Monday, September 22, 2014

Counting your Blessings - Day 17

God gives us one day each year to mark our progress. Michali just celebrated her first birthday - it's amazing what she's accomplished - she's learned to smile, to roll over, to sit, to crawl, to walk, even to begin to talk. She actually even has begun to learn sign language. That's all in one  year.

For the rest of us, the change from year to year is so much less pronounced. Our hair grows a bit grayer, our eyesight gets a bit worse...no wait, that's too far down the road...so let's back up...

Last night, Amira's husband Haim scheduled a surprise birthday party for her - he bought the most amazing cake. His brother and sisters came to decorate the apartment with balloons and we got there early enough that Aliza could help too. Amira walked in after a successful shopping spree with her mother-in-law and was very happy and surprised.

So, today's blessing is the concept of a birthday, of celebrating the moment you came to this world, bringing joy to everyone else...and so, in the years that follow, all those who feel that love, look for ways to return the appreciation and love right back. It is a uniquely human thing - remembering the day, even the hour and the moment we are born. We spend our lives measuring the years...all starting from that day.

Beyond the balloons and the cake - is the laughter, the song, and the love that go along with it. For many years, we had two birthdays in September - Amira and Lazer - last year, Michal joined us in September as well - a triple-blessed month.

We celebrate at least the Hebrew birthdays and sometimes the English - this year, we seem to be celebrating both - in a few days, we'll celebrate Amira's Hebrew birthday, and then Michal's - and the cycle of birthdays will begin again.

Because it only comes once a year, the concept of a birthday celebration is one blessing we sometimes overlook and that's a shame. Birth is an incredible experience for the parents...even if it is the child that forever celebrates the day.

I often teased my kids that they should be wishing me a happy birthday since it was on this day that I gave birth - some years, I even got them to do it!

If you have a birthday - stop and think of what the year has given you - what blessings you have received, what miracles you have witnessed. My birthday doesn't come for another few months but already I know that this past year will be a year I am unlikely to forget - just over a year ago, I had my operation - months of physical therapy have returned me to almost the same mobility I had before I fell. This year, I was in a terrible car accident - the car was totaled, and I walked away with such gratitude.

This year, I was granted a beautiful granddaughter - and a chance to watch my grandson grow out of his baby years and into this amazingly bright little boy. Oh, it hasn't been all good  - war on the national front and war on the personal front have left their mark and a deep sadness inside that I fight all the time but I'm grateful for the concept of a marker each year.

A birthday ago...where were you? Where are you now? Where are you going? Without a birthday, how would you remember the milestones that come with age?

I met my future husband at 17; our first date was on my 18th birthday. We married when I was 22...and on it goes - a lifetime measured each year by the simplest of days - the first we each spend on this earth.

Happy birthday little Michali; happy birthday my beautiful Amira.

And thank you God - for birthdays...today's blessing.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Counting Your Blessings - Day 16

Sunday morning is reality time in Israel - it's back to work, back to school. It's the farthest morning from Saturday, the longest stretch before the next Sabbath comes. It's a lot to survive till the next island of peace.

But Sunday brings the added blessing, the promise of a week in which to accomplish so much. What you didn't finish last week, you'll try to do this week. Maybe this will be the week...if it wasn't last week.

Sunday in Israel is a promise that time continues, even if your heart aches. Right now my heart is aching a lot. But it's sunny and bright in Israel; I have a lot to do this week - and Wednesday night begins the holiday of Rosh Hashana - the beginning of a new year.

So today is doubly special - a new week in which a new year begins. This past Shabbat was the last one for the Jewish year. 5774 is about to end...so Shabbat was about endings - but Sunday is about beginning...so today's blessing is just that - thank you, God for Sundays.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Count Your Blessing - Day 15

Shabbat is a blessing in and of itself - brought each week as a measure of sanity and peace. I could easily pick Shabbat as the same blessing each week, but within that one blessing are so many others.

One of them is the blessing of food. All the rest of the week, we eat and run, run and eat. Shabbat is the one time we make a point of not eating and running. Meals are long and begin and end with blessings. We start with Kiddush, the blessing over the wine (in our case, grape juice because we are so not drinkers).

