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

I believe in God.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Adoption Awareness Month

November is adoption awareness month. I am not really sure what to post that is relevant.

Except...I will say this now and I hope that I mean it:

If adoption laws in Eastern Europe change such that same sex couples can adopt, and I can figure out a way to keep Jewish laws (or maybe not for that one trip), and Reece's Rainbow is still around, I will be off to Eastern Europe to rescue one of those children before it's too late.

And, as always, I urge you to pray. Pray for these children. Pray for their families. Pray for Reece's Rainbow. Just pray.

(And, of course, donate money if you have it!)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Raising Awareness: Mental Institutions

(People who know these firsthand, let me know if I get something wrong.)

What is an Eastern European mental institution?

From what I can gather, a mental institution is basically a place to shove all disabled people--the physically and the mentally disabled--out of sight so society does not have to deal with them. These institutions are "homes" for those between the ages of five and eighteen, or in some cases, five and 35. The "lucky," higher functioning inmates spend their days trapped in closed rooms or sitting in sheds with nothing to do but torture themselves, e.g. biting themselves until they bleed.The unlucky inmates spend years lying in cribs, forgotten and neglected by the staff, also with nothing to do.

Of the little children transferred to these awful places, many die within the first few months. Some lose their will to live; some literally die of starvation. The rest quite literally spend the rest of their lives in cages: in one video I watched, I saw a shot of a 21-year-old man curled up in a crib.

As I write this post, I am literally sick to my stomach because of the horror of this situation. Readers, this is what we're up against. This is why I am a prayer warrior. (Although "my" currently assigned child is in a country without institutions [I think; in any case she is not in one], "my" previous assignment was a little boy who was rescued by his new parents in the nick of time.)

I once read a blog post on someone else's blog who described her son's former institution as "more like a concentration camp than an orphanage." I will never forget those words.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Please Remember...

Tonight, I ask you all to please remember the children in orphanages and, worse, institutions in Eastern Europe and around the world. Let's all pray for love and peace, full bellies and nice warm beds, for them on this cold night. Thank you!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Continue the Prayer

Because I have about twenty minutes before I get ready for bed, which is not enough time to start a new homework assignment, I thought I would write a public letter to God. Please add your own comments--about anything--to "continue the prayer."

Dear God,

I think it's time to have a good long talk about "Erin." Thank you for the recent picture, which serves to reassure me both that she is not unbelievably malnourished and that she is still in an orphanage, not an institution. (There are no toys in institutions.) She is nine years old, God, far too old to be without a family. Come on, God, find her a family! She is so sweet looking, I bet she would make a great daughter for someone. Please help her find peace and contentment even in her current situation. There is always a bright side; look at that pink chicken she is holding! I care about her, God; please care with me.

Friday, October 28, 2011

About "My" Baby

Here are posts about "Erin," in order:

Also, I am greatly relieved by "Erin's" new picture. The old one depicted a little tiny child. There was no way to tell how old the picture was because I have seen pictures of ten-year-olds who are much more like two- or four-year-olds physically and developmentally. I thought "Erin" might be one of those.

The new picture, however, depicts an older girl. Yes, "Erin" appears to be six or seven rather than her nine-year-old self, but at least she doesn't appear to be three. Thank you, God for looking out for her.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

"Beautiful baby from the outside in..."

A new picture of "my" sweet girl, "Erin":
Please help me "pray her home," as the people at Reece's Rainbow would say.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Other Side...

...of the Rainbow.

I am free; I am basically back to normal; I thank God for my blessings.

But there are many, many precious children "on the other side of the Rainbow:" in Eastern European orphanages and mental institutions. "My" sweet girl, "Erin" (http://carriedinhishands.blogspot.com/2011/08/my-little-girl.html for a link to her picture) is just one of hundreds listed on Reece's Rainbow, one of thousands of these orphans, one of millions in the world...

It doesn't take much to help. Ten dollars...five dollars...one precious dollar...even just your prayers. Won't you help one of these children?

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

Saturday, October 1, 2011

An Episode

I am, in fact, having a bipolar episode: a mild one, but an episode nonetheless, complete with depression, mania, and phases of normal.

Yesterday I had a whole normal day. This followed a medication increase, so I thought I was good to go. Wrong!

This is a mild episode, all things considered. My manias have been relatively calm, and my depressions have not gotten suicidal. Also, I have a wonderful new friend who has been helping me out a lot. "Sue" has been worrying that she isn't doing enough, and I have been worrying that I've been asking too much of her. We decided to find a happy medium and both stop worrying.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


I am...alarmed.No, even that is too strong a word just yet. I am anxious. Here is why: I think that I may be headed for a bipolar episode.

I have been irritable--too irritable--for days. Thankfully I still have enough emotional control to not show it, but I know I am not normally that irritable.

I have been getting lots and lots of sleep--eleven hours each the past three nights, plus a four hour nap yesterday--and I still have no energy.

What's more, I just...hurt inside, for no reason. Depression much?

Please pray for me that this isn't what I think it is. A bipolar episode is the last thing I need right now.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Demons and my Sister

Yesterday I fought a demon. I saw its face Friday night, and it made the demon I fought a couple of years ago positively cute. Demons are not cute, so that should tell you how scary it was.

Then yesterday I was waking up from a nap and sort of saw, but mostly created, a body for the demon. It became a little puny thing: still disgusting, because that's what demons are, but mostly harmless. It or the fear of it (hard to tell) was still bothering me though, so I went and read a book. In distracting myself, I got rid of my fear, and the demon left as well!

I can think of three things I might have done to call this demon to me. First of all, there was the not-quite-vision when I played with something I couldn't see. I am done playing with things I can't see. Secondly, as soon as this whole world started up again, I became afraid of demons again. Since I do not always fear demons when experiencing the Other World, I have a feeling I was reacting to something real, that a channel to demons really was open. That being said, I think the fear probably served as an invitation. If one wants to avoid demons, one must not be scared.

Lastly, and this was stupid of me, I referred to the demon I fought two years ago by name. A name, I have learned, is a powerful thing. If you have a demon's name, you have a major weapon against it. Calling it by its name is the best way to convince it that you are not afraid, at which point it will leave. Use a demon's name when it is not around, however, and you have just woken up the demons.

On a totally different topic...

Last night I was lying in bed and I wanted to talk to God: really talk to God, not just say my usual bedtime prayers. Of course I carefully considered which name to use, and settled on "Ein Sof, my Sister." Almost immediately, I saw colors confirming that I had chosen the right name, then more colors on my other side, and then I was being held and rocked to sleep by God.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

MY VISIONS (and other) ARE BACK!!!

I have a friend here who is taking a course that required her to interview people about their beliefs about the soul and then write about their answers. On Sunday, she interviewed me, so of course I told her pretty much everything. (Read back through the earlier years of this blog to learn about "pretty much everything.") Then, that very afternoon, I almost had a vision. I did not actually see anything, but I saw what I would have seen if I could have seen it. Then today...

Today! A few short hours ago I was saying my afternoon prayers. I had pulled out a chair in case I had a vision or something similar, because I prefer to vision sitting down. I entered that world today...actually entered it, not just saw it. In fact, I couldn't see anything! While there, I let my hand play with something (I tend to let my body, not my mind, lead during these kinds of experiences.) Because I couldn't actually see anything, I don't know what it was or what I was doing. Curiously enough, unlike the last time I played with something like this (Summer 2009), I don't feel the need to undo it.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


So here I am on the ten year anniversary of 9/11. I am eighteen years old.

Eight. I was eight years old on 9/11/01.

But the confusion touched me. It happened in a whirlwind. I came home and my father (then a member of the NY National Guard) was on his way out the door to New York City, with two big army-green duffel bags.

