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

I believe in God.

Friday, December 31, 2010

God's Plan vs. Free Will

I was talking to my mother a few minutes ago and we were trying to reconcile belief in free will with belief in God's plan. I believe that this combination of beliefs can best be described by a river or stream.

I believe that it s God who places us in the water and starts us on our journey. Free will comes in at the rocks and tributaries. We can choose to go over the rocks, go around the rocks, or bash into the rocks. Each choice at each rock changes our flow just a bit.

The tributaries symbolize possible ends of our lives. I do not believe that we will end up at one specific end point chosen by God. Rather, I believe that we have several possible ends.

My experiences applying to colleges serve as a good example of the stream metaphor. My place of residence (North Eastern US), dreams for my future, and desire to go to college close to home could have been planted in me by God. But I found the colleges, I made my choices, and I wrote the application essays. God and I have been working together.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Special Prayer Project

I have been inspired by Mrs. Nalle at covenantbuilders.blogspot.com. She came home with her new son "shouting" on behalf of the "lost boys" left behind. She made connections, she made a difference...and she prayed.

I am only seventeen years old. Prayer is pretty much all I have to give. But I will give it, every night. Please join me in my prayers. General prayers for the Reece's Rainbow organization are wonderful, of course, but wouldn't it be fantastic if we could get every child there matched with a Prayer Warrior?

Come on, people! On your mark; get set; PRAY!


I am loving praying each evening, even though I am having trouble concentrating because I am out of practice. It just feels so nice to be really talking to God again, in the way that my people have for generations.

I would love to have vsions again but I'm not sure that's going to happen. The visions I had in the past preceded medications for bipolar disorder. I have no doubt that those experiences were real--that's not in doubt at all--but I do believe that the same creativity and imagination that allowed me to vision may be somewhat muted by my mood stabilizers and anti psychotics. That is absolutely not a reason to go off my meds, and maybe I'm wrong and I will have visions agan someday. Regardless, I know plenty of people who have relationships with God without any visions or "supernatural" stuff at all.

I am a Jew, and I am proud. I just need to say that right now.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Lightbulb Moment

I haven't been really in touch with my Judaism recently because I didn't think I could do it consistently. To list one big example: I have not been praying. Oh, I've been talking to God before bed, and whispering my own prayers as I think of them, but I simply have not said the daily required prayers, mainly because I didn't think I could do it every day. Life comes up, things get in the way: I cannot manage to keep any mitzva ta'aseh (positive commandment) consistently.

Then I had my lightbulb moment: anything is better than nothing at all. I cannot build a relationship with God by doing nothing. I can and will build a relationship with God by doing the best I can. And although I miss the time in my life when I had time to pray three times a day every day, and the relationship with God that went along with that, I can and will still build some sort of relationship with God now as well.

I prayed tonight. I will try to pray tomorrow night. Let's take this one day at a time.

Also, just to make things interesting: I challenge all of you to do one thing more to build your relationship with God.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Rosh Hodesh Tevet

Tonight and tomorrow are Rosh Hodesh Tevet. Hannukah is the only holiday occurring across months. (It begins on the 25th of Kislev and ends something like the 3rd or 4th of Tevet.) This led me to wonder: what is the difference between the beginning and the end of Hannukah?

The word Hannukah means rededication. It is the time of year to make commitments to causes old and new, and to remember others in the world. The beginning of Hannukah is exciting as we choose our commitments, but the end is even more important: now we must stick to them.

Commitments made in earnest can be as difficult to stick to as commitments made in jest. It is crucial that we remember to keep our commitments. Led us take the inspiration of Hannukah and carry it forward into the rest of the year.

(Many thanks to my school's Dean of Jewish Life who suggested I focus on the beginning vs the end of Hannukah.)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

First Night of Hannukah

...and boy am I thankful. I just came out of a (short-lived, minor) bipolar episode. I feel fine. I feel great. Just in time for Hannukah. I guess life provides a deeper meaning when one leat expects it sometimes.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

For Everyone's Education

Today my brother came home and told me two Holocaust jokes his friends have told him: the ashtray joke and the pizza joke. (Yes, I have heard both before.) I will not print them here unless someone is dying to know. (Leave me a comment. I'll respond.) Suffice to say, they are offensive.

