Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Zero to Hero (in 45 seconds)

A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.
-Christopher Reeve

A week ago, Beer Sheva was once again targeted by the terrorist organization/government Hamas, rulers of Gaza. There have been clashes/altercations/skirmishes/battles at the Gaza border for months and months now, with half of the northern Negev burnt to a crisp by terrorist fires. The situation is insane, to say the least.
Last week, however, Hamas took the situation to a new level by firing a new and improved Grad missile on a city of over 210,000 people. Because this is Israel, and the government has spent millions protecting its citizens, a siren went off at 3:41 AM, warning over 350,000 Negev inhabitants of an incoming strike. The Grad hit a house that belonged to a single mother and her three young sons. The mother, awakened by the siren, grabbed her sons one by one, and raced to the safe room, closing the door seconds before the missile hit. They were unhurt, but their house was destroyed.

The nation of Israel  while incensed that, again, Hamas is firing missiles at a civilian population  rejoiced that this mother of Israel and her sons were saved.

Without question, this mother is a hero.

And so is my young friend, mother of three babies, who woke from her hard-earned sleep, gathered them up and raced to the safe room. Luckily, her house was not hit.

So is my 60-year old friend, who woke up her 25 year old son, already traumatized from army experiences and battling his own demons, wrestled him out of the apartment and down a flight of stairs to the shelter in the basement of the building. Their building wasn't hit either.

And my other friend, who, without a safe room or a shelter, ran out of her apartment in her jammies, into the stairwell of her building, and waited for the boom with all the other neighbors who were in their jammies.

Or my friends without safe rooms or shelters or stairwells, who gather up all their family members in 45 seconds in the middle of the night and find a room without windows (a hallway, under stairs, the bathroom) and huddle there. They are heroes, too.
As are all the other 350,000 people I don't know who do the same.

Luckily, miraculously, their houses weren't hit.

I'm going to include all those people who didn't sleep again after the boom echoed throughout the city, yet got up the next morning and went to work, or went to school, or went to the shops, or raced around arranging donations to the family who had lost everything. because that's what they do, thanking God that this time their houses weren't destroyed. They carried on.

And all those people who lay awake and wondered if their sons, or husband, or brothers, or fathers, or cousins, or neighbors, were going to be called up, again, to defend our Land and our People; wondering when it's going to stop, knowing that it's not. They are definitely heroes.

And the thousands and thousands of Negev residents, living closer the Gaza, who have been living this way for over 15 years, who deal with stress, shock, trauma, fear, and sleepless nights on a daily basis, and are still here. They are truly heroes.

Here in Israel, we have lots of heroes who dress up as heroes: our soldiers and our firefighters for example.

But there are all those other heroes, who we see every day: in the shops picking out bananas, and in the streets taking up three parking spots, and at work talking on the phone - checking up on their kids, on their parents, on their neighbors, making sure everyone is ok.

All those sleepless, capeless heroes.
Dressed up as ordinary people.


Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Grumpy is as Grumpy Does

...I will survive
Oh, as long as I know how to love, I know I'll stay alive
I've got all my life to live, I've got all my love to give
And I'll survive, I will survive, I will survive
-Gloria Gaynor

I don't know exactly what it is, but the yearly 'chagim' season has become harder and harder for me to handle. I suppose one of the reasons is that I'm older now, and much much grumpier than I used to be. 
Hard to imagine, I know.

I made a list of the things that bug me (I like lists).
  1. Supermarkets, throughout September, hike up their prices on staples such as potatoes and lettuce. 
  2. Supermarkets run out of eggs and carrots. 
  3. Supermarkets turn into circuses with crazy people running around looking for cheap potatoes and eggs. 
  4. My house is full of people who want to be fed, constantly.
  5. For some reason, the house is also full of Lego pieces that arrange themselves so that I step on them (in my bare feet) no matter how many times I pick them up and put them away. 
  6. It's hot.
  7. Shabbat, Chag, Shabbat, Chag.   Shabbat, Chag.
  8. I never know what day it is.  
  9. But it's always shopping day. Or cooking day. Or both.

