"Don't tell God how big your storm is; tell your storm how big your God is."

I believe in God.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Hmm...No Title

So for the last few weeks, I have not been so observant in my Judaism. I wore a kippah to keep up appearances, but I wasn't praying every day, I wasn't wearing my arba kanfot, and I wasn't praying in bed at night.

Part of this is not my choice: I have to get eight hours of sleep a night because losing sleep is very dangerous for bipolar individuals. This means I have to get up at seven on school days. Breakfast is at seven thirty; class starts at eight. I simply don't have time to pray.

Part of my lack of commitment also had to do with confusion about how to fit in as an observant, lesbian Jew. Judaism in its traditional form does not accept homosexuality; then again, Judaism in its traditional form doesn't really accept women, either, and I have chosen to ignore that and forge a relatively uncommon, though not new, Jewish path. I'm still confused about the lesbian thing, though.

And then there was the problem of being too different. I have always been a champion of difference and individuality; that was a large part of why I wore a kippah and tzitziot (traditionally only for boys). But...I'm tired of being different. I am bipolar; I am lesbian; those two are enough differences.

So, Jewishly, where am I now? I just started praying again; I still have time in my schedule for afternoon and evening prayers. I have also restarted ritual handwashing in the mornings; I had simply forgotten for a while. I am no longer wearing a kippah or arba kanfot; wearing a kippah is only established custom, not commandment, anyway; although I am not currently fulfilling the commandment of tzitziot because I cannot pray in the morning (therefore no tallis), arba kanfot on a girl are just too weird.

I was very impressed, however, with the level of spirituality in my prayers this afternoon...I think in a couple of days I will have my visions back.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Eating Visions

I've started eating things I see in visions. I used to resist the urge, but now I've given in to it. Today, for the first time, I felt an actual physical swallowing and an actual physical sensation after eating a red cube. Last night I was stufing light into my mouth.

I have no idea what effect this eating will have on my life. We shall see.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Back to Life

When I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I went through a phase where I would not worship. Not that I didn't believe in God; I was just too angry to do anything about it. After I started praying etc. again, I found tthat I could not get kavanah (concentration and devotion). It simply wasn't happening.

That phase lasted up until yesterday evening, when all of a sudden my life just started to fall into place. I reread the journal entries I mentioned in my last post. On one of my favorite blogs, I read a post about when religion hurts; it said exactly what I had been feeling. Most exciting of all, I am a candidate for a scholarship for an Israel program next summer. God as good as told me I'd be back to Israel; maybe this will be how.

After I discovered all of the above, I went to say my evening prayers...and had a vision. It was more colorful, vivid, and dramatic than any vision I've ever had before. After that, while I was in the shower, something spoke to me through me and told me my friend "John" is connected to my visions. Right after I said that, I felt much older spiritually. Dropping off to sleep last night, I saw all different colors dancing around in my mind. They were potential visions that I chose not to engage because I wanted to get some sleep. This morning while I was praying I started to have a vision as well. I stopped because I got bored--it was such a commonplace vision!--but the fact that there can even be commonplace visions makes me very happy.

If this is the stronger spirituality that comes with being tested, bipolar disorder was worth it, no doubt.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Tests of Faith

I was rereading my journal today, and came across some prayers--letters to God, really--that I wrote on the way to Israel. In the letters I promised all kinds of things. I promised that I belonged to God, would never forsake God, would never forget God. I promised that I would always keep in touch. In short, I promised an enduring relationship with God.

When I left for Israel, I had it made. I had friends and family who loved me; I was healthy; I was exactly where I wanted to be. Shortly after I arrived in Israel, I realized I was lesbian. Then my physical pain got worse. Then I spun out of emotional control and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

We see this theme over and over in the Torah: God makes someone's life really good, and then God tests that person. Promises of loyalty and allegiance don't mean much when life is good. I know--I just know--that God sent me to Israel to test me, and the fact that I'm having problems praying is part of the test. I know that I will come through this ordeal as a stronger Jew. I know God is secretly holding my hand all the time; I just can't feel it. That's part of the test.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Really Done

My new tallis has tzitziot, the ritual fringes that make it a tallis and not just a pretty shawl! My father, who is also my Rabbi, tied them for me so I know they're kosher. It's done! I did it! I made a tallis!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Blessed with Blessings

There are so many blessings (brachot in Hebrew) that a Jewish person can say. There are brachot for washing the hands and eating and using the bathroom. The morning, afternoon, and evening prayer services are full of brachot.

