Sunday, November 28, 2010

Giving it Over to Him

It isn't always easy trying to do something which is out of the ordinary.  As the modern expression goes, I am acting 'out of the box' and am praying that I will gain strength and flourish along with it.  After so many changes and periods of growth, this is yet another extreme test of my emuna.  The difference is, this one was self-imposed.  I trust in HaShem and I have no doubt that He exists and is ever-present in my life.  I also believe with all my heart and soul in the teachings of Rebbe Nachman, of blessed memory, and all the beautiful lessons of life that have sprouted forth from him through Rav Shalom Arush, Shlita and Rabbi Lazer Brody, Shlita, may they be blessed always.  Therefore, I am taking their advice (as I interpreted it) with regards to our parnassa, income. Rabbi Brody explains that our income is designated for us at Rosh Hashanah and whether we work 50 hours a week or 10 hours is irrelevant as parnassa is in the Hands of HaShem. As long as one’s time is spent in spiritual pursuits either by learning or practicing the laws of Torah, then the expression “G-d will provide” is a reality.

They also teach that it is the husband’s responsibility to support his family and while I have tried to contribute my fair share, it has been very difficult for me as a working mother and wife. It’s all very nice to try to be superwoman, to work outside the home, look after the family’s needs and still have a grain of time left for myself. In reality though, it is impossible and something has to give.  In my case, it is usually the home which suffers. Before we made aliya and when our older children were small, I made it my occupation to be a mother and would never think of going out to work.  If the house was a mess, it was only because my energies were spent looking after my family and the physical home was secondary in importance.  Now that our kids are no longer children, it’s a whole different story, complete with a new set of expectations and requirements.

I tried to internalize my role as a wife and mother (as stated in Women’s Wisdom and elsewhere) and came to the conclusion that I must spend more time doing what I am meant to do in my life and fulfill my true purpose in the world.  I found that I was unable to do that in my present job.  The organization in which I was employed was beneficial for the time being and fulfilled its purpose, but then things changed.  About a year ago they reorganized the job descriptions and moved everyone around. There were so many internal changes and politics, I found it was no longer conducive to my personal or spiritual growth. On the contrary, it became a enormous effort to refrain from participating in loshon hara. Before the summer, I had a talk with my boss who felt there wasn’t much work for me unless I was willing to do work which was not my ‘cup of tea’.  The choice was either doing work I didn’t enjoy or be laid off.  So I conceded and pushed off the inevitable until after the Chaggim, Rosh Hashanah through Sukkot.

At the same time, I began to have an urge to stay home more to be able to cook properly for Shabbat, invite more guests, bake challah and keep the house in order. As it was, I had no energy left by the end of the week. I wanted to leave my job but I felt if HaShem gave me this opportunity, who am I to quit and pass up much needed income? I also preferred to be fired than to quit so I could receive severance pay plus unemployment benefits which I have been paying into.  I was going to ask my Rav what to do, but decided to go straight to my Boss for his opinion; That is HaShem. I told Him how I felt and explained that I was thankful for the job and did not want to sound unappreciative, G-d forbid, but I really want to be a full-time homemaker once again, and have more time for my writing and spreading His Light. I was giving the decision over to Him and asked that He should guide me in the right path. 

The next day my boss (employer) called me into her office. I knew things were very slow and wasn’t surprised when she said she was giving me 30 days notice. She felt very bad as she did not want to let me go but she had no choice. I told her it was fine but it was more than fine. I was overjoyed.  I don’t think she understood how I had a smile on my face as she was firing me, but I couldn’t help myself. 

As usual, that wasn’t the end, as the yetzer hara (evil inclination) had to stick his head into the equation.  The following day, after rethinking the situation, my boss called me into her office again. She told me that they really didn’t want me to leave and she offered me a different position in the organization.  I considered it for about 10 seconds but then politely refused. That was 30 days ago. 

A bit of background on the beginnings of this job is also amazing and a clear-cut acknowledgment of G-d’s intervention.  When I began working for this wonderful organization almost two years ago, my husband and I were just in the early stages of learning with Breslev and trying to get our marriage back on track.  I wanted my husband to attend Rav Arush’s Yeshiva, but it was far and complicated to reach from where we live so he only went once.  It was no coincidence that my place of employment was just around the corner from the Chut Shel Chesed Yeshiva so I made it my mission to convince him to join me each morning on the journey to work. It became a daily routine which gave us some quality time together and he is now committed to attending Gemara classes every day regardless of whether I accompany him or not. 

So here I am feeling like I have repossessed my life. I am free to fulfill my true goals as I see them and with HaShem’s help, I pray that we will never want for anything despite my unemployment.  May it be His Will that we merit to receive all we need to live our lives in abundance according to his Divine Plan.  Amen.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

On the Bus

I know my blogging is very sporadic with blog posts few and far between, but G-d willing, that should be changing soon. As soon as I can, I will try to write a blog about what is going on in my life (some changes), but for now I just want to share a nice, little incident that happened on the bus today. If it wasn't so over-used, I  would call this blog post "Only in Israel" since it surely wouldn't take place anywhere else in the world.

