Tuesday, October 9, 2018

One small action and the ripple effect


You should do yoga. It helps with stress, it is low-impact, it does not require a whole lot of special equipment, you already know the basic routines.

Why am I not doing yoga?

Then my homeschool friend offers to give a short ten-minute yoga session in between the classes. I dutifully put on my leggings and toss the mat into the car. We set up mats outdoors, and feel every bump of the soil. In a cute twist, each one of us has a daughter who joins her mother on the mat. I never shared my mat before, but it feels cool, doing this with my athletic girlie. Besides, this is just a taste, a short light-hearted session, punctuated by laughter.

It was a nothing, really.

But this nothing spurred me to go back to JCC. I made it to three yoga classes in the past week. it feels like an amazing accomplishment.

I feel better.
My body feels better.
My head feels more centered.
My heart is filled with gratitude to this friend and her casual yoga suggestion.

Do not underestimate the power of your impact.
Image result for yoga

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Morning tefila

Dear G-d,

Give me wisdom today to spend my energy where it matters, where it will be nourishing.

Give me room to make mistakes and a space for forgiveness. Give me the perspective to acknowledge the mistakes of others. Give me the strength to hear the truth, even if it hurts, even if it feels like a betrayal, even if it lets me down.

Give me space to breathe. Give me expanse to be myself, feed my soul-sustaining food, find time for my interests.

Give me clarity on what is important, what is essential, and what is the chaff, fleeting, temporary.

Give me peace and serenity.
Give me the ability to be content.

Dear G-d. please send this to me, and to all others who need it.

Thank you.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

A Black Square

Use a black square as your profile.
Show the men what the world is like without women.
It's a project against domestic abuse.
Do it for one day.

I hate mass forwards.
I do not like to jump on the bandwagon.
I wonder what these things accomplish.

And then I wonder about who needs solidarity.
I wonder who feels alone.
I wonder who feels that nobody else has to deal what she has to deal with, the manipulation, control, loss of autonomy, breaking down of will, belittling and minimizing of needs and wants, isolation, entrapment, being stuck and feeling stuck, with the only window to the outside world being Facebook and mindless scrolls through everyone's perfect life.

I hate perfection because it is always covering up something messy and ugly.

But I also worry about the ultraorthodox world where women already do not exist, where their pictures are already erased, where their voices are not heard ( and no, I do not mean singing, I mean being able to open your mouth and speak your mind). I worry that men are already too comfortable in a world where women are covered up by black squares, erased, removed, silenced and deemed not able to participate because "they are too busy raising families and keeping a heilige home".

Don't go to shul, you are not chayav.
Don't take your daughters to shul, they are not chayav.
Don't go beyond inspirational ladies' classes. You are not able to focus/don't have the skills/do not need the skills/teaching girls is wasting time.
"Are you ready for Yom Tov?" means have you stressed about the menu and tablescapce enough and not whether you have spent mental energy on preparing spiritually.

In the end, the desire to show support to those struggling with abuse won.

I do not think one black square will do it.
I do not think one day will do it.
I do not think men will wonder, or miss us, or care in a way that will produce lasting change.

Men like action. That's why pink hats march gets them riled up more than silent protests.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Erev Yom Kippur thoughts

There is a sunrise every single day. And every single day it feels like a sin if I am not there when the sun is rising, when the sky starts to turn colors, when darkness changes to light, when a new day dawns. I need to see it, to feel it, to experience it, to acknowledge it. I want to spend at least a few sunrises of my life at the shore of a body of water, on a mountain, somewhere where the skyline is not obscured by roofs and trees and the debris of everyday life.

I have a hard time arranging my life in a way where I can voice my needs, have my needs heard, and have my needs met.

I have even harder time with finding like-minded individuals. I am blessed with quite a few friends who have held my hand through fairly major storms, but all of them, without exception, live a very real distance away, so all the hand-holding was done virtually, through phone calls and messages. It is a sin that somehow I cannot manage close and vulnerable relationships without putting a physical distance between us.

I do not know how to atone for these sins.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018


I am grappling with these questions:

  • What is the rabbi's role? For clarification's sake,  I mean in an orthodox North American shul. Is he just there to give a sermon on Shabbos and to show up for bris, bar mitzvah and funeral? Is he responsible for the well-being of his congregation? For its safety? For its children's education?
  • What is the shul's role? To be a convenient location to discharge one's obligation of group prayer? A social shmoozing ground? A place of spiritual growth? A place to further Jewish learning?
  • What is the community's role? To nod heads to each other in Kroger? To supply baby and mourner's meals? To have a gathering of like-minded individuals? To have a colorful diversity? To be a beacon of morality? To be insular, and divide the world into "us" vs. "them"?