Then there are the brachot for ordinary-special occasions. There are brachot for nice sunsets and thunderstorms and eating a new fruit. There are brachot for seeing the ocean or a close friend after a long absence, and on new clothes and furniture.

Then there are the really special brachot. There is a bracha for meeting the president, and one for seeing an outstanding scholar. There is a bracha for especially beautiful people and one for deformed people. There is a bracha for terrible news and a bracha for outstanding news.

I have heard that a really observant Jew says one hundred brachot a day. I'm working on learning one new one each month.

Monday, November 23, 2009


My new tallis is done! Finished, except for the tzitziot, for which I need my father's hlep. Tomorrow I will make the bag.

Tallis Update Number Three

My new talliis now has holes for the tzitziot! Four of them, with finished edges and everything!

Another Tallis Update

My tallis has stripes now! One stripe of off-white ribbon on each end. 2 stripes times 2 edges times 2 feet long equals 8 feet of whipstitch. At this rate I'll be done by tomorrow.

Tallis Update

I am done hemming my tallis! That is nine and a half feet of hand hemming! Whoo-hoo! At this rate I can finish it this week.

Making a Tallis

I have started a very large sew ing project: making a tallis, or Jewish prayer shawl.

This tallis is going to be six feet by 21 inches. I must hem it, sew on the stripes and the neck band, and whip stitch holes for the ritual fringes, the tzitziot (singular tzitzit). I bought white fabric with a whiter floral pattern for the body, off-white ribbon for the stripes, and purple floral for the neckband. I want to try to sew it all by hand; the best part about having matching thread is that no one can see your stitches! I'm excited.

Also, please join me in praying for Abby Riggs. Abby is three years old and fighting leukemia. Learn more at www.riggsfamilyblog.com

Saturday, November 21, 2009

New Worlds

I had two amazing visions this Shabbat. They are too personal to post here so soon, but I will tell what I've noticed so far. Some of what I noticed, I was able to notice because of two books I've been reading: Lawrence Kushner's River of Light and Abraham Joshua Heschel's Quest for God.

My visions all seem to start with a handle or something to pull. If I don't pull the handle, the vision cannot continue.

If I could only forget, then I could remember and know--oh, everything!

When we leave this world, there is nowhere to go but God, for God is all.

Also, I was feeling slightly manic last night. I had been trying not to have a vision because I didn't want to mess up my mental health. But I couldn't keep it down any longer, so I went and had a vision, and after it was over I felt calmer, saner, healthier!

Friday, November 20, 2009

It's Almost Shabbat!

In two and a half hours, we will begin Shabbat! I love Shabbat! 25 hours of freedom and peace!

No business is allowed.
No writing is allowed.
No craft projects are allowed.
No cooking is allowed.
No lighting fire is allowed.
No cutting or tearing is allowed.

I also do not use electricity. Orthodox Judaism has ruled that for Shabbat purposes electricity is fire. I am not Orthodox and I do not believe that electricity is fire, but I have noticed that refraining from using it makes my day a lot more peaceful.

It's a whole day during which we are not allowed to do anything but read, sleep, and bond with our loved ones. What more could a person want in this world?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

In God's Hands, Of Course

About a month ago I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but I didn't start seriously questioning God until a week or so later, when the full reality kicked in. At that point, I removed my kippah and tzitziot (ritual hat and fringes, both traditionally worn only by guys) and stopped blessing my food before I ate it. I still said the prayer after using the bathroom--old habits die hard--and I continued observing Shabbat and keeping kosher, because I didn't want to shut off my way back. But the joy was gone.

Two weeks or so after that, I absorbed another blow when I learned that the medication that could quite literally save my life renders my bone marrow useless for saving other lives. MAny of my deepest held religious beliefs were shaken to the core. If I had dreamed of drinking alcohol (which I also cannot do on this medication), partying all night (bipolar people should not stay up late), or globe trotting, I could argue that God didn't want me to have those things because they were not in my longterm best interests. But all I wanted was to be God's hands in the world and save lives! Why would God make it impossible for me to do that?