I was on my way home from work, and I was sitting directly behind the seats with four grouped together; two seats opposite each other. An older man whose back was facing me was a very friendly man, talking to everyone who came and sat down in his section. He even gave a pen to a little boy sitting across the aisle with his Abba (Daddy), instructing him to use it for his limudai kodesh (religious studies) homework. When a young man in an army uniform came on the bus, there was an empty seat next to him, so the older man stopped him in the aisle and asked him to sit there. It seemed like he knew him already, but it's not certain as he treated everyone as a good friend. 

This sociable older man proceeded to take a bouquet of greenery out of his bag and gave a twig to each of the men sitting in his quartet. All of them were smiling and talking and smelling the little sprigs. I tried not to listen or watch too closely as my manners taught me, but I couldn't help feel the sense of camaraderie among these strangers on the bus. There was no way he could have seen me admiring this whole event, but he suddenly handed me a twig of my own without even turning around. I was barely able to say "thank you", when he was giving another to the girl beside me. Upon closer inspection, it was apparent that it was a small branch of Hadass (Myrtle), one of the four species we use on Sukkot as part of the Lulav. I said a bracha (blessing) and deeply inhaled the beautiful and natural fragrance.

After awhile, two of the passengers departed and left the two seats facing my direction unoccupied. Before long, a couple of high school boys got on the bus and as they began to pass by, our friendly 'Goodwill Ambassador' caught their attention and asked them to take the two seats across from him.  Glad to have somewhere to sit, they happily took their places as directed. After a bit of chit chat, the nice older man handed them each their own piece of Hadass.  They looked at their gift curiously and accepted it with a smile. Knowing that the boys were secular, the older man and the religious soldier were anxious to help them out with a kippa and a prayer. The soldier lent them his own kippa as they took turns being guided word by word in reciting the blessing over the greenery. It has been some time since I have seen such a beautiful sight.  Here were so many worlds connecting - an older religious, Sephardic man, a young observant soldier and two secular young men, all joined in a mitzvah, on a bus no less. What an irony that the center of this unity was the Myrtle Branch, the same plant used in the Lulav which itself represents a coming together of our People. 

Eventually they each went their own way and I was left with a feeling of contentment and joy. I only wish I had asked the older man his name. If I didn't know better, I would have thought he was Moshiach!

May each one of us strive to accomplish in our lifetimes what that man did in a short bus trip home.  May we soon merit to witness the true Moshiach, in our days, Amen.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Seedlings of Sukkot

Sukkot. Despite all the work it entails, it is a Holiday I look forward to each year. A Sukkah is literally a booth, a temporary structure we build adjacent to our home for the week-long Jewish Holiday of Sukkot.  It is one of the three biblically mandated Holidays on which Jews made pilgrimages to the Temple in Jerusalem. It is a happy time for anyone who builds a Sukkah and enjoys the Mitzvot (good deeds) it earns. It is actually a commandment to be happy which makes it an even more joyful occasion. Why do we build a Sukkah where we eat (and sleep) during this period? We are directed to embark on this undertaking to commemorate the time we spent in the desert in transit from Egyptian slavery. The Jewish People were miraculously freed from slavery only to find themselves en route to the Land of Israel through the uninhabitable desert. They built temporary, fragile huts along the way somewhat similar to those we create each year. So how did they survive the 40 years it took to reach the Promised Land with such inadequate provisions? Only by the Hand of HaShem. He provided food daily in the form of manna which sustained our people with all the nutrients needed and was as tasty as they chose. ‘Clouds of Glory’ accompanied them on their journey to guide them and protect them on their way.  Our Sukkah is a small offering of thanks and recognition of the Wondrous Miracles HaShem performed in order to bring us to our Holy Land.

We utilize a Lulav and Etrog to represent the unity of our People. We pray for the unification His Holy Name, uniting the letters in perfect harmony. There is so much to be said about Sukkot, but I want to share a personal aspect that came to mind this year.

The Sukkah itself has many precise specifications but we are free to choose the basic design and materials on our own, within the framework of the rules. For the last several years, due to storage considerations and mobility, we have been constructing our Sukkah with plastic walls. This year, in Israel at least, the weather has been extremely hot. During the evening meals, the flying bugs found the light bulb very enticing so it became a good test for us to keep them out of our food. By this hour though, the temperature was pleasant and aside from the insects, sitting in the Sukkah was a pleasure.

The daytime meals were a different story. We were sweltering in the heat, like plants in a hothouse. Our Sukkah contains two mesh windows but that only allowed for oxygen to enter. With no breeze, we had to concentrate on the amazing food which HaShem provided and the Mitzvot we were fulfilling to keep us from running into the comfort of our apartment. I couldn’t help but look for a explanation for this difficulty. Since everything is for a reason, this too must have some significance other than making us sweat. The more I felt like a plant being germinated in a greenhouse, the more I realized that was essentially what was happening. A greenhouse or hothouse is used to protect plants from the outside elements, to enable them to grow while storms or other undesirable situations brew on the other side of the walls. It creates the opportune conditions to enable their optimum development while they are still in the delicate stages of life. This is exactly what G-d is doing with us. By following His Laws, specifically the Festival of Sukkot, we protect ourselves from the negative exterior forces which may otherwise rule (and ruin) our lives. We are allowing ourselves to thrive within the boundaries our Father has set for us.