Holocaust jokes hurt. They really hurt. I had relatives who died in the Holocaust. I know some of their names. These were real people, shot or gassed and burned. They should not be the subject of such jokes.

Even sadder, I have heard Jews tell these jokes. Come on, people! Please think before you try out your sense of "humor".

Monday, November 22, 2010

LONG Overdue...

A picture of my gorgeous lulav and etrog from Sukkot:

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Rosh Chodesh Kislev

I can't believe I missed the actual date of Rosh Chodesh--the month of Kislev has just begun! Hannukah falls this month. Honestly, I have not really been in a spiritual kind of mood recently, so I'm not sure I have much worthwhile to say. However, Hannukah is a time of dedication and holiness to God. I am trying to think of that, not my Hannukah gift.

Sorry folks--not my usual caliber of post on this blog.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Going to Church

This morning, bright and early, my Comparative Religions class headed out into the world to visit and observe a Pentecostal church service. It was the second most amazing religious ceremony I have ever watched. (See post "An Amazing Scene" for a description of the most amazing religious ceremony I have ever seen.) Everyone was involved in the service, waving their hands and clapping in time to the music, loudly agreeing with the Pastor's sermon, and just being fully present in the moment. The nicest part of all was when the Pastor (or the Elder, I forget which) announced, "We will now greet our guests," and practically the entire congregation got out of their seats and came over to welcome us. I think if I were Christian I would be Pentecostal...that's how amazing it was.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Rosh Hodesh Heshvan

Tonight begins the two-day observance of Rosh Hodesh Heshvan (pronounced CHESH [clear your throat]-vahn). Heshvan is the only month on the Hebrew calendar without at least one holiday. In fact, Heshvan is often called "Mar Heshvan", which literally means "Bitter Heshvan".

Still, I would like to use this month for something Jewish: some soul searching perhaps, or a new way to help the world. With the schoolwork and what not that I have that may not happen, but I can dream.

If anyone (and I do mean anyone) has any ideas for making Heshvan more special, do please let me know. I would love to hear them.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


Tonight...I have everything to say and nothing to say.

Tonight...despite the descrepancies, issues, etc. I have with Jewish texts, the proof that they have changed, and the reinterpretation I am constantly weaving, I want to believe everything literally, as written and transmitted through time.

Tonight...I feel rocked to sleep by God.

Tonight...is very special.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

An Amazing Scene

Anytime someone in a congregation is honored with an aliyah (Torah portion read in his/her name; the number available varies depending on the occasion), there is a great fuss and fanfare. The person is called up by her or his full Hebrew name, recites the blessing, and then holds the Torah roller as the portion is read. This is followed up with a final blessing at the end.

The two biggest honors of the year are Chatan/Kallat Torah (Groom/Bride of the Torah) and Kallat/Chatan Bereishit (Bride/Groom of Bereishit), the last and first aliyot in the Torah, respectively. These happen on Simchat Torah after all the dancing. In either case, the honoree is a well-respected and very special member of the congregation. A speech is made explaining why the honor has been given to this person. Rather than just calling him or her up, the gabbai begins by asking permission from God to honor this person. The honoree walks up under a canopy made of two tallitot sewn together. Everybody stands as the person approaches the bimah (sort of like a stage) and the Torah portion is read. During Chatan/Kallat Bereishit, singing and clapping for joy follow each verse of the aliyah.

And the whole thing is just amazing.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah

It is officially the last day of Sukkot, and tonight begins Shemini Atzeret. Shemini Atzeret (I think it literally means eighth-stop) is a holiday celebrating and praying for rain. Israel has two seasons, rainy and not rainy, and without the rain, the crops will not grow properly. This is yet another holiday centered around Israel's harvest schedule.

