Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Are you on a big fish?

The question the Rabbi brought out last night was why did Moshe Rabbeinu name his sons Gershom (I was a stranger in a foreign land) and Eliezer (The G-d of my father, came to my aid and rescued my from Pharaoh's sword.)? Apparently he was living a decent life in Midian with his wife, kids, and some sheep. Why give the children names that had to do with his past? Why not name them Simcha or Tov to reflect his life now?

So the answer comes to us from a story from the Gemara, tractate Bava Batra.

(These are from my notes not direct quotes, so the story is paraphrased.)

The Pardes Yosef tells the story (aggadah):

We were riding in a boat on very rough waters when we came across what appeared to be an island but was actually an enormous fish. We sailed the boat to the island/fish and got out. We immediately set up a campfire and began to cook. The fish then rolled over because of the heat and tossed us back into the stormy waters. Fortunately the boat was not too far away and we were able to swim back and pull ourselves back in to safety.

So now you may ask, 'What does this story have to do with the price of shwarma in Tel Aviv?' Well, I'll tell ya',that boat is Hashem (I think the Rabbi mentioned it was Olam Haba) but the safety of the boat is Hashem. The storm tossed waters are our lives and the fish, well that my friends is the galut, the exile. Here we are in the safety of our boat, managing to get through the tumultuous waters of life and we come across what looks like a pretty nice island. We suddenly think we found someting permanent, an island in the storm, and we immediately set up camp. We build our campfires, and then we build houses, we set up shop and then get down right comfortable. That is until the fish gets sick of us and decides to toss us from his back and then back into the waters we go! Thankfully our Boat is never too far from us, although we may have to swim like crazy to get there, the boat (Hashem) is always near.

Moshe Rabbeinu named his sons, Gershom and Eliezer because he understood this concept. He never forgot Who and where his home was no matter how 'comfortable' life in Midian may have been treating him.

So my two questions to all of us are:

1.Just how comfortable are we on this big fish we are riding?

2.How close are we keeping the Boat?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Question of Aliyah part 2

My daughter has returned from Israel less than enthusiastic this time around. Don't get me wrong, she had a wonderful time and it was amazing, but she saw alot of secular Israel and the less than spiritual side this time around. When she was there two years ago, she was relatively sheltered by her seminary, this time, she had to do a little spiritual fighting. It wasn't easy. I feel her vibe and feel the reality of the fact Eretz haKadosh is not always so kadosh.

Here is a great Q.& A. post over on A Simple Jew's site with Akiva of Mystical Paths. He and his family have made aliyah not too long ago so everything is very much in perspective. He is realistic and very encouraging.

Like I said yesterday, it is just a matter of Hashem's timing. My mind has not changed. We just might be having a longer engagement than first anticipated, but the wedding will happen, b'ezrat Hashem!

The Question of Aliyah part 1

Two years ago when I visited Israel for the first time in my life I fell madly and passionately in love! I couldn't believe it myself when it happened. everything but everything was beautiful. Every rock, every tree glowed with such loveliness that I was swept away with pure love. There were no questions to be asked, we were moving to Israel and making aliyah.

Since that initial romance there have been many folks who for whatever reason feel the need to tell my family and I the 'reality' of my lover.

"How will you make a parnasa?"

"What do you plan on doing to make a living?"

"There is no money there!"

"Life is hard there."

"Everything is expensive there."

and on and on and on they drone...

and you know what, all of their statements are quite correct.

But here is my reality, I have lived in the United States all my life. I have been poor, lived in a ghetto, been on welfare, was a single mother, been down to a can of green beans, been down to a bag of flour, lived in an apartment with no furniture, had no heat one winter, etc. We have had our share of struggles and hardships right here in the good ole' USA. And through it all we saw the most important reality of all: Hashem Hu Ha Melech. G-d is the King. He ALWAYS but ALWAYS made a way for us. He never let us starve or freeze. Somehow, even though many tears may have been shed our prayers were heard and Abba came through. He always does.

