Monday, March 18, 2019

The You're from __? Do you know__? Game

In Jewish history there are no coincidences.
-Elie Wiesel


Several years ago, I worked as the assistant to the assistant to the President of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. It was actually a pretty boring job, but it did give me an opportunity to meet many very interesting people.
One day, I was called into the President's office to meet some visitors to the University. My boss wasn't with me, and I didn't understand why I was invited on my own. It had never happened before.
The reason became apparent fairly quickly. Sitting with the President of BGU was the Ambassador of the Old Country and his wife. After a few sentences, the connection became even more apparent. They were from the same city as I. Normally, when I meet someone from my town, I ask what school they had gone to, what shul they hadn't attended, or what youth group they had belonged to. But I wasn't going to play with the AMBASSADOR, who, I assumed, would not have heard of the very small Jewish school I had attended for 12 years. The conversation petered out, and I was sent back to my desk.

When I got home, I wrote an email to my sister and told her whom I had met. She wrote back that yeh, the Ambassador (who was, in fact, Jewish) had married a classmate of hers. In the end, not only would they have heard of my school, they had attended it.
I learned my lesson.
Always, always play Jewish Geography, aka the You're from? do you know? game. 

I can often find acquaintances in common with the remotest of people, sometimes even friends, but once in a long while you find family.

A few months ago, we were at a friends' house for Friday night dinner. These friends had also invited another couple whom I knew, but wasn't really that friendly with, and another man whom we did not know at all and to whom we needed to be introduced. As always, I was introduced by my name, and where I was from.  That's how it's done among immigrants - no matter how long you've been in a place. The woman I knew, but with whom I wasn't that friendly - let's call her  Liz - said "I didn't know you were from that city!!!!!!!!!!"
"I had an uncle who was married to a woman who's brother lived there for years! He was a rabbi there," she told me. 
That rabbi has a son who is married to my first cousin.
Obvs.
Liz and I are now, not only FB friends, but close family. Because her either maternal or paternal - I'm not sure which - uncle's wife's brother's son is married to my mother's brother's daughter. 

While the relationship is not always so close, sometimes you can discover family history. 
Recently a young olah  - let's call her Gisele - from some European Old Country came into my office at BGU (not the President's office. I've moved on from that job to one that is far more boring). We chatted a bit while she was waiting to go into a meeting. We hadn't ever met before but chatting to strangers is one of the few things I do well. I asked her if she had family in Israel. No, she didn't, and she told me how hard it has been without any family support. She had come all alone. 
"Yeh, I understand, I also came alone. It was a million years ago, but I was alone for a long time", I told her. 
She asked where I was from.
OMG!!!! was her answer when I told her city and Old Country. 
HER BEST FRIEND in the tiny Jewish community in the village Gisele is from is from there!!!!!
And while I didn't know the girl (Gisele is probably 30 years younger than I), I certainly knew her parents. 
It was 9:00 AM Beer Sheva time, 8:00 AM in European Old Country. But this didn't stop Gisele from whatsapping her BEST FRIEND "GUESS WHO I JUST MET!!!!"
When Gisele came out of the meeting she had come to the office for, she made straight for my desk. 
"She knows you!!! and your family!!!! and she went to school with your brother's kids!!!!!!! And some of them made aliya!!!"
She stopped. "But I guess you knew that last part already."
I nodded yes. 
She laughed, said she'll come visit me again, and left. 
The encounter totally made my day. 

These kinds of things happen all the time. 

The son of our friends of 34 years is engaged to the daughter of friends of my daughter-in-law-of-one-year's sister's husband's family. We will see them at the wedding. 

A friend from shul's mother's uncle was the man my High School back in the Old Country was named after. 

My daughter sublet her apartment in Beer Sheva to the son of my cousin's neighbors.  

My current desk mate went to primary school with my desk mate from when I was at the aformentioned President's office. They hadn't seen each other in nearly 50 years until they went to a reunion of their school and spent the evening talking about me. 
Obvs. 



