Perfect wave

December 6th, 2012

Have you ever had a day that was perfect? Truly perfect? 

During sukkot (yes, that is right, it has taken me until Chanukah to write about it,) I and my family met one of my very best friends and her family at the beach in Ashdod. The weather was perfect, the waves were perfect, the scenery was perfect, and the company was even more perfect.

At some point in the afternoon the two husbands left with half of the kids, and I was left on the beach with my daughter joyfully riding waves and jumping into the arms of my friend.  The kids that stayed with us were happy. No one needed me, no phone was ringing, no chores awaited; it was late in the day so not too hot or cold,  and everything was, well, perfect.

As I sat there I tried to take in the moment and internalize it. To keep it recorded in my memory and in my soul so that I could go back there and visit it at some when life is feeling a lot less perfect. I also tried to figure out what Hashem wanted me to be learning from this slice of perfection. What am I supposed to learn from this beach, this day, in this scenario.

I spent a good part of the day in the waves myself. Waves that were big enough to lift you up and carry you, but not out of control or “hostile”.  Most of the time I was riding with ease. At one point I was socializing, enjoying myself, but distracted, and I did get carried under. I was fine, but very concerned about my hair covering coming off, so I kept my head in the water until I could retrieve it and put it back on. I looked ridiculous, but there wasn’t anyone there to notice. (At least that is what I tell myself.)

It occurred to me, while sitting on the beach in complete solitude and bliss that was is true of the waves is true in the rest of the world that God has given us:

When we are prepared for what is coming, then we stand in the right place, catch the wave and use it as an opportunity to move, enjoying the process. When we aren’t prepared for what is coming, it comes anyway, and often knocks us down and pushes us under. We often feel like we are drowning, even when we aren’t, and have a hard time getting our footing again. Especially because once that wave catches us off guard, the next one just comes rolling in whether we have gotten back up or not.

There are experiences that come and are sometimes merely crises because we weren’t prepared for them. We can’t always know what will come our way, but I think that working on one’s faith is a lot like standing in position for the next wave.  Having faith that is strong, developed and ready makes it so much easier for you to meet the next challenge and “ride” it through, and working on ourselves and our character, being in tune with the calendar and what God wants from us, instead of absently just going along,  increases our chances of seeing the waves before they arrive – and crash down on our heads.

 

 

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Sukkot

October 7th, 2012

Hours before Simchat Torah and I am (finally) posting about Sukkot. Figures. 

I would like to dedicate this post, if I may be so bold, to the memory of Rav Haim Lifshitz, z”l. He was my Rav’s father, a great tzaddik, who passed away this past Shabbat. May his family be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem. 

The truth is that as much as I usually try to prepare in advance, this year my thoughts and feelings on Sukkot came through experiencing it, listening and learning throughout the holiday.

The word that kept coming back to me this year was vulnerability. I was inspired by a dvar Torah given by Sally Mayer at a fantastic simchat beit hashoeva gathering for women here in Neve Daniel. She gave over an idea she had learned from Drisha’s Rabbi Silber comparing the tone of the parasha we read before sukkot (Haazinu), around Yom Kippur, and that of Zot Habracha, the parsha we read on Shabbat during Sukkot. The former has a clear tone of remonstrance and warning, logically connected to a time of our judgement.

Zot Habracha in contrast, has more of a positive note going into our future. This is how we feel during Sukkot. Feeling hopeful that we have been forgiven by Hashem over Yom Kippur, we dwell in a sukkah which has often been mentioned as a move of intimacy with Hashem. We move out of our safe, comfortable homes and into a temporary hut, trusting in Hashem’s protection as was just promised us through our repentance and in the words of that final parsha.

Yet the intimacy, it seems to me, is linked to our increased vulnerability. The people to whom we feel the closest are almost always those to whom we feel the most vulnerable. Or that we can be vulnerable with. Yom Kippur is a time when we are our most open and vulnerable with Hashem. At least in the ideal, we have undergone a process of serious introspection and have opened our hearts, souls and mouths to cry out to G-d.

