This past erev Shabbat I was visiting with a dear lady in my community who is a Russian Jew. She has been through her fair share of suffering both in and out of communist rule. She was showing me some pictures of her mother when she was young and of her aunt with whom she came to America with. Then she showed me her Chanukah menorah. It was nice, nothing fancy, just a plain, nicely sized, servicable brass menorah. She held it up and said, "When my aunt and I come to America, we buy three things. We buy a washer and dryer and a menorah. Now we in America and we can have those things. We buy this menorah because nobody can point at us and say 'You Jew!' We were free." I looked at this once plain menorah and now I saw the most beautiful of menorahs...perhaps as lovely as the one from the Beit Ha'Mikdash. A symbol of priorities in order and first things first. A symbol of miracles and freedom in so many ways. To the Maccabees, to the Jewish people, and to a dear Russian Lady who is finding her way closer to Hashem and has proven that no matter what, the 'pintele Yid' shines bright within each and every one of the Jewish People.
Fall has arrived with all it's riotous fiery colors, but unfortunately for me no actual heat emmanates from them. I am always cold and this can be a bit problematic for me as I do not wear pants. So I am constantly on the lookout for ideas to keep me warm. Here are a few tips I have come up with:
Always layer. If you wear full skirts or dresses it makes it easier. I wear a petticoat, tights and sometimes leggings or yoga stlyle pants under my skirts.
Make sure to use natural fibers, I have found them to retain heat better. Flannel and wool are the best, cotton works well too. I have never used silk but I am told silk long underwear is wonderful!
Invest in long underwear or make some flannel pantalettes.
Use wool socks...My beloved bought me a pair last year and I cannot tell you how much I love them!
Use sweaters or shawls. Sweaters are more practical but shawls...well, I just love them, they feel so cozy and snuggly. My favorites are my big black Amish shawl and the one I purchased at a Civil war re-enactment.
For those who cover their heads, I use cotton berets or heavier scarves to retain the heat. And I always cover my ears...I feel warmer.
Parshat Bereishis Let there be light (Genesis 1:3)
What Is A Chassid?
In 1907, when Rabbi Sholom DovBer of Lubavitch was staying at the health spa in Wirtzburg, Germany, a group of chassidim came to spend a Shabbos with the Rebbe. Among them was Reb Yosef Yuzik Horowitz, his son-in-law Reb Feivel Zalmanov, and Reb Elimelech Stoptzer.The Rebbe prayed for many hours that Shabbos morning, as was his manner. Meanwhile, the chassidim made kiddush and consumed a respectable quantity of 'l'chayim's. Later, when the Rebbe had finished and they sat with him to the Shabbos meal, Reb Yosef Yuzik asked:"Rebbe, what is a chassid?" Replied the Rebbe: " A chassid is a lamplighter. The lamplighter walks the streets carrying a flame at the end of a stick. He knows that the flame is not his. And he goes from lamp to lamp to set them alight." Asked Reb Yosef Yuzik: "What if the lamp is in a desert?" "Then one must go and light it," said the Rebbe. "And when one lights a lamp in a desert, the desolation of the desert becomes visible. The barren wilderness will then be ashamed before the burning lamp." Continued the chassid: "What if the lamp is at sea?" "Then one must undress, dive into the sea, and go light the lamp." "And this is a chassid?" Reb Yosef Yuzik asked. For a long while the Rebbe thought. Then he said: "Yes, this is a chassid." "But Rebbe, I do not see the lamps!" Answered the Rebbe: "Because you are not a lamplighter." "How does one become a lamplighter?" "First, you must reject the evil within yourself. Start with yourself, cleanse yourself, refine yourself, and you will see the lamp within your fellow. When a person is himself coarse, G-d forbid, he sees coarseness; when a person is himself refined, he sees the refinement in others." Reb Yosef Yuzik then asked: "Is one to grab the other by the throat?" Replied the Rebbe: "By the throat, no; by the lapels, yes."
For those who want a small "taste" of what Uman is like on Rosh Hashana, visit: www.inntv.co.il There should be three smaller boxes on the right side, one of which says in Hebrew, "Uman Rosh Hashana." If you click on it you'll be able to see an 11-minute video of some of the highlights of a trip to Uman.
