Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Elul and things are shifting

I have been noticing a very real change in the air if you will, something most definitely is shifting around us. I cannot attribute it to the most welcome fall weather that seems to be meandering in, nor do I think it is just the normal change of the seasons. If it where, one would feel the retreating of the earth as she prepares herself for her winter sleep. No, indeed it feels much deeper, much higher and more intense. It is the month of Elul, the month of Teshuvah (repentance). It is Our King in the fields waiting for us to approach Him.

"Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi explains...with the following metaphor: The king's usual place is in the capital city, in the royal palace. Anyone wishing to approach the king must go through the appropriate channels in the palace bureaucracy and gain the approval of a succession of secretaries and ministers. He must journey to the capital and pass through the many gates, corridors and antechambers that lead to the throne room. His presentation must be meticulously prepared, and he must adhere to an exacting code of dress, speech and mannerism upon entering into the royal presence.

However, there are times when the king comes out to the fields outside the city. At such times, anyone can approach him; the king receives them all with a smiling face and a radiant countenance. The peasant behind his plow has access to the king in a manner unavailable to the highest ranking minister in the royal court when the king is in the palace.

The month of Elul, says Rabbi Schneur Zalman, is when the king is in the field.

This gives me chills to even think about. Our Holy King, Mighty King, Ribono Shel Olam, (Master of the Universe) is in the fields there where we toil, there where we live, amidst the dirt and mundane waiting for us. You see, He is there waiting for us. He is not in His Palace demanding the formality that is certainly due Him. He has come to His children to await our company. Our Beloved Father is patiently waiting for us with His arms open wide that we may run to him, repent of our wrongs and serve Him all the more. This is not the time for paralyzing fear! No, be valiant and approach the King with confidence. He will receive you.
This is the time for action!
Learn Torah. If you do not learn Torah, begin. Even the smallest morsel will feed your starving soul. If you do learn, learn more and apply it!
Give tzedakah. A penny from the poorest is as a fortune from the very rich.
Pray! Spend time in prayer, communing with HaKadosh, Barukh Hu. In Ivrit (Hebrew) or in your own tongue, talk to your Creator.
Do not fear! Our King awaits us! Fear not but run to Him now and pour your heart out to Him. He awaits us all, His children, our loving Father, Avienu Malkienu, in the field. Stop what you are doing! Stop the busyness! Hear the cry of the shofar! Hear as it beckons to your soul and run to Him there in the fields.
ELUL= Ani l'dodi v dodi li= I am to my Beloved and my Beloved is to me.

Laundry Day Musings

Greetings all! You see here quite the little gadget. It is called the 'Rapid Washer' and you can purchase it at Lehmans.But before you do that, why don't you go visit Sapphire Moon and check out her post on Laundry Day. I was so impressed with her inventiveness that I am seriously contemplating doing this.

Now I am a washboard lady myself, just love it. Really helps with stress and no kidding, you really cannot get clothes near as clean in a washing machine as you can with a washboard. Mind you, I am the only one who washes thier clothes like that at home. My oldest daughter uses it sometimes so I am pleased with that. I wash my clothes with it, but not my sheets or blankets. I do not even have room to dry my sheets outside. For those I have to use my dryer. ::blech:: I use my wonderful wooden clothes drying rack I purchased in Lancaster County for the rest of my stuff.

I just started to use my washboard again this summer and I so enjoy it. I really hope to have a ringer washer again someday also. Even though I grew up in a city, we didn't have a modern washer, we had a ringer washer. I thought it was the coolest thing in the world! And we were able to get SO much wash done. Those of you who have use used them know their great capacity!

There was a time too I remember we did not even have a washer and we washed ALL of our clothing with a washboard. I was about ten years old, and I remember really enjoying it. I also remember getting in the bathtub with my Mother and her taking one end of a pair of jeans and I the other, and ringing them out together. We did the same thing with our towels. Lots of work but I enjoyed it. Maybe that is why I love my washboard? Maybe I enjoy it becuase it is an option I have decided upon and not really necessity. To be sure, I am trying and need to save money and I hope I am doing so by hand washing my clothes, but really I think my personal satisfaction is greater than the monetary value. Really, you could not pay us near enough to do what we do, who could put a price tag on it anyway. They say "necessity is the mother of invention" but I think "mother's are the inventors of what is necessary".

I think Sapphire Moon proves this.

Shalom and happy laundry!