If I hear another lovely sentiment of כל ישראל ערבים זה לזה followed by "but not like this!" I might puke. So please, give me your real answers. Give me what you think it should be. Tell me what it is. And help me brainstorm how to make it better.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

אֶשָּׂא עֵינַי, אֶל-הֶהָרִים-- I lift my eyes to the mountains
   מֵאַיִן, יָבֹא עֶזְרִי    Where will my help come from?
  עֶזְרִי, מֵעִם יְהוָה-- Help is from G-d
    עֹשֵׂה, שָׁמַיִם וָאָרֶץ The creator of the sky and the earth.

I sometimes wonder what is wrong with me, why do I have to learn the same exact lesson time and again, and why do I not get it the first time around. I keep on relying on other human beings, on people in power, with clout, with position, with reputation, and I keep asking them, help me! Help me with homeschooling. Help me with my non-standard child. Help me run my life with five children. Help me grow spiritually. Help me with carpool. Help me with tutoring. Help me with Shabbos invites. Help me feel welcome. Help me with theological and philosophical dilemmas. Help me find a good educational and parenting approach. These humans are like mountains, towering over me, overlooking me, seeing me, yet looking right past.

Yet when push comes to shove, when it is down to the wire, when I scream, help me feel in control over this aspect of my life, I get a clear message from G-d: you were never in control. You relied on humans again, and again they came up short. Some are simply humans, some are malicious, some are evil, some are clueless, but they do not have the ability to give to you what you are seeking. What you are seeking is Divine assistance, which is beyond the most well-placed human.

I wanted answers. I got answers. Rely on G-d, and do not rely on the community. Do your own thing. Live your values. Be unashamedly who you are. Spend less time looking around and more time on introspection. With G-d's help, it will be alright. 

Thursday, August 23, 2018

garden woes

For the third time since moving to the current state, I have planted a garden: cucumbers, squash, tomatoes. We have grown these vegetables back in NY in pre-kid days. For the third time, squash-eating bugs have descended and consumed the vines. I got abundant leaves, beautiful flowers, and even some little zucchini growing. Then the caterpillars and burrowing bugs came and consumed the fruit overnight until only a pulpy mess remained. The stems keep holding out, producing more giant leaves, more flowers, giving me hope, but the insides are rotting. No fruit survives to maturity.
Image result for rotting zucchini
I keep thinking how planting and not reaping a harvest is a biblical curse. A lot of effort, care, maintenance goes into gardening, but a lot of it depends on Divine Providence. Zucchini squash produces only male flowers until it reaches a certain maturity, or the soil is moist enough, or there are enough sunny and rainy days in the precise combination. Most of the advice I got was wait and hope that the weather conditions will be just right for both flower genders to be produced.

Today I had enough of watching giant squash leaves take over the whole garden bed, not producing any fruit while sucking up resources from the soil. Their healthful appearance belied the vines that they grew on, sickly and rotting, consumed from within. I yanked them all out, giving more space and more sunlight to the basil, rosemary, and mint. The garden bed looked empty, while the compost pile seemed covered with lush green leaves as if thrown out by mistake. But I know that in order to plant successfully, you need to weed, and those rotting plants turned into unwanted weeds.

All of this seemed like a metaphor for what's going on in my life. So many things appear beautiful and appealing on the surface, healthy and beckoning, while rotting on the inside. They will never produce fruit, and one is better cutting them off than letting them fester.

I was told by the shul's executive board to either trust their leadership, or to seek utopian shul somewhere else. This was on the heels of being told that the shul is not liable for any wrongdoing legally (nothing happened on their premises), while the protection of children and members "not in the know" is not their concern. I was not even given an opening to discuss my concerns and wishes for the youth program. Funds are being allocated for learning. How it is conducted and what results it produces, and under which conditions is none of their business. It has to look right. When it is rotting from within and you expose that, you must be the troublemaker, because you just do not understand how much effort has been put into tending this garden.

Some gardeners will not have the strength to pull out the plants that have turned into weeds, seduced by their appearance. Some garden beds just need to be walked away from.

As for me, let me know where I can find an utopian shul that welcomes children, takes their safety seriously, and fosters women's learning.