So the chaggim (holidays) are completed and we enter back into reality. Back to the mundane. For me that means setting my home back to order, laundry, getting a curriculum set up for my 14 year old, (particularly focusing on Hebrew studies), taking care of the little neshama I care for again (her Mama must sadly return to work too), and getting some projects going. Oh yes...and planning my shabbat menu. Don't know that I shall get all of that done. I am going to TRY to not make myself coo-coo and just set one goal up at a time. I don't think it is nice to run screaming back into the world, too much like plunging into a freezing pool of water. I shall endeavor to ease myself and my family back into routine taking with us as much as we can of the simcha, learning and strength that we have gained from our most holy month of Tishrei.
I recently learned this and I think this is so precious. Shemini Atzeret literally means "the assembly of the eighth (day)." I was just taught that this day is much like when a King has a huge feast who has invited all His subjects to share in. The subjects all leave when all is said and done but the King has enjoyed himself so much that He asks us his family to stay another day. He just wants this extra day to be alone with us. Sukkot is a holiday intended for all of mankind, but when Sukkot is over, the Creator invites the Jewish people to stay for an extra day, for a more intimate celebration. I think this is so beautiful, so tender. Shemini Etzeret/Simchat Torah, such a time of rejoicing in the love of our King, our Creator, our Father!
There are days and then there are DAYS. Yesterday was one of those DAYS! It started out just fine, our Hebrew School where I teach kita Gimel, had a small party. They came to our sukkah first where my daughters set up a lovely snack time for them. Afterwards we walked back to the shul where there was a surprise pizza party waiting for them. The children really seemed to enjoy themselves and it was a great morning. But oy vey, as the day progressed I began a slow, slippery slide out of control in a downward spiral. I didn't see it coming at all. It was a such a slow chain of minor irritating events that began and ended up culminating with me locking my keys in the car at the Target parking lot. That was it! I had it and I snapped out on my girls. I was so upset and I could not believe it. Where had my serenity gone? Where was my simcha from the night before? Where was my spirituality? Where was my mind? Finally I called my beloved (who was in NJ working) as I truly had no idea of what to do next and he told me to call the police. After only twenty minutes a very nice officer showed up and unlocked my car. When I finally sat down in my unlocked car and calmed down, I cried, I apologized and asked for forgiveness of my girls (and Hashem). I could not believe I had gotten to this point. How could I have gotten so upset and angry? What happened and how could I prevent this from happening again? It has occurred to me today that what may have happened was much like what seems to happen to many expecting and nursing Mommies I come across who do not use doulas or other support systems. They go into labor with an attitude something like, "I can do this on my own, I know what I am doing. I read a book, had a class, I feel great and I will be fine." Then when they are in the throes of labor (or even sooner) and the nursing has glitches they end up with an epidural, c-section and running to the nearest store to purchase formula. I am in no way saying that if a doula is present that these things will never occur but there is enough research to support that the use of a doula certainly lessens these occurrences. Spiritually it can happen much the same way. There I was riding on my high from the Chaggim, thinking I had it under control and that I could do it. I was fine. As little by little things began to deteriorate before me, I never once called out for help. It never occurred to me that I needed it. I just continued in my 'labor' spiraling downward and found myself losing more and more control until blammo, I am hit upside the head! Had I just reached out my hands to Hashem, had I just taken a second to cry out for help, I believe I could have avoided this fall. What a lesson this is for me. I must always try to keep in mind that number one, Hashem and not me, is in control and all things happen for a reason and for ultimate good. Second that I need to be keenly aware that I need help and support to get through each day, even for the seemingly 'minor' happenings. And third that I cannot just ride high on energy from yesterday. If Hashem is constantly recreating the universe, that means that I constantly need to be in connection with Him, moment by moment in the present, and not think that the fuel I received yesterday is enough to go on and take me through. I need to pause and pray. I need to pause and think. I simply need...