    10. I hate cooking.

Just because I've been blessed to live in a country where the majority are celebrating the same holidays I am, and I don't have to take extra time off of work because vacation time is automatic, and everyone has to go to the supermarket and stock up because, in accordance to both the Law of the Land and the Law of God, those supermarkets are closed on the holidays that I and most other citizens are celebrating and everyone has to eat a lot of food all the time (because, you know), and the farmers cannot keep up with carrot production for all the soup, and tzimmis, and kugel that is being made, or the chickens with their needed eggs for the thousands of cakes that are being made across the Land, because, after all, we're all in this together. 

Where was I?

Oh yes, my house. Which is full of people. Why is it full of people? Who need to eat. Like three meals a day. Which seems unreasonable.

Just because I'm blessed to have all my kids and their cousins and family and things relatively close by, and they bring cake or ice cream when they come, and they all get along relatively well, and there is lots of laughing and teasing going on, and the big kids play football on the grass with the little kids because the weather is warm and it's not raining or snowing (which can happen you know) or when it is too warm outside (that can happen too), they all play with Lego on the big dining room table, (with or without the little kids), and we think about taking pictures because it's not often that all the kids are together anymore, but nobody does because everyone groans when the cameras come out, and the teasing begins again, and they all pose for silly mug shots, and my eyes tear because seeing them all together does that. 


 And shopping!!!! I understand that I live in a Land of Plenty, which has been blessed to grow its own food, and that there are huge amounts of produce available: pomegranates, and fresh dates, and quinces (I don't actually know anyone who likes quinces, but hey, they are there if you want), and avocados, and spinach, and basil, and cherry tomatoes by the ton, and pineapples (fresh!!!!!!! who knew they didn't grow in a can?), and figs, and olives (which also, apparently, don't grow in a can), and melon, and peaches, and 14 kinds of apples, and plums, and 42 new kinds of yogurt, and ice cream, and I never bring enough carrying bags to take home all the stuff from the supermarket even without carrots, and I have enough eggs in the house because I did a lot of baking before the chag because I'm lucky that I have an extra freezer and enough room to store enough for food for a dozen meals for two dozen people in my home.

But, oof. I hate cooking. Nothing is going to change that. Even the grandkids who come and ask for Savta's challah, and Savta's chicken, and Savta's soup, and good lord, I'm a SAVTA????!!!, where has the time gone?
Probably wasted most of it in the supermarket looking for carrots. 

In the end, of course, I survived. 
And today, when I went shopping, there were lots of carrots in the stores, right in time to make soup for Shabbat. 


Thursday, September 20, 2018

Goodness Graciousness

Life is measured in love and positive contributions and moments of grace
-Carly Fiorina

If you are not a better person tomorrow than you are today, what need have you for a tomorrow?
– Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

You are only young once, but you can stay immature indefinitely
-Ogden Nash

One of the more lovely aspects of living in Israel, besides having only one Pesach seder, is the ability to celebrate one's birthday, not only twice (once by the Hebrew calendar, and once by the Gregorian calendar) but throughout the entire stretch of time between  the two days.
This period has aptly been named the Birthday Chol HaMoed, and can range in time from zero days (every 19 years the two calendars match up again) to up to three weeks.
Birthday greetings, balloons, presents, and, most importantly, Birthday Cake can be enjoyed every day of the Birthday Chol HaMoed without guilt (or calories), and with much glee.

Because my birthday (both Hebrew and Gregorian) falls sometime within the Chagim period, it often got overlooked when I was growing up. Sometimes birthday cake was served at the adjacent holiday dinner, sometimes on the birthday itself, and sometimes, not at all. It depended on how stressed my mother was. To be honest, I never cared. There was always a lot of cake in my house, whether it was for a birthday or not.

And so I grew up with little regard for birthdays. It was only as an adult that I understood how important they were to some other people, and how hurt someone would get if you didn't make a Very Big Deal out of their birthday. It amused me, as if the birthday person had done ANYTHING, besides, of course, cause his or her mother a great deal of pain, to deserve being made a big deal of.

But so it is; birthdays, it turns out, can be a Big Deal.

