Monday, October 11, 2010

Well, it looks like I have some time to write today, since I took the day off.  That's what happens when you take a half gainer onto a cement floor.  No, no broken bones, no stitches, no concussion.  I walked out from behind my desk yesterday just before quitting time and somehow managed to catch my foot on the edge of a box we use to put mail in.  On my way down, my other foot got tangled in the cord from a floor fan that wasn't anywhere near my body.  Hah!  Nobody believes me when I say inanimate objects like tables and corners of walls and chairs jump out at me.  Well, here's proof!  And I had two witnesses who can vouch for me (or at least I tell myself that rather than face the humiliation of being klutzy in front of two co-workers).  Anyway, last night my right knee kept swelling to the point that I could barely walk on it so I made an appointment to see a doctor this morning.  When I woke up, however, the swelling seemed to be mostly gone and I could walk almost normally (bending my knees for Shemoneh Esrei, however, was a whole different ballgame), so I canceled the appointment.  There are about 40 steep steps leading up to my office and I had already called my boss last night about not coming in today, so it seemed that staying home was the right thing to do on this beautiful Monday morning.  Spike and Emma haven't let me out of their sight all morning, so it seems they're pretty happy to have my company.

Isn't strange how many things need to be done around the home when one doesn't leave it?  Dishes, laundry, cleaning - I know I should be keeping this leg elevated, but stuff just needs to be done.  Beside, if by some miracle I can get a mahj game together this afternoon, I wouldn't want to be embarrassed by the state of my apartment.

So, enough about mundane topics.  Let's get on to the real stuff of living in Eretz Yisrael!
Let me take you back exactly one week.  Last Monday David had his last ulpan class and wanted to celebrate.  He had asked me to meet him on Emek Refaim, which is a street that you might find in Clayton, for you St. Louis readers.  It's a long road filled with restaurants, funky stores, and lots of people roaming the streets.  I took the #4 bus there after work - it's been so long since I've taken buses anywhere in Yerushalayim!  When the bus got just to the beginning of Emek Refaim, it stopped.  I realized we were in the middle of a terrific traffic jam; I could see lots of flashing lights and loud music ahead of us.  To our right was Liberty Bell Park, so I assumed there was some kind of a fair going on and I debated whether to get off at the next bus stop to check it out, since I was a little early to meet David.  

When we started moving again, I realized that we were passing a van decorated four feet high with all kinds of flashing lights and the music was coming from the back.  The van was moving very slowly down the street, followed by a whole parade of people singing and dancing.  In their midst was a chupah help by four poles that people were carrying, and it was then that I saw a beautiful, new sefer Torah under the chupah.  I got off at the second bus stop which was completely hashgacha pratis (Divine providence), because the bus then turned at the next corner and I still needed to walk to the end of the street.  While waiting for David, I ducked into Jungle, a pet store chain.  The guy who worked there took a parrot I had been admiring out of its cage and was telling me about it (only 2500 NIS!), when I heard the music coming closer and closer.  I ran outside and there was the Hachnosas Sefer Torah procession approaching with a much larger crowd.  I followed the procession for about half a block, when it turned into a side street and stopped.  Two really tall guys dressed in white, with white turbans, started blowing into the longest shofars I'd ever seen.  It was so beautiful!  The music was playing, the shofars were blowing, people were holding babies up, clapping and dancing and it felt so special to be a part of it!  It was funny to see all the people holding their cell phones up to take pictures.  After a few minutes, the procession started up again, and I went to find David.

We strolled all the way down one side of Emek Refaim, and back up the other side, enjoying the cool breeze (finally!) and looking in all the windows.  It was hard to decide where to have dinner.  I had decided beforehand that this night would be for David; whatever he wanted to do and wherever he wanted to eat would be fine with me.  We ended up at an Israeli restaurant that was sort of open to the street, where we had shishlik (meat grilled on skewers).  The nights we go out are few and far between, so it was SO nice to have such a relaxing evening.  I hardly even thought about the dogs who had been home alone all day and who were probably sitting with their little noses pressed to the window looking down longingly at the parking lot waiting for us to alight from a car...

So now let's fast forward a few days to Shabbat.  You know, we're really stick-in-the-mud people who go to work every day, come home tired, and veg in front of our computer screens at night.  We rarely get invited out for Shabbat, although we love to have guests.  This past Shabbat, however, we were invited to stay with a family in Bat Ayin, an agricultural yishuv on a mountaintop about 20 minutes away from Ramat Beit Shemesh.  It was so much fun!
The Rebbetzin who invited us runs a midrasha (Jewish institute for women's studies) there, and we had been emailing each other all week.  She and her husband and 14 year old son live on a house (a real house!) on the edge of a mountain, with a garden in front, a chicken coop full of chickens on the side, and a gorgeous view of nearby hills (mountains) in the back.  

There were 24 of us for Friday night dinner, all women except for David, the Rabbi and his son, and it was a fast-paced evening.  These young girls are so curious, and intelligent, and eager to learn everything about Yiddishkeit.  Most were from the US, but there were a few Israelis and one from Germany.  The discussions were lively as everyone had input on every topic.  Shabbat was Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan (beginning of the new month of Cheshvan), a month where there are no other holidays.  Each person talked about what they wanted to bring with them from Succot and Yom Kippur, and also, because Cheshvan has something to do with "smells", we all told what smell has meaning for us.  Everyone said things like the esrog from Succot, or different spices.  I said baby powder which made everyone laugh, especially when I said there's nothing more delicious than a baby's tushy.  I was really, really missing my grandchildren, and how I missed out on the time they were babies.  (My twin granddaughters are 20 months old already.)  David said that the smell of the chicken coop brought back memories for him of visiting relative's farms in Minnesota when he was growing up.