Philly Farmgirl

Friday, September 09, 2005

The Kotel

This is a picture of the Kotel, the Western Wall. My son Ya'akov called this morning so excited! He had been at the Kotel with his Yeshivah and this was his first visit there, he was so thrilled! In fact so was I, it felt as if I had been there too. We sent him with notes to put in the Wall and he accomplished that mission today. I asked him what it was like and he said there were no words to describe it. He did say you really feel like you are right in Hashem's presence, very humbling. He told me when I get there, b'ezrat HaShem, I will spend the first hour crying. I told him I am sure I would. He met some of his friends from home on Ben Yehuda street and he said it was such an incredible time. He just called to wish me a Shabbat Shalom as they were getting ready to leave to the Kotel to bring in Shabbat. When I got off the phone with him I cried, but this time I cried from absolute joy! My son is in Yerushalayim at the Kotel welcoming the Shabbat! Incredible! Im'Yirtzeh HaShem, I too will have this privledge...we all will. My beloved told me to imagine this feeling and then to imagine when the Beit HaMikdash is rebuilt! My mind was blown trying to think of such a thing! When our righteous Moschiach comes and rebuilds our Holy Temple and we are all together in Eretz Israel worshipping our G-d...Oh it truly makes me tremble! May it be soon and speedily in our time!!
"And it is said: The L-rd will be King over the entire earth; on that day the L-rd will be One and His Name one."
"B'yom ha'hu yiyeh Hashem echad u'shemo echad."
Zechariah 14:9

Shabbat Shalom,
Philly Farmgirl

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Moving In

Shalom everyone!
I am going to be moving some things in over the next couple of days, except Shabbat of course, from another blogsite I am on. So bear with me as moving isn't always the neatest thing to do. I am trying to figure out how to add links too. I have some really nice Jewish homeschool links and modesty links I want to put up to share with you. Anyway, thanks for stopping in! Looking forward to seeing more of you!
Shalom u' brachot,
Philly Farmgirl


Greetings all,
I suppose it is due to the life changes that are happening of late, I have just been slacking the past few days. My poor flower beds are so thirsty, my house is in disarray, and I cannot seem to get my room in order. Thank G-d, it is not at a total loss but still, it is not the way I like it. I certainly have never had my home as neat as a pin (don't recall that posek in eishet chayil ) but I do keep it tidy. I just can't seem to find my motivation. This is so unlike me because of all things I love my home, my garden and my handwork. I really love being a homemaker. I am sure I will soon get over this, at least the brunt of it.
You know most women my age still have little ones to keep them busy, not saying that it really makes it easier but I imagine it keeps one distracted. I have my two daughters home with me yet (well, until the older one leaves for seminary) but they are 18 and 14. In fact they are both out right now. (Hope they bring me home some Rita's water ice, kosher!) All my children are growing up and I am still pretty darn young... a little too young to be beginning empty nest. :::sigh::: I am not sad really. I was talking to a friend of mine and telling her although I miss my son so much I surely do not want him to come home until he is done. Strange isn't it? The feelings are all jumbled up there. I really want him to learn Torah and I am thrilled he is in Yerushalayim. She assures me I am normal.
I was thinking yesterday about it and to me it feels like another birthing process. I felt it so keenly when we dropped him off at JFK. On the way home I wanted to groan it felt so primal. It felt like birth. Think about it, for nine months a woman carries a baby. The child grows within her and she is content to nourish and carry him. Then the time comes when the child outgrows the mother's womb. The mother grows weary of carrying the child and both agree it is time to leave. When the actual time arrives mother is so happy! She has dreamt of this day, dreamt of holding her new baby, of seeing him grow, of watching him take his first steps, and she is prepared... or is she? As the contractions grow stronger and closer together she may being to panic. She reminds herself she can do this, but with each surge growing she may begin to doubt herself. Maybe she can't...maybe she doesn't want to. Why can't we just leave things the way they are? Why doesn't the baby just stay there safe within the womb? Why don't we just do this tomorrow? But time and nature have deemed that this moment is the proper moment and indeed there is no turning back. The mother gathers her strength and knows that this is the way it must be, the way she wants it to be. The baby must be born, or else, chas v'shalom, (G-d forbid), he will die.
It is the same when they grow up and leave for the first time. It is time, we all know that, for them to fly from the nest. But that separationion is painful. It leaves an emptiness that wasn't there before. I know it is what is right and I know, b'ezrat Hashem, it is for the good. It is as much a growing experience for me as it is for him, the letting go. I must grow now with my life changes. I must also grow in Torah and miztvot, just like him. I must keep my vision ahead of me and my eye to the future.
My son is laying a Torah foundation that he will build upon for the rest of his life. A Torah foundation I started but he must complete. A foundation that, b'ezrat Hashem, he will have for his own family and children, im yirtzeh Hashem.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Growing Pains