This year, I have a relatively long Birthday Chol HaMoed, almost two weeks. And I've decided to turn it into a Big Deal.

I decided this because of gematriya.
Gematriya is the practice of giving numerical value to Hebrew letters, and thereby giving meaning to certain numbers, or to words with the same gematriya.

A prime example of how gematriya is used in the Jewish world (without anyone even realizing it) is the word 'chai' (חי). In gematriya, chai, which means life, has the numerical value of  18 . It is standard practice in Jewish households, especially in North America - less so in Israel and Europe - to give gifts in multiples of 18, i.e., 18, 36 or 52 dollars. This symbolizes that the recipient should be blessed with life - chai.

I looked up my age in gematriya, i.e., what words, in Hebrew, add up to the numerical value of my age.
The first word to come up was  madig (מדאיג), which means worrisome.
Hmmm. I don't need reminders to worry, thank you.

Another word with the same numerical value is halevai!! (and yes, with exclamation marks, it can only be said with exclamation marks). Halevai!! means 'if only', as in:
Neighbor: "Are you going to Hawaii this year for the Chagim?
Me: Halevai!!!  But I have to host 267 people and stay home and wash dishes.
Friend: "Let's go out for coffee".
Me: "Halevai!!! But I have to wash dishes."

I don't think I want my year to be a Halevai!!!! year.

Then it came to me that this year is my 'chen' (חן) birthday. The letters of the word chen, in gematriya, have the numerical value of my age, as of this week.

A direct translation of  chen from Hebrew into English would be grace, or charm, or graciousness but, in fact, chen, like so many other Hebrew words, has no real English equivalent.

In the book of Proverbs we find:
Grace (chen) is deceitful, and beauty is vain; but a woman who fears God, she shall be praised.  
שֶׁקֶר הַחֵן, וְהֶבֶל הַיֹּפִי: אִשָּׁה יִרְאַת-ה', הִיא תִתְהַלָּל.  (Proverbs 31;30)

It seems from this that chen is not necessarily something positive.

On the other hand, the book of Genesis tells us that
Noah found grace (chen) in the eyes of God.
 'וְנֹחַ מָצָא חֵן בְּעֵינֵי ה (Genesis 6:8)

Here, Noah clearly has some je ne s'ais quoi that God saw, which allows him to be saved. 

The Kabbalah defines chen as kindness, gentleness, pleasantness, and beauty—qualities that are not only attractive, but desirable.

So it seems that Proverbs is taking the grace/charm definition, while Genesis is taking the Kabbalistic definition.

Even on my best days, I decidedly do not possess grace or charm or graciousness, and, unfortunately, am often not kind or gentle or pleasant, and certainly not when I have to wash 267 dishes.

But a girl can try.

Over the years, as Hebrew has evolved, chen has come to mean both a physical beauty and an inner beauty, one that is not so easily recognized. It also means the ability to recognize another's inner beauty, and the beauty in all situations even, or especially, when that beauty is not so discernable.

Here's another thing about a birthday in Israel. The birthday person has the ability to bless others with good wishes. (Of course, everyone has this ability every day, but it's more, shall we say, potent on one's birthday.)

So, yes, in this coming year, I'm going to make a decided effort to be more pleasant (smiles don't cost money), more gentle (we never know what people are going through - it's always best to speak and behave with gentleness), and kinder (the world can only be improved through random acts of kindness).  Please remind me of this.

In addition – this is where the Big Deal comes in, because I usually don't do things like this – I am going to use my birthday Chol HaMoed to bless/pray/wish/hope that we all encounter only beauty, and kindness, and graciousness – that all of Am Yisrael should all have a year of Chen.

And birthday cake. Let's not forget birthday cake.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Much To Do About Nothing

Don't worry...the world won't end today.
I've put it on my 'To Do' list for tomorrow.
― Anthony T. Hincks

Every day, I begin my workday by checking my emails.  And, every workday, after I have checked them, I ignore them until I have checked my Facebook page, my private emails, how many likes I received on previous blogposts, read my horoscope, messaged my kids, chatted to everyone in the office, and drank a couple of pots of coffee. (In fact, I have a whole list of things to do at work before I actually do any work.)
The other day, having just returned from the long weekend of Rosh HaShana, and even though there were five days worth of emails, there was nothing pressing, so after I checked everything I needed to check and drank three pots of coffee, I began writing out my TO-DO list for the coming days.