Tomorrow night begins one of my favorite holidays of all, Simchat Torah. From praying for rain, we go directly into celebrating the Torah, another year of ifnishing and beginning again. We iwll finish the Torah with the portion called "Vezot HaB'rachah" ("And This is the Blessing", end of the book of Deuteronomy) in which Moses blesses all twelve tribes and begin again at the beginning with the portion called "Bereishit" ("In the Beginning", the beginning of Genesis). There will be lots of singing and celebrating and dancing withthe Torah, and I can't wait!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Give Whatever You Have

The Torah reading for the first two days of Sukkot is all about the sacrifices offered in the Temple in Jerusalem on the various holidays. In today's day and age, with no Temple and prayers replacing sacrifices, it is easy to find these verses irrelevant. I did.

But sacrifices are mentioned many times in the Torah, not just in conjunction with the holidays. My favorite mentioning of sacrifices (sorry no verse numbers off the top of my head) is when the Torah lists what people should bring as offerings, in order from greatest (a bull) to least (flour cakes). Each person should bring according to his means, and all are equally welcomed by God.

What a message! This idea is so empowering! It doesn't matter if you are young or old, rich or poor: we all have something to give. Let's all give whatever we have!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


(Lulav and Etrog)

(I am committed this year to doing a post before every holiday, and unfortunately all I can think of is an explanation of holiday customs.)

Sukkot is one of the two holidays on which Jews remember the literal or metaphorical (depending on whom you ask) experiences in the desert. It is also a harvest festival. On Sukkot, Jews build a booth called a Sukkah to represent the temporary housing used in the desert and during the harvest season. Observant Jews eat all meals in the Sukkah for the duration of the holiday (seven days), and some even sleep in the Sukkah.

Even though the holiday is seven days long, only the first two and the last one are known as "Chag" (Ch=clear your throat) when work is forbidden. For the rest of the week, celebrations continue, but work may be done.

The other big part of Sukkot is the lulav and etrog. These are three species of plant and one fruit that are held together and waved in all six directions to tell us that God is everywhere.

Special extra prayers in praise of God are also said during Sukkot.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Beginning to Understand

For years, I believed what I had been taught as a child about Yom Kippur and that time of year: behave, and you get inscribed for a good year. Misbehave, and you get punished.

Naturally, my prayers at that time of year focused on things I wanted in exchange for being good. And for years, I believed that I just wasn't quite "good enough": that some golden secret I couldn't unlock would take away all the bad in my life.

That doesn't work, though. Suffering is not always a punishment. Sometimes it is a learning experience, and no amount of praying will make it go away because God knows it shouldn't. As my mother says, "God always answers, but sometimes the answer is no." And I do believe that God knows best.

Besides, isn't the point of confronting our sins figuring out how to be a better person just because we know we should?

To that end, I have two goals for this year:

1. Never to speak negatively of others behind their backs. I have pretty much eliminated the sentence "I hate/dislike __________" from my vocabulary, but I can go so much farther.

2. To stop being proud of my suffering. I know I've been through a lot in life, and I'm pretty darn proud of myself for getting to where I am today. Nothing wrong with that. But I don't like to believe that others have suffered as much as I have; I like to think that my suffering makes me special. And there is something wrong with that. In the short term, my self esteem is based in something precarious (sooner or later, I will find someone who has undeniably suffered more than I); in the long term, such an attitude gets in the way of empathy.

So those are my goals for this year.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year, begins tonight. On Yom Kippur, observant Jews obey four prohibitions in order to afflict their souls:

1. Bathing, anointing, jewelry: No washing hands past the knuckles, no jewelry, no perfume, no deoderant, no shower. (I will shower before the holiday.)

2. Food and drink: I actually plan on drinking water this year as a safety precaution to keep my Lithium levels down, but otherwise, for about 25 hours, observant Jews do not ingest anything.

3. Sexual relations: Self-explanatory.

4: Leather shoes: Self-explanatory.

