Saturday, October 29, 2005


I went out to my porch this morning to daven....just during this past year, I have been more drawn to some sort of daily prayer, though I must admit that when I'm rushed, I say the bare minimum. However, when I have a few extra minutes, I have started to put more time into prayer, and appreciate the calm and sense of purpose that it gives.

Anyway, while I was davening (praying), I heard the singing from the various homes surrounding me...the Shabbat songs that many families sing. One family had a LOT of guests, and were singing Carlebach tunes...another family, Sepharadim, were singing their own niggunim (wordless tunes) and a third family, Brastlav Hassidim, had their own songs. Where else could one enjoy such an atmosphere! I sorely regret that my children don't have the tradition of singing on Shabbat, but at least they're staying at the Shabbat table longer to talk and enjoy each other's company.

This week we finished the fall holidays. Simhat Torah was the highlight, and for the second year in a row, there was a women's Simhat Torah group in my neighborhood.

Ten years ago, the synagogue that we used to go to, made up of about a dozen "modern Orthodox" families, let women dance with the Torah in the women's section of the synagogue, and on Simhat Torah morning, a large group of Ultra-Orthodox came thundering down to the shul to instigate what can only be described as a pogrom. They broke windows, hit people, and created a situation that, until today, has had reprecussions in the community. It was a psychological blow to a community which had always believed that the different groups were able to get along, and I know a lot of people who were forever changed by that Simhat Torah.

In order to keep peace, the synagogue never again had women dancing with the Torah, but the need and desire never dissappated, and when an ad hoc group started to get together for their own services, and work to make a women's Simhat Torah celebration, a lot of women started to come out of the woodwork to join.

This year was the second time that it happened...the information about the "happening" is passed from mouth to mouth quietly, so that the "wrong ears" shouldn't hear of it. But women from all different communities came to join together to celebrate, and it was quite wonderful.

Tomorrow, Avishai returns to the army, Ariella to school, and the rest of the kids to their school. It will be a relief to have everyone back in their spots, and I'm looking forward to it.
Unfortunately, the biggest relief will be NOT looking at Ariella in her spagetti strap/belly shirts.


Thursday, October 27, 2005

This week in a nutshell....

It would take a big nutshell to describe this last week -- it held the end of Succot, Simhat Torah, the return of most of the kids to school, holiday guests, Shabbat guests, Avishai's stay at home for almost a week from the army, and now, preparations for NEXT WEEK.

Obviously, next week is most on my mind now -- I have 2 weddings that I have to go to, because they're both for good friends' children. I like going to weddings, don't get me wrong. But in this part of the world, going to a wedding almost always involves getting on a bus for a 3-hour ride to the center of the country, where most of the weddings are held. People who organize weddings tell me that, even when both of the partners of the couple are from Tzfat, it's cheaper to charter busses and trek down to the Jerusalem area and rent out a hall there.

Anyway, the stress of travelling twice in one week, not to mention trying to accomplish everything else that I have to do next week (work, tutoring, house, children), plus the worry about Margalit when I'm not home (she's so high-energy and difficult that I feel bad about leaving her to Yochi to deal with) made me dream about these weddings last night. In my dream, I was going to a 3rd this point, a lot of the dream is foggy, but I remember my concerns about how I could manage were the same.

In preparation, I'll try to cook as much for next Shabbat today and tomorrow night, since I'm also making a Sheva Brochot (after-wedding celebration) for one of the couples next Saturday evening, and am supposed to provide a cake for the other couple's kiddush next Shabbat. And, this week, the house just won't get washed down. I'm also considering taking one of the days off of work and travelling to the Jerusalem area to visit Ariella's school, and then continuing on with her to the wedding, since she's also invited. Then she can come home with us on the bus. Oy, I get so tired of planning everything ahead of time!

Tov, enough kvetching...I'll review the holidays later, when I can wrest the computer away from my offspring again. (The only way I got it for so long now was because it's school-time).

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Succa Sit-In

Yom Kippur is now behind us. I again attended the "Alternative Service", and got a lot out of it, even though there are still some things that are a bit too alternative for me. But all in all, I feel as though I really delved into the meaning of Yom Kippur more than I am able to at a traditional service, where I am never able to follow the Machzor and end up day-dreaming about all sorts of things.