Yesterday at a lunch-and-learn at Hillel (Jewish Student Center) we talked about the Jewish response to catastrophe. We looked at several texts and talked about what they meant and decided there was no one correct Jewish response to catastrophe.

So tonight, I did what I always do on 9/11: I watched relevant videos on Youtube. This year, as always, I watched "Heaven 9/11", but unlike other years, this year I proceeded on to watching actual news footage from that fateful day.

Oh. My. Word. The screams of the victims, burning alive...the shocked horror of the news casters...Oh. My. Word.

After that, I was fooling around on Youtube, and came upon this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHxwCuJrskQ

It is in Hebrew, but I thought it strangely appropriate...as if I were fated to find it. Maybe I was. Anyway, don't worry; I found the version with English subtitles.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

College and Elul

I moved in at my college last Friday, and so far I am loving it! The majority of the people I have met like me very much--great confidence booster! Tonight the Hillel Jewish Student Center is having a kosher barbecue, and I am really looking forward to it. Then tonight I go to sleep at 10 pm so I can get up at six am to catch the seven am bus to my 8:10 am class. (Yes, my school is so big that we use buses.)

In other news, it is now the month of Elul, the season of the year when I let myself listen to various Youtube recordings of U'N'Taneh Tokef, the season of the year when Jews everywhere begin to soul search and figure out what we have done wrong in the past year and how we ourselves and we as a community can get past those sins. We know that the month of Tishrei is quickly approaching and that it will soon be time for God to "write" (Rosh Hashanah) and "seal" (Yom Kippur) our fate for the coming year, and we are fearful and in awe of God's power as we come before Him.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I Got It!

I got it! I got it! I got into my first choice course coming out of General Psych: Readings in Biblical Hebrew Prose!

I jumped through multiple hoops to get this course. First I had to get out of General Psych. Then I had to email the Dean of Jewish Studies (who also happens to teach the course) and ask for permission to take it, because the person with whom I was in contact about switching courses thought I couldn't take this one. Half an hour or so after I emailed the Dean of Jewish Studies, however, I was in the course!

This course is really important to me, not only because it looks like fun, but also because I need an anchor. College will be my first school experience without Jewish Studies and/or Hebrew automatically built in. I will have to adjust to that, and it will no doubt be hard. I prefer to adjust slowly by first taking one Jewish Studies course anyway.

On top of all that, I now have two classes on my schedule that I know I will love, one that I think I will enjoy, and one (fulfilling my science requirement) that I know I can tolerate. It's a good first semester schedule.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Update on my Schedule

I have now placed out of General Psych and into Infant and Child Development. I requested a Jewish Studies course number 433, but the dean thinks I have to start at 371. She said she would email the head of the Jewish Studies department, however, and if that person says no, I will go directly to the professor who teaches the course. One way or another, I will make this happen.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Class Schedule

Yesterday I got my class schedule for my Fall semester! I am currently taking Religion 101, General Psych, Intro to Human Evolution, and Issues in Women's Leadership. There is, however, one problem: I tested out of General Psych. I will call advising tomorrow and see if I can change that. Other than that, college, here I come! SO EXCITED.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Last Ten Thanks

91. Interesting-looking text books

92. The bus system at my college

93. Israel

94. Hope and dreams

95. Inspiring quotes

96. "U'N'Taneh Tokef"

97. Dr. David Sherry

98. Love

99. The bright future I have ahead of me

100. Strawberries

*BONUS because I accidentally repeated one: Bubbles

Friday, August 19, 2011

Friday Thanks

81. Shabbat

82. Excitement

83. Sleep

84. The Jewish calendar and the way it celebrates and honors each season and feeling

85. Theater/Drama

86. Elephants

87. Tropical fish

88. My imagination and creativity

89. Various ways to escape from pain, if only for a little while (reading, praying, sleeping, etc.)

90. Feeling God's presence on an inner but definite level

Thursday, August 18, 2011


What do you do when you love someone so much that you hurt when s/he hurts, and you know s/he will most likely always be hurting, and there's not a thing you can do about it?

Is it wrong to be glad that you get to love him/her from a distance, and that you don't need to be up close, or does feeling glad about that mean you love him/her less?

Where is God in human suffering?

Thankful Yet Again

71. Quality sneakers

72. Orthotics

73. Theology

74. Philosophy

75. Good memories

76. Learning experiences and the wisdom that comes with them

77. Inner strength

78. Enough food

79. Clean water for drinking and bathing

80. My blog(s)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


61. New beginnings

62. Captivating TV shows, such as White Collar and Burn Notice

63. Rainbows

64. Cell phones

65. Customer service (any company/organization)

66. Pajamas

67. Blessings of all kinds

68. "Rabbi Corner" (I call my little area around my house "Rabbi Corner" because there are three Rabbis' families living within sight of each other.)

69. The smell of freshly cut grass

70. My "sort of friends" from college orientation.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Giving Thanks

51. The ability to contribute to a household

52. Tallit (prayer shawl) and tefillin (no English equivalent; I can find a picture if anyone wants)

53. My college: a match made in Heaven!

54. (Almost) fluency in Hebrew

55. My internship and the opportunities it provided

56. Modern medicine

57. My brothers

58. My challenges in life and what they have taught me

59. AP Biology, which I feel really prepared me for college

60. My cat

Monday, August 15, 2011

Thank You (Mostly Music Groups)

41. Strawberries

42. Blue Fringe (Jewish rock)

43. Lev Tahor (Jewish/Religious)

44. Rascal Flatts

45. Tim McGraw

46. Simple Plan

47. My intelligence and charm

48. The State of Israel

49. The United States of America

50. My (true) friends

Sunday, August 14, 2011

So Grateful

31. The Beatles

32. A body with working systems (mostly)

33. Prayer, for me and by me

34. Writing talent: poetry, prayers, flash fiction

35. The great courses at my college on subjects of interest to me

36. Diversity--I can't wait to meet all kinds of people!

37. realclearpolitics.com

38. Qualifying for a single room in college

39. Hillel

40. My journey through life

Saturday, August 13, 2011

More Thanks

21. Loved ones home safe and sound

22. Debbie Friedman music

23. My beautiful book of tehillim (psalms)

24. Shabbat

25. Cell phones

26. Reece's Rainbow

27. Jewish books

28. Rainbows

29. Thunderstorms

30. Facebook

Friday, August 12, 2011

So Tired...

I am so tired, and my heart is heavy. During physical therapy today, I literally felt as though I was being consumed by fire. I actually winced and whimpered more than once, and let the therapist know, unprompted, that I was not OK.

I have decided to stop being "brave" and answering "yes," and just tell them the truth when I am not feeling OK. This was a hard decision to make because I want them to think of me as brave and strong, but I know they already do because I never quit in the middle of my exercise routine. Therefore, with that to prove my bravery and strength, I can go ahead and tell the truth about how much I hurt. Am I making sense? I certainly hope so.

I don't like to ask people to pray for me but I am asking now. A particular Jewish (but anyone else could do it too) practice I like is reciting psalms in someone's merit, with that person in mind. I like psalm 20 (I recite it for the boy from my high school graduating class who has leukemia) and psalm 23 (I recite it for myself) best.

Thankful Round Two

11. Rice cakes.

12. A nice warm bed.

13. Freedom to practice my religion in safety.

14. My tender heart and soul that lead me to care for and about others.

15. My high school, where I learned so much more than academics and which helped prepare me for the wider world.

16. Equal rights for all, regardless of religion, "race", gender, etc.

17. Hot young women on TV.

18. My collection of kippot: I have twelve, each one with sentimental value as well as beauty and artistry.

19. My father, who serves as my rabbinic authority, making it easy for me to check various legal (Jewish) things with my Rabbi.

