It says in Pirkei Avot that one should make for yourself a Rabbi. There are slightly different variations on how this is understood. However, there is consensus that a person can spend time with and learn from as many rabbis as they like, but should have A rabbi that gives them halachic rulings and advice. We are not supposed to shop around for opinions on each matter until we get the one we like. Or go to our “makel rav” (lenient rabbi) when we want a lenient answer and our “mahmir rav” (strict rabbi) when we don’t.

I am frequently amazed at how many frum Jews I meet who tell me that they don’t have a rabbi. They may live near a rabbi, or know several, but they don’t have one Rabbi that they trust completely, see eye to eye with on Torah, and not only are prepared to live by what he says, but feel elevated and stronger as a Jew through their psak (rulings.)

The common response I hear is that “I don’t know someone like that” or “I can’t find one” or “I like the Rabbi in my town/city/shul/yishuv I just don’t feel that we are 100% on the same page but it’s what I’ve got.”

This is so very sad to me.  I wonder why the Rabbinic leadership doesn’t encourage people to seek this out, especially in our digital day. The Rabbi of our community is my friend, teacher, role model. He is an amazing person from whom I learn all of the time. But my posek, my Rav is many many miles away, and most of my communication with him is “cyber-psak”.

We have the most wonderful Rav. I met him through my husband. I often feel through my questions and conversations with him closer to Torah, closer to Hashem. I just believe that is how it is supposed to be. I don’t know that his answers would elicit the same feelings in other people; that’s why we each have to make for OURSELVES a Rabbi.

His answers make sense to me, and make me feel supported. Even when they are not what I want to hear. They make me want to grow in Torah in mitzvot.  There are times when my husband and I just cannot agree on what is the right thing to do. And there is no worry, because he can give us direction when we reach an impasse.

I don’t understand why this process of finding one Rav both spouses really relate to isn’t a requirement or pushed part of the process of getting married.

There has been much concern from my non-religious and non-Jewish relatives and friends that I let my Rabbi do my thinking for me. That is absolutely not the case, but I do ask him to elucidate halacha and to clarify the role of minhagim (traditions) in our lives. (Not growing up with any religious family members on either side of the family means very few minhagim.)

Pesach time of year is one where I, like most, spend more time checking with the Rav.  And I never stop feeling tremendous hakarat hatov – appreciation – that we have him.

Someone posted this great article on facebook:  ”How to do your Pesach Cleaning Cheerfully in Less than One Day” by Rav Aviner. It is a great guide. I hope to read it every year as a reminder, which means sending it to myself.

… I don’t buy it that one can or even should get it done in one day, and I have already posted that I like the spring cleaning as well as the cleaning for Pesach.  As of today I have unloaded about 10-15 bags of stuff we just don’t want or need anymore. Feels great. Someone else has given me an entire wardrobe for the 4 yo for the coming two seasons. (Thanks, Ronit.)

But the article gives a good perspective, and is blessedly brief. Of course the kitchen is only mentioned in a few lines and we all know that that is where the real work lies. I also think the article is specifically relevant for those living in Israel more than in the US. But Pesach, as all chagim are truly designed to be celebrated in Eretz Yisrael after all. There certainly is truth in the article for the rest of us as well.

Slow and steady seems to be working for me this year, more so in the past, as I juggle the schedule of a work at home mom.

I try – and it is always a goal more than an achievement – to remain focused on the removal of spiritual chametz as I clean and organize and prepare my house. That is, to remove grudges, old patterns, and the “yeast in mitzvot” which was explained to me this Shabbat by the very wise Rabbi Aaron Gruman, means that which allows us to get “puffed up” without doing much of anything. The combination of arrogance and laziness.

Someone created a facebook group called “facebook is chametz”. If one goes by Rabbi Gruman’s understanding as it was explained to me, then facebook definitely qualifies. It certainly allows me to become a) self absorbed, and b) very lazy  - all at the same time. I am going to try and stay fb free for as long as I remain chametz free this year.

I have been making a lot of  LISTS. Lists are what I do when I have lots to accomplish and no energy with which to do so. The lists help me organize that which I have to do, even if I am just too tired to actually do it.

I hope you are all making good progress; perhaps you are too busy to be reading my blog. :  )

I also hope you will let me know what you think of the article.

I love Pesach

March 16th, 2010

Pesach is my favorite holiday, with perhaps the exception of Shabbat. It is also the time of year I miss Israel most, but that is for another post.

Funnily, I think Purim is consistently my least favorite. But I love Pesach. As with most things, I don’t think it is for any one specific reason. I love that spring is coming. I love sending the kids outside. I love to cook. I love the children’s enthusiasm for the seder. I probably wouldn’t like the preparations as much if I had to use china and then clean it, or if I had to bake a lot of Pesach desserts. I don’t bake during Pesach. No one likes the way most of it tastes, and I have never gotten my family hooked on the good stuff, so they don’t really know what they are missing.

….I also love Pesach cleaning.

Every year I am reminded, along with everyone else, that “Pesach cleaning doesn’t mean you have to do Spring cleaning”. But I love spring cleaning. I am sure this is because I hire myself help to do it with.