As with all occurrences in life, we must use each opportunity to grow and learn, putting our trust in no one other than The Creator. Once we understand and internalize that He, and only He, is our Protector, we ‘seedlings’ will flourish into grown ‘plants’. Through our actions we prove our sacred desire to accept and appreciate all HaShem has bestowed upon us, consequently He will remove the walls He has placed around us. Then, G-d willing, He will be able to transplant us from the 'hothouse' back into the Garden of Eden. Only there will we experience the true joy we have waited so long to merit, even greater than the joy of Sukkot. May that day arrive soon!

Post script: 
"All who are exempt from the succah [because of severe discomfort; e.g. heavy rain or extreme cold] and do not leave, do not receive reward for this and are merely simpletons (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim, Ramah, 639:7)"
We considered going inside due to the unbearable heat, but it wasn't enough discomfort to give up sitting in the Sukkah. Had I gone inside, I wouldn't have been inspired to look for an explanation which to me was well worth the effort. 

Monday, September 20, 2010

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Center of the Storm

Something has been bothering me for a very long time now. A 'very long time' is a relative term since a long time could be anywhere from thousands of years, several years to a few hours or minutes etc., depending on the context.  But if you're a young soldier serving your mandatory army service and are violently taken hostage against your will, even one second is far too long. And for that boy's parents, family and friends, 'a very long time' becomes a never ending nightmare.  It doesn't take much to guess that I am referring to Gilad Shalit and all of our missing soldiers; Ron Arad, Guy Hever, Zvi Feldman, Yehuda Katz and Zachariya Baumol, may they all be well.

We have recently seen proof that Gilad ben Aviva is still alive, thank G-d. Anyone with a heart must feel as I do whenever I think of him languishing in some cold, dark, damp cement room, all alone with no one but his captors to revive his spirits. When I get chilly at night I think of him, and cry, and wonder if he has blankets to keep him warm. During Yom Kippur yesterday, our Day of Atonement, I contemplated whether or not he even realized what day it was. Would he be allowed to practice his own religious rituals? Surely not. As we are all aware, against International Law, he has been denied the basic human right of being allowed a humanitarian visit by the Red Cross, or any other neutral organization for that matter (not that the Red Cross is neutral). I know I am not alone as I pray daily for his spiritual, physical and emotional health and for his immediate return home.

As long as he remains imprisoned, it is incumbent upon us, those who are free to come and go as we please, free to speak our minds, to do everything in our power to ensure that he is released.  Whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 4:8 (37a)

Something just doesn't make sense to me and it is time to put it on the table, so to speak. The Israeli Army has amazing intelligence. They pretty much know where many wanted terrorists are at any given moment.  They are able to use precision strikes to blow up desired targets without hurting civilians. They can go to foreign countries and successfully put a 'hit' on dangerous enemies.  But they don't know where one little, suffering, lone soldier is being held?  I just don't buy that.  It is impossible that no one knows where Gilad is being kept. So why aren't they getting him out?  His parents must have asked this question more times than I.  Are those who are at the helm of the army afraid of the consequences?  That has never been a deterrent in the past. Which leaves me with just one conclusion; G-d has some major plan of His own. Since HaShem is in control of everything,  He is obviously directing this as well. Nothing makes sense and everything is upside down. This is the world experiencing the birth pangs of Moshiach and I feel like Gilad Shalit is in the center of it. He could very well, G-d willing, soon be part of his own rebirth, as the head of the storm of Redemption crowns into a new dawn.   

In the meantime, as we wait with anticipation, we must all join together to beseech HaShem to protect Gilad, watch over him and guard him from harm.  And may he, all the missing soldiers, Jonathan Pollard and all of our People soon be united in Peace and Joy in the service of HaShem at the newly rebuilt Beit Hamikdosh

Friday, August 20, 2010

You Might Just be Wise

(Lyrics by Chaya Golda Ovadia, Music and Additions by David Dome)

Why are we waiting, sitting idly by?
We should be giving repentance a try.
These days of awe, this time of regret
Can clear decrees which are not settled yet.  

This is the moment when lives hang by a thread,

It should behold us to tremble with dread,
Before HaShem, fall down on our knees,
Beg our Father to accept all our pleas.

For the sins we admit, for transgressions unknown,
Our tearful appeal can chill a soul down to the bone,
How can we waste time? With our hearts must implore
Our Merciful Judge at the Heavenly Door.

It’s never too early for our chance to pray
To soften the verdict on Judgment Day.
If not we will hide our faces in shame
When standing before His Magnificent Name

Opportunities passed are never returned
We’ll lament in regret for our hard lessons learned
Look deep in your heart, be truthful as can be
And you’ll have no fear from the solemn decree.