Following that, we feel closer, more loved, and move ourselves to a place of more physical vulnerability than our homes.  It is through that move that we express our feeling of closeness to G-d and demonstrate that we know that in this time he is also very close to us…..

Why does all of this occur to me this year?

Because I think that people living in Israel feel more vulnerable than Jews living elsewhere. Particularly Jews living where we do, the beautiful Judean Hills that some would like to call “settlements” or “territories” or even “illegal”. I call it Jewish soil that has been loved, worked on, and cried over by Jews for over 2,000 years. But no matter what you call it, Jews here feel vulnerable, and I think it is connected to why it feels easier here to feel close to Hashem. The vulnerability that we choose is a daily reminder of where our trust truly lies, and that there is no “safe” and “unsafe” there is only the will of our Creator.

The increased vulnerability of a sukkah versus your home is a myth. An illusion, of course. A sukkah doesn’t actually make us more vulnerable, it simply reminds us that we don’t get protection from our home, we get it from Hashem. Whatever will become of us will happen no matter where we eat our dinner or sleep tonight. The same is true of Jews and where they live around the world. Jews in this part of the world are no more or less safe than anywhere else. The dangers may have drastically different manifestations, but we all are equally vulnerable to the will of Hashem every moment of our lives.

But I leave this, my first sukkot living in Israel in 12 years, feeling open, a little raw, far more vulnerable to circumstances, people and Hashem’s will than I ever did in the United States. And therefore feeling the heightened intimacy with G-d that I missed so greatly while I was gone.

I hope you and your family have a wonderful Simchat Torah holiday, and that you will be here in Neve Daniel with us to celebrate next year!

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This is our sukkah decoration craft this year:

I was very pleased with myself for “inventing” this year’s sukkah craft.. only to find that Creative Jewish Mom had beat me to it. My only twist to the idea is that instead of using plastic drinking cups, I have been using Israeli cottage cheese containers, yogurt containers, and even “resek” (tomato paste) containers. I know this will work with American yogurt containers too.  I don’t encourage the use of plastic cups in the house in general, so we don’t really have them lying around. And I used containers I would have otherwise been throwing away.

This project fits my criteria; inexepensive and kid-friendly. Although my 12 year old helped with the spray paint, my kids were able to do this basically without me.

For those with easy access to it, I suggest adding some glitter glue to the mix.

Here are my directions:

Save and wash out as many small plastic containers as you can.

Gather up a piece of cardboard for spray painting on.

If you have a single hole punch, it is great for stringing up your flowers. Gather up some string, too.

1. I started out by cutting off the hard rim on the yogurt cups. (For those of you outside of Israel you may understand from the pictures, but this step is probably irrelevant for you.)

Before:

 

 

 

 

 

 

After:

The stiff rim is gone on this one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. I cut the cups from the rim to the center, leaving the round center intact. The sizes of the slats don’t seem to matter, but if they are a bit wider it is less work, and easier to round your “petal” edges if you choose.

 

 

 

3. I chose to spray paint my flowers before rounding the edges, mostly because I wanted to see what they would look like. The extra step (of rounding them) is entirely up to you.

I bought two cans of spray, pink and silver (which really looks gray).

 My kids had a lot of fun being allowed to use the spray paint. It was my only expense for this project, and totaled 24 shekels, which is about $6. 

4. I used a mini-single hole punch at the top center of one petal, and just put through a piece of string I had. I used a sharpie on one of them, and as I said, I think glitter glue would look great.

 

 I will add a photo of our beautiful flowers hanging in the sukkah…but we need a sukkah first! 

What brilliant and inexpensive, kid-friendly decorations can you suggest? We would love some more ideas! 

 

** Don’t forget to check out my product review of the new Webee, below…..

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Welcome to the August 28, 2011 edition of haveil havalim.

Whenever I have the opportunity to host the Jewish Blog Carnival, I feel a tremendous sense of gratitude to be able to include myself with this group of bloggers. Thank you for everything that has been contributed and for giving me some great reading while I stayed awake for Hurricane Irene.  Any omissions, other than a few obvious off-topic spam posts, were purely accidental, and I do apologize.

