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

I believe in God.

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."


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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!