You might be aware, yeah, you might just realize,
The things you call good may just be in disguise
And now it's time to be judged and it’s time to open our eyes
And return to Hashem, yeah, you might just be wise.
So why are we waiting, sitting idly by?
We should be giving tshuva a try.
These days of awe, and this time of regret
Can clear the decrees which are not settled yet.

And you might be aware, yeah, you might just realize,
Those things you call good may all be in disguise
Now it's time to be judged and it’s time to open our eyes
And return to Hashem, yeah, you might just be wise.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

On a Need to Know Basis

Photo Credit -
Everyone views things differently; we each have our limits and topics that interest us can vary significantly. The very things that I find exciting may cause someone else to turn away in boredom. But what frustrates me is when I want to relate something which I am very passionate about to my kids and they refuse to hear about it. Well, actually most of my children indulge me when I try to share with them, but one of them simply can’t give me that. It’s nothing to do with respect, but some topics are just too difficult to bear. The mention of a chosen few topics creates panic so before anyone has a chance to totally freak out, I have to change the subject or leave the room. Moshiach, terrorists, war, redemption… these words are like a head-crushing, suffocating vise to some people. This creates a lot of tension for me, because there is so much I need to impart to my family, especially now and specifically on those particular ‘forbidden’ topics.

Recently we have come to an agreement. I was informed that any information on these subjects will be handled on a ‘need to know basis’. If there is something urgent to pass on, I can say it, otherwise I will keep my views to myself.  In theory that sounds fair but the problem is everyone NEEDS TO KNOW NOW!

As a mother, despite the fact that my children are adults in their own right, I have a responsibility to them. It’s not like I’m in some elite club of people who have an inside track on the future but I feel like there is a minority of us who really see what’s happening in the world. Is it denial or just spiritual blindness on everyone else’s part? One doesn't have to be spiritual to read the news. With all the countries itching to take Israel down, all the natural disasters occurring throughout the world and all the man-made catastrophes to boot, doesn't it kind of make you wonder ‘Who’ is doing all this? If you think it’s just natural phenomenon, think again. If you believe that there have always been wars so that is nothing new, take a closer look. G-d has allowed man to create such amazing technology that we are now sitting ducks waiting for total annihilation in our own backyard. Never before have there been such weapons of massive destruction that could potentially destroy the whole planet. That is precisely what HaShem planned. As in the past, He knows that a hateful portion of man would misuse their free will and intelligence with evil intent. The difference today is that the only antidote for this horrifying scenario is a true, major, eye-opening miracle. But the definitive word is ‘eye-opening’. Open your eyes people! The only way to ensure a miracle is to make changes now, BEFORE it’s too late. This is our window of opportunity to guarantee our survival.

In the time of Noah and the Ark, everyone laughed at him until the rain began to fall. Even then, it wasn’t until there was no let-up in the flood that people understood that it was not a joke. The Bible isn’t some storybook made up for reading in Church or Synagogue; it is an authentic journal of history. What happened then could happen now. I don’t fear for the continued existence of mankind since prophecies tell us that there will be a time of true peace and a period of Redemption. But I need to know that everyone I care about, all of my family, all of our people and all the G-d fearing people of the world will grab this chance to implore HaShem to have mercy on us. It is only through prayer, charity and repentance that HaShem will save any of us. Miracles don’t come easy and without a genuine effort why should we be blessed with this gift? The choice is ours to make. If we turn our eyes upward to see past our homes, clothes, cars, jobs and vacations we may, G-d willing, have the merit to witness Divine Wonders.

May Moshiach come immediately to lead the way!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Nowhere to Hide

We all exist in the same world so I often wonder why some of us see it and some don't. I mean, things are happening in the world right now that defy logic and rationality. One would have to live in a big, thick bubble to be oblivious to the major events taking place as I write. But trying to explain to most people that life as we know it may soon be changing is like talking to a brick wall.  The proverbial fly on the wall would be more receptive.

One major development is the BP oil spill off the shores of the U.S. gulf coast. There have been plenty of YouTube videos put up about this major disaster and most are quite fascinating. There is talk of lethal gases being leaked into the air, mixed into the water and evaporating into the atmosphere. The toxic oil has been recycled into the ecosystem and is falling as dangerous oil rain, ruining crops and endangering lives. The massive drilling and other attempts at repairing the problem have only made things worse, resulting in possible chemically-saturated hurricanes and unheard of tsunamis. It isn’t being discussed on mainstream media, but I believe that is only because the government is trying to prevent panic. You may say these are simply alarmist videos which fall into the same category as conspiracy theories, but if you think about it realistically, they make perfect sense.

Someone pointed out this interesting play on letters: OIL RAIN = IRAN OIL. If we understand that G-d rules the world mida k’neged mida, meting out judgments measure for measure, it is clear that the American lust for OIL from IRAN is so great that it has now been bestowed upon them with equal magnitude as OIL RAIN.

While all of this may appear to be a natural occurrence, make no mistake... it is all from the Hand of G-d. The Master of the Universe is giving those who believe in him ample opportunities to take the hint and return 'Home', or at the very least, return to Him spiritually; heart and soul. To those who refuse to accept the concept of a Supreme Power, doesn't this scientific incident scare the heck out of you? How many natural disasters and other catastrophies will it take?  It brings to mind an old movie with the catchy quote: "Where you gonna go, where you gonna run, where you gonna hide? Nowhere... 'cause there's no one like you left."