Lunch the next day was just us and the family.  David liked the Chabad he attended with the Rabbi.  I had gone Friday night (awesome Lecha Dodi when the women spontaneously pushed all the tables aside and started dancing as happily as the men), but it wasn't my nusach (style of prayer) and I couldn't really follow in my siddur (also, I never go on Friday night so I didn't really know the order of the davening).  But I totally enjoyed my davening at their home on Shabbat morning at my own pace, and including Hallel and Musaf in a leisurely and meaningful way.  After lunch, David and I walked around the yishuv, enjoying the donkey tied in front of one house, the dogs running around, the kids playing in the streets and parks (no cars drive through on Shabbat), and the views of nearby mountains.  

In the late afternoon, I went to the Midrasha with the Rebbetzin who was giving a class on Keshet (rainbows).  This weeks's parsha (Torah reading) was Noach, so the rainbow was particularly relevant.  We actually even had a little rain Friday night (at the exact moment the last guest stepped into the house for dinner), and again Shabbat morning while the sun was still shining.  We looked for a rainbow, but there didn't seem to be one.  After the talk, I waited for David on the road (there was a bench right in front of the house with the donkey) and then we went to a friend of my son (who is also the son of a friend) for the Third Meal.  He and his wife and adorable 2 year old and baby literally live at the edge of a cliff.  They rent a huge house (our apartment could probably fit into their salon) where they use two of their bedrooms for their home businesses.  He bottles his own root beer (a product surprisingly not found here in Israel) and wine, and some other products.  She sews colorful kipot and tzitzit.  On the hill behind their house they grow all their own vegetables, and in front of their house are the herbs they planted.  We watched the sun set through their window as it dipped behind the mountains far away.  It was probably the most incredible sunset I've ever seen.  The children were fed goat's milk that was fresh from a goat on the yishuv; the bread was made from wheat flour that they'd bought directly from the guy who grinds it on the yishuv.  It would be such a perfect place to live if we had friends who lived there and if we spoke fluent Hebrew.  It's a small place and there are many Americans who live there, but they probably all speak Hebrew as well.  One day we'll be in that category, or at least, David will!

I'd better make some calls to see if a mahj game is in the cards (tiles?) for today.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

It's almost a little embarrassing to show up here again after a hiatus of a year and a half.  David has been encouraging me to write again and truth be told - I've missed it.  But how do I catch up on all the changes that have occurred since the last post?  I guess I'll just do the best I can.


We've been back in RBS about 18 months.  I've been going to the same shul we started at, sort of Young Israeli-ish - dati and Zionist.  David just can't seem to find his place.  He's been trying out shul after shul, but nothing is the right fit.  I think a large part of the problem is that we just don't have a Rav that we can talk to and hold by.  It seems to be a pervasive problem for olim in Israel, from what I hear.  It's a challenge we're trying to deal with.

Since last December, we have been the proud parents of not one, but two adorable dogs.  Spike (not named by me!) came to us about nine months ago.  He was a small puppy when his original owners decided they couldn't keep him any more.  I was actually in St. Louis to see my family when David called me to ask, "Remember when we talked about getting Emma a puppy to play with?"  Spike was four months old and a real puppy in every sense of the word.  Not only wasn't he house-trained yet, but he chewed everything and anything he could sink his teeth into, including four pairs of shoes (one of each pair), a chair cushion, my dining room table pads and various vases of flowers (he overturned the vases which were on the dining room table and the flowers were found strewn all over the table, chairs, couches and floor).  But we persevered, and he's turning into a very affectionate pet.  He and Emma play together, which gives them lots of exercise when we leave them for up to 10 hours a day during the work week.  It does, however, make for very crowded sleeping conditions at night when I have to sleep on the very edge of the bed because they're both stretched out across the middle!


David got a nice surprise a year ago when, after two and a half years at Intel, he was finally hired to be a "blue badge"; a regular employee instead of a contractor.  It's made a huge difference in our lives.  There are all kinds of added benefits (most of which we know nothing about because it's all in Hebrew), including being able to lease a car at a very reduced cost.  So we've been driving a brand-new 2010 Mazda 3 and thoroughly enjoying it.  The leasing company services it, licenses it, and even washes it once a month - David just drops off the keys in the morning (the company is housed at Intel), and they return the keys to him at the end of the day.  We pay for gasoline along with our lease payment, so when we go to the gas station, we just put the pump in, it reads something in the car, and after it's filled we just drive away.  It's so convenient!  Of course, we don't get a break on the cost of gas, but it's just nice not to have to have cash or put in on the already overworked credit card.


And what happened to the car we bought when we moved to Kochav Yaakov 3 1/2 years ago?  Just sitting.  In the parking lot behind our apartment building.  Gathering dust.  At the moment, it's not running, but that's a result of our not having started it much in the last year.  We really, really have to get it going and sell it.  Really, we do.