This is where it all falls apart.

When there is a great deal of work to do around the house, as there is during the 'Chagim' (the Jewish holidays that fall, one after another, during the early autumn) the only way I can cope is by writing out lists. There is nothing more satisfying than crossing things off the daily to-do lists.
Therefore, I write separate lists for everything: things to clean (divided into rooms); food to buy (by groupings - fruits, vegetables, dry goods, spices, drinks, meat, cocktails), tasks to complete (listed in order of dislike - ironing is always last).

But despite all these lists, somehow, I always forget something.

I go to the supermarket with a list as long as a Stephen King novel (but scarier), and conscientiously tick things off the list as I take items off the shelves. But when I get home, I find I forgot to list mayonnaise. Or paprika. Or a can of mini corn. Or fabric softener. (Which would make 3,467 days in a row that I forgot to buy fabric softener.)
I send a kid to the local corner store, where prices are, on average, 6.8 times higher than the supermarket I just left, to buy the missing item.
The kid asks "What else do you need?" I answer, "Just steak spice, I have everything else I need." The kid comes back with the steak spice just as the next kid is leaving to go buy the vanilla pudding I need to put in the gluten-free cookies that I put on my What to Bake list, but forgot to put on the Gluten-Free Ingredients I Need to Buy' list.
By coincidence, just as the second kid has left,  the out-of-town kid  phones to ask what she should bring. I tell her "oh I have everything I need!! But if you happen to come across, in your travels, some fresh oregano, I would be grateful."

I begin a new list: Things I've Forgotten To Buy. This list can sometimes get quite lengthy, but usually, I forget exactly what it is I've forgotten.

In the midst of all the shopping and meal planning, the house has to be cleaned. This area of housework does not faze me. I write out - usually on the backs of printed recipes of dishes I will never make (what was I thinking??? Also, I forgot to buy pesto) - lengthy, detailed lists of tasks to be done. Then I leave the lists in public places around the house where other people will find them.

Back in the kitchen, after all the ingredients have been sorted, next comes the task of baking/cooking. I first have to put things in order; which pots are needed for what dish, which baking pans I will need, in what order to cook each dish. I glance through my lists: What to Bake, Which Chicken/Schnitzel/Meat is the Easiest to Make, Vegetables Kids Like and Vegetables Kids Don't Like (the second part of that list took me quite a chunk of my workday to complete), Desserts (a surprisingly short list consisting of ice cream [bought - I must remember to put that on the Things I've Forgotten To Buy list] and canned fruit salad [which I, in fact, remembered ticking off my list with great satisfaction]).
But all my plans come to a screeching halt as I left my What Pots and Pans I Have list at work.
Which is good. Because I forgot to buy balsamic vinegar.

And I've run out of kids.

Monday, August 27, 2018

How Do You Like It So Far?

And the Lord said to Abram," Go forth from your land and from your birthplace and from your father's house, to the Land that I will show you; 
And I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you, and I will aggrandize your name, and you shall be a blessing; 
and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse, and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you." 
-Genesis 12:1-3

As long as the Jewish spirit is yearning deep in the heart, 
With eyes turned toward the East, looking toward Zion,
Then our hope - the two-thousand-year-old hope - will not be lost;
To be a free people in our Land,
The Land of Zion and Jerusalem
- HaTikva (The Hope) National Anthem of Israel

Once again, over the past 4 months, it looked like Israel was facing another summer war. It's now late in the summer, so we seemed to have staved it off for now, and are facing, instead another winter war...

I would like to say that this would have been my 3rd war, or 4th war, or 10th war since I came to live in Israel, but the truth is, I've lost count. It's also very hard to define an Israeli war.

I've been in Israel a long time.
I was just thinking about it - how long I've been here. I wrote a blog post a while ago about the last March for Israel I attended in the Old Country. It was a long time ago.

Forty years to be exact.