I have walked around and around this issue, examining it from all viewpoints. I still do not have an answer, unless it is to teach me that life is not in my control. But the God I claim to serve (neither know nor love, for we cannot know God and we cannot love what we do not know) does not teach that vindictively. Neither do I think I sinned enough to deserve bipolar disorder as a punishment.

I am back to worshipping God now, simply because I missed religion too much. Yes, my religious behavior is entirely selfish, and I am not ashamed to admit that, because truly I think everyone's is. I have no answers, but I will close with a Hebrew phrase, "Gam zu l'tovah." This roughly translates to, "This, too, is for the best."

Or more colloquially, to quote Steven Curtis Chapman, "God is God, and I am not."

Monday, September 7, 2009

This Stands Out

I know that I have a fairly unusual relatoinship with my God. It is not a relationship without a long-standing Jewish tradition behind it; Judaism is all about bringing God into our everyday lives through the practice of mitzvot, and that is what I do. Still, I know that for most people, seeing God and talking to God and feeling God touching their faces remains a pipe dream.

Many friends of mine--not all, but many--know about my relationship with my God. People have questions; I don't mind answering them. Most people are respectful of my beliefs, even if they disagree with me, and I have had many interesting, soul-searching conversations.

Last night, however, I had a conversation that may forever stand out in my mind.

I was sitting on a bench in the school's Gardens of Israel with a sophomore friend whom I will call "Leeann". I have been trying to catch up with all my friends before I leave, and "Leeann" and I hadn't really talked since we got back to school. We were talking about my Jewish commitment (she doesn't believe in God and is fairly skeptical of my experiences), and she asked if I would ever consider moving to Israel. That is a complicated question for me; I told her the truth, that I hadn't really before this summer, but then God came and told me that I should go this Fall, should spend a year there after college, and that maybe that wouldn't be the end of it.

I went on to explain that I go where God tells me to, that God led me to my current school and hadn't yet told me where to go next, but that was OK because I didn't need to know yet. I continued, telling her that God tends to put me somewhere and step back, and no matter how much I cry out to God, my God stays...not hidden, just inactive. I told "Leeann" that to the best of my knowledge, my God stays inactive because She knows I do a darn good job on my own, that ultimately I must figure out my own life and take care of myself, and besides, She likes to be impressed by me.

Finally, "Leeann" looked at me in shock and said, "So you're just following God. What about you?"

I didn't really answer the question. I gave a couple of qualifications: anything I think God tells me is my human interpretation, so I don't think I'll ever "hear" God telling me to do something I don't want to do; if I really didn't want to do what God told me to do, then I wouldn't; etc. But in truth, there is more to it than that. My soul is part of God; I only feel complete when I leave this world to join with that greater God. Therefore, where God tells me to go is by definition what I want for myself.

Yes, "Leeann", yes. I am "just" following God, and in the process I am finding myself.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


[Informational Sidenote: The shofar is a hollowed-out ram's horn, blown every morning in services from the beginning of the Hebrew month of Elul through Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, at the beginning of the Hebrew month of Tishrei. It works a bit like a cross between a brass instrument and a woodwind, but not really.Some people can blow it; I am not one of them.]

I had just finished leading our school community in morning Shacharit. Feeling pretty confident, I picked up the shofar and turned to face the congregation. "Is there anybody who wants to blow the shofar?" (Silence.) "Can anybody in here blow the shofar?" (More silence.) "All right," I said, "Wish me luck."

I pursed my lips, picked up the shofar, and blew. The shofar made a noise similar to that of a wheezing frog. I tried again, and made the same sound. I gave it two more tries as everyone stood solemnly, trying not to laugh.

Finally, the teacher supervising said, "I heard it."

I responded, "So did I. I move we go to class before I explode." And then everybody laughed.

I can do lots of different things in the synagogue. I can lead morning services for weekdays, Shabbat, and Holidays. I can lead Kabbalat Shabbat and Friday night evening services. I can lead the Torah service for weekdays and Shabbat. I know how to read Torah, and I can gabbai. But I cannot blow the shofar.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A Very Loaded Question

I have gotten very into reading philosophy to teach my mind what my soul already knows so that I can know that I know it, and I am currently reading a book by Neil Gillman entitled "The Way Into Encountering God in Judaism." The book is so profound that my reading is by necessity very sporadic: sometimes I'll read ten pages of stuff I can easily digest, and other times I'll hit something that I need to chew over for days. The Very Loaded Question is in the second category.