On a happier note, I made a really good friend who, together with her two adult daughters, became my new mahj partners.  For awhile.  Then Bracha just up and got married and moved to the Old City.  But that still left Linda and Chava and we kind of got in a groove playing on Thursday mornings until everyone's work schedules got in the way, and then on Shabbos afternoons.  Then they moved waaaay down to the bottom of the Rama (hill) and I walked down there every (hot) Shabbos afternoon.  Until just before Rosh Hashana when my friend Linda took a job out of the country and moved away for 10 months!  I couldn't believe she left me!  I really miss her, and not necessarily because of mahj - she was someone I really connected with.  But life's about changes, right?


Lately I've been meeting a lot of single women; some new olim and some who have been here for awhile.  It's so amazing to hear people's stories - how they came to yiddishkeit, and to Israel, what their past lives were like.  This past Succos was amazing.  I spent time with many new friends, and with others that I've had the pleasure to get to know over the past year.  On one night of chold hamoed, there was a women's entertainment program here in RBS that over 700 women attended.  It was in a gymnasium with (chairs on the) bleachers on one side and a stage on the other side of the room.  We heard singers, guitarists, comediennes, actresses, and watched tap dancers and modern dancers and ballet dancers (I couldn't help but think how much my mother would have enjoyed being there!).  The talent was awesome.  The last woman who sang brought tears to my eyes.  She sang a beautiful rendition of "Hodu L'Hashem ki tov, ki l'olam chasdo (give thanks to Hashem for He is good; his kindness endures forever)" and by the end many of us were on the floor dancing as if our lives depended upon it.  I can't tell you how uplifting it was!


The next evening was the Beit Shemesh Concert.  Well-known singers and bands came from all over the country to play at a huge outdoor field with a bandstand.  Two friends and I brought lawn chairs and nosh and settled in for the evening.  Before the concert, Nuchi decided at the last minute to BBQ and supplied us with hot dogs from Rumania in Chicago and lots of other goodies.  There we were, under clear skies studded with stars listening to inspiring, spiritual Jewish rock music (sometimes a little too loud even for my taste!) and thanking Hashem for the great blessing of being in Eretz Yisrael for the chagim (holidays).


And the NEXT evening I had been invited to a new friend's apartment (very nice apartment, I might add, with a view that was breathtaking) for an evening of divrei Torah (words of Torah), singing, and of course, eating.  What made it interesting is that our hostess just made aliyah from "Joberg" (Johannesburg) in South Africa, and we American ladies were definitely in the minority that night.  I love the South African and British accents; they're so soft-spoken and genteel.  I actually felt I needed an interpreter for some of their words and we all enjoyed the diversity among us.


Yesterday morning, erev Shabbos, David and I went to a wonderful simcha - the bris of the children of good friends of ours from Kochav Yaakov.  The daughter of one family married the son from the other (the wedding almost two years ago was so fun since we knew both of the families), and this was the first grandchild for each family.  He's such a beautiful baby!  The new parents live with her family, at least temporarily, as well as the great-grandparents who are also our good friends (not much older than we are, actually) - so that's four generations living under the same roof.  Cool, huh?


So tomorrow we go back to life as we knew it before Rosh Hashana, almost 3 weeks ago.  Getting up at 6 a.m., walking the dogs, driving to work together.  Oh, that's something I haven't told you about yet!  Kvish Echat (highway 1) is the main Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem highway (or vice versa, obviously).  From Beit Shemesh, we drive up highway 38 and then enter on highway 1 going east to get to Jerusalem.  But there are other ways to get there and David, who loves to study maps and roam the countryside, found a route that traverses through beautiful hills.  Imagine, if you will, a twisty, windy, hilly 2-lane road with sheer drop-offs on one side and beautiful forested hills on the other.  Some mornings we drive through fog or see it floating in the valley below.  It's an incredible way to start the day!  In case you're wondering, it's not necessarily shorter than kvish echat, but we don't have to contend with rush hour traffic starting and stopping on the highway - although sometimes we do end up behind a timid driver (or a line of them), but it just gives us more time to enjoy the beauty around us.  Admittedly there are some mornings (I promise, only when David drives!) that my eyes are closed for much of the ride so I can get another half hour of rest.


David works longer days than I do, so he usually drops me off at work and I take a bus home.  Sometimes he knows he has a lot of phone conferences in the evening (his "team leader" at work is in California which is 10 hours behind our time, so he's on the phone a lot at night), so I drop him off at work and then we leave together in the afternoon.  It's a nice arrangement.