My family and I live in Israel and, as Rabbi Lazer Brody pointed out, enemy missiles are now aimed at every square inch of our land. The potential scenarios are unimaginable to put it gently. If not for the firm belief that HaShem will protect us, and that He does only what is best (emuna), I would be at my wits end right now. But I will never fear because I know that I can call out to HaShem and He will be right there for us. That is what He wants from His children. Why don't you try it?  Your life may depend on it.

Ein Od Milvado! There is nothing but HIM!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Only in Israel

If I was a person who placed bets, I could wager with 100% certainty that no one living outside of Israel, our Holy Land, has a job where going to the Kotel, the Western Wall, is part of their job description! It is a source of pride to me, that not only am I blessed to be employed in these difficult times, but that I merit to participate in a venture which helps others less fortunate than myself. Today at 6 p.m., I will join my co-workers and approximately 100 young children from the Yad Ezra V’Shulamit’s Children’s Centers, for a pre-filming of the upcoming fundraising event based on the theme “The Power of Children’s Prayers”. On September 5th, a few days before Rosh Hashanah, there will be a global broadcast with events being held simultaneously the world over. People will submit prayers and once again, children will be brought to the Kotel to pray for them.

The purpose of this blog post is not to promote the cause even though it is a very worthy organization. Among other services, they gives out hundreds of food baskets weekly, run Children’s and Youth Centers for the children of needy families and a job desk to help those seeking gainful employment.

My point is to encourage everyone who is not yet in Israel to consider making this their home. It may be the farthest thing from your mind, but if you consider it carefully, you will understand that Israel is really your home. Rebbe Nachman of Breslev once said "For the people of Israel, miracles are the way of nature, for the people of Israel are above nature." I can say with all sincerity, that this is indeed the case.

With trust in Hashem and the knowledge that He is running the world, all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place with an abundance of clarity. If your lives are hectic and full of difficulties, I would advise reading this best-selling book which will change your life for the better; The Garden of Emuna

I am truly thankful for my lot in life but I pray for the day when I will no longer need to work for a tzedaka (charity) organization; the day when there will be no hunger, no poverty and no sickness. May it be G-d’s Will that that day come soon.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

And to Jerusalem, Your City

This is probably not going to be the most well written blog because I am writing it more quickly than I usually do. But I really need to just say what I want to say and get it out there. Enough is enough.

I just returned home from work after spending well over two hours in the scorching heat after weaving through a medley of transportation routes and methods. And it's not the first time. A few weeks ago, also on a sweltering day with temperatures well into the 30s, I walked for block after block in order to get a bus home. Why? Because there were demonstrations going on in Jerusalem and many streets were closed to traffic.

No, I'm not upset or angry per se. I understand that it is all from HaShem and whatever happens is meant to be. But we do have some free will in all this and my heart is simply breaking from what I am seeing.

The major points in condensed form are that many Haredi (orthodox) men and women were arrested because they refused to send their daughters to a school in Emmanuel which was not up to their standards. In protest of these arrests, the Haredi sector sent busloads of supporters to Jerusalem to block the streets in order to rebel against this atrocity. I don’t really want to get into who is right or who is wrong. The truth is, mistakes were made on all sides. I understand all points of view but I don't agree in the least with how it has been handled all around. Can people not get results by doing things in a civilized manner? Agreeably, the arrests were not appropriate but protesting out in the streets like that only creates more loshon hora (bad talk) and a chilul Hashem, a desecration of G-d’s name. These men in black and white represent the most pious sector of society so perhaps they should have given more thought to this public outcry. But they do it because it works. That in itself is a grievous mistake. As a mother, I can tell you that giving into a child with a temper tantrum only begets more of the same. If I could sit down with my child and work out a solution to the problem, it would save endless aggravation and tears. And most likely this didn’t happen overnight which leads me to the conclusion that this should have been dealt with over the course of time rather than just letting it simmer until it finally boiled over. This is the END of the school year, not the beginning.

Prophecies tell us of the battle for Jerusalem, when our enemies will try to lay claim to our Holy City. But what of the battles IN Jerusalem, WITHIN our own People, BY our own People, BETWEEN our own People? This disunity is what is keeping the Geula (redemption) away. How can we expect to make peace with our enemies if we can’t even have peace between ourselves? We cannot be “A Light unto the Nations” if we are blocking the Divine Light with all this unnecessary dissent. We are only bringing darkness and pain into the world by these actions. The expression “Charity begins at home” can also refer to being charitable as a human being; that is being accepting and tolerant of one another. We are all family and as such we need to respect our brothers and sisters especially within the Home G-d gave us (Israel).

It’s a known fact that when tragedy strikes our People, we always pull together and stand strong in unity and brotherhood. With the winds of war looming eerily over our heads, let’s not wait until it’s too late show our love for one another. The time for harmony is now.