20. The blogs I read and the way they inspire me with their religious passion.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

100 Things

On another blog I read, the woman who blogs is listing ten things each day for which to be thankful. I thought I would try it. No doubt it will help me focus off my pain, and maybe I'll even see the good that has/will no doubt come out of it! Here we go:

1. Physical therapists who genuinely care about me and are willing to try anything to make me better.

2. Cherries. Need I say more?

3. Clean water to drink, as much as I want.

4. God. My religion keeps me going, and everything I do comes out of it.

5. The fact that I qualified for a single room in college.

6. My mother. Again, need I say more?

7. Computers, so I can blog.

8. The medications that keep me sane.

9. Good books that I am reading: Memoirs of a Geisha and Doing Jewish Theology.

10. My blog followers: I am flattered to have them.

More tomorrow!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Blogging for the Sake of It

I should be in bed right now, and I know it's OK to go a day without a blog post. Still, I feel like posting anyway. I have no idea what I am going to say, or on what subject; we shall see.

I am almost done with my summer internship at the local office of my congressman. I have just two more sessions, ending next Wednesday.

Unless I miss my guess (and I hope I do), physical therapy tomorrow is going to be horrific. I simply haven't moved around and exercised enough this week, and missing a day of exercising because of Tisha B'Av certainly didn't help. My name was finally at the top of Dr. Sherry's list, but I couldn't take the spot because I have to start college, something to which I am certainly looking forward!

There. Good night. I'm going to bed.

Not sure what the point of this is.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Spreading the Word...

Yes, I am aware that this is my third blog post today, but this is so important, I think I need to share it.

Judaism teaches "save a life and you have saved the world." Here is one more way to save lives:
Spread the word!

Tisha B'Av Again

Tisha B'Av is almost over. The mood has changed from one of sorrow and mourning to one of...not joy, not excitement, but meaning and purpose.

In one "short" (Ha ha!) hour we will be breaking our fasts. We will be sitting down to big dinners eagerly awaited. I can taste the water and pasta and fruit already...

But that could hardly be farther from the point. As Tisha B'Av ends, we must think not only of satiating our hunger but also of the Tisha B'Av message and what we will do with it.

The Tisha B'Av message, at least to me, is that we live in a broken world. Something--I'm not sure what exactly, but I know there was something--went wrong when the first Temple was destroyed. Something went wrong again with the destruction of the second Temple. It is up to us to fix our broken world.

How do we go about fixing the world? In my mind, there are two answers, the easier one and the harder one.

The easier answer is that we must perform mitzvot, fulfilling the holy commandments to the best of our abilities. We must keep kosher, pray three times a day, observe Shabbat...etc.

It is the harder answer, however, that is more compelling and in my mind ultimately more important. It is taught that the second Temple was destroyed because of senseless hatred, and that that same sin keeps the Temple from being rebuilt. What is the solution? We must LOVE. With all of our power, we must care for our fellow men. We must help satisfy their material needs, but more than that, we must ACCEPT. We must not merely tolerate but CELEBRATE the differences between us and the diversity of humanity.

That is how I will rebuild the world. I challenge you to do it your way.

Thoughts on Tisha B'Av

My Tisha B'Av this year got off to a rather irreverent start. All I could focus on was my hunger and thirst; I felt no grief for the Temple, or any other tragedy, at all.

Then I was praying this morning without tallit and tefillin (on Tisha B'Av, they are donned in the afternoon, rather than the morning, to symbolize our state of mourning) and all of a sudden it hit me: we are missing something.

Like it or not, almost all of Jewish ritual is based around the Temple. The holidays match Israel's agricultural cycle, which mattered in Temple times because people brought offerings at specific times of the year. In our prayers, we ask for the Messiah and a return to Temple times. We even have an extra set of prayers on special occasions, designed to substitute for the extra sacrifice that would have been offered in the Temple on that day.

I do not like the idea of a return to animal sacrifices and stratification by social class, gender, or anything else. I do not believe that the third Temple will take up these practices. Rather, I choose to believe in a Temple that will grant equal rights for all; the messianic "magic" thereof will be that every Jew has a place to practice as s/he chooses and still feel welcome.

No matter what your exact beliefs are, however, Judaism lacks something without the Temple. We lack a God-centered world, and this makes it harder to live a God-centered life. May we see the Temple rebuilt "bimherah, bimherah, b'yameinu b'karov;" speedily, speedily, soon in our days.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Good News but Not Really

So...the good news is that a spot opened up for me in the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia rehab program (for my RND).

The "but not really" is because I am not going to take it.

I won't say "can't" because I guess I could. I could miss the beginning of college, but I won't for two reasons. Number one, I want a real chance to develop a social life when everyone else is developing his or hers. Number two, it is possible to take a medical leave in the middle of the year. How in the world is one supposed to take a medical leave before the year starts?

It may never be the ideal time for me to enter that program, but now is the wrong time.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Revealing God, Special Feelings, Venting, and Psalm 23

Revealing God
Last night, as I sat around the dinner table with my family singing Shabbat songs, I had a thought I really liked and wanted to share. I realized that it is not up to God to reveal God's self; it is instead up to us to reveal God.

Take my experiences with "Erin" as an example. When I could no longer be her prayer warrior, I could have prayed--and in fact I did pray--for someone to come take over. Fine. All well and good. God could do that.

But God didn't. I worked to find "Erin" a new prayer warrior. And Julia's proposed solution (pairing up) was a result of that. It was the perfect solution; one could argue that it was made in Heaven. But I had to find it.

Special Feelings
Recently, during the majority of my prayer times, I get a special feeling inside, as if I am very excited but extremely at peace all at the same time. You might think these two feelings are opposites, and I would, too. But somehow, when I pray, they coexist.

Also, today while I was lying in bed trying to take a nap, I had a thought that I don't really think came from me and might have come from God. It was just a sentence fragment: "...someone lighter than you..." I will not try to interpret it, because my interpretations have been wrong at least as often as they have been right. But I am excited to find out what it means.

I have been in a lot of pain recently. Every day is bad; I am only taking one at a time because that's all I, or anyone really, can do. People who think they can take life all at once are fooling themselves. Anyway, I have discovered that what ever level pain is at in the worst hurting body part, it can be perceived as about two numbers higher on the scale of one to ten if other parts are hurting as well.

Psalm 23
I have a little secret to how I survive horrible pain, how I continue doing exercises that hurt and hurt and hurt. My little secret is psalm 23, the Artscroll translation of which is reproduced below.

A psalm by David: HASHEM is my shepherd, I shall not lack. In lush meadows He lays me down, beside tranquil waters He leads me. He restores my soul. He leads me on paths of justice for His Name's sake. Though I walk in the valley overshadowed by death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me. Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in view of my tormentors. You anointed my head with oil, my cup overflows. May only goodness and kindness pursue me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the House of HASHEM for long days.

Friday, August 5, 2011

God and I Together

God and I together came up with the Sweet Solution about which I blogged yesterday. I prayed for ideas and opened myself up to them. In return, three or four ideas flooded my head faster and harder than any other ideas I've ever had. I acted on them, plain and simple, and a solution was found. Neither God nor I could have done this without the other.

What a powerful lesson! I may be carried in God's hands, but in the end I am also Her hands. God needs people in order to work His miracles.