I love the fact that for the spring cleaning part I only have to get through as much as I get through. I love the lack of clutter, the putting things in a place. Giving things away we no longer use. A fresher smelling, feeling house.

My office usually gets crammed with chametz/non pesach stuff I can’t fit anywhere else and locked up for the week of Pesach. Sold. As a result, it is the least cleaned room in the house. This year I did that first, and I just love the feeling. I actually want to go in my office again. I am perfectly aware that we aren’t eating in there, and that the beads on the floor aren’t crumbs. Still, the cobwebs and dust are gone, the lost checkbook found, and I can move on to cleaning actual chametz with a better feeling.

Check back next week as Pesach gets closer; most likely more of the last minute stress will be getting to me and my back won’t feel quite as good.

In the meantime, the sun is shining after two days of floods and storms and doom and gloom and all the stray lego lost in 10 rooms is slowly making its way home.

I love Pesach.

The VERY sick Sick day.

March 12th, 2010

If my life had a theme it would be the old Yiddish expression “man plans, G-d laughs”.  When I wrote my last blog post I was quite sure at an early hour how the day would go.  I had been there before, and confidently typed out my plans for the day….

… I hadn’t counted on catching the stomach bug my 4 yo had just finished dealing with. Soon after publishing my blog post and immediately after eating a small meal, I knew that the day wouldn’t go as planned.

By late afternoon I had summoned my husband to work from home. By early evening… you don’t want any details of what went on early evening.

I lost all of that day and the next day, too. Turns out the recovery from such stomach bugs can be worse than the bug itself, as your muscles all try to recover from working backwards.

I cancelled my dss’s time to be with us that day in an effort to spare him similar agony. I almost never, ever cancel his time with us. I don’t like the message it sends. Luckily, at 15, he voluntarily opted to come the next day instead. Readers, please remind me of that when I am not having a great stepmom day.

I am now two days behind in both work and Shabbat preparations, and needless to say my Pesach prep will have to happen next week.  That is what I get for so confidently declaring how my day would go.

While I was sick, I thought to myself that this was actually worse than labor. At least with labor while my insides are turning inside out I know there is something wonderful coming out of it.

The following day, while I lay there feeling like my guts had been run over a few times, losing patience with my recovery time, I became flooded with gratitude for my problems. My husband was able to work from home. My illness wasn’t going to be a long term one, didn’t require a hospital stay, or lots of chesed from my community (little bits, for which I am also grateful.)

There are a number of people in my community going through some tough stuff health-wise right now, and the day I fell ill I had also read this heartbreaking article about a woman trying to have a baby.

It occurred to me that when their children whine that they “want their Ima back” after one day of being sick, those Imas can’t really give them what they want and need, and how difficult and sad that must be.

I thought about this because most of my children came to me while I lay in bed, one by one, and told me that they “really, really, really didn’t want me to be sick.”Because my incapacitation was causing them to suffer. While I appreciate being valued and needed as the Ima in the family, I am looking forward to their maturing to the point where they can realize that Imas need compassion and sympathy too.

Of course then I realized that while I give my children compassion and sympathy, I really didn’t when the little one was actually sick!

The night the 4yo was up sick I lay in bed incredibly grateful that my husband was taking care of it all. Next time, now that I have lived through it I think I will drag my tired self up to make sure I give some soothing words and some hugs in the middle of the night.

I will still let my husband clean it all up.

The Not-Sick Sick Day

March 10th, 2010

4 yo complained consistently yesterday of a stomach ache. There really wasn’t much to be done other than sympathize, as she didn’t have any other symptoms.

Last night at about 1:30 in the morning she was up with my husband (that’s why I married him) expelling whatever was bothering her through all manner of bodily fluids. I don’t think you need any more details.

Whatever was in there making her feel rotten has now been cleaned off of several surfaces in my house, so she is feeling great. But of course school policy mandates that she stay home until she is vomit-free for 24 hours.

It’s a reasonable enough policy, but it does creates moments like today, which I call the “not-sick sick day”. She feels fine and dandy, but my day now has to be about entertaining her and giving her structure and substance.

Please don’t get me wrong, a 4 yo doesn’t need to be in school at all in my opinion. There have been many times when I have been the all-day source of programming for a 4 yo all year round. It is just that she is accustomed to school and I have work and Pesach-prep obligations as well as important plans I had expected to accomplish today. I wish I could declare a not-sick sick day for myself too, and simply see it as a vacation opportunity with only two kids home.  I don’t have that luxury.

What will happen in the end, at least based on past experience, is that she will get half of that fun, happy, home-with-Ima experience she wants and deserves, and I will get half of my work and prep done. (Okay, half is probably optimistic.)

She probably isn’t too sick for the grocery store, which means shopping with two kids. That is seriously one of my most hated experiences EVER. Mind you, it is better than what my husband was doing at 1:30 in the morning.

I will probably spend most of the day preparing an activity for as much independence as possible, then scrambling to work while she is focused, until clean up and set up of the next thing. In those spurts I will try to work “adjacent” to her vacation, rather than really participating. Not as fun for either one of us, but today, well, that’s the best I can do.