"Just wanting to speak to God is in itself a very great thing. Even if all you can say to God is 'Help!' it is still good. Repeat this over and over again, until God opens your lips and words begin to flow from your heart." ~Rebbe Nachman
"Whoever did not see the rejoicing of the Beis Hasho'evah, never saw rejoicing in his lifetime." So intense were the festivities associated with the water drawing that this is what our Sages are quoted as saying in the Mishnah. This is in accordance to the verse that says,"And you shall rejoice before Hashem, your G-d, seven days." Vayikra (Leviticus) 23:40. Our shul had a wonderful simchas beis hasho'evea last moztie shabbat and that was in spite of the rain that was coming down quite whole heartedly! The juggler was there and he was wonderful, the children of all ages enjoyed him. He even managed to go outside and juggle fire when the rain cleared up. There was music and room enough for everyone to dance! Our beloved Rebbetzin made sure to encourage all of us ladies to dance and dance we did, with all our hearts! It was just wonderful and so much fun! I kept thinking to myself, "This is just practice, imagine what the rejoicing will be when our righteous Moshiach rebuilds our Holy Temple and we can truly see the water drawing! To see the tzaddikim rejoicing, to be in our Holy Temple and worship Hashem...such joy cannot even be imagined!" B"H! May it be come speedily and in our time!
The chaggim (holidays) have been just wonderful! Busy with much to do and so spiritual with much to learn. We have had the pleasure to have dined in three sukkot, including our own. The meals have all been delicious flavored with sweet friendship and beautiful words of Torah. We are all looking for the big Simchat beit haShueva motzei shabbat. They close off the whole block and there will be music, things for the children and even a fire juggler! If you are in Philly come on over and join us! It has just been wonderful and we still have Shemini Etzeret and Simchat Torah to look forward too! I just love this time of the year! Here are some pics of our family Succah, since you all cannot come and sit in it we can have a virtual visit °Ü°.
Vayikra (Leviticus) 23:39-43 But on the fifteenth day of this seventh month, when you gather in the crop of the land, you shall celebrate Hashem's festival for a seven-day period; the first day is a rest day and the eighth day is a rest day. You shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of a citron tree, the branches of date palms, twigs of a plaited tree and brook willows; and you shall rejoice before Hashem. your G-d, for a seven day period. You shall celebrate it as a festival for Hashem, a seven-day period in the year, an eternal decree for your generations; in the seventh month you shall celebrate it. You shall dwell in sukkot (booths) for a seven day period; every native in Israel shall dwell in sukkot. So that your generations will know that I caused the Children of Israel to dwell in sukkot when I took them from the land of Egypt; I am Hashem your G-d.
My baby sister has just had her first baby! A fine and very handsome (poo poo poo) boy! He weighed a very nice 6lbs 12oz, 19 inches long and was born the second day of Sukkot at 1:10 PM...which is why I was unable to get there to be her doula. She also lives about an hour from me. :-( Mom and her best friend were there so thank G-d she did have support. Mommy said she was awesome and from what I can tell she really did a great job! I am sorry I was unable to be there I so wanted to help with her birth, but I was able to pray. A friend of mine who was able to, got messages for me and told me when the baby came, which was so very nice. B"H, the new Mommy and baby are well and healthy and we are so happy for our new little addition to the family! WELCOME LITTLE ONE!
I am not sure what is up with me. Could be because it is erev Yom Kippur or because I haven't gotten to speak with my son yet and he will soon be bringing the fast. I don't know, I just feel so weepy...and no, nothing hormonal is happening this moment. How can it be that this morning I was feeling so well and now I just want to cry and cry. This is such a holy time and time of judgment and forgiveness. A time of teshuva and beginning anew. I believe Hashem will forgive all of us His children but I still have this nervous twinge in my stomach. I know His love for me, for all of us is immense but I still feel this way. I suppose it would be the same way if I were meeting an earthly monarch. Standing before a king is no casual occurrence. One does ready oneself and there is that intense feeling of awe and fear. I am not afraid in as much as I think I am going to be ZAPPED ( well, at least I hope not) but I do have a fear. The King of Kings, the King of the Universe, Master of all will be/ has been convening court. While I do not presume to understand any of this, it sends jolts all through me. Forgiveness is such a gift, but not to be taken lightly. We must not take it lightly, I must not take it lightly. I want to truly start anew. I look forward to Kol Neidre, with trepidation to be sure but I look forward to it nonetheless. Such a holy time, such an emotional time. I suppose my feelings are just that, my feelings. I wish you all gmar chatimah tovah and an easy and very meaningful fast. May we all be sealed with good health, good life, parnasa and growth in torah and mitzvot!