Each week, I bake challah - beautifully shaped and so delicious. It's sweet, and soft and we heat it up so it is warm too. My husband loves soup - and so that too is part of our weekly meal - many weeks we have fish; this week we had mushroom blintzes with mushroom sauce first.

It doesn't really matter what the food is - it is a blessing nonetheless. So today's blessing is as simple as that. Food.

Yes, food offers the nutrition that we need to survive - but it is so much more. It touches so many of our senses - smell and sight - even touch. It brings pleasure to your heart when you eat a full meal but more when you see your family eat and enjoy the food you have prepared.

Elie "fights" over the end of the potato casserole (kugel) that I make each week. If anyone gets to it before him, "Who ate my piece?"

Last week, Lazer got there first - no problem, Elie turned the Pyrex dish around and carved out the other corner end of it. Davidi loves wings - no matter how many I make, he always wants more. Little Michali loves the squash in the soup...and the turkey.

Aliza was at her school for this Shabbat. She came home to tell me the food was TERRIBLE...and then had a bowl of soup that I'd left warm for her. Food is not the answer to all things; can't achieve world peace and all that but sometimes, it's a simple and easy way to sit down and enjoy time with your family.

So yes, blessings for the nutrition, but also for the simply pleasures of smell and taste...and time.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Truth About Gaza Casualties


Count Your Blessings - Day 14

Today's blessing is my granddaughter - whose first birthday is today.

She is sweet and adorable. She's cuddly and cute. She has started to walk and even say a few words - Mama, Abba, and Bamba - the Israeli peanut butter treat on which most Israeli children are raised.

Beyond the simple marvel of a child, and a granddaughter at that, is the miracle of turning a young man into a father. I watch Elie cuddle her, feed her, comfort her, change her. There is nothing he hesitates to do - he is protective, gentle - in short, Elie with another whole side to him.

He is teaching her to say thank you by handing her food and then telling her "thank you."

One of the most amazing blessings in life is the gift of a child. From the minute they are born, they hold in their hearts the ability to create you anew, as Michali has recreated Elie and as I'm sure my children recreated me; and they have the power to destroy you a billion times over.

They destroy you the first time they tell you they hate you; they destroy you just a little the first time they manage something completely on their own and you know they don't really need you quite so much. They destroy a little piece of you when they become taller and stronger and when they begin to think it is their job to take care of you; and they destroy you a lot when they are angry at you.

Grandchildren recreate you as grandparents, let you marvel at how they have recreated your children. It's only a bit over 3 years since I became a grandparent - first to Amira's son and now to Elie's daughter. Too soon to know if a grandchild can destroy you too. So far, it's been easy.

Each time you see them, the world becomes brighter with the simple movement of their arms spreading out to reach for you. Happy birthday, Michali - we love you SO much!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

In the Merit of Naftali, Gilad, and Eyal

There are no words I can add to this video...except maybe one...Amen


Count Your Blessings - Day 13

Yesterday, I took the bus to work. That freed me to look around, rather than at the road. I got on the bus later than most, was fortunate to get a seat so I can't complain that the seat I got was facing the rear of the bus. I was especially blessed because just sitting there as we drove out of Maale Adumim, circled the access ramp to the main highway, and then climbed up to and in to Jerusalem, I identified, I felt - three separate blessings. So here they are:

Maale Adumim - the city is so beautiful and I love it very much. It sits there perched high on the mountains to the east of Jerusalem and it is a wonderful place to live. I was struck again by its beauty as I watched it grow smaller in the distance. To live in a place you love, is truly a blessing and so I am blessed many times over. I love the house we bought several years ago; I love the neighborhood in which I live. I love the city I came to live in a bit less than 15 years ago, and I love beyond words the country in which I live.

As far as places go, you can't get much more blessed than that.



Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Is He Asleep...or Dead?

This morning I came into the office building where I work. It is a very interesting place - everyone in Jerusalem knows about it. Location-wise, you almost can't beat it.