The true reality is, when we move to Israel, whether it be a year from now or ten years from now, it will be when Hashem says so. Not before and not after. It will be as easy or as hard as it is supposed to be. The only questions that will remain is will I trust Him and will I merit to actually live there.

That my friends is the reality.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Letting go and Letting G-d parent my adult children

Yippee! My daughter is back home again after two weeks in Eretz Israel. Needless to say I am so happy. I missed her so much. I know it was only two weeks but it felt much longer to me.

You see, this twenty year old woman I had the privilege of birthing is not just my daughter, she is my friend. I realized how she has become so much of a friend to me while she was gone. It amazes me. Talk about beyond your wildest dreams! She is so much a part of everything I do and am, and yet she is very much her own person. That is the part that is not always so easy.

Parenting adults, I am convinced, is far harder than parenting the little ones. When they were little it seemed fairly obvious what my role was and what I was supposed to do. Guide them, protect them, feed and nurture them. Although these tasks were not always walks in the park for me, it was simple and clear cut as to what was expected of me as a parent.

Now that they are adults it does not seem so clear. For me it has been a struggle to strike a balance of respect for their person hood and knowing when to speak and knowing when to shut up. Yep, that shutting up is a toughie. Allowing her the space and trusting her is just downright frightening to me. Yes, I know she is capable and competent etc., but my own experiences scream out at me to say something! But you see, that is the problem. They are MY experiences not hers. I made some other than wise decisions in my life when I was her age. She on the other hand has a self worth and faith that I never had at that age that enables her to make such good decisions. Decisions that blow me away! She has a head on her shoulders that I never had. What can you say to that except, Baruch Hashem, Praise G-d!

And then there is the issue of emunah, absolute faith, in G-d. Knowing that He is far better able to guide her than I ever will be. That He loves her more than I do, and that He has her best interests more at heart than I do. It's a struggle for me, but a struggle in vain. What I mean to say is, why do I struggle? It is just more growing pains, but more for me than anyone. As I let her grow, I too will grow. To be sure, this time sure keeps me praying. What choice do I have? I could keep trying to control, but the only one I can control is me. I could continue to struggle and fight but I am fighting with no one but myself.

I know I am still needed and necessary, but in a far different way. She still needs me to guide, protect, feed and and nurture her but in a deeper and not so obvious way. The trick is in figuring this out, and since I am just starting out on the leg of the journey it is a trick I have not yet mastered. So I guess the best thing for me to do is to 'let go and let G-d', which is a decision that is not easy because, well, I am me after all, but it is the one that will not only benefit me, but everyone I love too.

Wish me luck!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Shakia West

Note: Post rated PG for mild use of language and strong use of opinion.

I don't know this young lady. More than likely neither do you. But what happened to her should not happen to anyone, anywhere. She is a 15 year old girl from West Philadelphia who was brutally attacked last Monday by 6-10 other girls with a box opener. I heard about Miss West on my drive this morning as I was flipping through the radio stations. A local talk show forum was speaking about her. Now this was the first I heard about this heinous attack because it is not my habit to listen to the news. It severely depresses me to do so. Accuse me of living with my head in the sand, but that is what helps keep me sane. But for some reason I had to hear this. When I did learn about this attack I was horrified! This girl was at the bus stop with a friend when a Dodge charger pulled up and apparently ten girls ages 14-17 attacked Shakia's friend. When Shakia tried to jump in and help she was rewarded with a trip to Children's Hospital and 114 stitches, 60 of which were to sew her nose back on. No one seems to know why the attack occurred, some are saying it was jealousy. The worse part about this was they were driven there by the Mother of one of the attackers! Can you imagine, a mother drove her child and her friends to attack someone else's child?

Is this is what our society is degenerating to?

Don't give me the plethera of supposed excuses as to why this happened. Poverty, music, the media don't help but there just aren't any real excuses. Even animals rarely attack in this way, let alone human beings.

