Now that I am privileged to live here, I attended my second hat party the other night.  There were even more hats!
And the comments were just as cute.
"Miriam, it must be very hard to choose a hat, when everything looks so great on you!"
[After a knock at the door]:  "If you're a man -- STAY OUT!!"
"[Sigh.]  Some lucky people just have 'hat heads'."
One of the very different character traits between men and women is the competition thing.  If men would hold a hat party, the comments would be more aggressive and joking -- dare I say "snide"? -- then at women's gatherings.  Something like:  Yankel, that hat makes your face look like a baseball.  Well, thanks, Mordy.  At least I don't look like I just sprouted feathers out of my ears.  Oh, yeah?  YEAH.
Women tend to encourage and help each other.  Everyone wants to look better than she does; so she empathetically says nice things about her friend, or becomes her "personal shopper."

 At the end of the experience, a girl feels like everyone is her friend, and she can't wait to get together with these lovely people again.

For more on the differences between men and women, especially applicable to this time of year, check out Jameel's Pesach cleaning post:  "Mars & Venus on Erev Pesach Cleaning".

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Geula on My Mind

Yom rishon, 26 Adar 5769.
A friend sent me the following remarkable letter.

Dear Friends,

There are no words for the gratitude and awe Bracha Elisheva and I feel for your incredible tefilla and zrizus for mitzvahs.

When this all began, I wanted to know what the spiritual implications of the disease are.  As it turns out, Rav Avraham Schorr writes in the Lekach Levav that Cancer's nature is for cells to grow seemingly without reason, to the point that they kill the cells around them.  He says that this is the essence of Sinas Hinam, baseless hatred.  When people do not maintain an Ayin Tov, a good eye, for one another, they end up hating each other for no reason.

It seems fitting, then, that the tikkun for this insanity is Ahavas Hinam, love without reason.

Anyone who has observed the tremendous love between friends and community across the globe will see that this tikkun is taking place as we speak.  From where I sit, the experience is indescribable, and feels at times as if we're living the lives of two other people--not ourselves.

In any event, please know that your love and support is well needed and welcome in our home, as are you.

Good Shabbos,


Cancer is a terrifying disease.  Is it just my impression, or have you also noticed that it seems to be growing like – well – like a cancer???

I am moved and shaken by what Jordan shares with us, in his quote from Rav Schorr.

Many years ago, I had a chavruta.  She came to my door, the guest of a guest.  She sported a black leather mini-skirt and shockingly red, very short hair.  Only much later did I learn that her costume was part of her campaign of shaking her fist at the Malach haMavet (the Angel of Death).  She had been fighting cancer for 18 years; and up until now, it looked like she just might win.

We began to learn together, because she struck me as very intelligent, and I answered her questions without glossing over anything I didn’t understand.  Over the year we learned together, she made me prove that I really believed everything I said I believed.  It was an education and a pleasure to watch her grow in her respect for the concepts in the Torah.

As Marla got sicker and sicker, the community around her said Tehillim on her behalf.  Her favorite perek was 51, which spoke about the kind of repentance she hoped to attain before she left the world. 

In her last battle, she taught me more about love and giving from a Torah perspective than I had yet learned from texts or even from my beloved rabbis.

Right now, I have a friend who is fighting cancer.

I have only been privileged to meet her in person once; but through her writing, I have come to know and to respect her.  She writes a blog sharing what it is like for a young mother, living in Israel, to fight this terrible disease day to day.  She calls it “Coffee and Chemo,” in honor of the friends who come to sit with her during her chemotherapy, to take her mind off of the rigors of the experience.  RivkA (with a capital A at the end of her name) ends each of her blog posts with the words “Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.”  It feels like a great honor to be among the many readers who have added RivkA to their prayers.  May we share great news!

Often I hear from well-meaning individuals their concern that the sufferer of the disease is somehow to “blame” for the disease.  But I have empirical evidence that this is not the case.  Rather, this is a malady that we collectively must suffer, perhaps as a message that we must get our collective act together.  I believe that the victim is merely “carrying the ball for the team.”  Two years ago, a dear friend died of a particularly virulent form of cancer.  “Tante Dina,” as we all called her, was a very special neshama.  She gave joy to countless children, even though she was never blessed with children of her own.  She added music and dance to the world.  She was always there – more often than not anonymously – to help those in need.  Most characteristic of all, she refused to ever hear a breath of lashon hara about any person.  Tante Dina was the last person on Earth to be punished for the individual commission of the sin of baseless hatred.