I am celebrating my 40-year aliyahversary.
Aliyahversary was not even a word when I made Aliyah.
I didn't even make Aliyah. I just came.

Also, because I still act like I'm 17 (or 12 - depending on the day), it couldn't possibly be so many years.

Some say that 40 years isn't really a long time. 
That's true, if you're a tree.

14,610 days.
350,640 hours (more or less, let's not be OCD).

I honestly don't know where the time has gone. I can, however, clearly recall that first plane ride (which, in itself, seemed 40 years long).

Our sages tell us that the Children of Israel wandered the desert for 40 years until they reached the Land of Israel partly so that the transition from slavery to freedom could be made. The old generation needed to die off so the younger - born into freedom - could take over. I can relate. My kids are Israeli (though they can, if they want, pass), my grandkids even more so. I still haven't quite finished making that transition.
Sorry aboot that.

When I think about it, my aliyah has been a dismal failure. I get lost on buses. I don't know how to pay for a train ride. I'm sent home from government offices because I don't have the correct paperwork. And EVERYONE tries to speak to me in English the minute I open my mouth to speak. (I also still practice what I'm going to say before I say it - but so do a lot of people I know. I think it's a  thing.) In a crowd of Israelis, I sometimes still feel like an outsider.

I still get annoyed when I'm pushed aside by a man or a teenager or a woman to get on the bus first. Or when someone takes up two or even three parking spots, or worse, doubles and triple parks so they don't have to walk the extra 23 centimetres; I'm even more annoyed when someone leaves their shopping trolley on the diagonal in the middle of an aisle, making it impossible to get by without pushing aside their trolley. And when I do, they get annoyed. It aggravates me no end when people talk out loud to each other in the movie theatre; shout to each other across streets; play loud music on the bus; refuse to turn the music down in a store. I still don't understand how store owners can advertise items for sale that are not actually available.

Most of these 40 years have been spent simply living my life; floundering my way; making friends; making mistakes; having and raising my kids; making more mistakes; making dinner; having fun; not having fun; learning; doing laundry; playing in the park; spending money; saving money; reading books; reading newspapers; watching movies; watching the news; making more mistakes; complaining about the heat; complaining about the cold; complaining about the neighbors; complaining about the other drivers; complaining about the kids; worrying about the kids; celebrating simchas; crying in the bathroom; watching fireworks; attending siddur parties, chumash parties, graduations, swearing-in ceremonies; baking cake; eating cake; going on vacation; recovering from going on vacation; laughing; praying.

40 years =
Several hundred planted trees and flowers (all in the first year)
1 degree from a real university
1 husband
5 kids
2 daughters-in-law
2 grandkids
4 cars
2 refrigerators
3 stove tops
7 washing machines(!!!)
2 apartments
2 houses
a dozen or so addresses
several jobs
scores of wars and elections
countless friends
several (but not enough!!) family members who have  made aliyah or, at least, come to visit

I wish I had made a greater contribution to society, made my presence felt more.

I do have one daily goal. I try, at least once a day, to get one person to smile. Then I feel my day has not been wasted. And if, every once in a while, I get someone to pee their pants a little - that's a bonus. 

I always remember that nothing in Israel is simple, or straightforward. For every shove on the bus, there are five kids who will give up their seat for me. For every bad parking spot there were dozens of offered lifts.
For each diagonally placed supermarket trolley, I could see 10 people who would give up their place in line to someone with kids or to the handicapped or elderly.
For every missed movie line due to someone talking at full volume, there are hundreds of people reciting psalms for the ill, the injured, the poor, the childless, the unmarried.

There might be what would be perceived by these Old Country-born eyes as universal rudeness, but there is also universal concern and universal joy.
What some might call nosiness is really a strong sense of community.
I have been the recipient of and observed inumerable acts of kindness - to loved ones, to friends, to complete strangers.
But nobody is a stranger, because we're all family, despite it all.
I've witnessed bravery, courage, kindness, loyalty, faith, great joy - and all in my own living room.
I've been blessed to witness miracles.