And then we pray, and pray, and pray: all day. We acknowledge our sins, pray for forgiveness for ourselves and our community, and beg God to inscribe and seal us in the Book of Life that we may survive and have a good year.

I wonder if anything special (visions, etc.) will happen to me this Yom Kippur?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Happy New Year!

Rosh HaShanah begins tonight. It's that time of year again. Time to ask for forgiveness from man and God, and to pray ernestly for a good year and future. Time to come before God and admit our wrongdoings, prepared to take our punishment but begging for mercy.

I will be begging for my health in the coming year, even as I condemn myself as I recall my actions.

Paradox much?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

God's Perfect Timing

Recently I have been feeling very bipolar. (See my other blog for details.) Today I started a new medication, and I currently feel just fine.

Perfect timing because:
1. My friends in the Junior class left for Israel today, cutting my support system in half.
2. My Hebrew class (and all the other Hebrew classes in the school) is having Israeli dance lessons tomorrow.
3. Tomorrow I am meeting with my guidance counselor to start thinking about colleges.
4. Next week I have to start studying for SATs and one SAT II.

I am sure I will think of more examples of God's perfect timing over the next few days.

Monday, August 23, 2010

U'N'Taneh Tokef

On Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur the Day of Atonement, a particular poem is read that is very special to me.

U'N'Taneh Tokef discusses the holiness of the day: how we are but dust specks who pass before God like sheep before a shepherd. God counts each one of us according to his/her merits and sins, and no one can escape.

The poem goes on to talk about all the possible fates a person can have: to live or die; to die young or old; to die by fire, water, wild beast, or sword; and many others. Then the poem proclaims "And repentance, prayer, and charity avert the evil decree."

This poem, as I mentioned above, holds special meaning for me.

Every year I pray for my health, and every year I get farther away.

I accept God's verdict, but I do not understand it.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Special Occasion

Today is Rosh Hodesh Elul, the beginning (Rosh, literally head) of the month (Hodesh) of Elul. Elul is the last month on the Hebrew calendar, the last month before the New Year (Rosh HaShanah) and Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), when we beg forgiveness from God and man for our sins and pray for a favorable judgment for the coming year. A special psalm is added to morning prayers during this month.

Today, as I said all the special prayers for Rosh Hodesh (an addition to the amidah [Standing Prayer], extra collection of joyful psalms, and the psalm for Elul), I couldn't help but feel closer to God. This may be the first time those prayers have ever done that for me.


Monday, August 2, 2010

A Judaism-Themed Poem

I wrote this in Israel and included it with my college applications, because extra poetry never hurt. This one was also published in my school literary magazine this past year. Poems would ordinarily go on my non-religion-themed blog, but this one is so Jewish, I am putting it here. The title means "Woman of Valor"

Eshet Chayil

Daughter of pride, sister of hope,
Mixes the mud for one more brick.
Feels her arms weary; adds strength and continues.
Daughter of pride, sister of hope.

Daughter of pride, sister of hope,
Stands at Mt. Sinai receiving the brit.
Trembles beneath the thick, fiery smoke.
Daughter of pride, sister of hope.

Daughter of pride, sister of hope,
Fingers outstretched as they reach for her spear.
Dies in a fire set by the Romans.
Daughter of pride, sister of hope.

[The following stanza was cut from the college application version due to space limits.]

Daughter of pride, sister of hope,
Lays bare her throat so her husband can kill.
Submits to death: a free woman, no less.
Daughter of pride, sister of hope.

Daughter of pride, sister of hope,
Holds fast to her God as she burns at the stake.
Tortured to death by the Spanish Inquisitors.
Daughter of pride, sister of hope.

Daughter of pride, sister of hope,
Choked by the gas with shema on her lips.
One of her people, now one with her God.
Daughter of pride, sister of hope.