Founded by Soccer Dad, Haveil Havalim is a carnival of Jewish blogs — a weekly collection of Jewish & Israeli blog highlights, tidbits and points of interest collected from blogs all around the world. It’s hosted by different bloggers each week and coordinated by Jack. The term ‘Haveil Havalim,’ which means “Vanity of Vanities,” is from Qoheleth, (Ecclesiastes) which was written by King Solomon. King Solomon built the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and later on got all bogged down in materialism and other ‘excesses’ and realized that it was nothing but ‘hevel,’ or in English, ‘vanity.’

It appears that over this week there have been two major storms; One a weather pattern and the other, a certain American celebrity’s appearance in Israel. I am not yet sure which one caused more of an uproar.

The Hurricane received less blog commentary, but Allison Josephs presents us with Me, Myself, and (Hurricane) Irene: The Importance of Daily Personal Reflection | Jew In The City posted at Jew in the City.

We may see more on Hurricane Irene next week.

As for Glenn Beck’s appearance in Israel, I want to mention that I didn’t enjoy the tenor of the comments on this topic. Clearly feathers were ruffled, but the lack of civility in tone was quite disturbing for me to read. Perhaps those leaving comments should read Life in The Married Lane‘s Using Social Media in a Positive Way, Part Three before leaving any more comments:

Batya presents Are You Partying With Glenn Beck? posted at Shiloh Musings.

Tomer Devorah presents Parshat Re’eh: Of false prophets and idolaters posted at TOMER DEVORAH.

Sharon A presents Restoring Courage « The Real Jerusalem Streets posted at The Real Jerusalem Streets’s Blog, saying, “Love him or hate him, Glen Beck was in Safra Square and he brought 1000s with him”

And lastly, Batya presents What’s Christianity? posted at Shiloh Musings and I Get My Strength and Courage From My Jewish Sources posted at Shiloh Musings.

Other news from Israel includes:

Batya shares some beautiful photos of the new Trolley in Jerusalem with Jerusalem News, The Trolley Comes to Town posted at me-ander, and Jerusalem Trolley Unites Jews and Arabs posted at Shiloh Musings.

Joel Katz presents Religion and State in Israel – August 22, 2011 (Section 1) and Religion and State in Israel – August 22, 2011 (Section 2), both posted atReligion and State in Israel.

Judy Lash Balint presents Look Who’s Making Aliyah posted at Algemeiner.com, saying, “Mid-life N. American Jews who are making aliya…” and  Steve Ornstein shares Daniel Goldschmidt’s personal aliyah experience in  First Summer of a New Immigrant In Israel | IsraelSeen.com posted at IsraelSeen.com.

We hear about Eilat in the wake of the tragedy there from Harry in  Nostalgia Sunday – Eilat posted at Israelity, and Sharon A in A Paradise Lost posted at The Real Jerusalem Streets’s Blog, saying, “Response to renewed terror in Eilat, the show must go on.”

Mrs. S. presents National Parks: Ein Afek Edition posted at Our Shiputzim: A Work In Progress.

A Walker in Jerusalem presents Summertime, libraries, Brooklyn, Jerusalem posted at Walkable Jerusalem, saying, “Jerusalem residents grossly underserved by the municipal library system, particularly during the summer peak season.” I believe her comments on this subject are really important – but for me, quite depressing.

Elise/ Independent Patriot presents Sometimes Israel’s real friends also need to know when to be quiet…posted at Liberty’s Spirit.

Steve Ornstein presents After August comes September | IsraelSeen.com posted atIsraelSeen.com.

On a positive note:

Harry presents Israelis help ease the headaches during Ramadan posted at Israelity. I would love to get some of this medicine from Israel before Yom Kippur – yet another sign I am in the wrong country!! He also presents Foto Friday – Jerusalem to the IMAX posted at Israelity. I absolutely loved watching this, and it made me miss Jerusalem that much more. I hope you all click through and enjoy!

Sharon A presents Feeling Festive posted at The Real Jerusalem Streets’s Blog, saying, “Festival season in Jerusalem and there is a security alert”.  This also reminds me of the unique excitement of Jerusalem in the summer. Clearly, with all of the fear and disruption right now, Israelis live fully and move on with their customary and amazing resolve.