Oh my Heart is Soaring

Julia at covenantbuilders.blogspot.com has posted her usual Friday post advocating for Reece's Rainbow children. Today, one of the children about whom she has posted is "my" little girl,"Erin." My heart is celebrating because "Erin's" chance of finding a family is now that much greater. I am going to be rather juvenile here and give my big excited noise: Wheeeeeeee!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Hard Day

(NOTE: Because I am merging three of my blogs into one [this one], making this a blog about my life in general, you will from now on see some posts here that are not about religion. Many will not be inspirational, either.)

Today was a really hard day physically. (For those who do not know, I have Reflex Neurovascular Dystrophy.) During physical therapy, I turned to my therapist and said, "I am trying really hard not to scream." And I was, because waves of pain were washing over my face, neck, and back and then not really leaving. My feet hurt like h*ll during the appointment and for hours afterward. I am not sure whether or not I slept through the night last night; if I did, that would be the first night of that sort since last Thursday. I am worn out, exhausted, enervated.

It's enough. I shouldn't have to struggle to find meaning.

A Sweet Solution

Remember my posts about not being able to be "Erin's" prayer warrior anymore, and how sad that made me? Remember how committed I was to finding someone to take my place? Well, I have found something even better.

As one way to spread awareness, I asked Julia at covenantbuilders.blogspot.com to post about "Erin." She emailed me to ask why I could no longer be a prayer warrior. After a brief email conversation, she offered to partner with me, leaving me the official prayer warrior with her to cover for me when I forgot.

Honestly, my initial gut reaction was that this was a solution for a baby who didn't understand what was really going on. I soon realized, however, that this was in fact a very dignifying solution, allowing me to keep the job I hold so dear.

In return for Julia's kindness, I am "advertising" her blog in this post.

Julia blogs at covenantbuilders.blogspot.com . On her blog, she chronicles her life with her three sons: Ben and Elijah, her biological children; and Aaron, her son adopted from an Eastern European mental institution at the age of six. She also "yells her heart out" (her words) for the "lost boys" (again, her words): those left behind in the institution from which she adopted Aaron, the first boy EVER to be adopted from there!

Most importantly, every Friday, Julia posts pictures and descriptions of Reece's Rainbow children who need homes. Please at least check out those posts!

P.S. Recommitting to "Erin" and the others on Reece's Rainbow has given my life a purpose again despite the pain. Thank you, thank you, thank you Julia!


(This isn't exactly religion related, but since this has become my main blog, I am posting this here anyway.)

Yesterday my heart was pierced, and I nearly cried. I was watching the Reece's Rainbow "ministry video" (think 12 minute informercial) and I was seeing pictures of orphans waiting to be adopted. BREAK. MY. HEART. Then I saw the words "and the angels we didn't get to in time." BREAK. MY. HEART. all over again.

Then this morning I was on a blog with a slide show of older, disabled kids who are loved by nobody, except from afar by families in foreign countries, many of whom cannot afford to adopt or show their love to these adolescents and teens. BREAK. MY. HEART. I couldn't watch it. I know what happens to those kids when they "age out." The "lucky" ones end up on the street, where sixty percent of the girls turn to prostitution, seventy percent of the boys turn to crime, and ten percent of these teens commit suicide before their eighteenth birthday. The even more unlucky ones (disabled physically or mentally) end up in mental institutions, where they are mostly neglected or forced to sit all day with nothing to do but stare into space. BREAK. MY. HEART.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

THIS is Why I Pray...and Why YOU Should Pray!


Please take a look!

Up to God Now

Yesterday I wrote a post that almost killed my heart. In it, I publicly admitted that I can no longer do something (pray for "Erin") very close to my soul. I asked--no, I begged--for someone else to take over. This morning I posted the situation as my status on facebook, once again making my request and begging for questions and/or volunteers.

I have done all I can, I think. This morning when I got to the part of the Amidah (standing prayer recited three times a day) in which personal additions may be made, I said to God, "I have done all I can. I fulfilled my part of this. It's Your turn now."

Judaism is very big on partnering with God. We are not supposed to just sit back, pray, and wait. We are on this Earth to take an active role in fixing it up and making it better.

Still, sometimes we reach our limit and then it is God's turn. May God bless me with more opportunities to tell "Erin's" story and find someone to take my place as her Prayer Warrior.


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

"My" Little Girl

(Please note that I am posting this on three of my blogs!)

A few of you may remember my commitment to be a prayer warrior for a sweet girl with Down Syndrome who is living in an orphanage in Eastern Europe. The idea of the prayer warrior system is that each warrior is assigned a specific child for whom to pray every day. Due to life circumstances, I can no longer fulfill that commitment, but I am determined to find a new prayer warrior for "Erin." Just email laurie@reecesrainbow.org and ask to be "Erin's" prayer warrior.

You can see "Erin" by following this link and scrolling down:

Thank you so much!


Just a few minutes ago, as I was praying, I felt a great wave of peace wash over me. For the first time in a long time, I knew God was listening. At the end, I felt all excited in the pit of my stomach. I don't want to jinx myself, but I think I am close to having visions again!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Rosh Hodesh Av

Today begins the Hebrew month of Av, the second to last month on the Jewish calendar. Soon it will be Elul, a month to focus on repentance and forgiveness.

On the ninth of Av is Tisha B'Av (literally translates to "the ninth of Av"), a day of fasting and mourning for the destruction of the Temple. Some people lump in the Holocaust on this day also, and I fell prey to that last year, but this year I will try to really mourn for the Temple. I may have an ongoing blog post that day, updated as I feel and/or think new or even repetitive things. See you then!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Shabbat Described

A couple of people I have met in my life have asked me how Jews celebrate Shabbat. Here is my family's Shabbat routine:

Friday afternoon, my parents cook dinner for Friday and Saturday nights because we are not allowed to cook on Shabbat. For Friday night dinner, we have chicken, rice, vegetables, and of course the special bread called Challah. Somebody (almost always one of my brothers or I) sets the table, using fancy dishes and adding candles, a cup of grape juice, and the Challah. We all take showers and put on clean clothes.

When everything is ready, we all come to the table. My mother lights the candles (two of them) and she and I say a special blessing: "Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to light the Shabbat candles." Next, my parents bless each of us, asking that the boys be blessed like Ephraim and Manasseh, and that I be blessed like Sarah, Rebbecca, Rachel, and Leah. The blessing finishes up with, "May God bless you and guard you; may God light up His face toward you and favor you; may God turn His face towards you and grant you peace."

Once everybody has been blessed, somebody (we rotate who does this; because we have all had our Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, everyone is on the rotation) says a prayer over the grape juice. It is quite long, commemorating the Exodus and the first Shabbat at the end of the six days of creation, and ends with "Blessed are You, Lord our God, who creates the fruit of the vine." Next, we all wash our hands in a ritual way and say the blessing, "Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, Who sanctifies us with His commandments and commands us to wash our hands." Finally, somebody blesses the Challah: "Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, Who brings forth bread from the earth."

After all the blessings have been recited and their accompanying actions taken, we eat dinner and throughly enjoy it. Dinner conversation varies just as it does during every dinner. When we have finished eating, we get out the song books and each of us picks a song to sing. Our meal ends with the recitation of the Grace after Meals. Finally, somebody (usually my brother or I) does the dishes. Because my family uses electricity on Shabbat (some do not; this is a big debate and has been for decades), whoever is washing the dishes puts on music, usually Jewish music.

Saturday morning, around 10:30, we all gather to pray together as a family. We recite morning prayers, read and discuss some of the week's Torah portion and sometimes the weekly portion from the Prophets as well, and conclude our little service with the extra prayers for Shabbat. We all enjoy wearing our tallitot (prayer shawls; singular tallit) without tefillin (I can't explain or translate these; let me know if you would like a picture), because tefillin are only worn on weekdays. After prayers, the remainder of the day is for resting, reading, walking, or anything else one wants to do without performing an action from the 39 categories prohibited on Shabbat. (I don't know all the categories; I simply know the actions in my life that are forbidden.)