I'm still working for the tzedaka organization I started working at in April of 2008.  There have been a lot of bumps along the way, but I work with some wonderful women and we've gotten to be very close friends.  One of them is Rachel, one of the new grandmothers from Kochav Yaakov.  The other is Chaya, who lives in a town called Elazar in Gush Etzion, a block of communities just south of Yerushalayim.  Two nights ago, motzei Simchat Torah, Chaya called from her son's apartment just down the street from us; she and her husband and other kids had spent the holiday with her married son and his family.  They were going to be taking a bus home as soon as bus service started again, about 40 minutes later.  I was going to walk over to visit with her for a few minutes, but when I told David, he said, "Why don't we just take them home?"  You have to understand that we NEVER go anywhere at night; normally David is working or is tired from working so much.  It turned into a great evening!  We took Chaya and her husband and daughter, and her other two sons (in their early 20's) tremped a ride home.  Everyone "tremps" here.  There are "trempiadahs"; usually a bus stop or a corner on the edge of a town where people wait to get rides, and people with cars stop to pick them up.  It can be a little tricky because there have been some incidents with Arabs, but it's pretty much accepted practice here since at least half the population don't own cars.  Anyway, I let Avi, Chaya's husband, sit in the front seat with David and they seemed to hit it off.  When we got to their house in Elazar they invited us in.  Avi pushed some palm fronds off the top of their sukkah so we could sit out there and we visited for awhile.  Then we heard some really loud music and walked around the yishuv until we got to the shul where a live band was playing.  Apparently all over the country people were celebrating "Hakafos sheini", kind of a second day Simchat Torah.  Chaya and I danced over on the women's side for a few minutes and then we walked Chaya and Avi back to their home before we left.  It was such fun to do something spur-of-the-moment like taking them home and spending time getting to know them.


So you're probably thinking, "Well, Vickie's been living in Israel nearly 4 1/2 years, she's probably fluent in Hebrew by now."  Nope.  Not at all.


David, on the other hand, is learning by leaps and bounds.  Intel actually paid for him to take a pretty intensive ulpan; his last two classes are tomorrow and Monday.  It was in 3 parts - for one month he learned one-on-one with an instructor on the computer through Skype two nights a week for 45 minutes.  He had a workbook and an MP4 player they had given him pre-loaded with all the lessons so there was audio for each lesson that he was supposed to listen to 3 times every day.  Then he had a one week immersion - every morning for 5 days he met an instructor somewhere in Yerushalayim - the Old City, the shuk, Nachlaot, wherever and they spent several hours speaking only in Hebrew from the lessons he was supposed to have learned on his own or from the day before.  Then they went to the office where the ulpan was housed and he spent 1/2 an hour with an instructor, 1/2 an hour in the learning room, 1/2 an hour back with the instructor, etc for 2 1/2 hours.  The last module consists of two days a week from 4-6:30 pm back at the ulpan office learning one on one.  This week is the last week.  It's really been forcing David to learn and he's enjoyed it immensely.  We can't afford for me to take this ulpan, but when he's finished he'll give me the workbooks and the audio for me to work on.  I need to be a little more optimistic that I can actually do it - as long as I have friends who interpret for me and tell me what my mail says, I've been pretty lax about learning it.  It would make life so much easier if I knew what people were saying, or to be able to read the flyers I get or the bills or the newspapers or the posters that advertise everything!


I've been sitting here writing for over two hours!  It was so nice not to have to do any dishes after Shabbat this week; that's never happened before.  My friend, Nuchi, who eats with us many weeks for Shabbat, decided that this week we would come to her for BOTH meals.  It was awesome!  Then she decided that as long as we were coming, she may as well invite other people, so there was a crowd for both meals.  Nuchi is a wonderful hostess; she sets the most beautiful table and makes way too many dishes!  The problem is that she's such a good cook, it's hard not to sample everything.  I heard it got up to 102 degrees today, the hottest it's been in several weeks.  Once we got back home this afternoon, we napped for awhile and then Shabbat was almost over.  It's been a long time since we've been so relaxed.


I really have to thank Hashem over and over for all the blessings he so liberally showers on me - my husband to share my life with - as well as all the times we get to laugh together, our dogs who bring us so much happiness, the opportunity to live in Eretz Yisrael, the wonderful people He brings into our lives, our parnassa (livelihood), the great community we live in, my children, grandchildren and siblings (so very far away physically but always in my thoughts), my health, my computer, my books, our apartment, our car, my clothes, my desk, the fact that He led me to a path of Torah - EVERY SINGLE THING IN MY LIFE - even those things that frustrate me or make me angry or hurt me.  I'm so appreciative just being alive!  Are there things I wish were different?  You bet.  The worst for me is having my family so far away; not being able to have them all for Shabbat or watching my grandchildren grow. I can only daven for everyone's health and safety, and pray that somehow we'll get to see each other soon. 


I need to go make my lunch for work tomorrow and iron some clothes - vacation is over!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Allow me to introduce myself. Hmmm. How to do that accurately?

I am a child of Hashem. I'm a changed person from whence last we met, these six months past. Where to begin? What to say? How to say it?

Just the facts, ma'am: We moved back to Ramat Beit Shemesh just before Pesach, two months ago. As much as I loved the yishuv, we feel as if we've come home. Just to sit in our garden (and I use that term loosely) and be able to look out again at the green hills, filled with blooming flowers and grass and trees; to be able to walk on the streets with hundreds of other people – and hear English spoken from all sides; to walk out the front door of our apartment building and reach a shul in any direction in five minutes or less; to walk 100 steps across the sidewalk into the door of the makolet (grocery store) or just around the corner to the bus stop or produce market; to have friends EVERYWHERE telling us how glad they are that we've returned and spending every Shabbos and Yom Tov (holiday) with different families either at their home or ours; these things in themselves are enough to make David and I so very, very grateful and so very, very happy to be here.