Culture

Jacob Richman presents New Video Online: Learn Hebrew Phrases – Computers and the Internet posted at Good News from Israel, Thanks Jacob!  I am now planning to use his clever and clear Hebrew riddles with my Ivrit students in NJ this year!

Izgad presents Medieval Jewish Art (Looks a Lot Like Christian Art) posted at Tipsy on Books: Dispatches from the Tavern, saying, “Izgad has started a new blog called Tipsy on Books and to open things up he presents a post on medieval Jewish art.”

Susan Barnes presents Glossary for People New to Orthodox Jewish Blogs posted atTo Kiss A Mezuzah.

Daniela presents two kosher reviews over at IsreviewMilka’s Choco Moo Cookies and Five’s “Evolution” Sugar Free Gum.

Then Chaviva over at Just call me Chaviva presents her own ups and downs with Kashrut in  Kosher Flops and Flips, with her usual refreshing and inspiring honesty.

Humor

satiricohen presents Netanyahu: Palestinians are not our enemies, only the terrorists are posted at Israeli Satire Laboratory, saying, “After a very long hiatus, I’m back with the same gallows humor that makes you realize how silly this country really is.” Definitely gallows humor, satiricohen…. 

Judaism

Rachel Barenblat presents Earth and pine posted at Velveteen Rabbi, saying, “a reflection on the scents of wood and soil: evocative of new construction, these are also the scents of a Jewish funeral in the summertime.”

Susan Barnes presents Choosing an Etrog Set Ain’t Easy posted at To Kiss A Mezuzah. I personally have to survive back-to-school next week before I can even think about Sukkot!

Batya presents “Special” Couples, Rav Arele’s Solution posted at Shiloh Musings. One might think that this subject would have engendered more controversy. Maybe on a week that Glenn Beck stays home, it will.

Elul starts this week. So to get us in the right mood, I will close with Mordechai Torczyner’s post asking us  When is it better for a rabbi to hold his tongue? posted at The Rebbetzin’s Husband

 

I would like to conclude with a request to include Tzuriya Kochevet Bat Sarah in your thoughts and prayers. Yarden Frankl of Crossing the Yarden and his wife are fighting the battle of a lifetime, and as one of our own, he (they) can use our support.

Thank you so much for all of your entries.  May you and all of your loved ones stay dry and safe this week.

Submit your blog article to the next edition of haveil havalim using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

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Last lap?

October 3rd, 2010

For me, one of the clearest “punishments” for choosing to live outside of the land of Israel is the three-day yom tov.  Here in the diaspora, September has been a string of holidays chained together by a few work/shop/cooking days.  My guess is that with the holidays coming at the same time as back-to-school and the non-chag days being on Fridays, it didn’t feel that much different in Israel, but no doubt my readers will clarify this for me. (I hope.)

I went into Shabbat morning telling at least a couple of community members that I felt like I was running the “last lap in a very long marathon.”  A month of cleaning, shopping, cooking, serving, cleaning, serving, cleaning, serving…. laundry…. lather, rinse, repeat. The last day had finally arrived.

I was glad that I made it to shul to hear the Rabbi speak, because he really turned the whole day around for me. I am sure he chose his topic the same way he always does; by listening to whatever has been going on inside my head the past few days. I keep asking him to stop eavesdropping on my thoughts when he chooses his sermon topics, but it doesn’t appear to have stopped the habit.

The Rabbi spoke about parashat Bereishit, yes, but he spoke about how in this parsha, in the beginning, is the clearest, starkest way that man can emulate G-d. We rest on the seventh day because G-d did. Period. Wanna be like G-d? Keep Shabbat.

He went on to remind us that yes, it is keeping the Shabbat, but moreso it is being “in the Shabbat” that makes us like G-d. That when we truly dwell in the mindframe and Shechina*-consciousness of Shabbat, then we are emulating G0dliness in the purest form.