Daughter of pride, sister of hope,
Stands at Masada and shouts out her name.
Holds the proof of the past and the key to the future.
Daughter of pride, sister of hope.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tisha B'Av Musings: the Holocaust and "To Everything There is a Season"

Although my philosophically mournful mood failed around midday and now I am counting down the hours until I can eat, I did have some interesting thoughts this morning and would like to share them. Quoted from my journal:

"Everything I read about Tisha B'Av is about rebuilding, renewing, re-hoping! I just want to feel my feelings.
"Tragedies are sad. And dealing with them takes work, both individual and communal.
"Perhaps we can be done with the communal grief on Tisha B'Av. But my individual grief is just beginning. I'm just starting to comprehend the enormity of Jewish tragedies (from the destruction of the Temple to the Holocaust) and their effects on our people. It's too soon to be happy yet."

"Honestly, I seem to mostly be mourning the Holocaust. It seems more accessible, somehow--more modern and close to home--than the destruction of the Temple. I've seen pictures of the Holocaust. I know people who know survivors. I've read eyewitness accounts. By contrast, the destruction of the Temple seems like a story: a horrible story, yes, but nonetheless a fairy tale.
"Also, despite my best planning, I have not gotten around to mourning assimilation yet. I am simply still stuck in the Holocaust."

I really love the way the Jewish calendar provides time to feel every possible feeling. There are days for joy and for sorrow; times to fear God, to thank God, to love God, even (in psalms) to reverently scold God. The Jewish year, its special times, and our relationship with God, are truly three dimensional if we allow our souls to cooperate.

Also, check out this thought-provoking article from the Jerusalem Post:

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Tisha B'Av

Tomorrow night begins Tisha B'Av, the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av, a day of fasting and mourning for the loss of the Temple and other Jewish tragedies. My family does not observe this fast day, but last Summer in Kansas I had an opportunity to experience it for real.

And I loved it.

Call me crazy, but it's true.

On Tisha B'Av, Jews everywhere cease to eat or drink, wear leather shoes, bathe or anoint, study Torah, or have marital relations for 25 hours. It is customary to sit on a low stool or the floor until midday, and some even sleep on the floor. The scroll of Eicha (Lamentations) is read in synagogues, extra prayers are said, and the tallis and tefillin are not worn until afternoon prayers. (They are usually donned in the morning.)

What will I mourn this year?

I will mourn for the Temple; I will mourn for those who died at Masada; I will mourn for the victims of the Inquisition; I will mourn for the victims of the Holocaust.

And I will also mourn assimilation.

I will mourn for the Jewish children who receive no Jewish education.

I will mourn for those Jews who have never known the joys of Shabbat.

I will mourn for those Jews who do not support Israel.

Because truly, they are missing something.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Painful First Time Lesson

As you may or may not know, I am a reader of several blogs by families who have adopted children. I came across one a few weeks ago (allarepreciousinhissight.blogspot.com) in which the family's little grl was in the hospital following serious, complicated heart surgery. I immediately added her to my prayer list, and I prayed with devotion for her recovery.

That little girl's name was Chrissie, and she died yesterday.

Although I barely deserve to have any grief having only read about her, I am...cracked. Grown up. Older.

This is the first serious prayer of mine that did not come true, not even a little bit.

I prayed for no chronic pain and I am mobile now.

I prayed for help with bipolar disorder and I am mostly stable now.

I prayed and am praying for Abby Riggs (riggsfamilyblog.com) and she is getting better.

I prayed and am praying for Grady and as far as I know he's doing OK.

I prayed for Chrissie and she died.

Why, God? Why?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


On Shavuot (coming up in a week), we read the Torah portion that includes the Ten Commandments, and if all goes well I will be the one to chant them for our congregation! Cool. Very cool. Hooray!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

My Need for God

First of all, I must admit that God sometimes takes a back burner in my life. Between schoolwork, relationships with friends and family, etc. I may be praying but I don't feel a thing. Spirituality takes work, and I don't always feel that I have the energy.

Until I spend a week feeling guiltily self centered and two days feeling extremely anxious, that is.