But it's more than all these wonderful things. It's the bottomless joy in feeling Hashem's presence in my life every second of every day. It's not that I didn't feel Him on the yishuv. It's that in the past two months I've “opened wide my mouth” and He has filled it – with strength and understanding and love. Yeah, it sounds corny, but what can I say? It's how I feel. There's growth in everything I read and everything I do because I'm concentrating on the learning and the growing. And while I've gone through periods like this in the past 16 years of becoming observant, it's never been to this degree or with this much sensitivity. Part of it is having the zchut (merit) of being able to live in this holy land, and part of it is that I'm more amenable to opening my eyes and my mind to all that He's showing me.

And knowing that my husband is right there with me, feeling the same awe and growth as well. We feel so blessed! We thank Hashem that he's given us a decent parnassa (livelihood) that enables us to have not only what we need, but even a little extra to be able to help others.

I'm not saying it's all perfect and rosy. We live in a VERY small apartment – not even large enough to invite more than 6 people to have a meal with us. We're in an apartment building with young, Hebrew-speaking families with many (very many) small children who can be quite noisy at times (see, I'm smiling). The people upstairs decided to add a few rooms to their apartment, causing among other things, sparks to fly down into our yard and starting a fire; burning the glider we brought with us from St. Louis into total ashes (Baruch Hashem they got the fire out before it burned anything else). The bus commute to work can take an hour and a half or more EACH way. And for some reason, there are some tiny little ants who seem to be crawling on my desk right now – wonder where they came from?

But these things are NOTHING. They're so unimportant in the scheme of things! We have a place to live in a great location, near shuls and friends and with a small yard for Emma and our patio furniture where we can sit in the evenings and look out at the twinkling lights on the hills of Gush Etzion. We feel an inner peace and excitement here that I'm not sure we've ever felt before.

The political situation here doesn't lend itself to feeling peace and security, but that's a whole other thing. I'm not willing to look into that so deeply right now.

Only two things make me sad. The first is that there are so many Jews out there who just simply don't know the joy of living a Torah life. They don't understand, they don't want to know or understand, or they just don't care. They don't understand why we're here on this earth or what they're living for, and they've never even questioned why. I should know – that's how I was for the first 38 years of my life! The world is spinning slowly and slowly out of control: recessions and foreclosures and job losses and immorality and nuclear threats. What should be obvious (blatant anti-Semitism) is looked at as normal – even by Jews! Defending our land, defending our right to live in our land and to populate every inch of our land is looked at as evil, while real evil – terrorism – is overlooked and even condoned! The fact that Torah-observant Jews don't even know that they should be here; that they don't want to give up their comfortable existence because of the challenges they'll certainly encounter here makes me so sad. Hashem is taking away people's savings and their homes and sending disease and storms and other disasters – and no one's taking notice.

The second disheartening situation is that my sons live some 6000 miles away and the older one is one of those Jews who doesn't know what it means to be Jewish. He and his (non-Jewish) girlfriend of eleven years just had twins 3 months ago, which brings the number of their progeny up to four. He's thankfully working full time (as a cook in a treif restaurant) and they seem to be handling the added stress well. I may never get to meet my new granddaughters; their brother was only eleven months old when we made aliyah, and the oldest rarely wants to speak to me on the phone. It breaks my heart. I've been hearing rumors that my younger son may be making aliyah within the next year, but he hasn't said a word to me (his friends told me at a wedding we attended about three months ago). I can only pray...

I heard Rabbi Lazer Brody speak recently. He reminded me of Stevie Wonder, sitting in front of the crowd with his eyes closed and a wide smile on his face, swaying in his chair and speaking about Hashem's love for us. He said we needn't be afraid, that this time before Moshiach's arrival (the Messiah) is simply leading us to our greatest joy. He said it's like taking a tablecloth and shaking off all the crumbs and dirt to get it clean. Hashem is “shaking the world clean.” Those with emuna (faith) will be able to hang on, while those who don't have emuna will unfortunately be shaken off. He reminded us that everything that Hashem makes happen in our lives not only has a purpose, but is ultimately for our own good. We just have to have emuna in Hashem and do our best to work through our challenges. Hashem never gives us more than we can handle, and each challenge is tailor-made for each of us. He was so inspiring!

David has decided that we're going to drive into Yerushalayim for work tomorrow instead of taking the bus, so I should try to get some sleep because he likes to leave early. It's motzi Shabbat (Saturday night), and Shavuot was the day before Shabbat. We ate with different friends for 3 out of the 4 Yom Tov meals, and this afternoon as David and I were walking Emma I stopped at a woman's house who I used to play mah jongg with and both of her daughters were also home. David took Emma home and I had a wonderful afternoon playing mah jongg for the first time in over two months. Life is good!

Saturday, November 01, 2008


Is this an awesome picture or what? Last week we had our first really steady rain of the year. When I left for work the sun was shining and I left the patio door open a few inches for Emma, as usual. AND left my umbrella at home. It started raining sometime mid-morning and was pretty consistent throughout the day. When I left work mid-afternoon it had stopped for awhile and after I descended the thirty or so stairs out my office door and turned to the right to head to the bus stop, I totally stopped in my tracks. There was the most perfectly formed rainbow I had ever seen, stretched from one end of the sky to the other. Even though I know we're not supposed to stare at a rainbow, I couldn't help it; it was so stunningly beautiful.