40 years =
Saying goodbye
but welcoming the new.
Endless problems and worries
but constant laughter and joy.
Incessant fear, and worry, and dread,
Everlasting pride and honor and delight.

I am profoundly grateful, Every. Single. Day. that I was born, after so many generations, into a world where Israel existed and that I have been able to live my life here.
I still wonder at the miracle that is Israel.
And I still cry when I sing HaTikva.

Please take a moment, and thank G-d for the State of Israel, diagonal trolleys and all.

אָבִינוּ שֶׁבַּשָּׁמַיִם, צוּר יִשְׂרָאֵל וְגוֹאֲלוֹ,
בָּרֵךְ אֶת מְדִינַת יִשְׂרָאֵל, רֵאשִׁית צְמִיחַת גְּאֻלָּתֵנוּ.
הָגֵן עָלֶיהָ בְּאֶבְרַת חַסְדֶּךָ, וּפְרֹשׁ עָלֶיהָ סֻכַּת שְׁלוֹמֶךָ,
וּשְׁלַח אוֹרְךָ וַאֲמִתְּךָ לְרָאשֶׁיהָ, שָׂרֶיהָ וְיוֹעֲצֶיהָ, וְתַקְּנֵם בְּעֵצָה טוֹבָה מִלְּפָנֶיךָ.
חַזֵּק אֶת יְדֵי מְגִנֵּי אֶרֶץ קָדְשֵׁנוּ, וְהַנְחִילֵם אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְשׁוּעָה
וַעֲטֶרֶת נִצָּחוֹן תְּעַטְּרֵם, וְנָתַתָּ שָׁלוֹם בָּאָרֶץוְשִׂמְחַת עוֹלָם לְיוֹשְׁבֶיהָ.
וְאֶת אַחֵינוּ כָּל בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל פְּקָד־נָאבְּכָל אַרְצוֹת פְּזוּרֵיהֶם,
וְתוֹלִיכֵם מְהֵרָה קוֹמְמִיּוּת לְצִיּוֹן עִירֶךָ
 וְלִירוּשָׁלַיִם מִשְׁכַּן שְׁמֶךָ,
כַּכָּתוּב בְּתוֹרַת משֶׁה עַבְדֶּךָ:
”אִם יִהְיֶה נִדַּחֲךָ בִּקְצֵה הַשָּׁמַיִם, מִשָּׁם יְקַבֶּצְךָ ה׳ אֱלֹהֶיךָ וּמִשָּׁם יִקָּחֶךָ.
וֶהֱבִיאֲךָ ה׳ אֱלֹהֶיךָ אֶל הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר יָרְשׁוּ אֲבֹתֶיךָוִירִשְׁתָּהּ,
וְהֵיטִבְךָ וְהִרְבְּךָ מֵאֲבֹתֶיךָ.“(דברים ל:ד-ה)
וְיַחֵד לְבָבֵנוּ לְאַהֲבָה וּלְיִרְאָה אֶת שְׁמֶךָ, וְלִשְׁמֹר אֶת כָּל דִּבְרֵי תּוֹרָתֶךָ.
וּשְׁלַח לָנוּ מְהֵרָה בֶּן דָּוִד מְשִׁיחַ צִדְקֶךָ, לִפְדּות מְחַכֵּי קֵץ יְשׁוּעָתֶךָ.
הוֹפַע בַּהֲדַר גְּאוֹן עֻזֶּךָ עַל כָּל יוֹשְׁבֵי תֵּבֵל אַרְצֶךָ, וְיֹאמַר כֹּל אֲשֶׁר נְשָׁמָה בְּאַפּוֹ:
יהוה אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל מֶלֶךְ,”וּ֝מַלְכוּת֗וֹ בַּכֹּ֥ל מָשָֽׁלָה.“(תהלים קג:יט)
אָמֵן סֶלָה.
Our Father who is in heaven, Protector and Redeemer of Israel,
bless the State of Israel, the dawn of our deliverance.
Shield it beneath the wings of Your love;
spread over it Your canopy of peace;
send Your light and Your truth to its leaders, officers, and counselors, and direct them with Your good counsel.
Strengthen the defenders of our Holy Land;
grant them, our God, salvation and crown them with victory.
Establish peace in the land, and everlasting joy for its inhabitants.
Remember our brethren, the whole house of Israel, in all the lands of their dispersion. Speedily bring them to Zion, Your city, to Jerusalem Your dwelling-place, as it is written in the  of Your servant Moses:
“Even if you are dispersed in the uttermost parts of the world, from there the Lord your God will gather and fetch you. The Lord your God will bring you into the land which your ancestors possessed, and you shall possess it; and God will make you more prosperous and more numerous than your ancestors.”
Unite our hearts to love and revere Your name, and to observe all the precepts of Your Torah.
Speedily send us Your righteous Messiah of the House of David, to redeem those waiting for Your salvation.
Shine forth in Your glorious majesty over all the inhabitants of Your world.
Let everything that breathes proclaim: “The Lord God of Israel is King; His majesty rules over all.”
Amen. Selah.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Pay it Forward