And here it is:

The following three statements are individually accepted almost all the time by almost all Jews.

1. God is righteous.
2. God is omnipotent.
3. The victim sof the Holocaust (or you can replace this with Cancer patients, which changes the entire tone of the question) were blameless.

The three statements simply cannot all exist together. Which one do you drop?

Comments Welcome!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Odds and Ends

Recently (and I heard this from my mother, so I don't have sources, but I can contact her and ask if anyone wants me too) the Jewish genotype was tested by scientists. The test results showed that all Jews, regardless of appearance--even Ashkenazi Jews, who are much more recently from Europe--are genetically far closer to being Middle Easterners than anything else. This backs up a distinction on which I have been insisting for months now: Jews aren't white!!! (Just to clarify, no I do not think there is anything wrong with being white, but Jews aren't.)

This blue-eyed blonde is genetically Middle Eastern:

And so are the hazel-eyed redhead and brown-eyed brunette shown here:

And so are the three brown-eyed brunettes and blue-eyed blonde shown here:

Isn't that fascinating? Watch me, henceforth, mark Middle Eastern on anything that asks ethnicity. (Not nationality, that for me is American, just ethnicity/race.)
On a more serious note...
God has recently shown me that I am absolutely meant to go on my upcoming class trip to Israel (as if I wouldn't!) and also that I am meant to study at Pardes, a post-college; pluralistic; text-based Yeshiva that sounds just awesome, for a year when the time comes. Not only that, if I am interpreting God's message correctly, that may not be the end of my time in Israel; perhaps I am meant to make aliyah and live there. This was not in my plans prior to this summer, but since I go where God sends me--Ready or not, Israel, here I come!
I close with a quote from my new favorite Israeli band, HaDag Nahash: "שלום, שלאם, פיס, אפשרי גם כאן!" ("Shalom, Salaam, Peace, it's also possible here [Israel]!)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

My Brother's Bar Mitzvah

Yesterday was my younger brother's bar mitzvah. As a former pulpit rabbi's daughter, I have seen many Bnai Mitzvah in my life; as a Jewishly knowledgeable student at a high school with students of varying backgrounds, I have even participated in a few. My brother's was one of the nicest I have ever seen, and not just because he's my brother. Jewish life cycle events are always meaningful, but they are even more meaningful when the people involved are Jewishly committed before, after, and forever. Jewish living is like beautiful music: each single note is gorgeous, but together they make a symphony.

Here is a picture of my two brothers and me on the Friday afternoon before the Bar Mitzvah.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Anecdotes of Summer

Over the summer, I spent six weeks in Kansas with a group of Jewish teens from around the country. Through the American Jewish Society for Service, we had the opportunity to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity. In many ways it was an amazing experience; in many ways it was a very challenging experience. It is both something I'm glad I did and something I never want to do again (not the volunteeer work, just this kind of trip).

Three times on this trip I had major visions--three times in six weeks! I have not blogged about it before because I didn't quite know what to say or how to say it. How can I begin to describe the wonders I have seen and the depth of my connection to God?

There are a few stories that I would like to share here.

Our group was housed at a Conservative synagogue, Congregation Ohev Shalom, in Prairie Village. On most weekends, however, we traveled. One weekend--the fourth, I think--we were hosted by families within walking distance of the area's Orthodox synagogue (Beth Israel Abraham and Voliner) and traditional synagogue (Kehilath Israel).

It was Friday evening, and we were walking to BIAV for services. I was walking near the front of the group next to one of our directors, and we were talking about purple being her favorite color and her need to have purple in her life. Suddenly, I looked up at her and found myself saying, "I think if you could see God, for you He would be purple."

That night, I experienced two new colors in my visions: purple and gold. Previously, I had visioned in red, blue, white, black, yellow, orange, and green, but never purple or gold. Knowing this woman added colors to my visions.

On that trip, I had many more amazing experiences. I got to play with and bathe in the energy of the universe. I began to know God as Mother and as Fear. I once reached out my hand to God and found it resting on my chest. I learned how to live in both the physical and spiritual worlds at the same time.

