Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Shana Tova

On Rosh Hashanah eve of 1971 I was a homesick college co-ed spending my first holiday away from home. Calling my parents was pure torture, for me as I struggled not to cry, and for them as they heard the misery in my voice. Hanging up from them I lighted my candles all by myself in my dorm room.
Then I sat down to my makeshift Yom Tov meal at my desk. Afterwards, I made my lonely way across campus to the holiday service organized by Hillel, The Jewish Student Union.

A student rabbi had been brought in for the occasion. I really don’t recall what kind of job he did. What I do remember, and always will, was the student helping him out. That student was tall, with sixty-style long hair, and wearing a black shirt. He later became my husband.       

Forty-three years later I don’t eat alone on the holidays. In preparation for this three-day Rosh Hashanah I have filled my freezer full of cooked meat, chicken, casseroles, and cakes. As full as it is, there is still more to cook.  If all’s well, my table will be crowded with family, and friends and neighbors who have become like family.

I have learned that on Rosh Hashanah we keep our personal petitions at a minimum. More important is to proclaim HaShem King and to pray for the Jewish nation as a whole. My prayer, this year, is that there should be no more lonely people.  Rather we should all reach out and care about one another becoming united and able to bring the Moshiach. 

May we all be inscribed in the Book of Life.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

I Was Robbed!

It probably happens to everyone sooner or later. Some are robbed at gunpoint. Others have their homes broken into. Still others lose their life savings to conmen. I should consider myself fortunate. All I lost was my wallet. And some of my trust in my fellowmen.

On the morning of the robbery I had left the Kotel and went to a place where I thought I could trust everyone. Stupidly, naively, carelessly, I left my backpack with the wallet inside unattended for a short period of time. For me it was a short period, but for a robber it was long enough to execute a theft.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Sensible Suggestions for High Holy Day Preparations (reprinted from last year)


One of the saddest sounds, in my opinion, is that of a mother irritably shushing her toddler while in the synagogue for High Holiday services. Babies learn communication by gurgling, cooing, and laughing and this should not be inhibited. On the other hand, most women go to services to concentrate on their prayers. Why should they be distracted by adorable, sociable little beings? On Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur young mothers feel the need to pray with the community so they bring their children with them. Those youngsters make noise, other women are annoyed, the mothers impatiently quiet the children, the children decide the synagogue is not a welcoming place, and the mothers are not really able to pray. There has to be a better solution.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Hair for Sale

When I was young I, like almost every other girl, read Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. Many years have passed since then but there are still some scenes from the novel I remember clearly. One of them is how Jo sold her hair for twenty-five dollars, quite a sum then, to help finance her mother’s journey to her sick father. What made even more of an impression on me was Jo crying in bed later that evening, not because her father was ill, but because she missed her hair. I also had a cry or two about my hair as I was growing up. Now, though, I know that hair almost always grows back.

Monday, September 1, 2014

In Memory of Shachar

There’s a famous quote attributed to Golda Meir, “When peace comes, we will perhaps in time be able to forgive the Arabs for killing our sons, but it will be harder for us to forgive them for having forced us to kill their sons.” That sounds very nice for a press conference but I wonder how many of us really feel that way. Will I ever be able to forgive the Arab terrorists for murdering babies in strollers, infants sleeping in their beds, and children on school buses?

It’s true that I feel something precious was taken from my sons when they were forced to fire shots in self defense. In this I agree with Golda Meir. It’ll be difficult for me to forgive the Arabs for forcing our children to don army uniforms, learn to fight, and to kill. Even harder for me to forgive is the pain all of us feel when one of our sons is killed and we are left behind to carry on.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Playing War

August in Israel is the month of no school, no camps, and no day care. It’s a month when grandparents are often called upon to help entertain grandchildren. So I found myself with my young granddaughter on the first day of the newest ceasefire. I spent part of our time sharing stories of family history which she enjoyed and then we decided to play some card games. Eventually we began playing War.

I guess War is a good way to teach children the concept of greater and lesser than. To me, though, it was always a mindless game. As a child I even remember on boring afternoons being driven to play the game by myself, my right hand against my left.  I shared that memory with my granddaughter and she smiled. 

Meanwhile I tried to make our game as exciting as possible. I groaned when I lost a king, I shrugged if it was a two, and I practically clapped my hands when I saved my joker. Suddenly though, a simile came to mind. In the Israeli army the twos are no less valuable than the jokers. Sometimes they are even more precious.

As the game continued there were more allegories. It seemed sure that I was losing and then the tide changed and I was winning. My granddaughter had lost almost all of her cards but was she the loser? That would depend on one’s perspective and public relations campaign. As we continued she and I both got bored. The game ended without a winner.   

That’s true of any war. We all lose.

Please pray for Shachar Ben Naomi Sara, one of the Israeli Army’s twos, and my son-in-law’s friend. He was seriously injured in the beginning of Protective Edge, had both legs amputated, is still unconscious and in critical condition.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

My Conversation with an Injured Soldier

This was not some random soldier I happened to meet nor did I have objectivity when speaking to him. No, this soldier had been my neighbor across the street for twenty years, up until the time he married my daughter, Avigiayil, and they moved into their own apartment a few blocks away.

Gershon had always wanted to be a combat soldier. In Israel there are various ways of serving in the army. One is to make a five year commitment and be in active service part of those years and learn in yeshiva for the rest. Another is to make a three year commitment and work behind the scenes in intelligence, translations, office work, and the like. A third is to be a full combat soldier. Although Gershon respected learning he knew it would be hard for him to sit in yeshiva for so many years. He felt the best way to give his all to the Jewish people and his country was the third choice.