So there you go! Shabbat in a nutshell.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Job

Being Jewish is a full time job, at least for me. There are blessings for literally everything, prayers to be recited three times a day, mezuzot to kiss as I walk through doors, unkosher food everywhere through which I need to sift to find what I may eat...etc.

I am fully committed to this job, and most of the time it yields great joy and fulfillment. But sometimes, just sometimes, I get bored.

But still I go through the motions. I still pray. I still say blessings. I still kiss mezuzot. I still keep kosher and observe the Sabbath.

Why? Because a job is a job, and I don't quit.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

I wish...

I wish I could feel God's hand in my life right now. I am in an incredibly turbulent stage of life with starting college, learning to navigate the world, etc.

I know beyond a doubt that I was matched to my college by God, and that I will have a wonderful time there and grow so much. At the same time, I am very anxious. I want everything to work out well and I am nervous that it won't.

There is a place in the required Jewish prayers to stop and add personal reflections/thoughts/words/etc. Lately I have just been standing there at that moment, trying to feel God's presence. Sometimes it almost works. :)

I so need God right now. This is not an ideal time for religious turmoil.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Grappling with God

I am currently searching for God.

As always.

One book I am reading said that in today's world, we need God not as a function, but because God is God. I am half a step away from understanding that.

I am theologically much less like a child and more like an adult, but not quite enough like an adult to live comfortably there.

So I grapple: with my feelings, with my thoughts, with God.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

More Jewish in the Non-Jewish World

For the past few days, I have been at college orientation (done now). I talked a lot to ohers about Judaism, periodically checking to see if they were still interested and giving them time to talk about themselves, because I was suddenly acutely aware of being Jewish. Below is a somewhat amusing list of "not in Jew-World anymore" moments.
1. During orientation, lots of tables were set up by various organizations connected with the school. I saw three different church tables in the space of roughly 20-30 feet.
2. My orientation group was sitting with our group leaders playing a game. We had a beach ball with questions written on it and when someone caught it she had to answer one of the questions. I chose "If you were invisible, where would you go?" I replied with "the men's side of the Western Wall" and got totally blank looks. Oops.
3. Jews hang holy scrolls, caled mezuzot (singular mezuza), on the right side of our door posts. There is a custom to touch them and kiss one's fingers on the way through the door. I kept almost reaching up, and occasionally actually reaching up, for mezuzot that weren't there.
4. I was standing in line for lunch, and all of a sudden it hit me: I was in a dining hall where the meat was not kosher. Insert momentary mental breakdown here.
5. During the evening one night, a bunch of us were hanging around talking about senior pranks at our high schools. I told the story of my freshman year, when the senior class reproduced the ten plagues in all the classrooms. I got a totally blank look from one of the girls, which I took to mean she didn't understand how. I added, "Down to dead crickets on the floor." She looked disgusted, but not in a way that said she understood. Finally, to clue me in, one of the other girls asked the one in question whether she knew the story of the ten plagues. She said she didn't, although once I started telling it she remembered. Oops.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Something I Need to Remember and of Which I Need to Remind Myself

Lack of understanding or image/idea of God DOES NOT EQUAL lack of God. In my opinion and experience, THERE IS A GOD, even if/though I do not understand in the slightest.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Roller Coaster Ride

These past couple weeks, my idea of God has been chewed up and spat out. The God I knew would not have let such tremendous pain and suffering as happened to me last week happen to me. But God exists, and they happened.

So what is God?

I suggested that God let this happen, and my father suggested that perhaps "letting" and "not letting" are not in God's job description.

So what is God?

A book I am reading suggested that all spiritual journeys start in Egypt and end at Sinai. I prefer to compare it to a roller coaster ride. I am at that point just after you leave the ground, before you know what's ahead.

It is both terrifying and liberating.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Rosh Hodesh Tammuz

Today was, and tomorrow is, Rosh Hodesh Tammuz. The seventeenth of Tammuz is traditionally the day when the walls of Jerusalem were breached by the Babylonians. This is a sunup to sundown fast day, with no other restrictions (unlike Yom Kippur and Tisha B'Av.) I will be at orientation for college that day, walking around in the heat, so for health and safety reasons I will be drinking water anyway.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

My New Kippah

My high school graduation gift finally arrived! I chose it myself. It is a beautiful kippah, a big one that matches my tallit. Here is a link to a picture of it:


It is even prettier in person than it is in the picture! I love it!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Being Jewish in a Work Environment

Things I learned from my first day as an intern for my local Congressman:

1. If one is going to wear a kippah in the work environment, a navy blue one is a good thing to have.

2. Being the only Hebrew speaker wherever you go gets lonely.

3. It is impressive how well people remember to call you by your Hebrew name even if you only tell them once.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Amazing Jewish Artist!

Check out emanuel-judaica.com ! Yair Emanuel designs all kinds of Jewish ritual objects as well as purses, boxes, etc. For my high school graduation present, I chose to purchase his large "birds in color" kippah.

Thursday, June 9, 2011


Shavuot has come and gone. The Omer is completely counted. The Jews have once again received the Torah.

There are two days of Shavuot, each with its own assigned readings. On the first day we read Megillat Ruth (The Scroll of Ruth) and the Torah portion that tells of the Mount Sinai revelation and the giving of the Ten Commandments. On the second day, we read the section of the Torah in which we are commanded to count the Omer and observe this holiday of Shavuot.

I wasn't sure what I would post tonight until I sat down tonight, but now I have a question: What is Sinai? Is it a place, a time, a state of mind, something else? Judaism teaches that Sinai is experienced in every generation. Where is it, and how do I get there?

Saturday, June 4, 2011

A Look at Modern AntiSemitism...


As I ponder this, I remember the fact that wherever I go I represent my people. A Jew cannot avoid that. As members of a minority in America and the world, we must be more than ourselves. We must represent our people, and represent them well.

This is my call to action.

Respectful comments welcome.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Being a Jew and Rosh Hodesh Sivan

Yesterday at physical therapy, the guy on the exercise bike next to me started up a conversation about Judaism (always fun), and then tried to convert me to Christianity (not so fun). Although the situation was uncomfortable, I walked away as a proud Jew, which brings me to my next point.

Judaism is not merely part of my identity; Judaism and God are my heart and soul. I do not merely have a Jewish identity; I am my Jewish identity. When describing who I am, Jewish is the first adjective that comes to mind, while Judaism is the first noun.

In other news, today is Rosh Hodesh Sivan! Six more days until Shavuot! I have posted about Shavuot both last year and the year before, but I hope to find something new about the holiday so I can post this year as well.

And yes, for my Jewish readers and/or anyone else who noticed, I never posted about Lag B'Omer. My apologies: it's only a minor holiday and I left on my senior class trip that day. Nonetheless, I could have done a belated post, but I did not. I'm sorry.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


OK, this involves a little learning of Hebrew grammar. Stick with me.

In Hebrew, verbs come in seven forms, called buildings: Pa'al, Pi'el, Nif'al, Hif'il, Poo'al, Hitpa'el, and hoof'al.

The Hebrew word for "to pray" is "l'hitpallel." This is a hitpa'el verb.

A hitpa'el verb always indicates an exchange between two parties. For example, "lch'tov" means "to write," and "l'hitkatev" means "to correspond." It follows that "l'hitpallel" also implies an exchange: an exchange between people and God.

Prayer is a two-way street.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

"Of Shoes and Ships and Sealing Wax, of Cabbages and Kings..."

My swirling thoughts have begun to settle down, and I feel that writing them down will help make them clearer. This post is likely to be long; stick with me, please.