As I walked to the bus stop, I tried to call David but he didn't answer. Later he called me and said he'd been in a meeting, but his office has lots of windows (not just in the computers) (I know, that wasn't so funny) and he and all his co-workers went out to the atrium to see it. David asked, "But did you see the second rainbow?" I was disappointed that I hadn't; probably I was so intent on the first one that it hadn't occurred to me to look past it.

When we got home that evening David found the picture above that a co-worker had taken from his cell phone and emailed to everyone. Can you believe a cell phone can take such a beautiful picture? Our phones don't have that capability so I've never experienced taking pictures with one. Can you see the seond one above the first? I just tried to look up on Google what rainbows mean in Jewish thought - did you know that Double Rainbow is a brand of ice cream? Or that rainbows are associated with Jewish gays? I sure didn't. I couldn't find anything about double rainbows, but I found this from MyJewishLearning.com:

The Talmud (Hagigah 16a) states that one who gazes too intently at the rainbow will suffer a diminution of his eyesight. In the Kabbalah, the colors of the rainbow represent the various shades of the Sefirot. The rainbow has thus become in Jewish thought the symbol of both God's glory as manifest in the universe and God's faithfulness to His covenant to mankind and to the people of Israel.

Now let me tell you about the rest of that rainy day.

It was almost the end of the month and we needed to buy our new chofshi chodshi (monthly bus pass) for November. David had given me his ID card that morning, so I went to the bus stop headed for the takanah merkazit. I left work at 3:30 (the earliest I'd gotten off in a week) and by the time I got to the bus stop it was spitting rain. There was an overhang at this particular stop, and about 42 million people (more or less) crowding under it. After about 20 minutes no #11 or # 35 had come by so I jumped on a #56 and got off in Geulah. By then it was POURING. I took a back street and stopped at the first store I found to buy an umbrella; it was probably a record day in umbrella sales for stores that day. All the streets were flooding like crazy but I managed to make it to the #15 bus stop and the bus came just seconds after I got there. I kept thanking Hashem for keeping me surprisingly and mostly dry at this point. With all the streets under construction (they are literally working on almost all the streets of the city right now; mostly for the new rail system) and the driving rain, everything was a mess. It took another half an hour to make it to the bus station and it wasn't very far away from where I got on the bus. As I dashed across the street to get in the security line, I stepped right into the flooding waters and got drenched up to my knees. I couldn't believe I made it to within a few feet of my destination and then got soaked.

Actually I wasn't so worried because I knew I'd get a good seat on the bus back to Kochav Yaakov since I would be getting on at the beginning of the route. Lucky for me the ticket window was practically empty and after I purchased my pessa flora (passion fruit) slushie, the #143 was waiting for me.

That's when the fun started. Well, not fun exactly. More like a lesson in savlanut (patience). I got on the bus at 4:45 PM. Right at 4:50 PM the bus pulled out of its parking spot on the upper level - and then stopped. There were three lanes of buses trying to get out of the one-lane exit. We were literally moving about one inch every few minutes. Every time the buses pulled forward a little bit, the bus drivers jockeyed for position to get to the exit first - three lanes of Israeli drivers merging into one is not a pretty sight.

The nice thing was that there were probably all of ten people on the bus and it happened to be a brand-new, clean one so I was pretty comfy. The bad thing was that I didn't have a book with me and a normally 45 minute ride took two hours and fifteen minutes! All I could think about was those poor people waiting at bus stops with the rain drowning them and no buses coming. The traffic on the streets was almost totally stopped in all directions; it took us an hour and a half to get out of the bus terminal and around the corner on Yirmeyahu to the intersection at Sarai Yisroel, which normally takes about five minutes. Once we got past that point, it only took another half hour or so to get home.

Did I mention that I bought a slushie before getting on the bus? And that it took another two and half hours before I walked (ran, actually) into my house? I think you can guess the implication of that. Suffice it to say that I didn't even notice the little tiny mud prints all over my house and couch and bed until long after I came out of the bathroom...

David is delighted that I'm blogging tonight. He wants me to be sure to write about him. Hmmm. I can't say that. And that would be loshon hora. Oh, yeah! Well, no, it wouldn't be right to talk about that, either. I know! It turns out that David had a SEVERE B12 deficiency. It caused him to be anemic and also low in vitamin D. Now he's giving himself B12 shots three times a week and is on iron tablets and vitamin D drops, and life (for both of us) is so much better now! He's happier, has more energy, has a more positive outlook - it's wonderful. Now if we can just find a vitamin that helps with procrastination...

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

G'mar chasima tova! I hope you had a meaningful Rosh Hashana and that the next ten days before Yom Kippur will be introspective and full of conversation with the Almighty. I know mine will be!

I read 2020 Vision this week - what a story to make one think! It just seems so obvious that the coming of Moshiach is just around the corner. Look what's been happening in the US with the financial situation. Is it a coincidence that the stock market plunged in its biggest drop in history on erev Rosh Hashana?! That Hurricane Ike did so much damage in the days following Olmert's unconscionable assertions that we're going to give so much of our land to the Arabs - land that many of us are living on, I might add? All over the world things are spiraling out of control - why don't more people see it?! And what if, G-d forbid, Obama makes it to office? It can only spell more disaster for both Israel and the US.