Monday, February 25, 2019

The Importance of Being Lit

I know your head aches. I know you're tired. I know your nerves are as raw as meat in a butcher's window but think what you're trying to accomplish - just think what you're dealing with. The majesty and grandeur of the English language, it's the greatest possession we have. 
-George Bernard Shaw

I do not live in an English-speaking country. Many, if not most, of the people living here do speak some level of English, but my day-to-day transactions are not done in my mother tongue.
Therefore, my English speaking abilities have become somewhat stunted; I use the same language today that I used when I did live in an English-speaking country, a few hundred years ago. 
I try to keep up, but I have no way of knowing if my usage is correct or even still in vogue. I taught my kids the word 'groovy', which they thought was hilarious. I used 'gag me with a spoon' way past its run. To the younger generation, I probably sound like Shakespeare. Forsooth, as they said in the Old Country. 

Because of social media and netflix, learning current jargon isn't too difficult. I can lol with the best of them, and often accuse my kids (and have been accused by them) of being hangry. I also just learned that lit is the new hip. 

What I find difficult though, is not the new vocabulary, but the change in the parts of speech. 'Woke', for example, is no longer a verb, but rather an adjective. 'Are you woke? Yes, I'm woke, nobody is more woke than me!!'
It's the change from noun to verb that frazzles me the most, I think. I used to give gifts, but now I gift gifts. Sometimes, but not nearly often enough, I'm gifted gifts. (This really ugly vase was gifted to me by people to whom it was gifted.)
A friend is no longer a person. To friend is to add someone to your social network. (A mass murderer just friended me. I don't know how he got my name.)
Or trend. How can a trend trend? But they do! Orange ski pants are trending!! Brocolli is trending!!! Unfortunately, correct English is not trending. 

The word I have the most trouble with is adult.
Heaven knows it's difficult enough to be an adult. Now I've discovered that I have to adult. Adulting is not acting grown up and mature (that ship sailed long ago), but to do things that adults are expected to do, like pay bills, iron clothes, eat right, and bring back the library books on time. 

It's hard enough not to stamp my feet (especially when I'm hangry), or giggle when someone asks under where?.  Now, I have to file taxes on time. And I'm not even American.  

This is where I draw the line. 
Whoever made up these new words and rules is a fopdoodle. 
Instead of adulting, I'm going to fudgel. 

I'm sure you think I'm a gnashgab, but it's hard to keep up with new words when all you hear around you is blather. 

I'm putting on my groovy pjs and going bedward. 
Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow, that I shall say good night till it be morrow.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Never Have I Ever... Worried

Four in the morning, crapped out
Yawning
Longing my life away
I'll never worry, Why should I?
It's all gonna fade

-Paul Simon, Still Crazy After All These Years

Don't Worry, Be Happy

-Bobby McFerrin

What, me worry?
-Alfred E. Neumann

I received a message from my daughter one mid-morning, last week.
"I did something to my neck. I can't turn my head at all".
"I see", I messaged back. "How bad is it?"
"It's pretty bad. I'm going to a chiropractor now and see if he can help."

"No," I said. "I meant is this a 15 minute worry, an hour worry, or a full day worry? If it's only 15 minutes, I can fit it in in about an hour, but if it's an hour worry, I'll only have time this afternoon. A full day worry will simply have to wait until next week. I'm pretty full this week."
"It's certainly not a day's worry, but I can't decide if you should worry now for a short time, or put it off and worry longer. I'll let you know".



I am not a big worrier. My kids will laugh, but it's true. Worrying doesn't accomplish anything, so what's the point?
Not being a big worrier, however, doesn't mean I never worry. I do, but I'm careful about it.

I organize my worry time by topic, severity, and relationship to the worryee.