This is my Ya'akov, my firstborn son. He has grown so quickly. This past Sunday, his father and I took him to JFK airport so that he could catch his El Al flight to Eretz Israel. My son will be studying for the year in Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) in yeshiva. This is an incredible opportunity and experience for him and we are all so proud of him. I know that he will grown immensely during this school year and that this is the best thing for him. Even how this whole thing came about, it was obvious that the hand of G-d was in all of this. (As it is in all things) So, Baruch HaShem, B'ezrat HaShem (with G-d's help), Ya'akov will learn much Torah, visit many holy places and have lots fun while he is there. He will be going to the Kotel (Western Wall) every Sunday, im yirtzeh HaShem (G-d Willing.) I really look forward to the man who will come home to me in ten months.
Now although I know all of this, I am still a mama. Today I feel a little better than yesterday and, B'ezrat HaShem, each day will get easier. I try not to think of shabbat as I am not sure how I will get through, and I am definitely not thinking of the Yomim Tovim (holidays). I know Ya'akov will have the absolute best time there though! I miss him so much. I really tried so hard to hold it together and I think I did it for the most part, Baruch HaShem. I did have some moments but I kept them private as I did not want my son seeing his Imma (mother) with a broken heart all over the house. At shul (synagogue) this past shabbat was a little difficult especially when he was called up for an aliyah (torah honor).
Motzei Shabbat (after shabbat) he and I went to Target and picked up a few last minute items. I being a typical Jewish mother, drove him koo koo by insisting on this, that and the other. Aloe Vera gel, witch hazel, Band-Aids, mouthwash etc.,
"Mama do I really need TWO bottles of aloe vera gel?!"
"Of course you do, they are small, see?"
After we returned home I packed his suitcases. It was very therapeutic and I am a pretty good packer. Besides he did not pack near enough clothing, so I snuck in more. (When I spoke to him yesterday I asked about the clothing and he said you packed so much extra! I laughed and told him he will be grateful later.) We had to weigh and measure them as El Al only allows 70 pounds per bag. Now this is for the entire school year and he had to bring blankets, winter coat, boots etc. Let me tell you it ain't easy, but we did it Baruch HaShem! I am sure nobody slept that night but what can you do. When I kissed him goodnight all I could think was that was the last time for ten months I would do that. G-d I miss him so much.
We arrived at the airport in ample time to check in so thank G-d all went well. All we saw there were tons of yeshiva bochurim (yeshiva boys) and it was so neat! I was so excited for my Ya'akov! We hung out at the airport for about three hours but believe me when I tell you the time flew. We went to the airport synagogue to daven (pray) mincha (afternoon prayers) and then rushed to the gate. I cannot express how difficult this part was. He asked if he should get on the plane now and I said no, just five more minutes. I held him and kissed him. I blessed him and prayed for him. Finally I knew I had to let go. I walked him to the gate and waved good-bye...and I cried.
I came home and tried to pull myself together for the sake of my girls. My Racheli is taking it the hardest. They are very close, best friends. It has not hit Tzivya yet, but when it does I think it will be hard. I wandered about the house aimlessly when I came home. I could not find my legs. A dear friend stopped by and let me literally cry on her shoulder and she cried with me. Finally I sat with my girls and tried to relax. We talked and went to bed.
Yesterday was better and I know B'ezrat HaShem, today will be too. He is the first to leave the nest and we are such a close family we all feel it intensely. But we know it was time and we trust HaShem to care for him, obviously far better than I imagined myself ever doing. He is studying in a yeshiva in the holiest place on the planet, I mean what more could I want. This is what we always wanted and dreamed of and Baruch HaShem, it happened! It is just hard and thankfully my friends tell me I am normal. They said they would worry if I reacted otherwise. Those who REALLY know me have told me I am doing fantastic, so I will take those words and be grateful.
Ya'akov has called twice, thank G-d, and he arrived safely and is doing well! This should be only good and bring nachas to us all, B'ezrat HaShem!! May his study help to hasten the coming geulah!!

Torn Together

This is a truly beautiful flash by Tzvi Freeman on Chabad.org. You should really check it out. Only in Israel.

Something I received, thought I would share:Prayer for Katrina's victims

Chief Rabbinate issues prayer for Katrina's victims 6-Sep-2005

The following prayer was composed by Israel's Chief Rabbinate on behalf of the victims of Hurricane Katrina (See below). Rabbi Simchah Roth of Congregation Eitz Hayyim in Herziliya read Psalm 69 on Shabbat.

Our Heavenly Father, Founder of the world and Creator of the universe, compassionate and merciful God,Please spare and show compassion to Your creatures and the world You have created,And especially the inhabitants of the states along the Gulf of Mexico in the United States.Save them from every calamity, from the winds of storm and hurricane, from the waters of the sea, and from every sorrow and evil,And send deliverance and redemption to all those who call upon Thy Name.Save them from the floodwaters and rescue them from the abyss,Lead them to a place of safety, and do not abandon them,And in Your abundant mercy send them redemption in the measure of their loss,And complete healing to the sick and those in pain, and comfort to their souls and spirit.May all the inhabitants of the Earth know and recognize that You are the Supreme King,Who rules the powers of the universe and shows mercy to His creatures, who praise Your great Name, amen.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Patchwork Musings...

