Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Dovid's Moon

Yom revi'i, 15 Tevet 5771.

Last night began my son's birthday.  It's a fairly ordinary day in December, if it doesn't happen to be your own birthday.  But it's a remarkable morning in the Jewish month of Tevet here in the southern foothills of Jerusalem.

I awakened at 6:13 to get Sports Guy out of bed for school.  (No mean feat, as he spends far too much time immersed in the brutality of football to get a good night's sleep.  I know, I know...  You try being the parent of a 16-year-old gridiron geek.)

Cup of steaming coffee in hand, I walked outside to appreciate the view.  It's always lovely here.  But today felt like a special miracle, a love-note from Hashem.  The full moon was still out, which always reminds me of a sweet children's song we used to sing in Brownies, all of our faces so serious, wanting not to drop our places in the round:

Mister Moon, Mister Moon, you're out too soon.
The sun is still in the sky.
Go back to your bed and cover up your head,
and wait till the day goes by.

This moon was so very bright, so well-defined.  I thought of my newly-minted 21-year-old, working in the fields in Beit Shean, loving the land and its produce and the Land and her people more and more each day.  He's probably awake, getting ready for his day in the fields, I was thinking.  I wonder if he can see this moon where he is?

My sister's daughter just had a son, and she wrote about the joy of small miracles:

The most holy and sacred gifts of this life, for me, are the most ordinary. The baby was simply born. Today, like every day, simply came. I am grateful for the abundance of miraculous, ordinary moments.


Here's to some of the recent "miraculous, ordinary moments."

Some of the children I love, who don't belong to me, and their children.
One of my very own little miracles: he looks just like his dad did, way back when.
Another one of my little miracles, who looks a lot like her Savta did, but with her mama's amazing eyes. Photo credit: KF Productions
And here's to all of your recent miracles, as well.  Please feel free to share.  There can never be too much gratitude for all the gifts He gives us.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Weather Reports

Yom shlishi, 4 Tevet 5771.  Happy solar birthday, Dearly Beloved!

I have mentioned before how much fun it is to have an online community email list that is frequented by interesting people who love to help each other.

It's a pretty nice way to communicate other issues as well.  For instance, we just had the first serious winter storm of the season.  Of course, there is the usual communication that makes a list so helpful:

How do we find out if there is school today?

Is school on time?

School is open today, right?  How do we find out for sure?  High schools?  I'd hate to send the kids out to wait for buses that aren't coming.

We called my son's bus driver and he assumed business as usual. The snow is pretty superficial. Big question is if there's ice on the roads. I assume there would have been an announcement of some sort if there was any problem. But dress the kids really warm cuz it could take longer than usual...

And the final, authoritative word:  SCHOOLS ARE OPEN REGULAR TIME

But then there was the stuff that makes living in Neve Daniel, with our amazing winds and our not-boring listmates, so much fun:

There is a black bicycle helmet with yellow flames in my yard.  The wind probably put it there. If you are missing it, now you know where it is :-)

Has anyone seen a black barbecue cover flying around anywhere? Our bbq is cold.

Green schach-mat bag on our porch. If you are missing one, we will be happy to return the one that just landed on our mirpeset. That is, if it is still on our mirpeset when the storm has passed...

Yair's beloved kippa flew off in yesterday's storm.  It is large and black with purple trim.  Please let us know if  you find it.

Happy Precipitation,


And my own contribution to the weather report:

Just now, btw, I am listening to the wind take red roof tiles off of a part of my roof and dash them to the patio below.  The sound is somewhere halfway between beautiful and destructive.

May the rain follow, and it will all be worth it.  (I feel bad for my landlord, though.  He really liked adding those tiles...)

Where the tiles used to live.

Where they landed.  Crash!  Bang!  Smash!

After the Dearly Beloved cleaned up.

The wind was so strong, it blew furniture around the yard.

Sigh.  If we get lots of rain, the cleanup will be worth it.

I hope all items found their owners, and not too much of value was lost or destroyed.  I give the kids a bracha for a snow day -- and their parents a bracha for not too many snow days.

And I thank Hashem for the blessing of rain.

May it continue until our worries of fire and drought and famine have passed.  May this year truly be blessed, with rain in its proper time for our crops and our cattle, with good health and good friends.

Happy solar birthday, Dearly Beloved!  Till 120, in good health.

Schach-mat: used to cover the traditional temporary dwelling we build at the Festival of Tabernacles.
Mirpeset: balcony
Kippa: scullcap

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Don't tell ME you can't get good service in Israel!

Yom shishi, 3 Tevet 5771.

First of all, I want to apologize to you.  It's not your fault.  Since you read this blog -- thank you! -- you are probably not one of the people I'm speaking about when I say that it gets on my nerves when people tell me that Israelis don't give good service.

Secondly, I want to stress that an increase in American-style service would be warmly received by me and just about everyone I know.

That said, let me share a lovely story.

The Dearly Beloved accompanied me to a particular location in Jerusalem to get information about renting office space for a friend who was under the mistaken impression that I knew something about the subject, or that I had enough Hebrew at my command to do this task for her.  (But -- hey!  When your friend asks you to help her get information in your country, do you say no?  No.  You say "sure" -- and hope you can figure it out with your handy dictionary.)

When we arrived at the lovely office complex, I surveyed the massive sign to see if there would be a hint about where we might find the rental office.  Clueless, my eyes were drawn, like metal filings to a magnet, to the only words in English on the board:
I turned to the Dearly Beloved.  "I know.  Let's go to them.  They'll have the answer."  He hastened to remind me that helping me find my way around their building was not in their mission statement.  But he also pointed out that this was my project; and if a wild goose chase would be a good place for me to loosen up my question-asking muscles, it would at least entertain him.