You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you. 
- John Bunyan
Be kind whenever possible. It's always possible
- the Dalai Lama

Today started like any other day. I woke up early, threw some laundry into the machine, drank some coffee, played soduka while drinking coffee, and then got into my car to go to work at the local University. The earlier I get to work, the earlier I can leave, so I like to get there nice and early.

It's about a twelve minute drive. Three minutes in, I noticed that the side mirror on the passenger side of the car was pushed in, and I couldn't see behind me. At the next traffic light, I pulled up the handbrakes, undid my seatbelt, rolled down the passenger window, leaned over, and fixed the mirror. All before the light changed back to green. Yay me! But (there's always a but, isn't there....) before I could get my seatbelt back on, and get the handbrakes down, the light changed to green, and within a nanosecond the hooting began. It's possible that the hooting began even before the light changed.

This is Israel, the land of prophecy, and it's entirely possible that the guy behind me knew in advance that the light was about to change.
But I digress.

Ignoring the hooting, seatbelt secured, I grabbed the handbrakes and pulled.
And pulled.
And pulled.

And the handbrakes wouldn't budge.

I was stuck, the guy behind me furiously hooting away until he eventually wised up and scooted around me.
The light changed back to red, and the handbrakes wouldn't move.
When the light turned back green, handbrakes up, I drove slowly, with much screeching, across the street and managed to pull over. There, out of traffic, I wrestled with the stupid handbrakes for several minutes until I finally got them down.

Swearing, sweating from the exertion (I mean, I wrestled!!!), I drove to work, not arriving particularly early.

I figured that, while at the traffic light,  I had pulled up the handbrakes too fast, and something caught wrong, and it was stuck. So when I parked in the parking lot at work, I  mostly out of habit  pulled up the handbrakes again. I looked at that black piece of T-shaped plastic, and decided not to think it until I finished my six hours of duty. 
Which, of course, came none too quickly and I all but forgot about the early morning's episode.

Until, of course, I started the car, and couldn't get the handbrakes down. At least I wasn't in traffic, and nobody was hooting me.
Still, I had to get home.
I struggled for about fifteen minutes. It was hot, I was out of breath, and I had long run out of swear words.


I took a breath and tried again.


I finally broke down, and called my son, who studies at the University. Maybe he was there and could come and help me.
He wasn't.
But he did offer to come and get me. I said no, I would try a few minutes longer and then take a bus. I really didn't want to leave the car at work, so I struggled, in vain, a while longer.
I felt helpless.

My son called me back.
"Are you still there? I asked my friend to come and help you. He'll be there in a minute".

Indeed, a few minutes later, a tall, blonde young man waved at me.
"I don't know what I can do," said the mechanical engineering student to me. "I don't know anything about cars."

The first hurdle was pushing the seat back because Yaniv is about twice my height. That accomplished, he got in and began fighting with the handbrakes.


I told the kid to forget it, I'd manage. He just looked at me, and said "It's no big deal, I have nothing better to do. Hold on, I'll call my dad. He knows everything."

I just stared. This was getting ridiculous. I hadn't wanted to bother my son, let alone this stranger's dad.

"Hi Dad!! What's up? Everything ok? Listen, there's this lady here who can't get her handbrakes down. Do you know what to do?"