It is minutes away from Central Jerusalem - a wonderful, easy 5 minute walk from everything. The train stops right in front of the building. Inside there's a world of stores - a fantastic printer that we love to use, a fully-stocked music store, two places that sell, fix and do everything with watches.

A few years ago, there were three sex shops. One was deep in the basement below all the stores. Christian missionaries decided they'd clean up the building and so they spent a fortune buying out that basement sex store owner...who was so happy to take so much money, and purchase himself an even bigger store in the center of the building. Yeah, dumb idea. There are a lot of lawyers in the building, many floors of government offices, some nice cafes, a post office, etc. It also has a permanent and apparently growing native population of cats that have free rein of the building.


The lower level of the complex is a confusing mixture of stores -  a shopper's delight - and a business nightmare. And on top of that, some very interesting characters. One is a woman who seems to believe that cats have a God given right to eat, sleep and do their business where they choose - and that they naturally have more rights than people who pay tens of thousands of shekels to rent the stores because these cats, and the generations before them that she has been feeding for 17 years, have something equivalent to squatter's rights.

So she feeds them inside the building and threatens anyone who attempts to remove the food - that would be several cleaners, me, Elie, Amira, and anyone else she sees near her precious friends. She has harassed us several times (Elie has a delightful video of her ranting). I'm to be thrown in jail and cursed by God, if she has her way.

She can see that I'm a religious woman and so she has informed me, as God's chief right hand adviser apparently, that God will punish me and my children if I dare to harm the cats (which, for the record, I have never threatened to do). All I asked her to do was to feed them outside the building - as the City Inspectors have said she should do.

She informs me that the first Mitzvah (commandment) in the Torah is against being cruel to animals (um...it's not, I promise you. It's about being fruitful and multiplying and I actually think God was talking to Adam and Eve, not the cats). So, in the meantime, the building is battling the cats and for the most part, losing.

Then there are the dozens of people who violate the law and smoke in the
center of the building - all day long. Several of these are people rent or own shops here and so, when I complained because I can't stand the smell of smoking, they get very angry. Apparently, the very strict laws that Israel has passed in the last few years don't apply if you rent/own and if you really want to smoke...One guy told me that since he owns the stores on both sides of one hallway, I wasn't allowed to walk down that hallway. Yeah...that.

And then there was today...when I came in and found a body on the steps near my office. I stopped and looked for a second. Another woman was in front of me - she looked up, saw the young man sprawled there and decided to ignore him and go in her office.

I assumed he was asleep - but really didn't think it was my place to check and so I went to the main information/security desk. That's my office there to the right of the...body. I really didn't want to walk past him. When I got to the information/security desk, I had a very funny conversation with a woman who explained that she can't check because she was alone. This is security? There might be a dead body lying on the floor in the center of the building but you can't check because you have to stay in the glass booth and answer questions? All those cameras you're looking at - how come you can't see the kid?

"Is he asleep?" she asked me.


"I hope so but I think you should check." I said again. "You're all alone here?"

"Well, someone is making the rounds."

You'd think she'd figure this out...but okay, I decided to help her. "Maybe you should tell him to go check...NOW???"

So she did - and a few minutes later, the security guard came and woke the boy up.

But honestly, I thought to myself, this has got to be a comedy - a whole movie could be made about this building.

Next time I get frustrated, I'll tell you about rumors of bodies buried in the cement and the rabbi's curses. Stay tuned.

America is Doomed

I watched this video, that had been posted to Facebook and appeared on my newsfeed. Two-thirds of the way through, I stopped the video and shared it with my Facebook contacts under a post saying "America is doomed."

After hitting Share, I went back to watch the rest. I have to tell you, at the very end, I gasped as if someone had punched me in the stomach and my eyes teared. Of all days...

Count Your Blessings - Day 12

Today's blessing is the morning prayer we say - Modeh Ani - and the wisdom behind it. Each morning, this prayer reminds us that the day itself is the blessing  and we are grateful to have awakened to it.