We all have examples of people we know who are suffering from this dreaded disease.  The question, as the Israelis say, is “Ma la’asot?”  What is one to do?

Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo offers an insight in his book For the Love of Israel and the Jewish People: Essays and Studies on Israel, Jews and Judaism.  In his chapter entitled “Jewish Tradition and the Intifada,” Rabbi Cardozo suggests the following:

"Israel should start a national campaign to promote the commandments between human beings.  National outreach programs that use radio and television broadcasts, websites, email, CDs and educational videos could reach hundreds of thousands of people.  We should flood Israeli society and the Jewish world at large with uplifting literature, presented in an attractive way in order to inspire people to show the highest sensitivity to the feelings of our fellow human beings.  Advertisements on billboards at bus and train stations and in shopping centers sponsored by major industries, should call on readers to be more patient with each other, greet passerby with a smile, show courtesy, help wherever possible and make it a matter of honor and pride to be a real mensh."

Any grassroots project has to start small.  But if something as small as the smiley face of the 1970s could make a big impact, surely acts of kindness within Jewish society could start small, and snowball into an avalanche of decency.  My husband always says to our sons – all very different individuals – that “world peace begins at the Eastman table.”  Each family, each individual, can make being nice to our fellow Jews a personal campaign.  If we truly want the Geula, the Great and Final Redemption, isn’t treating each person well just as important as the other mitzvot G-d asks of us?  If you knew that being patient with the person on line ahead of you had the potential to kill two million cancer cells, would it be worth it?  If you knew that treating a harried bureaucrat with compassion would save the life of a Jew, would you give it a try?

Rabbi Cardozo quotes the Talmud (Yoma 9a, b) to drive home the point.

“While the first Temple was destroyed because of idol worship and sexual immorality, the second was destroyed because of sinat chinam – groundless hatred – even though many people studied Torah then… the construction of the second Temple took only several years… Yet once the second Temple was destroyed two thousand years ago, no third one as yet been built.  This shows us that God considers groundless hatred between fellow Jews much worse than idol worship or sexual immorality.” 

There are women's groups springing up all over Israel whose focus is to increase Ahavat Yisrael collectively.  May their efforts be crowned with success.  May we help to bring about a refua shelaima m’heira for Bracha Elisheva bat Kayla and RivkA bat Teirtzel, among all of our precious, holy cholim.

Tefilla:  prayer
Zrizus for mitzvahs:  alacrity in perfoming G-d's commandments, as well as good deeds in general
Tikkun:  repair, remedy
Chavruta:  study partner
Tehillim:  Psalms
Perek:  chapter
Tante:  Aunt
Neshama:  soul
Lashon hara:  gossip; evil, hurtful talk
Mensh:  decent, upright human being
Ahavat Yisrael:  love of a (fellow) Jew -- It is understood that the process of loving the world starts small, like a pebble dropped into a pool of water, and that the ripples eventually will spread throughout the world.
Refua shelaima m'heira:  complete and speedy recovery
Cholim:  sick people

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Holy Queen Esther Coffee Mug -- Get 'em while they're hot!

Yom revi'i, 22 Adar 5769.

 Ahhhhhhh...  Just settling down to my morning coffee, which tastes just a little better these days.

According to Egyptian cleric Safwat Higazi, Starbucks Coffee has been using its "siren" logo to promote Jewish history's lovely Queen Esther

Who knew?  All this time, I thought it was a picture of a mermaid.    (I guess Queen Esther is just preparing a couple of really nice salmon for Maahi Kabab for Shabbat.)

Thank you, Safwat Higazi, for bringing to the world's attention that Starbucks is as holy as all those folks on line at the airport coffee shops have always said it was.  I will never again make fun of someone who orders a Venti Grande Macchiato Cappuccino with a Quad.
Don't I always say that the first cup of coffee in the morning deserves it's very own bracha?
Hat tip to Charlie Shrem for sharing the memri.org article.
Another good article on this subject is by Melanie Phillips, entitled "The Protocols of the Elders of Coffee." My favorite line is "Ah yes, Starbucks: home of the Zionist genocidal apartheid bean."    
Kudos to my children in the States for rushing out and buying for me the Holy Queen Esther Coffee Mugs.  The coffee really does taste better now, guys.