Let's take, for example, cauliflower. The price of cauliflower has been ridiculously high, and I haven't bought it for a long time. Because cauliflower is a vegetable and not chocolate, because there are other things to buy, and because I'm not related - even distantly - to cauliflower, I spend a minimum of time worrying about it. Either I spend a few minutes before I go shopping worrying about what I will buy instead of cauliflower, or a few minutes in the store itself worrying about the cauliflower farmers who must be going through a hard time if they've raised the prices so much (I am not aware that I am related to any cauliflower farmers either, so again, minimal time).

While waiting for my daughter to update me on her condition, I looked over my schedule for the day.
It wasn't a heavy day. I had started the day with the daily momentary worry that I had forgotten to buy pitot for my kids' lunches. (I hadn't.) Then there was the slightly longer worry of whether or not I had anything clean to wear to work and if it would match. (Yes, and yes; who says miracles don't happen?)  I even had enough time this morning while driving to work to get through several mandatory, generic worries: will my kid pass her math test today/will my grandson eat lunch today/will the level of the Kinneret ever pass the lower red line/will there be a worthy candidate to vote for in the upcoming Israeli election? (No for four...)

All sorts of worries pop up during work hours: will I have to answer the phone and speak to someone/will someone ask me to do something I don't know how to do/will someone not ask me to do something because they think I don't know how/will my soul die just a bit more today from boredom and lack of creativity? (Yes for four.....)

But all these worries take up only moments of time, and can be broken up into slots. I usually have plenty of time to worry about the important things: the weather, the laundry, has the leftover challah gone moldy yet, and will I have clean clothes for tomorrow?

Worries can be personal, local, and national. I usually take care of the personal first - the aforesaid laundry, pitot, lunches, and answering the phone.
The local worries take a bit longer: how long will my drive to work be when all these sky scrapers going up are populated? Is the Chinese take-out place still open? When will the army's move south be completed, and how will that affect my drive to work? Does climate change mean that the winters in Beer Sheva are going to be wetter or drier?

And then there are the National Worries. National Worries can be pretty heavy: Trauma, rockets, reserve duty, rainfall, the price of cauliflower. The worst of these are the worries that cause a dichotomy. I worry there's not enough rainfall, but at the same time I worry about the soldiers outside in the rain. And then (when I have time), I worry about the soldiers' mothers who are all worrying also. This can be quite wearying.

Because none of these things are in my hands, I manage to slip national worries into small pockets of time - usually just before I go to sleep.

My greatest worry, of course, is the unplanned-for worry; the worry that comes up when I don't have time to worry. A child's sudden fever, a flat tire on the car, war breaking out, these things can really disrupt my worry schedule.

It's a good thing I'm not a worrier, so I usually have plenty of time to worry about the unforeseen.




(Also, I worry about the anonymous creator of the above meme who made a typo. Luckily, as far as I know, I'm not related to the meme-maker, so I'm not too worried.)

Monday, January 28, 2019

Friends we haven't met yet

Hospitality: making your guests feel like they’re at home, even if you wish they were.
– Justine Vogt


I have a bunch of kids, the numbers seem to keep changing. This includes a bunch of sons. The youngest son lives at home. For the sake of this story, I am going to call him Alvin.
Alvin has a million friends. He's always had a million friends. He has friends from Primary School, from High School, from his Youth Group, from Yeshiva, from the Army, and now from College.
He has one friend I will call Theodore. (These aliases are to protect the innocent - me.)

Theodore is a good friend. I think he's from the Youth Group group of friends, but I don't remember exactly. He's a sweet kid and also has a million friends. After spending a year or so in Germany on 'shlichut', he has a bunch of friends in Germany. He has international friends, something that Alvin does not have. Alvin has an international family, but Theodore has a brother in Los Angeles, so on that score, they are even. 

I digress. 

Back to Germany.

One of Theodore's German friends has a friend from America. I don't know where in America. I don't know if that friend is currently in America. In fact, I know nothing at all about the friend in America, including the name, except that the friend in America has a friend in Germany. This is all I know. 