Today is my son Ya'akov's English Birthday. His Hebrew birthday is the 27th of Tishrei. He is 20 years old. My G-d when did this happen? Wasn't he just born? Wasn't I just nursing him? Didn't he just take his first steps, become bar mitvah, turn 18? Time is so fleeting and moments so precious. Here I am with my tzaddik of a son who is constantly a strength, encouragement and blessing to my life. May he blessed for a happy and healthy new year, may he be blessed with parnasa, good health, deveykut with Hashem, and continue to grow in Torah and mizvot. Amen v'amen. Happy Birthday Ya'akov! I love you and I am proud of you!
Yesterday was a day of special moments. I suppose all days are like this, but I happened to pay a little more attention and practice gratitude when they occurred. First of all my mother called me at about 6:15 in the morning. This is a perfect time to get a hold of me and I was so thrilled she called. Her timing is getting so much better as she used to have this habit of calling me erev shabbat either when I was in the throes of cooking or MINUTES before candle lighting. But she and I are both early birds so I told her ,"Y'know Mommy, I am up too when you are, I would love to talk to you when we both have time." We had a great conversation yesterday, what a nice way to start the day. Another moment occurred as I was walking out the door yesterday morning. When I opened the door I noticed an envelope in the doorway. On it was Racheli's name and on the other side was a note that said "Rachel use this to go to Israel." I handed it to her and was amazed. She almost cried and I did cry. HaShem is so good to us. As I was walking down the street I thanked Him for showing us such kindness. It has been a topic of much tefila (prayer) the financial part of Racheli's trip. Our Father hears us. Later in the day I was caring for two little ones, the neshama I usually nanny and her tzaddik of a big brother. After lunch I had hoped he would take a nap for me as I knew this was also what his Imma would want. I suggested watching Uncle Moshe. "Uncle MOISHY!" I was corrected. I laughed and told him that my Sephardi accent was getting in the way, sorry. :-) We all snuggled up and watched this very sweet video and in fifteen minutes he was asleep. The baby went to sleep soon after and I had about an hour of silence I used to write a letter to my son. When they woke up we snuggled some more and he napped a few minutes more I thanked HaShem for the gift of a child falling asleep on my lap. What a beautiful feeling of love I was gifted with. When he woke up we read some books and watched the Kotel Cam. Why the Kotel cam? My son had just called to tell me he was going to be there and although we couldn't actually see him, we should see the tremendous crowd at the Kotel. About an hour or so later, after I arrived back home, the phone rang. My youngest picked it up, smiled and then handed it to me. I said hello and heard noise...no, not noise, once I focused I realized it was Ya'akov and I was listening to selichot at the Kotel. I couldn't believe it. I listened and I cried and cried. How beautiful it was! To hear the prayers there in Yerushalayim! It was AMAZING and felt like I was there. We lost connection a couple of times and I would call back and listen more. Then I hung up and waited to hear from him until it was all over. I thanked him for such a gift, he said he hoped I would enjoy it. How did I merit such a son? Baruch HaShem!!! Kisses from my daughters' and my beloved coming early from work topped the day of special moments. I am a grateful lady, very grateful indeed.