The service is mostly done in english, since almost all of the participants are english-speakers. There's no Sefer Torah there now -- the one that they had had to go back to its shul last year, so the Torah reading was just that, a reading. We went around the room, reading the Torah portion, but again, it was the first time that I really thought about the relationship of what was happening in the Torah to what we were experiencing here and now.

And we all had time to do some personal introspection. I tried to do work on myself to release anger, which I realize is not healthy or conducive to my development, but nevertheless overwhelms me sometime. I can't say that by the end of Yom Kippur I felt any less anger at people who I feel have betrayed me or hurt me through this past year, but I recognized what I was feeling.

I did ask forgiveness from a neighbor whom I quarreled with this past year, and felt wonderful afterward, because although I still think that he's not the nicest guy in the world, I felt that we were moving onward (he also asked my forgiveness, since he hadn't exactly been a pleasurable neighbor this year). There's a lot of psychotherapy in the tradition of asking forgiveness of someone who you might have wronged during the past year -- psychologists should take note!

Now, of course, the holiday of Succot is upon us. I bought a simple plastic tarp for a Succa and tied it to the polls that were already on our porch, bought some ready-made roll-up schach, and voila! Succa! I am ready to...of course...start cooking. We are invited to a neighbor's house for the first lunch -- it's a potluck, so we just have to make one dish, though a lot of it, since about 60 people are invited. I need to start surfing the recipie sites on the internet for some good ideas -- it'll be vegetarian as well, which further complicates matters.

I am overwhelmed with food concerns -- cooking for the holidays is crazy. Last night for Shabbat we had chili, which was a success, especially since I could easily take some out and make it vegetarian for Yochi and Ariella. And today we had a house full of guests, so whatever I made was acceptable, since everyone likes to be invited to eat someone else's food, no matter how good or bad it is. (Also, how much could I screw up chicken and mashed potatos?)

Here are a few pictures from the summer. I hope to take more during succot.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Post Bar Mitzva II

Truthfully, I almost feel like "what Bar Mitzva". It all passed so quickly, and we became immersed in other stuff so quickly that I hardly feel as though I'm still in the Bar Mitzva mode.

On the first night of Rosh Hashana, we were invited to friends', which was fun -- the kids had other kids around, and everything was easy and friendly. The first lunch was at home, with a neighbor and a former neighbor with her girls -- the woman, who had been married to an abusive first husband, had remarried about a year ago, and #2 turned out to be abusive too. So the mother and her girls left Tzfat, and are living in a shelter in the center of the country.

I know that my kids are going through their own struggles and behavioral issues, each in their own way. There are some things that I can help them work through, and some that I just have to hope work themselves out. But watching this mother and her daughters brought home for me how crazy a home life can become -- the girls are withdrawn, acting out, and really pushing each other's buttons, not to mention their mother. What a struggle this mother has just to get through each day.

On the first day of Rosh Hashana, Hagai and margalit found a black Lab puppy at shul, and brought her home for "fostering". Luckily, a home was found for her almost immediately, because I really wasn't ready for another animal to move in, espeically not a rambuncous pup. (Though I had told the kids that they should bring her to our yard, rather than leave her to survive on her own).

But I am trying to keep to my Rosh Hashana resolution of trying to help whenever I can, without saying to myself "someone else will do it", no matter how inconvenienced I am. Obviously, there are things that I simply can't do, given the fact that there are 24 hours in a day, I live in a small home with 5 other individuals and their needs, and I'm only human. But I am trying to put myself out whenever it's possible, to help whenever I can. Because the truth is, usually, no one else steps up to do anything. So why not me?

The second night, we were on our own for the holiday, though Avishai had supper with a friend. Very nice to be with the kids -- we did all the "simanim" (symbolic foods) for the holiday, and margalit read the blessings on them, which made her feel special. The conversation was lively and fun, and the girls appreciated it being dairy, though Hagai complained. Afterward, I went for a walk with Margalit and we sat outside a neighbors' house where they were singing and talking till late in the nighttime, which kind of saddened me, because I'd like to do that too. But...