(another post on the same topic by a friend)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sprouting Vines

We live in the 'meduragim' which are 'step cottages'.  In plain English, it is an apartment with a separate entrance and in our case, a garden as well.  The living quarters are quite small, but the outside, for me, is paradise.  The owners, who were the original occupants, were very agriculturally oriented so our yard is blessed with several different fruit trees and a few grape vines.  It's unfortunate that it is all a bit wasted on us since we really don't take care of things properly, mostly due to lack of knowledge, resources and time.  But when I sit outside and just take in the view, I am in my own Heaven.  We also back onto a valley of sorts where the Arabs work some agricultural land as well.  Even more awesome, is the fact that just to the south-west of us is Derech Avot, the Path of our Forefathers. We have walked that path on several occasions and each time it amazes me when we arrive at the ancient Mikveh, the same Ritual Bath our Forefathers used on their journey from Chevron to Jerusalem. It's difficult to comprehend that we are actually here, standing on the same soil, walking on the same path as our Holy predecessors.

There are also many beautiful birds which come to visit, flitting by, chirping, eating and playing in the wind.  My kids tease me that I should live on a farm since I am so passionate about nature, but the truth is, I simply love observing it all. I doubt I would have the energy or ability to push up my sleeves and actually run a farm wholeheartedly.  One thing for certain though, when I don't go out walking, our backyard is definitely a prime place for hitbodedut (personal prayer).

A little over a week ago, I began looking at the grape vines which were beginning to sprout. We had discovered in the past that the grapes from this particular vine were the most delicious we had ever tasted.  Since the vine had been partially cut down to accommodate our Succah last year, it no longer reached the top lattice where it was meant to flourish.  It was important for me to ensure that it was able to grow.  I was aware that as the vine develops, it sends out tentacles of sorts which grab onto a wire or twine, and grows along it.  This became apparent in years past when the grape vine decided to adopt my clothes line as its own!

So being naive in this area, I decided to tie a thin rope onto one of the branches so the tentacles would join on, and the plant would be properly directed to the trellis above.  To my astonishment, when I came back to check on it over the next few days, it became evident that the tentacles had no intention of taking hold of that rope.  Instead, several tentacles grew in an erratic manner towards each other and in all directions, as if they didn't know where to go.  It was quite sad and when I was watching them, I felt as if they were almost human.  They were aware that I had tied the twine onto them, and therefore refused to touch it.  It wasn't until a week later, that the vine next to it, not one directly attached to the rope, decided to reach for the guiding thread. 

It made me step back and think. Here are these live plants which are not human, cannot think, cannot reason, are not animals and therefore do not have instincts as we know them. Yet for some reason, they would not allow themselves to grasp for the line that I had attached directly onto their trunk.  Aside from the fact that it shows that every single creation in existence contains a spark of HaShem, I felt that HaShem was sending me a message as well....the question was; what?   And then it hit me - these grape vines are like our children.   Anyone who is blessed with children only wants what's best for them.  A child is as sweet as the most succulent grape on the vine. We do all we can to ensure that we can give them the direction they need, G-d willing, according to HaShem's guidelines.  But we can't tie them down. We can't bind them to us; we can only lead by example.  If we try to secure them directly to us and control them, they will run the other way, floundering in great turmoil in the process.  Yet if we give them room to breathe, and allow them to sprout on their own with our guiding 'rope' always there for them, they will undoubtedly take hold in their own time.

Taking this thought one step further, we should realize that G-d, the Master of all Creation, the Ultimate Parent, is All-Knowing and we are all His children.  Unlike me, the inept Vine Keeper, HaShem knows exactly how to nurture us and steer our lives on the right course.  He never adheres us directly to Himself as a result of our free will but He is always there pointing us in the right direction with His invisible rope.  We are far above plants and our decision to hold on to His guiding life force is our option.  But if we use the grape vine as an example, we can see that we really have no choice at all since without taking hold of the rod of life, we will surely falter.

So I learned my lesson about grape vines and gained some insights in the process.  Undeniably, the knowledge of HaShem's world is an unending storehouse of miraculous surprises.  I can't wait to discover more....

Monday, April 12, 2010

Solemn Reflections

Today is Holocaust Memorial Day. My daily routine did not change. I am a wife and mother who works out of the home as well as in it, but I had to take some time to reflect on the horrors which occurred not-so-many years ago. Our predecessors, whose lives were cut short in the most despicable ways, were forcibly cut from the chains of our heritage with a blink of the eye. Without seeing the bigger picture, it is impossible to comprehend this heaven-shattering event.

Although one never knows what one is capable of until he or she is put in the situation, I always claimed that had I lived during those times, I would surely have succumbed. The whole event is so unfathomable and mindboggling. How any human being could have endured such existence is beyond my grasp. It wasn’t until recently though, that I began to think that perhaps I may have actually been there and did indeed join the millions of Jewish martyrs. (Before you institutionalize me, let me explain why).