My Identity--a Gift?

I firmly believe that my identity, all of it, every aspect, is a gift from God. I know for a fact that I was made "B'Tzelem Elohim," in God's image, with a "lev tahor," a pure heart. As much as I struggle with accepting my sexual orientation, I know that this struggle will ultimately make me a more beautiful and stronger person. The ability to love, regardless of which gender one loves, is a gift. I am Jewish, I am homosexual or maybe bisexual, and I am proud.

The Jewish View of Our Relationship with God

According to Judaism, people are God's partners in fixing the world and continuing creation. Yes, there is a time to cry out to God for forgiveness, but we have only one day for that: Yom Kippur. Although there is also a short paragraph in the main weekday prayer, recited three times a day, asking God for forgiveness, it is sandwiched between praise and more important requests (health, rain for Israel, the coming of the Messiah, etc.) and is almost over before it starts.

Judaism teaches that we are God's witnesses, and some believe that without people, there would be no God. To put it in my own words, we (all people) are God's fingers, completing the work that could not be done without us. The main point of the Torah is to help us with this work and give us a way to approach God through the following of the commandments.

God's Gender?

Most people call God by a masculine name and pronoun. In all Hebrew prayers, God is portrayed as male. There is, however, a speculation that the sacred, unpronouncable name, Y-H-V-H, used once a year by one person in private during Temple times, was in fact God's feminine aspect, and we lost it when we lost the Temple.

I know that in my personal visions etc., when God appears to have a gender that gender is female, usually a mother. Because I believe that visions are real but their content is what we expect to see, I wonder whether the way I perceive God has to do with my lesbianism.

Monday, May 16, 2011


Tonight we are 28 days, that is four weeks, into the Omer. Three more weeks until Shavuot!

Also, I have lots on my mind tonight about trials and struggles that are really gifts, acceptance of self and others, and the relationship between people and God according to Judaism, but for tonight I think this song says it all. "V'ahavta l'rei'acha kamocha": Love your neighbor as yourself.


Sunday, May 15, 2011


NOTICE: This post does not go in a logical order; please read the whole thing before forming opinions and/or commenting. You may be surprised by what you read.

You, readers, may notice the comments on one of my previous entries. Although I disagree with them, I have chosen to allow their publication because I do not intend to censor politely expressed opinions, however much they differ from mine.

That being said...

Before I go any farther with this blog, I MUST CLARIFY one point regarding my religious life:


There. I said it. I'm sorry if you're disappointed. I believe the Torah is divinely inspired; I believe there was and continues to be a moment or state of being called Sinai in which special, unbelievable, miraculous religious experiences happen. I also believe religion is at least in part a man made system and can evolve, and that the evolution of religion is inevitable if Sinai is a potentially continuous state of being, as I believe it to be.

Even if you do believe that the entire system (of whatever religion) was created and written by God (and feel free to do so), in Judaism there is another body of literature, separate from the Written Torah, known as the Oral Torah. This traditional body of literature, compiled about 2000 years ago, allows for homosexual acts via a number of interpretations of the verse prohibiting them.

I am going to get somewhat explicit, if you catch my drift, in a moment. You have been warned.

The Torah's prohibition of homosexuality goes something like "Man, with a man, shall not lie as he lies with a woman." One Talmudic (Oral Torah) drash (explanation) on this verse is that, using a pun, the Hebrew words for "a man" can be translated as "he-she," therefore only prohibiting sex with an androgynous being. Conservative Rabbis today interpret this verse as only prohibiting anal sex. These are only two possible explanations that allow for inclusion of all sexual orientations within Judaism.

Finally, I close with a story by Shmuley Boteach, an Orthodox Rabbi who broke from the Chabad movement because they did not like his acceptance of gay Jews: a story that I encountered this past Shabbat. He says that homosexual couples come to him feeling guilty of two sins: violating the prohibition of homosexuality and not fulfilling the commandment to reproduce.

And he says that when they come to him, he tells them that those are only two out of the 613 commandments, and that fulfilling the other 611 should keep them busy.

For tonight, I will close with that thought.


I am slowly recovering from the explosion of emotions I felt this past Shabbat. My parents have been very helpful with that, and together with them I have come up with the following:

1. It is OK to be religious and enthusiastic about your religion and still question God and/or God's role in certain things.

2. As evidenced by the psalms, Judaism has a long history of arguing with God; what we do not have is a history of silent acceptance of God and "God's will."

3. To put one's religious system--not what one knows about God, but the system itself--first is idolizing the system.

4. Jews are called the Children of Israel. According to the Torah, Israel means "He has wrestled with God and won." That's what I'm doing: wrestling with my beliefs about God and Judaism.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Identity Crisis

OK, I don't know if I even have words for this, so pardon my clumsy attempts.

This past Shabbat here at school was hosted by the Gay Straight Alliance. Up until last night, I had maintained a fragile self-acceptance by alternately ignoring my homosexuality or my Judaism as I engaged with the other.

Last night it was Shabbat, and I was sitting there being not-straight, and it all blew up in my face. I felt my Judaism slipping through my fingers faster than it has ever slipped away before.

I fought tooth and nail last night and today to get my Judaism back. I continued doing Jewish things; I remembered that we all, myself included, are created in the image of God; and I remembered yesterday's blog post.

I did not commit to be a Jew only when it was easy. I committed to being a Jew, period. I can be lonely and scared and confused with God, or I can be lonely and scared and confused without God. I choose to be with God.

Come what may, whatever happens, I will not lose my Judaism.

Friday, May 13, 2011

I am a Jew.

I know this appears to be really, really obvious; but it's not, at least not in the way I mean it: I am a Jew.

Please read that again: I AM A JEW. I cannot emphasize that enough. Far and away, I am Jewish above and beyond anything else. As I sit typing this, having taken the time to pray this afternoon, I am listening to Jewish music as I anticipate the arrival of Shabbat. Every school day, I engage in Jewish studies. I plan to be a Jewish studies minor in college (religion major).

I am a Jew, and I am especially cognizant of that when presenting myself to the world. I may be someone's first Jew; I may have to overturn someone's negative opinion of Jews. Everything I do when out in public may become associated with Judaism in someone's mind.

I am a Jew in everything I do, always looking for ways to praise God and His world. I am a Jew, God's partner in fixing the world.

I am a Jew. I am a Jew. I am a Jew. My people have fought for centuries for the freedom to say this, and fully aware of that blessed, hard won freedom, I proudly proclaim: I AM A JEW!

Thank you for reading this.

God's Presence

Today, when I finished up my afternoon prayers, I was in God's presence in a new way. I couldn't exactly feel it, but I didn't know what to say. I ended up chatting a bit anyway, but really I think the moment would have lasted longer in silence. Then again, there's always next time!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Yom Ha'Atzma'ut

Today is Yom Ha'Atzma'ut, Israel's independence day. The mood has changed from one of tears to one of joy. To be honest, I began the day ruminating on the fact that, as always, there might not even be an Israel next year.

Then the festivities started. After a half day of classes, we began our school's celebration. We ate Israeli foood; we danced Israeli dances; we sang Israeli songs; we made Jewish/Israel themed craft projects and learned about the modern State of Israel.

Celebrate we will, doubtful status or no. Celebrate we will, because we must. Because at least for this year, we have a safe haven and potential home. For this year, we remain a free people.

Celebrate we will.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Yom HaZikaron

Today is Yom Hazikaron, Israel's Memorial Day. When Americans think of Memorial Day, we think of parties and barbeques. Not so in Israel.