...And then I neglected to pray for about two weeks, and I haven't been very close since. I'll get it back though; I know I will.

It's interesting to me to see where I have limited myself to stay within acceptable Jewish constraints. One Shabbat on my trip, I was talking with some of the other girls about my visions and the "supernatural" things I've seen and done. One of them asked me, "Do you believe in Wicca?"

Of course I said, "No."

She asked why not, pointing out that a lot of what I've experienced sounds like Wicca, and I answered, "Because Judaism doesn't allow me to."

Judaism absolutely forbids sorcery, declaring sorcerers Hayyev Mitah: liable for the death penalty from God. I have seen and fought demons; I believe it is possible to side with them. I believe we all have powers inside that some of us could use for evil. I believe it is possible to curse someone and change his or her life. But all of this is forbidden in Judaism, so I will not go down that path.

It's not that I don't think sorcery is real; I most certainly do. Just as I believe that Christianity, for instance, is a legitimate path to God, just not my path; so too sorcery is real, but absolutely not for me.
I am a Jew, first and foremost. Judaism is my path to God.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Interfaith Dialogue

I am perhaps slightly too addicted for my own good to interfaith dialogue. I do not mean bashing another person's religion or saying why mine is necessarily better. I simply mean sitting down and having good, long, respectful talks with someone about our similar and different religious beliefs.

I think I already do a pretty good job at respecting another person's religion because it is theirs and it matters to them, but I want so much more than this. I want to understand, really understand, other religions: what they believe, how they practice, what they think happens after death, why each follower does things in his or her own particular way. I want to really see people as individuals and respect and understand their individual relationships to their religions as well as each religion in general. Most of all, I want to learn to love many religions--for their beauty, for their histories, for their cultures--while still remaining true to my own.

I am a Jew, first ever and everlasting. I am Jewish for today; I am Jewish for tomorrow. I am Jewish for the future; I am Jewish for the past. I am Jewish for my parents; I am Jewish for my (future) children. I am deeply, achingly Jewish, to the depths of my soul, to my core.

I really want to talk with others who feel the same way about their religion. Bring on the interfaith dialogue! :)

Shavuot is coming, Shavuot is coming!

The Jewish holiday of Shavuot falls this Thursday night, through Friday, through Saturday. I am so very giddy with excitement! Shavuot is one of the two most pivotal Jewish holidays of the year, second only to Pesach (Passover). Pesach celebrates God taking us out of Egypt (interpreted literally by some Jews and more broadly as any kind of bondage or suffering by others) to be His servants, His witnesses, and His nation. Shavuot always comes exactly 50 days after the first night of Pesach, and celebrates the Jewish people receiving the Torah.

The Torah. Our guidebook. My life.

I do not believe the entire Torah was handed directly from God to a physical Moses on a physical Mount Sinai. There is just too much evidence in the Torah itself suggesting multiple authorship and stories adapted from other nations. But still, the Torah is our guidebook. Still, the Torah has united the Jewish people for generations. Still, the Torah is my life.

Could there be a more awesome holiday?

Services on campus start at 5:30 pm Thursday night, followed by dinner until 7:30. It is a tradition on the first night of Shavuot to stay up all night studying Torah, so the local Conservative synagogue is having a study session from 8:00 to 11:00 pm, and campus is organizing both a shuttle and a walking group. I will probably not be attending this, taking the time instead to reread the Ten Commandments on my own, talk to and hopefully with God, and meditate on my Jewish existence. Our campus study session starts at 11:00 and goes until 6:00 am on Friday, followed immediately by services! There are also services at saner hours for those who did not choose to stay up all night and study. After services, I will go to sleep and sleep and sleep. Hopefully I will wake up in time for lunch with campus. Saturday will be a more normal day with services at normal hours, but still time to rejoice in God and my Torah.

Again: Could there be a more awesome holiday?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Language Issues, Living in the "Supernatural", Daily Miracles, and God's Pull on my Life

Fair warning: This is going to be a very long post. But posting multiple times in one day annoys me endlessly, so one post it is.

Language Issues.

I have read many blogs by religiously committed people (so far only Christians, but I'd love to diversify my blog list) who have stopped swearing because they do not feel that a person of God should talk this way. I have felt that way too, in the past, and yet I always felt awkward around my peers if I were the only one not swearing.