One day, early last week, the American, whom, at this point, I will call Simon - but it could be Simonne - called the German friend (henceforth called Hans, but could be Helga - really I know nothing at all about these people) and said that he, Simon, wanted to spend a Shabbat in Beer Sheva and see what the community was like. Did Hans, perchance, know anyone in Beer Sheva who could help out? 

YES!! exclaimed Hans (it might have been Ja!!! or even Jawohl!!!! - I wasn't there). He did know someone in Beer Sheva!! Hans immediately got in touch with Theodore. 
"Do you know", Hans asked Theodore, "anyone who could put some American friends up for Shabbat in Beer Sheva where they could meet other Americans and learn about the community?"

"Yes!!!" said Theodore (since I do know Theodore, I know he doesn't speak in capital letters - also, there are no capital letters in Hebrew), "I do know an American!!!"

Theodore immediately got in touch with my son Alvin. "You're American!!" Theodore said to Alvin (he's not), "do you know anyone who can put Simon/Simonne up for Shabbat?"

"MOOOOOOOM", yelled Alvin, "You're American (I'm not), do you know anyone who can put some Americans - I don't know how many, I don't know if they are girls or boys, I don't know if they are mass murderers - up for Shabbat?"

I knew that Simon and family (turns out it was a young husband and wife) would not want to stay with us, because, well, we're old and grumpy, and they wanted to meet the younger and rapidly growing community of Beer Sheva. And so, I put up a post on Facebook; would anybody be interested in hosting friends of friends of a friend of my son for Shabbat. 

Within 12 minutes I had six responses. Within half an hour I had another 5. They were all "Yes!! we'd love to have them!" "We don't have room to sleep, but I hope they can come for a meal!" "We're free this weekend!!" etc. etc. Within half an hour, I had secured a place, which I verbally confirmed later. Nonetheless, the offers continued to pour in. "If they don't mind old foagies, they are welcome!!" "I always make a big cholent, so we would love to have your friends!!! 
There was also a stream of questions I couldn't answer: where are they from, how long are they visiting, do they have any dietary restrictions, do they smoke, and are they mass murderers? (if they were, I suppose the potential hosts planned to send their kids to the grandparents.)

I was pleased, but not unduly surprised, at the massive outpouring of hospitality shown by my fellow Beer Shevites. Nonetheless, that cascade of warmth and generosity and friendliness left me humbled. 
The hospitality of Avraham Avinu took root in the city he founded, and in which I live 3500 years later, and is alive and well. 

What they say is true.
Southern hospitality, there's nothing like it. 
Even if you're not American. 







Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Wonders of Wonders, Miracles of Miracles

Miracles happen everyday, change your perception of what a miracle is and you'll see them all around you. 
-Jon Bon Jovi

The miracle is this - the more we share, the more we have.
-Leonard Nimoy

I've always loved the holiday of Chanuka, even as a kid back in the Old Country, surrounded by snow, and cold, and frost. I loved Chanuka, long before I was introduced to Brownie Cheesecake sufganiyot with cheesecake cream filling, topped with chocolate ganache and a mound of edible glitter-dusted brownie bits.

While Chanuka has been annually celebrated for over 2000 years, it was only in the mid-20th century that it became the most popular and publicly celebrated Jewish holiday in the Western World. 
It's really quite a phenomenon; what we are celebrating is the occurrence of miracles in the time of the Second Temple, but the real miracle today is that—despite the eventual destruction of the Temple; despite our exile from our Land; despite the persecutions and the forced conversions and the pogroms; despite pervasive assimilation, all of which were the result of our exile—we are still celebrating more than 2000 years later.