In Israel, Memorial Day is serious business. Just about every Israeli (certainly every Israeli I know) knows someone currently in the army or knew someone who died fighting. Four students who graduated from my high school, three of whom I know personally, are in the Israeli army right now, as we speak. More are planning to join them.

In Israel on Yom HaZikaron, there is a moment when a siren sounds. People everywhere (including in cars on the highway) stop and stand for a moment of silence to remember those who fell in battle to protect our land. The day is one of missing those who are gone and wishing for peace.

Please say an extra prayer for the Israeli soldiers and their families today.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Rosh Hodesh Iyyar

Yesterday and today are Rosh Hodesh Iyyar. Iyyar is a month without much in it. We have Yom HaZikaron (Israel's memorial day) and Yom Ha'Atzma'ut (Israel's independence day), and I will blog about both of them at the time. Other than that, however, Iyyar is a pretty quiet month. We continue to count the Omer in anticipation of Shavuot.

Monday, May 2, 2011


Today I found out I did not get into an honors program at my college for next year. After doing some thinking and talking with my parents, however, I have come up with the following:

God deals you a hand of cards. You do your best to play the hand you're dealt. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, those cards land you somewhere you don't wish to be, or perhaps even somewhere you downright hate. You absolutely should get up, dust yourself off, and find a way out, but before all that...

Sit back, look up, and remember Who dealt you the hand in the first place.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Yom HaShoah

Tonight is Yom HaShoah, the day to remember the Holocaust, to mourn for the victims, to swear not to forget.

What exactly does that commitment not to forget actually mean? In every Jewish school, children learn about the Holocaust; in some, it is almost shoved down their throats. Memorials to the Holocaust exist everywhere.

Why? What are we doing? What are we honoring? Shouldn't we be more concerned with stopping current genocides?

My answer is yes. Yes, we should care. Yes, we should act. Yes, memorials should be built, but memories should be used for a purpose.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Pesach: the big one. The big, cool, formative Jewish holiday. The holiday without which Judaism could not exist.

What can I say?

Pesach celebrates the Exodus from Egypt. On the first two nights, through elaborate ceremony (my family's is about four hours in duration, including dinner), we retell and relive this central story. Guests are invited. Among other things, we drink wine or grape juice, eat matza (flat unrisen bread) and maror (bitter herbs), and answer the main question of the evening, posed by the youngest child present: Why is this night different from all other nights?

Why indeed? Why, thousands of years after a potentially fabricated tale occurred, are we retelling it? Why bother?

Why? Because even in our own day, there is oppression. In our own lives, we have all been freed from something. I believe that God sees suffering and I believe that God cares. And that is the theme of the Exodus.

Side note: On the second night of Pesach we begin counting the Omer. Every night for seven weeks we will say a bracha (blessing) and count the days and weeks (for example: "Today is the twelfth day, that is one week and five days, of the Omer.") up until the holiday of Shavuot. More on that when it comes.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Rosh Hodesh Nissan

Tonight and tomorrow, we Jews celebrate Rosh Hodesh Nissan: the beginning of what is arguably the most important month on the Hebrew calendar. This is when we celebrate Pesach (Passover) with what is essentially a reenactment of the Exodus story. We drink four cups of wine (or grape juice), eat matza (flat bread that has not been given time to rise; must be prepared, including baking, in eighteen minutes or less), and tell the central story though our actions, parables, and of course just downright storytelling. It is an excellent holiday, one of my favorites, and I will go into more detail about it when it arrives in just two weeks!

Saturday, March 19, 2011


Tonight and tomorrow, Jews everywhere (except in walled cities; they celebrate the next day) celebrate the holiday of Purim. The Purim story is a real thriller and one of my favorites of the Jewish year.

In a nutshell, King Ahashverosh has a party and his queen, Vashti, refuses to come. In retaliation, he orders her killed and begins to search for a new queen. The girl who wins the spot is Esther, a Jew, the ward of her cousin (or possibly uncle), Mordechai.

The king has an advisor named Haman who expects everybody to bow down to him. Mordechai refuses, so Haman decides to kill all the Jews. Esther finds out about this from Mordechai, who wants her to go to the king and plead for her people. Innitially, Esther refuses because she knows the king can kill her is she approaches him uninvited; finally, however, she agrees to go, using my favorite quote from Megillat Esther (the Scroll of Esther): "If I perish, I perish."

The king receives Esther and she invites him and Haman to a party that night. At the party, she invites them to a second party. At the second party, she exposes Haman and his plan. Haman and his ten sons are hanged on the gallows that Haman made for Mordechai.

The Jews of the Persian Empire (where the story takes place) are given permission to defend themselves against their attackers on the day of the massacre. They take up arms and successfully get their revenge.

Purim is celebrated by hearing the megilla reading, sending gifts of food to friends and food and money to the poor, and eating a big celebratory meal. It is called Purim after the lots (called purim in Hebrew) that Haman cast to decide when to kill the Jews.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Remember the boy I mentioned, the one in the ICU? He's been diagnosed with Leukemia. Prayers, prayers, please!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Rosh Hodesh Adar II

Today and tomorrow, we celebrate Rosh Hodesh Adar II. Th eholiday of Purim is this month. The Purim story, from the scroll of Esther, is a thrilling tale of villains, heroes, danger, and triumph. In my opinion it is one of the more exciting holiday stories. It is a mitzvah (commandment) to be happy on Purim. As such, Jews dress up in costumes, go to synagogue to hear the megilla read, and send baskets of food to friends, family, and the poor. What a great holiday!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Please Pray

There is a boy in my class at school who is in the ICU,very sick...prayers please.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Struggle

I am going to reveal something I have never before posted here: I am not "staight". I am bi- or homosexual. And I am a Jew.

The Jewish religion frowns upon homosexual acts. That is a fact with which I have struggled before. I had a good conversation with my father (a Rabbi) last year about the nature of God and religion, and that helped me accept myself the way I am.

Then today in my Hassidism class we started watching "Trembling Before God", a movie about homosexual individuals in the haredi (ultra-Orthodox Jewish) community. I was reminded of how much traditional Judaism frowns upon my future lifestyle. I felt my Judaism slipping through my fingers the way it had before.

Except this time I held on. I went and davened after school. I will daven tonight. I love my Judaism; it is far too precious to just drop.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Rosh Hodesh Adar I

Tonight begins Rosh Hodesh Adar I. It will be a two day Rosh Hodesh, lasting through Saturday. I am writing this early because I won't get time tonight.

First, a note about double Adar: The Hebrew calendar is a lunar calendar. Lunar calendars are always slightly less than a year long; I think they are short a few days. Anyway, just as the solar calendar adds a day every four years, the Hebrew calendar must add an extra month every few years. (It's not a very regular system, and I don't remember the exact numbers.) Therefore, Adar II will be next month, and we will have to wait until then to celebrate the holiday of Purim (more on that next month.)

Secondly: I love Rosh Hodesh. I love, love, LOVE Rosh Hodesh. It really does feel like a holiday (which it is) to me. There are extra prayers of Thansgiving to be said, and it is my custom to pray out of my special siddur (prayerbook; given to me in first grade and very old and fragile now) on Rosh Hodesh as well as on Shabbat and holidays. There will be a special additional Torah reading in services this Shabbat.

Thirdly, I have resumed my custom of learning a new bracha (blessing) each month. For the month of Adar I, I have memorized the bracha for a rainbow. It commemorates the Noah story, and it is "Blessed are you God...who remembers the covenant and is faithful in His covenants and upstanding in His words."

I close with a quote for Adar. Loosely translated, it is: "When Adar enters, joy multiplies." May we all have a joyous Adar I.

Monday, January 31, 2011


Rosh Hodesh Adar I is this Thursday night through Saturday, and I am so excited! More on Thursday night.