I have been thinking about patchwork quilts of late. I have been thinking how art reflects life, or perhaps it is vice-versa. Each patch, each stitch, represents some aspect of a life. One could run quite poetic with this kind of thinking.
Nature also is a good example of this. For example,when we lived in Lancaster County, there was a road not too far from us and a hill that we would drive up. The view from there was truly breathtaking. I would often just stop my car, a very safe and ordinary thing to do in Lancaster County, and just look out over the country side. There you could see all the farmhouses, barns and silos dotting the fields. The different crops colored the landscape with varied hues of green. It was so lovely, with not an electric or telephone line to clutter up your sight.
I recently saw a quote that read, "when life hands you scraps, make a quilt". Isn't that wonderful thinking? If one believes that all that is given is us, good , bad, or indifferent, passes through and comes from the hand of Ha'Kadosh, Barukh Hu, (the Holy One, blessed be He), it stands to reason that all must be for our good. I do not pretend for one moment to understand this concept, but I do believe it must be true. "Gamzu l'tova" we say, "This too is for the good". A high and lofty thought you might think, but indeed it is very simple and very childlike. Those of us who homeschool or have small children know they take delight in the most mundane and even not so lovely things. Memories of my children making mudpies and playing with old cardboard boxes come to mind. How they delighted in the mess they made!From them we learn not to throw out the scraps, the supposed useless, or the not so lovely. We take them and embrace them. We stitch them together and quilt them, binding together our past, our present and our future. Somehow trusting in the end we will take comfort, solace and peace in the beauty of our own patchwork life

Thursday, September 01, 2005

First day of school blues

Greetings all!
Well, yesterday was the first day of school for us here and I can tell you, we have had better. This is our third year with the k12 program virtual charter school. We started it a year after our move to Philly because I was working outside of the home and trying to truly homeschool like we had been was not working out. I was introduced to the k12 program and thought we would try it out. The first two years we felt very good about it. Although it is a cyber school we are in and they provide the curriculum, etc., we still felt like a homeschool. I still felt like a teacher, I was able to help with income and we felt very good about the educational process. Unfortunately this year is quite a bit different. Tzivya is starting the ninth grade and PAVCS is revamped in the high school to be an actual online school complete with virtual classrooms, teachers, assemblies etc. There are almost no textbooks and parents are to view themselves more as 'academic coaches'. Most of the work is online with e-books. We use a fax or e-mail to submit work to the teachers. There are deadlines, quizzes, tests, classroom participation etc. We attended the assembly yesterday and my Tzivya was a wreck. She HATES it! I realize this is strong language, but she really feels strongly about this. She hates the set up of the school and she hates not having books. You must understand when they call us the people of the book, Tzivya takes it quite literally. She loves books! She always has. When she was just a babe before she read a word, I always knew where to find her, in the schoolroom or living room with a dozen (I kid you not) books spread in front of her gazing at them all. She absorbs books! I wish I could read like she does! (A nod to Dr. Raymond Moore who taught me children do not have to be reading my 5 years old and will read and catch up when they are ready. Tzivya started reading officially at eight and was above grade level by the end of that year) She does not like tests, nor is she really terrific at them at all. I suppose that is my fault as I do not believe in tests and never gave them. Why should I? I figured if I am teaching my children I know if they comprehended what I taught or not. I did administer spelling tests, but that was it. Tests are for teachers of thirty students to gauge whether or not their lectures, etc., are working.
It was so difficult for us to make sense of it all. She spent the morning in front of the computer, holding my hand as if I was sending her off to a brick and mortar school and crying. She really dislikes doing school online.
By the afternoon we had the set up figured out and she calmed down a bit, but was no less enthused by the school. Now you must understand how very unusual this is. Tzivya LOVES school! She has always been homeschooled and has thrived and really enjoys it. This is the first year she has cried through a first day. Racheli was concerned about her and was very comforting with her yesterday. I told Tzivya that we would just commit to a semester with the PAVCS. If at the end of the semester she feels doesn't any better about it, we would simply pull out and do something else. I have had two graduate so I think we can handle it.
Yesterday was just so sad and discouraging. Who knows though? After a semester and getting used to it, she may end up loving it. I woke up this morning and prayed today would be better. Im yirtzeh HaShem (G-d willing), B'ezrat HaShem (with G-d's help) it will be a much better day.