This morning, I woke up and the first words I said were a prayer taught to children as early as possible. My young grandson already knows this and many other prayers by heart.
מוֹדֶה אֲנִי לְפָנֶיךָ מֶלֶךְ חַי וְקַיָּם, שֶׁהֶחֱזַרְתָּ בִּי נִשְׁמָתִי בְּחֶמְלָה. רַבָּה אֱמוּנָתֶךָ
Translation: I offer thanks to You, living and eternal King, for You have mercifully restored my soul within me; Your faithfulness is great.

The funny part about this blessing being what I chose today is the timing. We rarely go out ... something we keep meaning to change, and we rarely go to movies. We don't have a television so a movie is an especially nice change of pace.

We went to a movie two nights ago called, "Before I Go to Sleep" - basically the story is about a woman who each night goes to sleep and in the morning has lost all memories of who she is - she doesn't remember her husband, her age, even her name. So throughout the day, she learns about herself and then loses all that she has learned by the next morning when her brain tells her she has awakened beside a stranger.

The movie opens with her confusion, and the man explaining his name, her name, her age, and what has happened to her. I won't go on with the story but it reflects a bit on today's blessing. In sleep, we essentially lose control of our surroundings, of all that is happening - or, since that may well be our state throughout the day if we acknowledge that we really can't control everything in life anyway, let's say rather that in sleep we lose our awareness of what is around us.

So the first thing we do when we open our eyes, is thank God for returning ourselves, the essence of what we are, our souls, back into our bodies.

So today's blessing is a reflection of that - each new day, each morning we are granted is  blessing.

There is a fascinating medical aspect of many things in Judaism - not the reason why but the confirmation that it is best, even on the physical side. One example of this is meat and milk. Of all the religions, I believe we are the only ones commanded not to eat them at the same time. So no cheeseburgers or hamburgers with a glass of milk for us. On the flip side, if you are ever told to take iron, the instructions will warn you NOT to drink milk with it (or even several hours after it). Just Google "iron and milk" to see many links verifying this.

Another example of this is the Modeh Ani prayer we say each morning. If you say it in Hebrew, there are 12 words. According to an article published in 2012, there was a neurological conference. Reporting on what happened there, The Huffington Post wrote:
In a United States convention of neurologists from all over the world, one of the main topics was the phenomenon of people fainting upon getting up from bed (when they wake up from sleeping). One of the speakers was Professor Linda McMaron of Great Britain and she gave a lengthy speech regarding her study on this issue.
She elaborated that after many years of study and investigation on this subject, she came to the conclusion that the fainting is caused by the sharp transfer between laying down and standing up. Professor McMaron said that it takes 12 seconds for the blood to flow from the feet to the brain. But when a person quickly stands upon waking up, the blood gets "thrown" to the brain too quickly and the result is fainting. She suggested that each person, even one that does not have a tendency to faint, upon waking should sit on the bed, and count slowly to 12 to avoid dizziness, weakness and/or fainting. Her speech was rewarded with loud applause and enthusiastic feedback.

Another professor, a Jewish man, asked permission to speak. He said, "In our tradition, we recite a prayer of thanks to the Creator of the World for meriting us to wake up healthy and whole. The prayer is said immediately upon waking up, while one is still on the bed and sitting down. There are 12 words in this prayer and if one regulates himself to say it slowly with concentration, it takes exactly 12 seconds to say it. ... 12 words in 12 seconds."

He said the prayer slowly in Hebrew: Mode Ani Lefanecha Melech Chai Vekayam, Shehechezarta Bi Nishmati Bechemla Raba Emunatecha -- "I thank Thee, O living and eternal King, because You have graciously restored my soul to me: great is Your faithfulness." The auditorium burst into a standing applause that roared throughout the auditorium.
 And, as a second blessing for the day - I will bless the labor of women. Twenty-nine years ago today, I was in labor...actually, since Amira was born at 12:15 a.m. - most of my labor was on the 16th, but just 15 minutes into the new day - September 17, she was born and so, a second but more important blessing for me personally...was...is...always will be - my beautiful birthday girl - Happy birthday and mazel tov, Amira!

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