That's when I go and read Jewish philosophy, and then I feel better. I need God in my life.

Sidenote: Last Summer I was transported a couple of times to a beautiful world "above" this one. There were no differences, only variety, so everything was equally good...beautiful. For my own safety after experiencing the "culture shock" of coming back, I stopped going or allowing my self to go. Still, I miss that world a lot. It's not really the sort of feeling I can discuss with just anyone, so I sort of just carry my longing inside me. Who wouldn't yearn to go back?

Saturday, May 8, 2010

God and PreCalc

This is something I wrote in my journal tonight in response to The Way into Encountering God in Judaism (Neil Gillman), which I am currently reading:

"God defies mathematics. Enough said. No graph in polar, function, or standard mode, in degrees or radians, could ever define God. God is no more or less a simple point that God is the fanciest rose or limacon graph, but God is in all of these things. God is within mathematics."

God defies our explanations, yet God is in our explanations...

Saturday, May 1, 2010


I should be going to bed but I'm posting here first to see wehther I can't come up with something good. I have been trying to connect to God again recently but it's hard with so much schoolwork on my radar. I believe connection to God is like a faucet: we turn it on or off by our beliefs and activities. Sadly, mine is but a trickle right now.

We are currently counting the Omer, the weeks between Pesah and Shavuot. Pesah celebrates the Exodus from Egypt; Shavuot celebrates receiving the Torah and Mt. Sinai. The Exodus and Sinai are both more metaphorical than literal for me, but I love this time of year and find these two holidays so meaningful. I love celebrating our Torah, the unifying document of Judaism, regardless of how we got it.

Just counted Day 33 of the Omer: only 16 more days to go!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

I have no idea why I feel the need to talk to God on a public forum, or even what this will say. Here we go.

Dear God,

I'm tired. I messed up my med timing again last night.

Dear God,

I'm tired. It's been a long week.

Dear God,

I'm tired. I need time to catch up with "John".

Dear God,

It's "Lucy's" birthday tomorrow.

Dear God,

Why am I telling you this? You know it all already.

Dear God,

Thank You,

For this is my life.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Two Prayers I Wrote

Here are two prayers I wrote, the first for Grady and the second for Abby:

This is a prayer for Grady.
Grady is a two-year-old, Eastern European orphan with arthrogryposis.
He needs help. He needs a family. He needs modern medical knowledge. He needs prayer.
I will lift him up in prayer.
I am lifting Grady up in prayer and praying that
He may have a good night's sleep
He will get sunshine and fresh air
His family is coming soon.
Please, God.

This is a prayer for Abby. Abby has come too far to relapse now. She's been doing chemo for over two years now.
May it be Your will:
That Abby recover fully.
That her days are filled with light and fun.
That her parents and doctors will be wise and caring.
That her spirit will remain strong and her soul resilient.
That someday she will run and play.
Please, God.

Please Join Me in Praying for Abby Riggs

She is in danger of relapse.

riggsfamilyblog.com to learn more.

Friday, April 9, 2010

God and Colleges

When I left home for my current school, I knew that I was following God. I felt pulled; I had had personal revelations; I just knew that it was right. I followed where God led.

Now I do not feel God guiding me. I am left to choose a college on my own. This does not scare me; I can do just fine with it. It's just totally different from what I expected.

I need to remember, however, that everything works out with God in control. I have gone places simply because I wanted to and had my spiritual life irreversibly change for the better.

God's got me. I'm planning. We're good.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


for some personal reasons, I need God. I need God. Right now. I am praying every moment I think of this issue. I need God. I need God. I need God.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

הקול (HaKol) or The Voice

Tonight I am experiencing God as The Voice. God speaks through me via my actions, thoughts, etc.; yet I speak for Her and through Her also via my actions etc. (If you don't understand this it's fine; I don't either.) Also, Man is made from God's earth; Woman from His rib. If A implies B and B implies C, then we are physically part of God.

It feels cool to be a God-bit, doesn't it?