Let us be perfectly clear what I mean by swearing: I do not invoke God's name with my swear words. Like everyone else, I slip up with the occasional "Goddamn it" but I hate, hate, hate when I do that (even writing it gives me the chills) and I never do that as a joke. I have found, however, that the occasional or not so occasional f-word, Hell, or b*itch is necessary to be part of a group at this age: not swearing would isolate me from my peer community. Isolation from one's community is incredibly frowned upon in Judaism. So I actually believe that swearing when in a group of my peers is more in line with my Jewish values than not swearing would be.

On a similar note, I have found that I use words amd phrases like "blessed" "God's purpose" "led by God" more around Christians than around Jews. This is not because these concepts are not found in Judaism and mainstream Jewish belief; rather, the very sad fact is that most mainstream Jews are not aware of this aspect of mainstream Jewish belief. I have no problem finding Christians who believe they are on Earth as an extension of God's plan for creation; finding Jews who believe this, never mind are willing to devote their life to it, is much much rarer than I'd like.

Living in the "Supernatural"

I feel that I must write down some of the experiences I have had in this world. They are simply too awesome, too spiritual, too pivotal not to record in this blog about my spiritual life. So, here goes.

I have found demons and I have fought demons. I have been warned by God of impending doom on campus, correctly identified the target, and watched her fight a demon without realizing what she was doing. I have seen certain people sparkle--almost literally sparkle in retrospect--with special ability to see and feel God's presence, and other things, as I do. I have watched my soul rise up and join with God, and I have seen God fill my room. I have sat with God and talked with God--not to, with--and been rocked to sleep by God's shelter. I have watched--actually watched--the prayers of an entire room be carried up to heaven on the merit of one person. Every time I pray, if I am tuned in as I should be, I can at the extreme least feel God listening and responding, even if I cannot interpret the response.

Now, I do not believe God literally looks like any of the things I saw, or literally said any of the things I "heard". I believe simply--yet the statement is so complex--this: God's presence is real. I tap in to the current and God's presence fills my life. The visions, words, etc. are the human interpretation of that very real presence.

Much of what I've done is not at all supernatural, yet so important to being God's hands in the world. I have held hands and rubbed shoulders and cradled heads as people cried. I have assisted in the study of Torah and helped people learn new prayers. I have retaught difficult homework concepts to make people's workload that much easier, I have gone out of my way to make new students feel welcome, and I have given and received countless needed hugs. All such simple, little gestures; yet so important to uniting the world, bringing peace, and helping with God's purpose whatever that may be.

Daily Miracles

Last night, I was standing in awe staring at the beautiful sky God has created. As I stood wondering and awe-ing, a student passed by who, I happen to know, is very Jewishly committed himself. I asked him, "Don't you feel lucky to live in the worl dof a Go dwho created a sky like that? Isn't the sky just amazing?"

His reply: "I don't know if it's amazing; I mean, it's here everyday."

"But don't you think--isn't it such a miracle?"

"For me a miracle has to be something out of the ordinary."

Now, don't get me wrong--to me a miracle has to be something out of the ordinary too. But is the sky any more ordinary simply because it happens every day? I have never seen the sky look exactly the same two days in a row.b God created the sky (directly or indirectly); we all agree that was a miracle. Why is it any less a miracle because it happens every day?

Exodus 14:21 describes God splitting the Red Sea for Israel as "a strong east wind all that night". A few years ago I was discussing this with my father, complaining that this sounded much less like a miracle than the sea splitting down the middle and forming walls. His reply? "A miracle is a natural event happening at exactly the right time."

So, then, by that definition, the sky is a miracle: every day, all the time.

God's Pull on my Life

Let me start by saying that I do not believe God will make every little decision for me. I just don't think God cares particularly what I eat for breakfast or whether or not I follow school dress code, unless that seemingly small decision will end with me meeting the necessary people or being in the necessary place for bigger things, which it usually won't because nobody will notice one way or the other.