I always believed in reincarnation, but it wasn’t until recently that I learned (from Rabbi Lazer Brody) that most, if not all of us are ‘recycled’ souls (neshamot), and that in most cases, we have been ‘reborn’ several times in order to correct our souls. I have a reputation at home for being stingy when it comes to waste, although I like to call it frugal.  It bothers me to throw things out that we may need later or to discard even the tiniest bit of left over food, reminiscent of a person from the Holocaust.  Not long ago I remembered a childhood incident which I believe I may have misinterpreted at the time. As a very young child, I had a recurring dream in which I was running and bees where stinging my back until I fell. I didn’t actually see the bees, but it felt like bees and I always woke up before the dream was completed. Only recently did it occur to me that those were possibly not bees at all…. but bullets. Because it is such a terrible thing to imagine, I probably shouldn’t even write it.  And since I will never know the truth (at least in this lifetime) it is also pointless. But I think in some ways it may help explain some obsessions I have with genealogy and specifically, my great-great Grandfather, Kalman Lipovitch. Kalman and his wife Tauba, thanks to HaShem, had 11 children in Iwaniska, Poland which was at some point in history, part of the Ukraine. Both my great-grandfather and his brother left Poland before the war but I always wondered what became of the other 9 siblings? Were their grandchildren still alive somewhere in Europe or had they also emigrated before it was too late? The sad reality became known when I researched the Yad Vashem database of Holocaust victims. I found that at least 3 of his daughters perished along with their children, mostly in Treblinka. Tens of my relatives ceased to exist. And those are just the names I was able to confirm.

Today, when I think about the millions of souls whose physical journey was terminated, I can be somewhat comforted in knowing that they also began their spiritual assent, cleansed and purified. Like looking through a two-way mirror, we can only see our own reflection, yet G-d, in His infinite wisdom, is watching us from the other side and waiting for the right time to reveal His final truth.

May that day come soon.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Proof is in the Pudding

There’s an old expression dating back to the 1600s, ‘The Proof of the Pudding is in the eating’ which was later shortened to ‘The Proof is in the Pudding’. In the ‘old days’, making pudding wasn’t like it is today where we just open a package and add milk. It was cooked slowly on top of the stove so the proper consistency and flavor were often difficult to attain. Only once it was eaten would it be put to the test. Over the years, this saying has come to mean that the results are what counts; that something can only be judged once it has been experienced.

With modern technology and scientific advancement, many people today are often skeptical of believing in anything intangible without proof. They want answers before they commit to taking on the yoke of Judaism and its regimented laws. Proof does exist, but it is most evident to those who have already devoted themselves to a life of spiritual pursuits. Like the pudding, until one tastes the sweetness of the Torah, one will not fully understand what they are missing nor can they evaluate it properly.

Too many of us have become accustomed to living our lives for our own pleasure. Our days revolve around trying to satisfy our thirst for happiness, a goal which continues to elude us. Until we internalize that this desire cannot be satiated simply through the physical world we will never attain the ultimate fulfillment. It is actually quite impudent to expect everything to be handed to us on a silver platter and give nothing in return. When G-d created the world, he also provided us with a clear set of instructions. If we think we can play by our own rules, we are cheating no one but ourselves.

A perfect example of proof anyone can observe is with us every day. Since we all eat fruits and vegetables, just stop for a moment and think about how each produce selection is in season at the precise time we need the specific nutrient. During the winter when our bodies require vitamin C to fight off cold-weather viruses and build resistance, oranges, grapefruits and other citrus fruits are bountiful. In the summer when we crave water to quench our thirst, watermelon, berries and plums are ripe for the picking. Carrots, loaded with Vitamin A and potatoes, rich in carbohydrates, Vitamin C and B6, are both important staples in our diet and are available all year round. The list goes on and on.

HaShem, in His Infinite Wisdom, designed the world and all its workings solely for our benefit. Like the song which took the words from Ecclesiastes (Kohellet) Chapter 3, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven”. Not only are the necessities of our existence provided for us at the appropriate time, but everything has a specific and Divine function. It’s important to remind ourselves as we go about our daily mundane chores such cooking and eating, that it is all for the service of HaShem. The Holy One, Blessed be He, provides for all of our needs so we can fulfill His Will with a satisfied body and joyful soul.

Every task we perform can and should be done for the sake of Heaven. How we eat, what we read and the words we speak should all exude holiness. When we shop for food, have relations with our spouse, do the laundry or go to work, our fundamental objective is to enable us to perform our obligations to our Father in Heaven and to elevate those acts from the physical to a spiritual plane. By saying a bracha (blessing) on whatever we are going to eat, we not only benefit our own soul, but elevate the holy spark in the item we are eating by bringing the chicken, the apple or the cucumber to a higher level.

Realizing our potential carries a myriad of responsibilities. Aside from learning, praying and fulfilling the mitzvot (Commandments) pertaining to regular days, holidays (Yom Tovim) and Shabbat, we must always be mindful of the mitzvot of man to man; giving up a seat for the pregnant woman on the bus, giving charity to the poor, honoring your parents, giving the benefit of the doubt, to name a few.