Albert Einstein once said "there are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle." 
I, personally, see miracles every day: 
light traffic so I get to work on time after a late start;
a parking spot opens up right in front of my house even though my neighbors own five cars;
exact change suddenly appears in my wallet to buy that coffee I desperately need; 
despite the coffee, my shirt isn't stained; 
even though I hate wearing shoes, sometimes they are actually comfortable;
a friend I haven't heard from in a long time gets in touch just when I'm feeling most down; 
273 different flavours of sufganiyot.

And last night, I was privileged to be blessed with another miracle - a first ever family Chanuka party. 

For most people, a family Chanuka party is not a big deal - in fact, I've heard that it is often a thing to be dreaded. 

For the first few years after I came to the HolyLand, there wasn't any family at all with whom to party. After I got married and had kids, I lived with all the family I had, and every day was a party.
Little by little, however, the family has expanded: my kids began to have families of their own, and other family members have come to live in the HolyLand, and have families of their own, and today, we number almost three dozen. Which is two dozen and 11 people more than I had when I came. 

I've had the idea of having some sort of family get-together for a while now, but getting everyone in the same room proved to be challenging. Over the years, whenever I broached the subject, my kids would roll their eyes, while other family members out of eye-rolling range would basically tell me that they had to wash their hair on whatever night I might be thinking of. And NOBODY was willing to come to the wilds of the northern Negev, not even for an apple vanilla sufganiya with cinnamon, which I wasn't going to serve anyway because they are like 11 shekel each. 
But this year, everything seemed to come together. My sister and brother-in-law are here visiting, which gave added value to a family event. My daughter offered to host it in her apartment in Jerusalem, so most of the guests did not have to travel as far (except, of course, for us. But everyone knows that Jerusalem is closer to Beer Sheva than Beer Sheva is to Jerusalem). We picked a day. After an initial reaction of eye rolls and 'well, I'll see if there's nothing better happening' and 'you don't expect me to come, do you', invited guests began to ask what they could bring. 
And everybody came. 
The older generation (me and the husband, and two sisters [one from each side] and their husbands), the second generation (the kids), and, by heavens, a third generation (nine[!!!] various grandkids aged six and under). 

It was chaos. 

The little ones played with balloons that went flying into the soup, and into the chanukiot, and under any chair anyone was sitting on. There were secular family members, religious family members, charedi family members, and a couple of guests who are like family members. There were two active soldiers (one even arrived in uniform, but, as is standard procedure, changed before anyone noticed). Both soldiers, by the way, are girls and are 'lone soldiers', i.e., their parents don't live in the country. There were engineers and artists, a doctor, hi-tech people, a couple of high school kids, an architect, a tour guide, a fireman, a couple of nurses, students and teachers, and a retired lawyer. There were Canadians, Brits, Israelis, an Argentinian, one lone American, and a lizard. 
There was soup and bourekas and humous and mushrooms and coleslaw and pizza and home-made donuts. And a surpise cake. 
There were dreidels that have a 'pei' on them and not a 'shin' and were called sivivonim.  

We took pictures. I insisted on getting the nine little ones together to take a picture. 'Good luck with that!' I was told over and over again, mostly by their parents. And indeed, my best efforts were less than successful. 
We did, however, with much cajoling, direction, choreography, and bullying manage to get the second and third generation, more or less, together, . 





There were jokes and laughter. There were pizza crumbs in the bed. There were poopy babies, and problems parking the cars. 
We had a truly Israeli experience. 

We had a miracle. 


This is how we got our money out of the Old Country





Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Just waiting

Patience is not simply the ability to wait - it's how we behave while we're waiting. 
-Joyce Meyer

My soul waits for the Lord, more than watchmen for the morning; yea, more than watchmen for the morning.
-Psalms 13;6

Some habits die hard.
On my drive to work this morning, I kept a check on where I could take cover if a siren - signalling an incoming rocket - would sound; behind a wall, inside a building, lying flat on the street. I must say, the roads were pretty quiet today. 

Despite an unprecedented 400 (and counting) rockets and projectiles that have been fired on Southern Israel in the last 20 or so hours, none have been directed at Beer Sheva.
The waiting is excruciating.