There is no denying, however, that when I am tapped in to the God-current I can feel its waters pulling me in their direction and taking me where I need to go to be God's hands in the world. In sixth grade, I found out about my current school. Near the end of eighth grade, when it was settled that I would go and I was beginning to think about packing etc., the current found me, grabbed me, and told me unequivocally that I was going in the right direction. I have never felt anything other than led by God in my decision to come to the Academy, and after the first unsettled trimester last year, I have never regretted it for a second. Since realizing that I can control my "tapped-in-ness" to the God-current, I (usually) work hard to maintain that connection. When I am properly tapped-in, I feel God everywhere, see His miracles every hour, and feel utter peace with myself and my circumstances in life. We were all created for a purpose; I know for sure that I am where I need to be to fulfill my purpose in the world.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Finding God in the Darkness

So recently I have been very angry about a certain situation in my childhood, which was in a nutshell a group of kids all lumped together and left alone to suffer and hurt and fight and suffer some more. I have been angry at myself for certain unethical decisions I made in that situation. I have been angry at my parents for leaving me there. I have been angry with the teachers and principal who watched it all unfold and did nothing to stop it. Most of all, I have been angry with God.

Now being angry with God is not a comfortable place to be, but it is nonetheless a necessary step on the road to accepting one's past. There is no denying that God, the Father, the King, the Judge, the Master, the MERCIFUL, could have taken me out of that situation if He wanted to. God who gave me the silence I had to keep in order ot continue writing, the courage to share my writing at eighth grade graduation when they couldn't hurt me anymore, the friend or two who made my life there that much easier, and the safety found at home--that God--could just have shut down the situation. If we accept an omnipotent God, a necessary concept for any religion, then we confront this difficult question: Where was God in my childhood, and more broadly in anybody's bad childhood, and more broadly still in human suffering? Where is God when we cry out and all we get is "No"?

Because being angry at God is not comfortable, I searched long and hard for any way out. I screamed and raged and cried at God: "Where were you? Why? Why didn't you stop it?" and then I went to sleep. When I woke up, I had remembered miracles of which I had known all along, but that still didn't answer the question of why I had to be there in the first place. So I did the obvious teen girl thing: I went and asked my mother.

I really, really liked her answer. She said, "If you see a surgeon, he's going to hurt you, but it doesn't mean he isn't doing exactly what he's supposed to do." God was my surgeon, carving me up and leaving scars that ultimately have made, and will continue to make, me into a simply awesome person. I see God now in the way in which I reach out to others and make a dent in their suffering. I see God now in my nearly tireless energy for social justice and setting things right. I see God in the future, in all the children I will have and raise to know empathy and love. And all of those abilities--my love, my passion, my empathy--were deepened by my suffering.

The God who allowed me to be scarred, who stood by and watched as I got hurt, is the same God who will watch me continue His work in the world as I love His people Israel and all of His people, indeed all of His creation. That is where God was in my suffering.

I challenge you to call to Him and find Him in your own.

Monday, May 4, 2009

In Partnership With God

My walk with God has been inspired by many blogs, among them The Mouro Family (themourofamily.blogspot.com) and Where Laughter Lives: the Riggs Family (riggsfamilyblog.com). Reading about these people's Christian faith has made me want to post about my own Jewish (or not) beliefs about God. I will try to be clear on which beliefs I know are inherently Jewish, and which are my own. The ones labelled as my own are probably mentioned somewhere in Jewish tradition as well; I'm just not entirely sure where. Just to clear this up now, I am not out to convert anybody (Judaism is specifically against proselytizing); this is just my blog and I just feel like posting this.

1. (Inherent to Judaism) As people, we are neither originally sinful nor originally good. Life is what we make it, and we are what we make of ourselves. Originally, Judaism had no concept of heaven and hell; now, we believe everyone except the perfect (almost no one) and the irredeemable (almost no one) spend eleven months in purgatory (Gehennah) before moving on to heaven, known simply as the World to Come. Personally, I don't claim to know what happens after we die. I think I believe in past lives, a belief which is backed up in Jewish mysticism (Kabbalah). I only believe this, however, because I'm sort of sure I remember one of my own. Beyond this, I simply don't know.

2. (Me) I am not entirely sure what Judaism says on our relationship with God, but I know it isn't all about fear and I certainly am not afraid of God. I do mitzvot (commandments) not out of fear but because they are part of my people's path to bring ourselves closer to God. If I were afraid of God, why would I want to get closer? I tend to want to run as far away as possible from things of which I am afraid. I have been very, very close to God (visions; feeling Him around me; even two-way conversations), and I never felt afraid. Awestruck, yes; small, yes; incredibly lucky, yes; afraid, no. Just no. God created me the way He wanted me; clearly I fulfill some need or urge of His. Why should I fear my creator?