Once the decision is made to strive for change and growth, don’t be discouraged by sporadic setbacks, nor should you expect a major transformation overnight. This can be illustrated by a comparison to making bread or challah for Shabbat. It is not enough to combine the flour, salt, yeast and eggs in the correct manner. We must wait patiently for it to rise and just when it seems ready, we punch it down and raise it again. Only then do we shape the dough and bake it into a beautiful and delicious Challah. If we try to hurry it along, it won’t turn out well. This process of punching down is necessary for its success. We too, in our quest for wisdom and truth occasionally get knocked down only to rise back up to a loftier level through repentance, thus becoming the beautiful creations HaShem wants us to be.

You may be familiar with the Glow Stick or Glow Necklace, a plastic tube which give off a glowing light. This glow-in-the-dark item is activated when two substances interact and cause a chemically activated illumination. Once the reaction has been triggered, the process can be repeated by putting it in the freezer and removing it whenever the light is desired. So too, with sincere commitment to Torah and Mitzvot, we connect with sparks of G-dliness which cause a calming light to illuminate in our souls. When we desire to bring more radiance into the world, we can simply intensify our glow by immersing ourselves in Kedusha (Holiness) and increase our efforts. Like the ballpark or concert hall filled with thousands of Glow Sticks glistening together, united as one, we have the capability of radiating the Heavenly Light down into our world in a chorus of brilliant splendor.

Once you embark on your spiritual journey, you will undoubtedly begin to witness wonders and miracles. G-d rewards his children with abundant blessings in return for their devotion to Him, for He delights in our happiness. “I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice, and to get pleasure as long as they live. But also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy pleasure, for all his labor is the gift of G-d.” Ecclesiastes (Kohellet) 3:12,13

So if you haven’t yet set the sacred wheels in motion, what are you waiting for? After all, the proof is in the pudding.

(First Published on

Sunday, February 7, 2010

For Mom

February 7th (today) was my Mother's a’h 'English' birthday so I thought this was an appropriate time to post this. I was doing some cleaning the other day and came across a poem I wrote several years ago. I guess I was missing my beloved Mother at the time and decided to use my creativity to express it. If I don't write it down somewhere other than the crumpled piece of paper it is written on, it will likely be lost forever. Regardless, I realize it is just a cathartic release, so please bear with me as I share my inner feelings. I apologize if this isn’t the kind of blog you like, but you will have to wait till the next one for something less personal.

For Mom

What do you see when you watch us from above?
Do you still recognize all of those you love?

We have surely changed; our children have all grown,

Do you feel a sense of pride from the precious seeds you've sown?

How do you perceive us?

How do Neshamas feel?

It's beyond my comprehension,

So abstract, yet so real!

I pray that you rest peacefully in your new divine abode,

That your journey to our 'Maker' was a smooth and passive road.

How wonderful it must have been to once again unite

With souls once lost and spirits joined in HaShem’s Eternal Light.

Oh, Mommy how I miss you,

I long for your embrace,

Your caring, tender, loving ways,

To see your smiling face.

But life goes on and I must live to build our family chain,

It hurts to feel your absence, but I try to bear the pain,

And as my children give me pleasure, so much 'nachas' day by day,

My solace comes through this blessing that HaShem has sent my way.

I ache to have you near me,

Life's ups and downs to share,

But I accept G-d's Judgment

So I will not despair.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

My Prayer Book

This Tuesday will be, G-d willing, my birthday. I won't give away my age but if you go by the expression, "you're not getting older, you're getting better", I must be WAY better! Joking aside, I do feel that after all these years, I am finally getting the hang of life. It took me awhile to finally accept that I am not here to make myself happy but to serve G-d. That may sound like my happiness doesn't matter, but on the contrary, it turns out that I am much more content than I have ever been in my life. I have given myself over to a Power (HaShem) greater than myself with the knowledge that it is ALL GOOD. I can basically just hang on and enjoy the ride, knowing that if I give it my best effort, I have nothing to worry about.

When my birthday comes around, there is one person who always comes to mind, for without her I would not exist.... that is my beloved Mother, a'h. There is a great deal one can say about one's mother, so I won't bore you with my personal feelings and stories. But I would just like to say for the record, that she not only gave me life by physically giving birth to me, but she gave me the gift of spirituality. She instilled in me the sensitivity to G-dliness and her holy essence passed through to me. Here is one example in the form of a poem:

My Prayer Book

My book was blue and shiny
And I read it every day
My Mommy bought it for me,
To teach me how to pray

My book was blue and shiny
Adorned with stars so bright
I read the prayers sincerely
When I went to bed at night

I was so young and tender
The book was mine to keep
The supplications calmed me
And helped me go to sleep

I was so young and tender
When “Shema” was in my heart
My mother raised me wisely
And shaped me from the start

That book was oh so precious
I treasured it with love
It was my first awareness
Of Our Father up Above

That book was oh so precious
It achieved its crucial goal
Mommy nourished both my body
And my new and precious soul

In those days, there was no Rabbi Lazer to tell our parents to read the Shema with their child, but somehow my Mother knew that it was important. Such a simple thing as a prayer book for children can make an enormous impact on a youngster's internal thoughts and psyche.

I thank HaShem for blessing me with such wonderful parents. May my Father live a long and healthy life, and may my Mother a'h reap the eternal rewards from all her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.