There's waiting for the news to be updated. How many rockets have been fired; how many were shot down? How many Israelis have been hurt; how many have we hurt? How are the people who have been hurt over the last two days doing?

There's waiting for the announcements. Will there be school tomorrow? Will I have to go to work? Are the public shelters open? Libraries, community centers, and the zoo are closed. Buses are running.  

There's waiting for the complaints. Why did they cancel school? Why didn't they cancel my work? Why isn't the government doing anything? Why is the government doing anything? Why didn't Iron Dome shoot down all 400 missiles? Why aren't there more Iron Domes? Why hasn't the city put in a safe room into my house? What am I supposed to do with my kids all day? How can I blame Trump/Bibi/Trudeau? (It wasn't a long wait.) 

There's waiting for the siren. As I've said, here in Beer Sheva, it's been quiet. But we're waiting. Should I take a shower now, or wait until after the siren, which is sure to come when I'm in the shower? Should I go to bed now, and get what sleep I can get before the sirens go off, or should I wait until after the siren, which is sure to come the minute I fall asleep. If I am cooking something, I must remind myself that I have to remember to shut off the gas or the oven if there is a siren (luckily, I, personally, don't have to actually worry about that scenario).

And the main announcement everyone is waiting for: Will there be a call-up? If so, how many? Will the army actually enter in full force? Will we finish it this time? (nope.)

We're waiting. 
In the meantime:
שיר למַּעֲלוֹת:
עֶזְרִי, מֵעִם יְהוָה-- עֹשֵׂה, שָׁמַיִם וָאָרֶץ.
אַל-יִתֵּן לַמּוֹט רַגְלֶךָ; אַל-יָנוּם, שֹׁמְרֶךָ.
הִנֵּה לֹא-יָנוּם, וְלֹא יִישָׁן-- שׁוֹמֵר, יִשְׂרָאֵל.
יְהוָה שֹׁמְרֶךָ; יְהוָה צִלְּךָ, עַל-יַד יְמִינֶךָ.
יומָם, הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ לֹא-יַכֶּכָּה; וְיָרֵחַ בַּלָּיְלָה.
יְהוָה, יִשְׁמָרְךָ מִכָּל-רָע: יִשְׁמֹר, אֶת-נַפְשֶׁךָ.
יְהוָה, יִשְׁמָר-צֵאתְךָ וּבוֹאֶךָ-- מֵעַתָּה, וְעַד-עוֹלָם.

A Song of Ascents.
I will lift up mine eyes unto the mountains: from whence shall my help come?
My help cometh from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
He will not suffer thy foot to be moved; He that keepeth thee will not slumber.
Behold, He that keepeth Israel doth neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is thy keeper; the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand.
The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.
The LORD shall keep thee from all evil; He shall keep thy soul.
The LORD shall guard thy going out and thy coming in, from this time forth and for ever. 

Friday, November 9, 2018

I Knew You Were Coming, so I Baked a Cake

Let's face it, a nice creamy chocolate cake does a lot for a lot of people; it does for me.
-Audrey Hepburn

I had a cake party yesterday. It was actually my second cake party. I had a cake party last year too. 




Before and after last year’s successful cake party, many people have asked what exactly is and why a cake party.

I will get to that answer shortly. But because the cake party was held in my house, I first decided to say a few words about the Parsha: 

Last Shabbat we read Chayai Sarah, and this week (tomorrow) we read Toldot. Tthe first Parsha deals with the death of Sarah, and her burial in Chevron – for which Avraham has to buy a gravesite. After Sarah is buried, Avraham sends out a servant to find a suitable wife for his son Yitzhak. Parshat Toldot tells us of the marriage of Yitzhak and Rivka, how they have to fight to stay in the Land, of their childlessness, of finally the birth – after a difficult pregnancy – of twins, Esav selling his birthright, and Yitzhak giving blessings to his sons.