A Thought

This is a thought that occurred to me today:

Every person is given one name because s/he is human; a living creature is entitled to a name. But no matter how much a person creates or alters his/her name, s/he still only has one. Yet God is One with Many Faces; there are infinitely many names for God.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

"Seek My Face, Speak My Name"

I am currently working my way through a book called Seek My Face, Speak my Name by Rabbi Arthur Green. As far as I can tell, it is a book entirely about the first line of the Shema prayer. (Most often translated "Hear O Israel, the LORD is God, the LORD is one.") It is divided into units corresponding to the four letters of the Unpronounceable Name. (Think Jehovah's Witnesses; Jews simply say "Adonai", meaning "My Master", when we hit this name while praying.)

As usual, this book is slightly above my level of comprehension. I believe that if one really wants to learn a subject--not just understand, but really learn--one must read books that are too hard in order to broaden one's horizons and open one's mind. Books should not be too hard, of course; that was my problem with a Lawrence Kushner book I read in Israel. But a little too hard is good.

Today I finished the introduction to Seek My Face, Speak My Name. There were two parts I particularly liked. One is where Green said that God is not a conclusion we make about where wonder comes from; God is the name we give to that wonder. Green also said that he wants to have a hand in shaping what will be considered tradition by those who come after it. I never found those words for this idea before, but in my opinion it is so true: tradition must be always changing or the whole system will collapse.

Random Threads of Thoughts on Judaism

The incident last night with the man who thought Jews didn't speak English caused me to realize, all over again, that I have made a conscious choice to live as an obvious Jew. It isn't really an inevitable choice, when you come to think of it. I don't have to wear a kippah in public. I don't have to wear a tallis, wrap tefillin (picture below), and say my morning prayers in an airport. I don't have to read Jewish philosophy on a plane, nor do I have to tell people I go to a Jewish high school. Being openly Jewish is a choice I made and one of which I am quite proud; I usually forget about it until something like last night gives me a metaphorical electric shock of awareness.

And speaking of metaphorical shocks of awareness...

Just now, I was moving my laundry from the washer to the dryer. This is a job I hate, so I was singing a song by Jewish singer and song writer Debbie Friedman. This particular song is based on the Torah portion "Lech L'cha" (ch is throat clearing noise), in which God tells Abraham to leave everything he knows and go to Israel. I've known the story for years; I've known the translation of the words "Lech L'cha" as well. Today, however, I had a complete epiphany.

Lech L'cha means go for you. God is telling Abrahm to leave everything he knows; yet His first words to Abraham are go for you. I am not quite sure how to interpret this yet, but right now I take it to mean that we can only grow into ourselves by following God.

*These are tefillin:

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Weird Encounters with Others Part One

[See bottom of post for glossary.]

Tonight my friend "Mike" and I went to do some necessary shopping. While we were outside waiting for the shuttle back to campus, a man passed us, saying "SHA-LOM. SHA-LOM," very loudly and clearly. Shortly after this, we got cold and went inside.

About ten minutes later, the man and his wife walked out and began pacing back and forth. In the meantime, the shuttle arrived. Since they clearly didn't think we spoke English, I decided to have fun and called out "Shalom, mah nishmah?" except without the spaces between words.

At this point, the man said, "SHA-LOM. A-LEI-KEM. MY. GOOD. FRIEND. BE. CARE-FUL."

I kind of don't want to know what else he thinks about Jews.

Shalom: hello and good-bye. Literal translation: peace.

A-Lei-Kem: Actually aleikhem (kh is a clear your throat noise), meaning "on you" or "about you." (Eleikhem is "to you" or "for you".)

Mah Nishmah: How are you? or What's up?

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Visiting Rabbi

Currently, our campus has no Conservative Rabbi. This week, a potential candidate for the job is visiting campus.

At least in my opinion, our minyan needs a Rabbi. We really, really do. We need someone who can read a significant chunk of Torah every week (taking the pressure off me and approximately two and a half other kids), and preach a sermon, and, and, and...you get the idea.