3. (Judaism and Me) On the same note, I believe that we are partners with God. Certainly, God will influence our lives if we let him, but it's more like tapping into a current that gives us a general direction rather than waiting for specific commands. I just don't think God instructs us on every little move we make. We are God's partners in repairing the world, holy when we do His holy work.

4. (Me) God never leaves us; we leave Him, by forgetting to tap into the current. If I neglect davening for a day or two, which I often do for any number of reasons including schoolwork, running, and sleep, God does not leave me. He will not punish me or hold it against me. Rather, I am making a choice to not join with Him for a day or two. I always know when I am making this choice, and I feel comfortable in that decision.

So, that's me in a nutshell! I certainly don't claim to have it all figured out, and the above list will probably change over time, but that's where I am right now.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Dare

Somewhere along the way, during the months of endless, burning pain (see teenagelifewithpain.blogspot.com for details), I started dreaming of all the things I could be doing if I were feeling better...including things that never even occurred to me to try when I was healthy...and I dared God to watch me run track if He ever made me better.

God held up His end of the dare; said "You're on" (metaphorically, of course), and helped me heal.

You don't break dares with God.

That's why I'm working so hard to get down to a five-minute mile by next track season. It wasn't part of the original deal, but I'm going to go above and beyond.


This blog was created to chronicle my journey of spiritual growth. Really, I created this blog to solve one of my most major blogging dilemmas: to blog about religion or not? On the one hand, religion is possibly the hugest part of my life, my top priority, now and always. On the other hand, I often feel very awkward reading other people's blog entries about religion, especially where their views differ from mine.

It got to the point where I felt hypocritical if I blogged about it and nearly as hypocritical when I didn't, so I created this blog. This is entirely about my spiritual journey. The title is taken from one of my favorite quotes from Psalms: "He will instruct his angels to guard you in all your paths, to carry you in their hands lest you stumble on a stone."

This blog wil lmake liberal use of Hebrew--and the occasional Yiddish--words. It's just too complicated to translate them all into English. If you have questions, ask.

So who am I spiritually? I am a Conservative Jew, born and raised. I keep kosher, meaning I don't mix meat and milk, and only eat kosher meat, but I eat vegetarian in non-kosher restaurants and homes. I keep Shabbat by abstaining from all 39 categories of work to a point, but I still do things like climb trees, pick up stones, and rollerblade (within an eiruv, of course) on Saturdays. I wear a kippah and arba kanfot at all times, and tallis and tefillin when I daven Shacharit. 98-ish percent of the time, I manage to pray from the siddur once; 94-ish percent of the time, I daven Shacharit and Maariv. Throughout the day, when the mood strikes me, I raise my eyes and call to God: everything from "I don't want to die of Lou Gehrig's disease" to "Come on, God, I need to shave a minute off my mile time."

I work hard to see evidence of God's hand in my life each day, and to really feel God's presence when I pray. God is always just as close; we only need to tune in. Some days it works, and I walk with God from the moment I wake up until my eyes close in sleep; other days, I daven mechanically and then forget about God. I'm working on it.

Current Spiritual Goals:

1. Stop swearing; honor God through my speech as well as my actions.
2. Stop picking the skin off my fingers (a habit I've had for ten years); I have no right to defile the body loaned to me as a Heavenly gift.
3. Genuinely treat others the way I want to be treated, all others, all the time; honor God by honoring His creations.
4. Daven twice a day, every day, with genuine kavanah; find time to daven a third time as well.
5. Fast on all fast days, not just Yom Kippur.


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About Me

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I am a bipolar, Jewish young adult (had my Hebrew birthday, the one I count, and turned 23 this past January) who also suffers from Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy. I love life and I live for my best friends: they are my purpose and my reason for trying so hard. I remain passionately devoted to those I love; I will not let my disorders make me totally self-centered. I like to read, write, and sew. My Rabbinical school plans did not work out, and I am now hoping to go into the field of Early Childhood Education. Please note: I am currently maintaining only Carried in His Hands. Enjoy!