The only things we can do at this point is to pray, do teshuva, and give tzedaka. We Jews have to do what we're supposed to in order to fix the world. We must all of us ask ourselves - what am I doing or not doing that's causing evil to run rampant in the world? We can't look at other people and say, "Look how terrible he is"; we have to look in the mirror and tell ourselves, "Look at the difference between what I am and what I have the potential to be. WHY AREN'T I TRYING HARDER? What's preventing me from being a kinder, more sensitive person? What do I need to do to get back on track?" Hashem doesn't care if we reach our goals; he's only interested in the effort we're putting in to try to reach them. If we start off this new year already stuck in the bad and lazy habits we had last year, what's the point in going on this way unless we resolve to be more productive?

Now I guess I have to explain that last paragraph. Kindly substitute all those "we's" for "I's" because it's really a pep talk I'm giving to myself. I KNOW that I can be much more productive than I currently am. I KNOW that I have to stop looking at the faults of other people when mine are so numerous. I KNOW that I'm not making realistic goals and a plan to reach them. Recently I read something that said that all you (I) have to do is make one small change and Hashem helps it grow exponentially. For instance, if you decide you're going to give your spouse one compliment and a smile every single day, you'll soon find that you're smiling much of your day and becoming a more relaxed, happy person. If you decide that instead of yelling at your kids when you get annoyed, you're going to stop, count to five, and then hug that child - you'll soon find that he misbehaves less and becomes more loving to you.

It's our job as the Children of Israel to make the world a better place; from wherever we are in our lives; in whatever situation Hashem places us - our attitude and countenance comes from within. So let's (me) get healthy and happy and productive and cheerful and giving this new year! May Hashem bless you (yes, YOU!) and your family with a sweet and healthy and constantly-changing-for-the-good New Year!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Been reading Angela's Ashes thought it was a holocaust story turned out to be a memoir about a boy named Frankie grew up poor in Ireland around the time of world war II. How can anyone live on tea and fried bread three of his siblings starved to death didn't make it until the age of three. Frankie must have made it somehow grew up to write the book. Here in Israel too much poverty one third of all children with growling stomachs when they go to bed wake up in the morning and nothing in the frig. No food patches on their clothes shame in their hearts.


They don't know no shame in not having G-d gives to each of us our own. Those who have think it's theirs we fill our stomachs eat too much don't think about who lack. We overeat our stomachs full our neshamas gasping growling nothing to put in.

Sitting on chair with hand outstretched their eyes beseech guilty we reach for a coin. Avoid the eyes drop in the money don't see the arm attached to a body like you and me. Does G-d drop gifts and walk away not wait and worry and soothe. He sits besides us gives and gives and gives smiles hugs and comforts shows us how.

I learn struggle to understand nothing mine. Share the gifts food money smile shake the hand look into their eyes. Fill my neshama stomachs don't need much hearts yearning. Make Him proud.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Did I ever mention how beautiful it is in Jerusalem after dark? Tonight I worked until 8:45. When I walked out of the building, there was a wonderfully cool breeze blowing. Walking through the back streets of Bais Yisroel, a pretty hareidi (religious) neighborhood, I saw many people out in the streets: groups of girls with their heads bent together, giggling and talking as they walked; young men and boys striding purposefully, husbands sitting or standing outside their back doors speaking loudly into their cell phones as their arms gesticulated wildly; young mothers pushing baby strollers, pre-adolescents playing on the sidewalks. As I wound my way onto the bustling street of Shmuel Hanavi, I saw that many of the shops along the street were still open for business at this late hour. Some were closing up, but the aromas of falafel and pizza from every third doorway was still in the air. Here, too, the sidewalks were bustling with people and there was a constant stream of traffic in both directions.

I approached a bus stop where I frequently wait for a connecting bus to the one that will take me home. Normally, in the heat of the day I wait fruitlessly for a #2 or a #10 that never come in time to get me to where I need to go when I need to get there. This time, however, the #10 pulled up just as I was sauntering past. Even though I knew my bus home wouldn't be leaving the takanah merkazit until 9:15 and would take at least ten minutes to get to the bus stop I would be waiting at, I still jumped on the #10 and arrived at my destination two minutes later. Taking a chance, I called David at home and asked him to look up the bus schedule for me. I knew that they had changed some of the times and added more frequent bus service recently and Baruch Hashem! A 9 PM bus had been added. Within a few minutes a nearly empty 143 pulled up to take me home.

Once we get past the machson (checkpoint) at Pisgat Ze'ev, the driver turns off the inner lights of the bus, and once again I marvel at the clear, starry skies (that we have
every single night from early Spring until late Autumn). There are so many sparkling lights from the different communities on all the hilltops as we wend our way home. It's hard to believe that so many people live out here in the desert hills north of Yerushalayim. Wherever I might be living in this Land, I will always believe that it's the most beautiful place in the world. And I will always be grateful to my Creator for blessing me with the schus (merit) to live here.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

I neglected to mention that David's blog is located at www.noshwithfriends.com. He's just starting out, but I think his first (real) post is pretty good!
Surprise! I'm already back again. It's late motzei Shabbat and I have a little more energy than I did yesterday before Shabbos started. After two days of running to the bathroom with the "d" word, and running a slight fever on and off, I feel much better. It might have helped that Miryam and Rachel showed up this afternoon and we played about 3 hours of mahj!