Monday, March 16, 2009

You are so special!

Yom sheni, 20 Adar 5769.

This sweet film by Kurt Kuenne is SO worth 16 and a half minutes of your time. Enjoy!

Hat tip to Tamar Yonah.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Jews 1, Haman, zip. Bli ayin hara, puh-puh-puh.

Yom chamishi, 16 Adar 5769.

This Purim, we put a serious dent in the devil's dump truck.

We started the day with our traditional "healthy breakfast," which has been a staple of our Purim celebration since the boys were little kids.  Cereal boxes, emptied of their air-puffed contents, filled instead with candy.  "Orange juice" tasting suspiciously of RC "Q" orange soda pop.  (I love to say "soda pop," because it drives East Coasters crazy.)
Breakfast is served in pots and pans, instead of bowls, and eaten with wiggly plastic flatware that we have managed to hang onto through 15 Purims.  If we would ever decide that the boys had outgrown this peculiar custom, they have informed us that we would be traded in for more sensitive parents.

 The kids were funny.  Their self-designed costumes were cute and inexpensive, and fulfilled the time-honored concept of letting one's "true self" shine through.   Clowns, and seriously unthreatening "punks."  The young hopefuls.  (Sigh.)

We were blessed to start the day with an email from our dear friend, Nisan Jaffee.  He had written one of his famous grommens.  (How do you say that?  Grommenim?  Grommenot?  You know you're no longer an olah chadasha when you are now inept in two or three languages...)  Nisan sang a funny and sad tune about all of his old friends who had made aliyah.  Since he is a master of capturing one's character, and we could "hear" his voice rich with the Virgin Islands, singing the tune -- it gave us laughter and smiles and sighs.  It touched on the one difficult aspect of our Purim in Israel:  We really miss our dear friends in Baltimore.
We shared the seuda with two neighboring families -- our Sephardi Israeli landlords, and an Ashkenazi Israeli family that lives across the street.  We shared pieces of languages; and everyone patiently and humorously attempted to communicate.  I actually got little Yinon's joke, b'Ivrit!  

"Which radio station is mentioned in Tanach?"  The answer is "Kol Yisrael."  I got a nice smile out of Yinon, and a visual "atta girl," when I said, "Not Galgalatz?"  (For anyone not yet in the know, Galgalatz is a very funky radio station designed to entertain soldiers.  A fuller explanation can be found at What War Zone???, Benji Lovitt's blog.)  Before and after a delicious potluck feast, we shared a common language, known for leveling the playing field.  Everyone brought out instruments, and made joyful music together.  We discovered that Rav Reuven has remarkable rhythm playing that famous instrument, the fancy wine corkscrew.  A natural percussionist!

There were interesting discussions about (I think, if I translated correctly,) the nature of good disguised behind evil in the world, and questions of what can the Jew of today gain from the celebration of Purim.  How does the observance of Purim b'zman hazeh help to bring the Geula?

A lovely night was topped off with the Stunt Man's tribute to Nisan Jaffee, which he wrote on and off through the day.  In it he included verses about many of our friends in Baltimore, and some about new friends here.  Since he is a budding master of capturing one's character, his performance filled us with laughter and smiles and sighs.*

For me the most precious thing is that our teenangels kept our contract:  We simple Jews do not in this day understand the inyan to drink oneself silly quite well enough to "get so drunk, one cannot tell the difference between blessed is Mordechai and cursed is Haman."   They drank enough wine to tear down the walls between Jews; but nobody got sloppy and sick.  Nobody forgot for Whom he works.

The main theme of today's post is as follows.  Purim 5769 will go down in the chronicles as the first in a long time in which there was for our family light, joy, gladness and honor...  and good, clean, honest kef.

So may it be for us -- and all of the House of Israel -- for all future Purims.

 *Before you even ask, we are hoping to create a video of Stunt Man singing his grommen for a future blog post.
Haman:  bad guy in the Purim story
Soda pop:  soda, or pop, depending on where you grew up
Grommen:  a short verse, often in rhyme, often poking gentle fun
Olah chadasha:  a female new immigrant to Israel
Seuda:  festive meal
B'zman hazeh:  in these days
Inyan:  main theme
Kef:  fun.  Interestingly, there is no word in the Hebrew language for "fun."  We had to take this from the Arabic.     