Yes, I know this happens all the time, but for some reason I feel so struck by this young lady. Younger and younger they seem to be getting. Parents really don't seem to care about, let alone love their children. Yes, I blame the parents. What are they doing? Obviously not raising their children! Obviously not giving a crap about what they are doing! Apparently they are just arming them with a variety of weapons.

"Here honey, here's a box opener. Go kick that girl's ass!"

"Here sweetheart, here's a bomb. Go blow up some Jews."

"Here darling, listen to the poison spewing from my heart and mouth and hate that person who happens to be different than you."

Am I exaggerating? I wish I was. I wish I was just ranting right now, but even though I do not habitually read or listen to the news, the fact is this is happening at every moment. Talk about going to hell in a hand basket! What are we supposed to do? What is going to make tomorrow different? How are those of us who truly love our children, who really try to live a mesirat nefesh (self sacrificing) lifestyle, going to do to make the world a better place for them?

I know there has to be hope. I have to. I try hard to hold on tight to Hashem. I try hard to hold tight to His Torah. I try to hold tight to Rebbe Nachman's words, "It is forbidden to give up hope." LM II:78, but it is really dark out there sometimes.

Prayer is obviously the key. Prayer is our strongest weapon. But along with our prayers, we also need to act. Maybe I cannot stage a peaceful demonstration, it probably would not make a difference anyway. But I can live the life I believe in. I can try at least to do so. I can be kind and love my neighbor as myself. I can speak life to my children and to those around me.

I can surely do more than what I am doing and maybe, just maybe that will help. Acting as if, what I do, does matter. That the energy I send, does matter. Keeping my thoughts close to Hashem, the source of all light. Maybe that will shed more light in this dark world and then finally bring the light of Moschiach. Ultimately it really is up to us. See, Moshe Rabbienu could not drag us out of Egypt, we had to get up and leave. And you know what, we still do.

Special prayers and blessings for Miss Shekia West. Your suffering is horrible, but somehow, in some way, good eventually comes from all things. You have reminded me to draw closer to our Creator. May this suffering become a strength to you. May G-d bless you.

While preparing for Hebrew School...

I came across this map of Israel and was reminded of the one hit wonder song by Stealer's Wheel, "Stuck in the middle with you".

Think about it.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Boy, did it get dusty in here!

Shalom aliechem and greetings to all! It has been three months since I wrote last and while there are many and varied reasons as to why I have not written, suffice it to say I am feeling like I am getting to a better place now.

See, that is the problem with these blogs. When I am in a less than desirable 'place' mentally, emotionally, even spiritually, I don't feel like I can write anything here. It's hard to be totally honest in blog land since I chose to not really be anonymous. I mean I have been recognized in public. No one knows my name, but they all ask if I am 'Philly Farmgirl'.(Check me out, a celebrity in my own mind, LOL!) Obviously I chose to not make this blog anonymous on purpose. I like to read blogs from people who I can see. They are real. I wanted to be that kind of blog. But, it does make you careful as to what you put out there for the world to see. It's probably not a bad thing actually. If I realized life is just that way, maybe I would always be more careful in what I said or allowed my mind to dwell on. Something to think about for sure.

Anyway, every once in a while I need to drop of the face of the cyber universe and re-focus. It's good for me. So lately I have been doing a lot of praying and some learning. My daughters and I have been attending a Tuesday night shiur locally. It is based of the weekly parsha and it is so enriching! The Rabbi who is giving it is a truly engaging speaker (ala R' Eli Mansour) and speaks from so deep inside his heart, you cannot help but come away with some spark of inspiration for the week. He has done so much to get the embers of my heart glowing again. I am so grateful to Hashem for these classes.

Both of my older children are in Israel. My oldest daughter is only gone for two weeks and will be back, G-d willing, on Monday. I know it is only two weeks, but I miss her terribly. My son won't be back until the end of the school year and it goes without saying, I miss him too.

My youngest and I have been having a great time just being together. We are enjoying each other's company and I especially enjoy her humour. She is so funny!

Well, that is my catch up for today. Maybe I will see you tomorrow?