So there's a lot of excitement in the air in my neck of the woods. I can't really say what it is yet but suffice it to say that someone's son we know is about to propose to someone's daughter we know. Everyone knows it but the soon-to-be-kallah (bride). The soon-to-be chosson (groom) went to the girl's parents and actually asked their permission! As if everyone didn't already know that it was just a matter of time. So now two families that we're friends with are going to be related and everybody is happy (including Miryam who will have a new grandson-in-law). Okay, enough said. Or maybe too much.

Getting back to the topic at the end of yesterday's post - last week a family on the yishuv sponsored Rabbi Pinchas Winston to come speak. There were about 25 of us who went to hear him (this was the evening before the Bloggers Convention - we actually went out two nights in a row!). If you've never read any of Rav Winston's books or heard him speak, he's absolutely amazing. His new book Geulah B'Rachamim is a MUST READ for every Jew. It's published by Shaar Nun Publishers and it's a small but powerful paperback.

Rav Winston says that the time of geulah (redemption) is very close. He says the geulah can come b'rachamim (with compassion or mercy) or by a very terrible war called the war of Gog v'Magog where very many people will die. He said that no matter how many mitzvot we have accumulated, in the latter scenario they will not save us as individuals. But - we as the Jewish people have the power to bring the geulah b'rachamim! All it takes is a change of heart! There are many places in our teachings that tell us we have to yearn for redemption. We don't have to necessarily make aliyah. but we have to want the land more than we want our expensive and comfortable cars and homes and clothes and status. He says that the Jews in chutz l'aretz (outside the land of Israel) are sometimes so far away from Yiddishkeit that they don't even know they should be yearning! I know I'm not doing his talk justice - please buy this book and read it for yourselves. It's 60 lessons (one short page a day) for turning around what could be a terrible and frightening war for ALL OF US.

Okay, tomorrow is the start of a new week so I need to get to bed. Hopefully I'll be up to going to Curves tomorrow morning, and then get to work by 1 (tomorrow's my late night). Have a wonderful week!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Jewish bloggers everywhere - unite! That was the feeling Wednesday night at the first International Jewish Bloggers Convention held at the Nefesh B'Nefesh office in Givat Shaul. Although the convention lasted only a few short hours, it packed a punch heard the world over (well, maybe not the entire world but a good part of the western side of it). There were 201 live partcipants and we were told there were 1000 more linked to a live web feed. I say 201 because they announced that there were 200 and we managed to get them to allow David in even though they didn't have his registration.

David is a blogger? you ask in amazement. Why have we never heard of this phenomenom before? The answer is that, although he professes to be the owner of three such sites, he has as yet only written one post for one blog. Sad, but true. Although, this very moment as we speak my DH (that's blog talk for "Dear Husband") (I don't know any of the other shorthand initials so don't be so impressed) (I learned that from my friend, Shifra from reading it on her blog and asking her what it meant) (I should get back to the original subject), my DH is right now writing his second ever blog post.

Okay, now back to the original original topic. David left work and hopped on a #35 bus while I walked a long, hot way down Shmuel Hanavi Street and picked up the #11 (which had no air conditioning even though it was 87ยบ). We ended up getting to the same bus stop on Kanfei Nesharim within two minutes of each other! From there we walked the few blocks to the convention. David's name was not on the registration list even though I had emailed back to the person who confirmed my registration that he also wanted to come. After a lot of hemming and hawing, and having the person in charge tell us that registration was closed and there really wasn't any room, etc., etc., we just stood our ground and very politely reiterated that we had come a long way in the traffic and were both interested in participating, etc., etc. We've come a long way, baby! We felt like true Israelis when they conceded that they could probably fit one more person.

The convention was amazing! You can see the video on the Nefesh website: www.nefeshbnefesh.org and then click on the blogger convention on the right side. I had a private interview at about 9 1/2 minutes into the video. {Please note that the screen is wide, so objects are much smaller than they appear} Once the video starts playing, DO NOT move your cursor or you'll lose the picture (at least that's what happened to me). If you lose the picture, minimize the screen and then open again. Jacob Richman, who takes lots of pictures at Nefesh events, has posted pictures at of the event at:

http://www.jr.co.il/pictures/israel/jerusalem/2008/jer173.htm

We're in pictures 2024, 2030, 2032, 2064, and 2068. (I'm typing this post in something called ScribeFire and I have no idea how to use it, so the font and font size keeps changing on me.)

I'm writing this now on erev Shabbos and I can't even think straight any more. I'm running a fever and I don't feel so hot (actually, I feel very hot); we had to disinvite Miryam and Shaya for Shabbos. But we were sharing the cooking, so I've still had to make my stuff and David will take their share over before candle-lighting and get our share of what they cooked. David is in the kitchen now making the curry chicken - Yudit at work gave me this very easy recipe and we made it a few weeks ago - so yummy! And so easy! David was going to BBQ chicken for tomorrow's lunch, but we decided to just make all the chicken the same in the interest of simplicity. I feel bad that he's working so hard on his only day off (besides Shabbat), but I'm thankful that he's doing it.

There's SO much more to tell you about the convention, but more importantly, about the talk we heard by Pinchas Winston the night before. It's imperative that I pass on that information, but unfortunately my popsicle is melting all over me and it's difficult typing with one hand so it will have to wait until after Shabbat. May you all be blessed with Shabbos joy and rest (and mahj, if you get a chance!).