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

I believe in God.

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.


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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!