Dad advised him to try and move the car a bit forward (with the brakes on), maybe there was something catching them. Or perhaps rocking the car a bit. Or try... The two chatted a few minutes.

We started the car, and Yaniv tried driving back and forth a few centimeters in the hope of releasing the brakes.


He got out of the car, slipped his sandals off, and lay down on his stomach first in front of the car, and then on the side to see if there was something stuck underneath.


Still barefoot, he got back in the car and tried again.

This is Israel and miracles do indeed happen.

Yaniv released the handbrakes.

Wide grin on his face, he got out of the car, put his sandals back on and told me I don't need to use the handbrakes at all. Beer Sheva is pretty flat.

"Are you here tomorrow? Ice cream on me, " I told him.

"It's a date," he laughed. "But really, it was nothing."
"Nothing for you, a whole weekend of headaches for me".

I got in the car, careful not to touch the handbrakes, and called my son to thank him.
"All's good," I said.

And then, I burst into tears.

Random Kindness from strangers and family does that to me.
It's how the world will be saved.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Lamrot HaKol - Despite it all

and here you are living despite it all
-Rupi Kaur

 למרות הכל נשארנו פה, למרות כל מה שהם עשו כדי שניפול 
-נתן גושן
(Despite it all, we stayed here, depite all they did to make us fall
- Natan Goshen)

When I was young and in school back in the Old Country, about a week after Chanuka and until Tu B’Shvat, the teachers would hang a small JNF poster in the classroom. It was a bit bigger than a piece of A4 paper, and it had a picture of a tree with spaces on the branches to put stickers of leaves.

A sticker of a leaf cost five cents. There were 20 spots for leaves, so a whole tree cost one dollar (!!!). But 7-year-olds didn’t have dollars, so we would bring our nickels in whenever we had one. Sometimes, we had ten cents to spend, so we could buy two leaves. What excitment!! It was quite a ceremony giving the teacher the money, receiving the sticker and sticking it on the poster. Sometimes, but rarely, a parent would send in a whole dollar to buy a whole tree. Cheers of joy could be heard up and down the halls of the school!! There was a mini-contest between the classes to see which class would buy the most trees.
It was in this way that we learned, very effectively, about the Zionist enterprise, and understood the importance of buying lands and planting trees to hold down the ground. We learned the history of the Land, how it had been undeveloped for so many years, and how the Nation of Israel was coming back to repair the damage done by centuries of neglect. We were so proud that, even in this small way, with our nickels and dimes, we could contribute to the building of the Land, even from so far away.

 We kids joked that one day, when we went to visit Israel, we would go to visit our trees.

Yesterday, my department at work went on a trip to the hills surrounding Jerusalem. For personal reasons (aka laziness), I did not go on the walk down to the Sorek River with the group. Instead, I stayed, with a few others, near the top of a mountain, next to a comforting source of coffee. However, I did take a walk around the area (making sure I first had a good supply of coffee). The view was lovely, and I sat, half in shade, for quite a while staring out at the mountains and valleys. The air was very hot, but it was very quiet, just me and the butterflies. 

And the view from that spot was exactly what I needed. 

It had been a long time since I have visited any of my trees.

Despite the fact that when I came back from my walk into nature and beauty, all my co-workers who had stayed at the coffee shop were on their phones,

And despite the fact that the coffee shop didn’t serve lemon meringue pie,

And despite the fact that when we met up with the rest of the group, they too were all on their phones,

And despite the cinnamon (!!) in the kebbabs we ate at the restaurant where we had lunch,

And despite the endless, oppressive heat, 

And despite the air conditioning  not working,

And despite the occasional rockets, and the awful brown envelopes I keep receiving at home, and the flies and mosquitoes who have set up permanent residence in my bedroom, 

And despite all the tensions, and the bad publicity, and the heartbreak,

Despite it all, למרות הכל*

I was reminded how much I love this country, 

The end.

*Sometimes, Hebrew sounds better than English. למרות הכל (Lamrot HaKol) means despite, or in spite of, but has a more melancholy connotation than the English.