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Seeking a colorful life among friends in the Holy Land.

Yom rishon, 12 Adar 5769.

The sign says "Please stop at the gate and say hello to the guard."

There are a lot of reasons to love Neve Daniel.  There are a lot of reasons to love the LNO (one of the local online chat lists).  And there are a lot of reasons to love Purim.

Here's what it looks like when all three get delightfully together.

Does anyone know of a costume store or Gemach in the Jerusalem area?

Does anyone have native American squaw moccasins size 8/40 women?

Anyone have a man's necklace we can borrow for Purim? And/or a devil's
pitchfork? Red trousers for a 13 year old boy?

Does anyone have a pirate patch we could borrow please?

I need a cane for Purim -- does anyone have one to loan?
Oh -- will whoever borrowed the pirates and Indian costumes last year please let me know who you are -- I did not write it down, and though I do not need them, several people have asked to use them this year. May we all have a great PURIM!!!

Does anyone have a revolver or gun I can borrow?

Oops!  Forgot the most important word:
Does anyone have a TOY revolver or gun I can borrow for Purim???

I'm still looking for a chickie or duck costume for a 1 year old.
Anyone have one to lend?

Anybody have Chinese or Japanese costume materials for an eight year old girl to borrow?     

Don't forget that today in the Ulam Semachot from 4pm is Ipur-Purim.

There will be make-up artists to make up the kids' faces, and other activities such as costume and gragger making.

Does anyone have a turtle/tortoise costume that I can borrow for this
Wednesday? (Size 10/12)

Anybody have a Minnie Mouse costume for an eight year old? Or maybe pieces of a costume?
Mickey Mouse ears?

Anyone have a size 4/5 or a size 6/7 lion costume (or a 6/7 monkey costume)
that we could borrow?

 looking to borrow fireman or cowboy costume for an almost 5 year old boy

Yonatan wants to dress up as a chassid or Matisyahu.
Have you got square glasses or a jacket/coat thing that will look like a bekeshe??

Does anyone have a costume that we can borrow for Purim...about 12 month size?  Nothing hazardous or too uncomfortable.  If anyone has a lion or bear costume, that would be ideal.  Alternatively, does anyone have ideas for a simple home-made baby costume?

Last minute costume request - nothing in my shoe collection seems to fit the classic, conservative look of early 1900's England, go figure.

If anyone has a size (US) 7-8 pair of semi-heeled, closed dressy shoes (not sandals)  that I could borrow for the week it would be much appreciated.

I'll take any color - gray, black, red, white - somewhat desperate here.

It is my prayer that everyone found what he or she needed to complete these no doubt interesting and colorful ensembles.  And that I may be blessed to watch this delightful costume parade every year, for many years.

Gemach:  "store" offering free or very low-cost items or services, usually for special occasions or purposes
Ulam Semachot:  "Simcha Hall"; community meeting hall
Ipur:  make-up

Chassid:  in this case, a Jew dressed in traditional Eastern European garb, consisting of a long coat, hat, and side curls
Mattisyahu:  important character in Jewish history
Bekeshe:  long black coat worn by various sects of Jews of European descent

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Dear Baltimore, here's a chance to connect to your Israeli heart.

Yom shishi, 10 Adar 5769.
I don't have to tell any of you the Koby Mandell and Yosef Ish-Ran story.  I couldn't tell it, anyway.  There are certain memories that are a part of us forever, depending on our place in history.  The day JFK was shot.  Nine-eleven.  Mercaz HaRav.  Koby and Yosef.  Some of them, we can tell over now.  Some of them are just too hard.  Unless the people who were directly affected speak out.  And then our hearts yearn to listen, to connect.  To try to make sense out it.
 In the words of Todd Salovey, the director of "The Blessing of a Broken Heart":

"The play is ultimately about resilience and love.  I don’t know if one leaves the show 'full of hope' – I think that a person who sees the show understands that there IS pain in the world, and that one can face life’s tests, and one can face pain and loss and use it to grow, to become stronger, to be a better person, and possibly even to be happier and closer to G-d.  What’s incredible about the story is that Sherri uses the tragedy to become more filled with purpose, closer to G-d, and becomes not only a more comfortable mother to her own family, but a significant nurturer to hundreds of other kids who have also been victims of terror.  As her daughter Eliana says in the play, they may have a broken heart, but they can bond together with others and make a new heart."