We entered the office, and were met by an enthusiastic and delightful young Israeli named Sigi.  I asked Sigi -- in Hebrew -- if it would be okay to speak to her in English.  She answered me -- in Hebrew -- that it would be.  This is a psychological tactic I use on myself.  If the Israeli will give me room to speak English, I have the courage to try to speak in Hebrew (until they give up on me).  So I asked much of my question in Hebrew.  Flawed though it was, Sigi was happy with my efforts, and cheerfully offered to give us first something to drink, followed by a present, and then the answer to our question.

We followed her through the suite of offices, through a gym I would happily work-out in, to help me come up with answers, if I worked there, through a small kitchenette.  We met various cheerful employees along the way, busy with thinking up wisdom.  When we arrived at her destination, Sigi set us up with the cold water we had requested -- I suspect she would have served us hafuch, if we'd asked, or even lunch -- and bustled off to another room.  Shortly she returned with tee-shirts.

Now, I don't know how Sigi sized us up so quickly.  If you give anyone in Chez Mizrachi a tee shirt with a cool logo, we will act almost as happy as if you gave us a car and a steak dinner.  Sigi chatted to us pleasantly, alternating between Hebrew and excellent English.  Then she took us back out to the front desk and gave us the phone number and directions to the office we were seeking.  Following this, she walked us out to the elevators, making sure that we were clear on the directions, before wishing us a Chag Chanukah Sameach.

In case anyone in business wonders if that "little extra" really matters -- Sigi is one of my favorite new words, guaranteed to bring a smile to my face; and has become my "Q&A Website" of choice.  (It doesn't bother me at all that a nice Jewish boy started the Jerusalem- and New York-based company.)  Today, they helped me to fix a problem with my computer, told me where in the world is Ibadan, and helped me to figure out how to make a perfect Crepes Suzette.  Who would have known I needed that information, before Sigi treated us with such courtesy and business acumen?  (At this point, don't even think about asking me.  You know where to look it up...)

Israel, you have some very nice people as residents, and some companies that should make you proud.  Thank you.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Dear G-d. A Humble Petition for Reconcilation.

Yom rishon, 28 Kislev 5771.

Dear G-d,

I fully accept that we are responsible for the lack of rain in Israel, and for the subsequent disaster wrought by the fire in the Carmel.

We Jewish people have failed in some way -- many ways -- to keep our part of the bargain with You.  We have made many mistakes.  Small errors and large and terrible errors.

But I think I am not alone in feeling helpless to fix the problems between us, between You and me, without clearer guidance.

I once knew a fellow who told me the story of his very unhappy marriage.  He told me he had married a girl who was much too good for him.  They had married young, when he lacked knowledge about how to run a successful relationship.  (The fact was that he hadn't even seen a good relationship growing up.)  He had treated her shabbily and carelessly for the first several years of their marriage.

Then he "got religion."  He learned and developed as a person; and in the course of his learning, he became ashamed of how he had treated his wife.  He begged her forgiveness, and vowed to improve.  She forgave him; and things improved for a time.

Then, little by little, she again began to withdraw from him.  He would try to do small kindnesses for her.  He brought flowers to try to appease her.  He would ask her what he had done -- and she would tell him that "he should know."  After all, they had discussed during their reconciliation all of the little actions and big commitments it takes to make a relationship work.  She gave him little hints periodically, and turned away even more when he failed to pick up on them.
Photo credit:

But he remained perplexed.  He knew that he was still not the perfect husband.  But which (or how many) of his small errors had weakened their relationship this time?

As time went by, he stopped asking for particulars, as she really felt he ought to have learned enough by now to not need her detailed guidance.  Eventually, he stopped asking, and just accepted the situation of their cooled relationship.  When I met him, he wore a perpetual expression of being lost.  I had no advice for him, as I also could not read her mind.

Hashem, we are like that man.  Every year, we try to "make up" with You.  We cry, and apologize from our hearts for all of our little carelessnesses and big transgressions in our relationship.  But as time goes by, there is still no rain, there are still terrible illness and disaster.  Our Sages -- ancient and modern -- exhort us to look over the requirements You have clearly outlined, to pay attention to the hints You are sending us.  If only we would walk in Your ways...  there would be rain in its time, and grass for our cattle.  Our enemies would be subdued...

But I must admit to being as perplexed as my old friend.

We know that we are "messing up."  We want to repair the damage.  Our rabbis are calling for days of prayer and fasting, to increase our observance of Your commandments.  Groups gather at the Kotel to beseech You to end the drought.  Every day, I receive new emails reminding me to add more Tehillim (recitation of King David's Psalms) and give more charity in order to help end the distance between You and us.

But instead, the situation seems to be getting worse.
Photo credit: San Francisco Sentinel

Like my friend, I don't for a moment think that You are the guilty party.  I know my weaknesses and my faults.  But I cannot determine which of my failings has caused this terrible distance between us.  I fear that we may be drifting into a loveless marriage that I will be unable to repair.

Please, Hashem!  Help this poor orphan Nation!  Give us clear guidance.  We are trying to "bring flowers," to do small kindnesses to help each other, to improve our speech, to give more charity, to house those whose homes were destroyed in the greatest disaster in Israel's history.  We know in our heart of hearts that our efforts are not large enough compensation for our errors.  But we really do want to repair our relationship with You!  For the best of reasons -- to bring the Geula Shelaima (the complete redemption), and for the most mundane -- to avoid what appears to be the decree of impending drought, famine, and who knows what else, G-d forbid...

You are our Father.  Please guide us.  Please send us clear guidance.

Lovingly, humbly, beseechingly Yours,

one of Your children