Sunday, December 25, 2005

Chanukah 2005

I arrived home yesterday just in time to light Chanukah candles. We have a tradition of everyone lighting their own Menorah, so, since Avishai was home and Ariella wasn't, we had 5 "chanukiyot" going next to the windows. It's so beautiful. I had wanted to get one of the Chanukiyot that people put outside their gates, covered with glass...I think that they're lovely. It's so special to walk around on an evening during Chanukah and see these Chanukiyot lit up outside people's gates and doors. (The tradition is to "publicize the miracle of Chanukah", so people place their Chanukiyot somewhere where other people can see them burning). Next unexpected expense of the month was a hot water urn for Shabbat. Our old one was blowing the electricity every time I plugged it in, and since the weather was COLD and RAINY for Shabbat, I didn't think that anyone would appreciate not having hot water for hot drinks all Shabbat. So there was no extra money this time.

On Shabbat, I had agreed to host 3 people from Ascent, the local youth hostel which sets up guests for Shabbat meals. I told them that I would be hosting 3 of their guests who had contacted me during the week -- a young man whose mother I knew 25 years ago in Detroit, as well as his 2 friends. They would be sleeping at Ascent, and would come to me for lunch. I guess that Ascent got confused, because I got those 3 people, PLUS 3 more! Thank goodness I'd done a good bit of cooking, but EVERYTHING was finished! No leftovers! That made me feel good.

After we lit the candles, I went shopping. The baked goods counter was MOBBED -- everyone wanted to buy some jelly donuts, the traditional food for Hanukah. I stood in line too, so my kids can't say that they were deprived.

I remember last year, when I went shopping after candle-lighting. At about 6:00p.m., an announcement went out over the loud-speaker..."we will be lighting Chanukah candles at the front desk. All customers are invited to join us". And all the staff abandoned their spots for 10 minutes, and a lot of customers left their baskets where they were, while everyone who hadn't lit already joined the store manager for the store candle-lighting.

Funny...I didn't think anything of it at the time, but last night, I realized that I had missed the group candle-lighting, and was kind of sad about it.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Two schnorrers

One fact of life in Tzfat are the schnorrers. The people who are always asking for money.

There are 2 types: the people who stand on the street with their cups out, and the people who go door-to-door.

I try to always give everyone the door-to-doorers at least 10 shekels, because I figure that they're working a bit, even though the "work" is schnorring.

And I try to give the schnorrers with the cups something every day as well.

Because my office is on the street, with the door always open, I have my "regulars" who come in once a week (I told them that I could give each one 10 shekels once a week, or divide up their take into smaller amounts if they want to come in more often -- they prefer the once-a-week routine). There are about 5 people who I see this way, once weekly, rain, shine, snow, or whatever. And then, of course, there are those who come in infrequently.

This morning, I saw one of my regulars coming by, just as I was walking out to get a cup of coffee. I told her that I'd be back in a moment, and she waved and said "OK, I'll be there in a few moments". Then, I watched her schnoor from one of the street schnorrers. And he gave her something!

And they both smiled!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Chanukah prep

Thoroughly enjoyed this Chanukah Card. Definitely put me in the mood!

Thursday, December 08, 2005


I forgot to mention one of the funeral customs that I saw at Mark's funeral, which I found very meaningful. First time I'd ever seen it.

After the burial, when the family was getting ready to leave, everyone stood in two lines, and the family passed through the lines, seeing everyone who had come to pay their respects to their husband/father. The boys took off their shoes. Don't know why. It was one of the most powerful Jewish customs that I'd ever seen.

Last night, my daughter came in late, bringing a puppy with her. She was walking with her boyfriend and they found this puppy huddled for warmth next to a dead cat. So, being her mother's daughter, she brought it home. Of course, I immediately said "only outside". And of course, it whined and whimpered and woke up the rest of the house, while Ariella went to sleep! And now, of course, it's curled up next to Ariella while she sleeps so that I don't have complaints from the rest of the neighbors.

What am I supposed to do with this creature?

Time to daven. This past year, I've made time every morning for a few basic prayers. It's a great comfort to me, and connects me with God in a very concrete way. There are all sorts of "segulas" for bringing good fortune...the Chabadniks put a few coins in a tzdekka box when they pray, which I also do (why not?) and I also use the time to say a few psalms for the welfare of my children. When I say the psalms, I ask God to make them "safe, happy, and healthy, mentally, emotionally and physically". I see what happens to a person when their emotional health is unstable -- they become someone else. I can only pray...God has to take care of the rest.

A new neighbor is coming tomorrow for lunch, along with some others. The new guy seems bright, intelligent, warm and friendly....nice to have some new friends. And I crave the kind of adult conversation that my Shabbat lunches, with guests, gives me. Friday nights I generally reserve for the family, and try to give the kids my attention. (Though they often bring friends). But Saturdays I feel that I'm allowed some time to share ideas and thoughts with people my own age.


I received a call on Tuesday morning, telling me that a friend had passed away. The guy was about 50, and had been in good health, except that he had a "bit of flu" for the past few days. Monday evening, he went into the bathroom and never came out -- his teenage sons found him.

Something like this is a terrible shock to all, and brings with it a good deal of thought and self-evaluation.

First of all, the shock -- how does such a thing happen to a healthy man, not old, who lived a good and peaceful life? Why would God take him? He has four children, aged 17 - 7...why would God take their father from them?

And then, the self-evaluations, thoughts, internal dilemnas.

This was the first time that I had been to an Israeli funeral. At a funeral, the body is covered with a blanket and the man's tallis and laid on a table, and people circle him while the eulogies are given.

Several people spoke at this funeral, his son's teacher, a rabbi from a neighboring Hassidic shul where Mark sometimes prayed, the Rabbi of Tzfat, a friend, and his wife.

Each time, what was spoken of was Mark's ever-present smile, his determination to take care of his family with joy, his devotion to his Jewish studies and his committment to his community. It was a moving tribute to a simple man who will forever be remembered not for being famous or doing something noteworthy, but for bringing joy to the people around him.

It, of course, made me think of how I want to be remembered, and I hope that even in my present unclear circumstances -- will I soon be divorced? Will I be able to keep my house? -- I always continue to act in a manner which earns the respect of those around me.

Also, for the first time, I wondered about people who I know who have behaved dishonorably. What can one say when their time comes to lie on that table? That was very emotional for me, thinking about that question, yet it brought certain issues in my life to a point of closure.