Tickets can be purchased online at www.tiferesyisroel.org or at Hats to Hose, Perns, and the Knish Shop, or by calling:

Ellie Kagan:  (410) 653-1316
Gail Feinstein:  (410) 764-2532
Devory Margolese:  (410) 642-7321

Thank you, Baltimore, for keeping us in your thoughts and prayers.  The more we connect, k'ish echad b'lev echad, the more we together heal the world, and all our broken hearts.

K'ish echad b'lev echad:  as one man with one heart


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Purim is coming. Embrace the silly.

Yom shlishi, 8 Adar 5769.

Here is a little Purim wisdom, shared by My Hero, the Dearly Beloved.  You decide.

I think this particular headgear brings out the Norwegian in him.
Disclaimer:  The Dearly Beloved remarks that he is referring to the old TV program, rather than to the movie version, in which he found no redeeming value of any kind.  Stunt Man agrees with his father, stating, as follows:  "I would rather stick nine-inch nails into my eyes than be forced to watch that movie."  [Sigh.]  I am looking forward to returning to our regular pre-Purim programming.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Yes, everything is okay. Thanks for asking!

Yom shlishi, 7 Adar 5769, Moshe Rabbeinu's birthday and yahrzeit.

Doldrums.  Hibernation.  Call it what you like.  Cold, "yucky" weather seems to quiet my keyboard as much as my body and mind.

When the wind is strong enough to walk the lawn chair across the yard (and to later pitch it on its side, like the table), and the hail is the size of peas, I tend to bundle up in soft fleece, and blink my eyes at the world.  For hours.  With prayers of gratitude that I have a home in Israel in which to bundle up.

This post is dedicated to the very sweet friends and relatives who have expressed concern that something might be wrong.  Thank you for loving us, and for worrying.  We are well, baruch Hashem, and happy.  In a very slow, sleepy way, we are even busy.

Let's talk about what is positive about this intense precipitation.  Israel has been working toward a pretty scary drought all winter, with much too little rainfall to bring the Kinneret up to acceptable levels.  So all of this rain is very welcome.  The Dearly Beloved says that the fact that most of the severe weather has been happening on Shabbat is not a good sign.  But he doesn't call me "Suzy Sunshine" for no reason.  I am certain that the rain on Shabbat means that Hashem is rewarding the Jewish people for pulling together -- finally -- during the Gaza War.  "Better late than never."  And there isn't much time left during the traditional rainy season to acquire our quota of rain -- so what did we leave Hashem, but the relatively homebound days of Shabbat?  Time will tell.  We still need a good five meters of water to fill the Kinneret to a less-than-scary level.  Please G-d, bring on the rain!

Being more-or-less housebound has given me the opportunity to do things I like, albeit at a significantly slowed-down pace.  I have hosted guests.  I have played music with my family.  I have made sushi.

Apropos of nothing, I have been wanting to share the joys of the kum-kum for some time.  Has this marvelous invention made it to America yet?

Nothing says "warm and cozy" to me like that practically instant cup of coffee, tea or cocoa from my turbo-heating kum-kum.  Ever since I first started traveling to Israel, back in the mid-90s, I knew that the first purchase I would make after aliyah would be a kum-kum.  It was; and it still gives me joy, every single day.  (Simple pleasures really are the best.)  I wish each and every one of the members of the Baltimore Chug Aliyah a happy third anniversary -- and his or her own Israeli kum-kum, within the coming year!

To end this slightly disjointed "Hi, I'm still here" love note, here is a short film, for your viewing pleasure.

It is often the young who teach us how to find joy in discomfort.  Bring on the weather!

Yom shlishi:  literally "third day"; Tuesday
Moshe Rabbeinu:  Moses, Our Teacher
Yahrzeit:  date of death; observance of one's passing, to celebrate what he has accomplished in the fullness of his years
Chug Aliyah:  a "club" dedicated to fulfilling the hope and dream of moving to the Land of Israel