Wish us luck! We really need a Rabbi!

Thursday, March 4, 2010


A picture is worth a thousand words...here are pictures of some of the Judaica mentioned on my blog. All pictures from Google Images.




Siddur: (This actually is the one I have.)

Back in Touch

I am now saying required prayers twice a day, (My mental health is too fragile for me to get up early to catch that third time before school.) as well as improvising my own prayers when I get in bed at night. Both types of prayer feel sweet and meaningful, in two very different ways. I have promised myself that if I really keep this up all through the week, I get to go back to wearing a kippah. It's custom, not law, anyway, but I feel as though a kippah signifies a certain level of religious commitment and I don't want to wear one until I'm there.

I'm now faced with a very practical problem. In order to daven mincha (afternoon prayers) on time, I bring my siddur (prayer book) with me to school and catch a few minutes in the chapel between school and working out. My problem is how to carry my siddur. It's a holy book; I can't put it in a pocket with sweaty gym clothes or dirty shoes, but it gets crushed in my laptop case. I think I'll just make a small cloth bag for it and decide that's enough of a barrier and I can pack it in my backpack with the clothes.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Role of Religion

For those who do not read my other blog, I am currently caught up in a rapid cycling bipolar episode again and have been for two weeks.

During a four day weekend when I felt much better (because life was so quiet), I added afternoon and evening daily prayers back into my life.

What a difference set prayer times make! I still feel extremely depressed right now, but having something set in stone like that gives me an anchor to reach and hold onto as I reach for the next one.

Also, praying for Grady (see my bipolar life blog for details) gives me something on which to focus other than myself, which is always nice.

Monday, March 1, 2010

I Feel Compelled to Write This

I have it from a trusted source that people who know me in real life are talking behind my back about my blog(s), claiming that what I post is too private or personal and I should keep it more to myself.

I hardly know how to respond to that. I do have a journal for the really private stuff. Obviously, if I post something on this blog I don't mind the public knowing. That should be the only criterion for what gets posted and what does not, because guess what? This is my blog.

My entire purpose for blogging is to be honest about my life and thorough in my story telling in order to give the world an accurate picture of me. What is the point of providing that picture if it is only a partial picture?

I will continue to be honest, open, and up front on my blog. It is my blog and I choose what gets posted. To all those who know me in real life: if you feel my blog is too personal and none of your business, I propose a very simple solution: stop reading.

Thank you.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Reece's Rainbow

Another prayer project...check out mybipolarteenagelife.blogspot.com for more details.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Catching Up

I know I haven't posted here for a very long time. See, almost immediately after I found out I was lesbian, I realized that the traditional Jewish system didn't want me. I couldn't quite fathom getting close to God through a system that didn't accept me, and I pushed myself away. I still kept kosher and observed Shabbat, and I went to services and led and read Torah for the sake of the community, but that was it.

It was my father who pulled me back during a conversation that lasted well over an hour. In a nutshell, he told me that I should think of God as a loving Mother who wanted to hold me. He reminded me that Judaism is a path, with God as the goal, so when you have to cut out on eor the other, it's OK to remove part of Judaism. He told me about the egalitarian (men and women totally equal) minyan (congregation) he started in college; his group decided they didn't need official backing because they needed this right now. He compared certain parts of the Jewish legal code, which we both believe was created by people (and people can be wrong or ignorant) to the Jim Crowe laws and asked if I would have considered myself honor bound to uphold those.

I wanted to come back to Judaism, but I didn't know how. My father suggested I start by saying my own prayers every night in bed. So I did. I didn't feel anything, but I chatted a bit, prayed for people who needed it, and ended with the traditional bedtime Shema. Suddenly I realized that this was habit, and I added my next step: afternoon prayers on Shabbat. I want my Judaism back: I want it, I want it, I want it. I can feel the need for it again!

(Oh, and my bipolar symptoms mysteriously disappeared just in time for Shabbat and Purim. Miracle much?)


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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!