On the second day, I went to shul for services -- traditional services. After the alternative service, I guess I was kind of bored and not "into" it, but I did try. For lunch, we were invited to join friends for a barbque, which was fun. I made kebabs, some with meat and some with tofu. I've noticed that Ariella and Yochi are actually beginning to LIKE tofu. Good, because there isn't a lot to make for someone who won't eat meat, especially at a barbque.

Anyway, I got a bit drunk there. Darned pina-coladas. I have never quite figured out what the big pleasure in drinking is, because when I get drunk, I just go to sleep, which is what I did, on this neighbor's couch. But at some point, I made it to the bathroom and threw up, and I felt like a lot of emotional poison was pouring out of my body. It's been an intense year, this past year, and I have to admit that I started 5766 feeling a lot better!

This next month is going to be nuts -- holiday after holiday. The kids want to be taken camping -- a bunch of neighbors are going camping again, this time at the Kinneret, which is where my kids have wanted to go all the time. Livnot took their tents (darn 'em) so I don't know what I'm going to do about that. But I'll try to figure something out. And, of course, there's all the rest of the cooking, entertaining, preparing, etc for the holiday -- then, after Succot, two families which I'm very close to will be marrying off their kids, so I have to go to both, both of which are in the center of the country.

I'd like to go to sleep and wake up in mid-November.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Post Bar Mitzva Updates

This last week has been so jammed with events, activities, incidents, etc., that I haven't had time to write much.

First of all, the Bar Mitzva went really nicely. It was simply and friendly, which is what I wanted. Hagai read the Parsha and Haftorah smoothly with hardly a glitch, slowly and clearly. It was such a pleasure to hear him, and I was really kind of emotional, hoping and praying that his Bar Mitzva will be the beginning of a strong committment to his Judaism. Afterward, the kiddush was packed, and all the cakes that I'd baked all summer were eaten! After having been in the freezer for weeks, some of them stuck together a bit, but basically, they were fine. Tasty, which is what counted. I don't think that I ate much, actually.

That evening, we had the Melava Malka at LIvnot. Lots of people came, and the only "takala" (hitch) was that the pizzas arrived late. And, of course, as soon as the pizzas came, no one wanted to eat the salads and rolls -- I had SO MUCH left over, it was unbelieveable! I left a lot for LIvnot, but took the tuna salad home, and some rolls, and I'll still be making my work sandwiches with that tuna for months to come. (Of course, no one else around here eats tuna, so it's just me, trying to keep it from totally taking over my freezer).

I took Sunday off of work, thank goodness...I was so physically exhausted from the set-up and clean-up at LIvnot that I walked around in a daze all day. But I had to get to the supermarket to do the next load of shopping, since Rosh Hashana was the next day, and if I waited until later in the day, I wouldn't get my delivery until midnight! Those poor delivery guys -- they probably know every house in town, and get to every single one on the days preceeding a holiday. But I need them too, so I wanted to make sure that I got there.

Rosh Hashana itself was, after all the preperations were completed, quite nice. We were at home for 2 meals, one with guests, and out for 2 meals, one being a bring-your-own barbque. For services, the first day, I went to a neighbor's house where they've been developing a "Tzfat Alternative Service". Quite avant-garde for Tzfat, if only because the service is mixed (men and women sit together). But there are very few traditional prayers -- it's more explainations, meditations, discussions, etc. When I came in, they were acting out the Torah portion for Rosh HaShana, which happens to be the story of Avraham sending Hagar and Ishmael off into the desert. It was interesting -- they really got into the psychology of what was happening in the portion. How did Avraham, who was caught in-between these two feuding women, feel? How did Sarah, who saw her position as matriarch of a nation, feel? What were her personal feelings? She might have been a matriarch, but she was purely jealous. Was Hagar evil? That's how we always imagined her, but she really wasn't -- the Torah never hints that she was. She was just a stranger in the land who had tried to carve out a place for herself in Avraham's home by giving birth to his first-born son, and was now being upsurped by the new arrival and HIS mother.

Anyway, everything was friendly, interesting, meaningful, and in good taste, and although I have some personal conflicts about going the non-traditional route, all in all, I'm glad that I went, and will again.

Got to get to work -- Part II of this week will follow.