He reminded me in that one moment that it wasn’t the “last lap” of anything. The holidays ended the day before. It wasn’t the Shemini Atzeret moment, the Sukkot moment, the Simchat Torah moment, or even a last moment of any of them. It was “mamash the holy Shabbos.” The only thing that made the day the “last lap” was that it was one more day to dwell in G-d’s presence and to stay close before going back to months of normalcy… a normalcy that includes less time and focus on accessing that closesness to Hashem.

I went home determined to be in Shabbat, and to savor the holiness rather than watch the clock for my return to…. everything else. It really changed my Shabbat, and I enjoyed it so thoroughly. I even had a house full of unexpected “stoppers by” and relaxed and enjoyed it. (Despite having nothing left in the house to serve them.)

I felt the sadness as Shabbat left us that I am told people holier than I feel every week. I suddenly remembered a dear friend (and tzadika), DE, telling me one year of the depressing let-down she feels every year at the end of Sukkot. I was very surprised; the only feeling I had ever  registered was relief. At the time I  couldn’t relate to her feeling at all because I didn’t have that kind of relationship with G-d.

I think I was able to connect to Hashem in Tishrei this year more than ever before. My grand theory on this is that since my children are getting a little older I was able to sleep more hours this year than ever since getting married.  I feel very strongly about the relationships between sleep &  religion, sleep & happiness and  sleep & health … but that is a blog post for another time.

But whatever it was, the davening, the sleeping, choosing to have fewer guests (!) or just the wake-up call from our wise Rabbi, I felt like this last day wasn’t a drag, and wasn’t a last lap…. it was a gift.

*The majestic presence or manifestation of God which has descended to “dwell” among humankind, traditionally referred to as the aspect of Hashem that comes down into the Holy Temple and/or comes closer to the Jewish People on Shabbat.

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A New Phase of Recognition

September 26th, 2010

I was a little surprised by my children’s reactions to the rebuilding of our sukkah this year.  Every year has been met with some level of wonderment and suprise as well as excitement. This year…. there was recognition. They had very clear expectations of what it looked like, where it would go, certain decorations, and even our annual problems with it.

As I was scrambling to get ready for yet another 3 days of yom tov in a row, I considered why this made any impression on me at all. They aren’t babies anymore was the most obvious and immediate thought.

Then I stopped to realize that I have now lived in this house longer than I have lived anywhere since I was sixteen and we left my childhood home in Connecticut. My parents moved to Boston at the beginning of my junior year which felt like a death sentence to me at the time. My life was my friends, and leaving that behind was unimaginable. Rather than put down new roots for the remaining two years of high school, I chose to spend part of 12th grade in Israel.  This led to many years of moving; three years at university in Canada, a brief return to Boston, and then aliyah.  I had thought for many years that once I had settled in Jerusalem that that was it. The end. Enough wandering.

First I would find a job. (I did.) Then I would find a husband. ( I did.) Then I would find a nice house in a nice Israeli suburb, settle in, and never leave.  That part wasn’t exactly what Hashem had in mind. So I moved to New Jersey, and took a while to settle here in the amazing community in which we live.

Time has passed and many babies have been born, thank G-d.  I have been busy with much and don’t pause to consider how long we have been here. I DO spend time “counting down” until Israel, but that clearly has distracted me from the roots that have been planted and grown here.

I think there is something wonderful about the wonderment and surprise of the sukkah  box that emerges each year. I am also enjoying this phase of recognition. The familiarity is becoming part of their holiday experiences, as ritual is intended to be.

This is just one piece of a much larger adjustment to a new phase. After over a decade of  “making babies”, my husband and I daily come upon some new aspect of having a house full of children, not infants and toddlers.  For example, we both took a nap at the same time on Shabbat.  Imagine that.

How does this change sukkot? Well, their expectations of us have changed, since they now have expectations for the holiday and its routine. Certain decorations from year to year have become important to them. Sleeping in the sukkah with a specific set-up matters. (Even at the expense of hundreds of mosquito bites, apparently.) Our sukkah door, (which I photographed and tried but failed to upload here ), must be added to every year, according to certain parameters not only not determined by me, but for the most part I am not even privy to.

This means I get to adjust my expectations too; children old enough to recognize so much from year to year are definitely old enough to start helping get ready for the holidays in a BIG way.   :  )

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