Avraham spends a great deal of time and money buying a gravesite in Chevron. He rejects an offer of a free grave so as to ensure that his ownership of the Land is legal and lasting. Indeed, the Maarat HaMachpela is the only bit of Land that Avraham owns. And the marriage of Itzhak to a good Jewish girl takes on a certain urgency when we realize that of Avraham’s eight sons, at the end of the day, he has only two Jewish grandchildren, one of whom leaves the path.

In Toldot, we are told how Yitzhak and Rivka settle and work the land and of their difficulties. There is a famine; Rivka is almost kidnapped by the locals; they dig wells, only to have them stopped up in a show of ecological terrorism. The local residents are jealous of Yitzhak’s wealth, of his wife, of his standing, and make his life relatively miserable. A peace treaty is finally secured only after God promises Yitzhak that He will never leave him and that the Land is Yitzhak’s. Avimelech, the King of the Philistines, finally realizes that Yitzhak is here to stay. No amount of cutting his water supply, or burning his fields, or stoning his cars are going to make him leave. Rivka and Yitzhak secure their presence in the Land.

And then we come to Yitzhak’s kids. Rivka realizes what Yitzhak has not; that Esav will not be following in his father’s or grandfather’s footsteps. She therefore arranges that the correct blessing go to the correct child. There is no point in forcing a child to be what he is not, nor withholding from a child that which is his. By so doing this, Rivka ensures physical Jewish continuity. Her efforts secure her 13 (at least) Jewish grandchildren.

We see two themes running through these parshiot: 1. Securing a Jewish presence in the Land of Israel, and 2) Jewish Continuity. These are the same two themes that have concerned Jews over the years: Next year in Jerusalem, and will my grandchildren be Jewish. 
Oy. 
It’s not a new concern.

Because, despite God’s promise to both Avraham and Yitzhak that He will make their descendants into a great nation, both of them had to work hard to stay in the Land and have Jewish grandchildren. They had to buy land and dig wells and look for brides. They did not simply sit back and rely on God’s promise. Because the promise wasn’t exactly a promise in the way we understand the word. It was a brit, a covenant, an agreement. “You do this, and I’ll give you that”. Only with the total commitment and participation on the part of Avraham would G-d’s promises come into being. Only with devotion, sweat and sometimes against almost unbeatable odds was Yitzhak successful in settling in the Land. This is true not only for Avraham and Yitzhak, but also for their descendants.

Let that sink in a moment.

All of us who were in the room last night have chosen to live to Israel (with the glaring exception of my two daughters who were not given the choice as they were born here)  and by that we are preserving our rights to this Land. And by living here, despite the language difficulties, and the sirens, and the lack of graham crackers, we have a better chance of having Jewish grandchildren.

So, I can say we’re doing pretty good, and we’re following in the footsteps of our ancestors. And in Beer Sheva, which is actually where Avraham and Sara and Yitzhak and Rivka lived.

Which brings me to a cake party.

And what is its relevance?

I first heard of a cake party when I was in the year of mourning for my mother.

I decided that this is the way I wanted to commemorate her and my father, because it’s how I remember them.

It’s a weird way, I know, but an evening of prayers and learning would have bored them.

And I wanted to do something to show that I was, in my own way, paying attention, and try and ensure their continuity.

My parents concerned themselves very much with a specific attribute of Avraham Avinu.

Like Avraham, they liked company, and they liked feeding company.

My mother was the proud owner of two fridges (each with its small freezer) and two very large freezers. And they were all always full. She did buy and stock Empire chickens, so there would be enough for the neighborhood for 20 years if there were a nuclear war, but she also filled them with baked goods. Cakes, and pies, and cookies.

Why a cake party in honor of my parents? Because cake, in my parents’ house, represented the hospitality, and generosity, and friendship of Avraham Avinu.

That was my parents – generous, hospitable, good people, who always had cake for everyone.