Greetings all, First I want to wish everyone a very happy and healthy new year! I know it has been sometime since I have blogged here, I have missed you all. Indeed, "Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans." The holidays, although later this year than last, came upon me so quickly. The month of Elul (September) seemed to fly by me. I think with Ya'akov leaving and school starting up here again it took me a bit to find my feet again. But little by little we are getting back into the swing of things, even with the hectic schedule of the Chaggim (holidays) upon us. I know so many of you have been eagerly waiting for an update on my son Ya'akov and I do apologize for the delay. First, I want to thank all who have kept him and my family in their prayers, they are much appreciated. He is doing so well, Baruch HaShem! His studies are going well and he enjoys them so much. It is amazing to me how much he is learning and how he gives it over to me. He even has a few "candy classes" as he calls them, things like "Jewish Philosophy in Contemporary Issues," that he really enjoys. I had to laugh when he called them "candy classes," they sound pretty intense to me, but then again, since he also studying Chumash, Rashi, gemara etc. I am sure that the English classes are rather relaxing for him. He has gone on several trips since he has been there. Of course as I said in an earlier post they go to the Kotel every week. They have also been to the Dead Sea and he floated in it. He said you actually cannot sink in it, you just kind of bob around! He has also been to the Kineret, Tiberius and the Holocaust Museum. There he heard a survivor speak. Of course one can only imagine the intensity of that experience. We have several survivors here in the neighborhood and when I saw their tattoos it sent shivers down my spine, I was in the presence of miracles. Motzei Yom Kippur, he is travelling to the holy city of Tzfat (G-d willing)! He will be there for shabbat and I am so excited for him! We speak several times a week, thank G-d for a good friend providing us with a very inexpensive calling card to Israel. He is eager to receive our letters too. A young lady in the neighborhood told us it is a very big deal to receive mail in school so I am really trying to be diligent about sending him letters. Racheli is busy finishing up her final credits for high school and getting her things in order so she can also go to Israel for school. She is hoping to leave for the spring semester. She was just hired as a mother's helper for several hours a day. It is just two doors down from where I nanny so that is kind of neat! She will be caring for two little fellas and helping Mama make supper, straighten up, etc. She is excited as that money will all go for her trip to Israel. I am excited for her as she will have opportunity to see how another household is run. Tzivya is bearing up with school well but we will be dropping out after the Chaggim. I simply do not like the program for our family (I am sure other families are enjoying success so this is no reflection on the actual K12 High School program). My daughter, although trying very hard to stay and do her work b'simcha (with joy), is very unhappy and as I have said before we did not homeschool to be unhappy. So I am presently looking into the PAHomeschoolers High School diploma program and the Susquehanna High School Diploma Program and decide between the two. I still have curriculum so I do not think there will be much if any of a financial issue. Besides, with all the work she is doing in school I am not able to squeeze any lifeskills, homemaking and Torah studies in there and that is not acceptable. The holidays started off very nicely. We ate home both nights and were invited out for both lunches. With the services being what they are we did not eat until almost 3PM but it suited well. The first day just flew by! By the time we were done with the davening (praying) it was 2:30, then we went to lunch at a friend's home. After that was finished it was almost 4:30. We went home for a short bit and left for shul (synagogue) to be there to daven mincha (afternoon prayers) and then to go to tashlich. We go to a lovely park about a mile from our home that has a nice stream in it. In spite of the cloudy day and the stream being very low it was an uplifting experience. I just love seeing everyone out and about. Almost everyone goes there for tashlich from all the different synagogues. When we lived in Lancaster it was a less dramatic experience as we used to just walk across the pasture to the cow creek. °Ü° Convenient yes, but not communal. When this was all said and done is was almost time for ma'ariv (evening prayers) and time to eat again! Our meal was simple the second night since we had ample left overs and no one was really hungry after our delicious lunch out. The second day was a bit longer but not much. The services ended a bit sooner as did lunch. I visited with another friend later in the day as did my girls. My beloved went home and rested a bit before he walked over to retrieve me and we in turn went to retrieve my youngest. We were home for a while and then another friend come over until Rosh Hashanah ended. Although a bit longer it was a very beautiful day. Well, I suppose this post is long enough. I am going to try to post more often and not as long. This will be a real trick for me °Ü° G'mar chatima tovah!
I am Lover of my Beloved, Imma to my three blessings, a dreamer of dreams and maker of my home. I have homeschooled now for about 13 years and it is our way of life. I am a preschool teacher, doula, childbirth advocate, Jill-of-all-trades, Mistress of none and aspire to someday become the local village Wise Woman.