By the way, I am doing OK with my new mitzvah of after-meal blessings. I tend to forget at breakfast but I remember lunch and dinner.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Nice Opportunity and a New Mitzvah

Today, I had an opportunity to say a bracha (blessing) I almost never get to say. It is "Blessed are you, God...who gives a good smell to fruits." I have a lousy sense of smell, so I usually have to deliberately smell the fruit in order to say this one. Today, however, a girl in my Bible class had peeled an orange and left it on the table during our seven minute break, and I could smell the orange from where I was sitting! So of course I thanked God for the smell.

Speaking of God...davening (praying) twice daily is so much habit now that I think I will take on another mitzvah. From here on out, I will praise God for my food after I eat, not just before. Thse prayers vary from the ten paragraph "Birkat Hamazon" after eating bread, to the two line "Borei Nefashot" for miscellaneous foods, with one in between (I forget the name of it) to thank God for the seven species of Israel (wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates).

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

As Promised: Sorcery, Blessings, and Out of This World

OK. Here we go, as promised last night:

I have seen too much in this world and others to not believe in sorcery. In fact, I have friends whom I believe are hayyev mitah (liable for the death penalty) by Torah standards because of sorcery. In my experience sorcery exists. It is real. One can participate in it if one chooses. Because the Torah so strongly forbids it, however, I will never engage in it. I absolutely refuse, just as I refuse to eat nonkosher food or break Shabbat. It just won't happen. My belief in sorcery does, however, add spice to my life in that I have to think about the fact that I am avoiding it. Very interesting.

Blessings and Curses:
Along the same lines, I believe that blessings and curses, if given with true intent and focus, have tremendous power regardless of who gives them. I believe that negative wishes, especially if spoken aloud, really can harm people. I have never given a curse, and I certainly do not plan on it. God can (and does in the Torah) curse because God is God (enough said), but I should not.

I have given a true blessing exactly three times in my life. The first was to a man I met in an airport when we were both stuck there overnight. He and I talked religion for five hours straight, and at the end, I gave him my blessing. I don't remember whether he rquested or I offerred, but the end result was the same.

My second blessing was given to my director on my trip in Kansas. She was pregnant and I strongly desired to bless the unborn baby. I asked her if I could; she was delighted, so of course I did.

My third blessing was given to a good friend of mine (not even a fake name here, to really protect this person's privacy) in JFK airport on our class trip to Israel. I had wanted to bless this friend for a long time, and finally I just pulled the friend aside and did it. I will not share contents of any of the above blessings; they are too sacred for that.

Other Worlds:
At one point during the Summer before Junior year I could literally leave this world. I would go and sit by a stream and concentrate all five senses on the water, and soon my soul would leave my body and rise up to be with God. Let me tell you, the "God world" is absolutely beautiful. There are no value judgments, so there is no concept of bad and no such thing as differences. That world is full of swirling patches of color, and...just...goodness. I made myself stop going there because the culture shock of coming back to this world was too much. I have since forgotten and/or lost the ability to connect with that world, but oh, how I yearn to go back!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Catch up...soon.

No new spiritually extraordinary things have happened to me yet, but in reviewing this blog, I realize there are a few things I would like to post/repost. Coming soon:

My beliefs about sorcery
My beliiefs about blessings and curses
My experiences in another world

Again, some of these may be reposts. I wish I could do this tonight, but I really must sleep. Good night!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

So Special!

It just occurred to me that I have never done a post about why Shabbat is so special to me. Here we go:

1. First and foremost, on Shabbat I do not make myself do anything I do not want to do. Shabbat is a day of rest.

2. On Shabbat, I get the chance to daven (pray) three times a day, instead of my usual twice. I also get to wear my tallit (prayer shawl).

3. Very often, I get the honor of leading something (or two or even occasionally three somethings) during services.

4. Shabbat is a time for friends and family.

5. On Shabbat, Rosh Hodesh, and holidays, I daven out of the siddur (prayer book) I received in first grade. This feels special to me every time.

6. On Shabbat I get to take a nap!

7. On Shabbat we sing some of my favorite songs!

8. Shabbat is a great opportunity to just live in the moment, which is something we all need to do more.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Tu B'Shevat

Today is a minor Jewish holiday, Tu b'Shevat. Literally translating to fifteenth of Shevat, Tu b'Shevat is a New Year for the trees. Historically, this date was used to calculate legalities for Israeli farmers.

Nowadays the holiday has meaning, too. Today at school we split into small groups and looked at traditional Jewish texts on our relationship with the environment. I leave you with the message I took from today's lesson: we must treat the earth as a guest treats a host. Don't make messes. Clean up after yourself. Leave the world a better place.

In other words, this week is the Hebrew anniversary of my Bat Mitzvah. The Torah portion is Parashat Yitro, with the Ten Commandments, and I get to read them in services this Saturday!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Harnessing Prayer Power

I need your prayers for Something Big...I can't share details yet but it is possible that lives--real, true, alive lives--hang in the balance. It would mean so much to me if you would pray for my Something Big to work out...I myself have been rocking back and forth in prayer, crying in prayer, writing prayers...all for this. If it works out, the past few weeks of anxiety, anticipation, despair, and prayer will all be worth it.

So a little bit for my sake but mostly for the sake of those lives...pray that this works out...please.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Inspiring Jewish Song

Go to Youtube and listen to "Deaf Man in the Shteeble" by Lev Tahor. Do it now. I dare you. You won't regret it.

Prayer Requests?

I am aware that this post might come off as totally presumptuous. If it does, I apologize; that is not my intention.

Every person prays differently, and everyone has a different "prayer limit/capacity." I have found that, aside from the usual Jewish prayers, I can have about seven other things for which to pray, but if there are more than that my prayers lack something vital.

Anyway, the point is that I currently have five causes/people on my prayer list and am open to adding two more if anyone would like to have my prayers.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

My Big God

Today when I was davening (praying) mincha (afternoon prayers), I really felt myself with God. I almost had a vision. When I came to the end of my prayers, and it was time to go, I literally had to tear myself away from God's holy presence. Bittersweet.

Also, please join me in prayer that an important thing in my life--one that could save many other lives--will work out and actually happen. I cannot give more details yet, but when and if it comes to fruition I will let you know. You and I and My Big God can make this happen, together.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

It's getting stronger!

My sense of God is coming back! Nothing special happens while I'm praying (yet), but I am aware of leaving God's presence when I finish, and I actually look forward to praying all day! I am now praying two of the three required Jewish prayer services. (I don't have time before school in the morning to pray then.) I don't usually get time for tallis and tefillin: my afternoon prayers are said in the ten minutes between school and PE, and tallis and tefillin are a day time commandment, not to be worn during evening prayers. However, two days ago I had a half day of school, and today I had a snow day, so I got to wear my tallis and wrap tefillin. I felt so blessed!

New Idea

So here's the deal: I write for the student paper at my school, and when I write, I usually write a dvar Torah (commentary on the week's Torah portion). It's not every week; it's more like once a month, but would you like to see them here? Let me know.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Death of Debbie Friedman

Debbie Friedman, a great Jewish singer and songwriter, passed away this morning due to complications from pneumonia. I am very sad.

Actually, sad is an understatement. I grew up on Friedman's songs. Her lyrics "save a life and you will save the world" inspired me; her "Mishebeirach" song/prayer for healing comforted me. In her honor, I leave you with the following lines from one of her songs:

"And the old shall dream dreams, and the youth shall see visions, and our hopes shall rise up to the sky. We must live for today; we must build for tomorrow; give us time, give us strength, give us life."

Goodbye, Debbie Friedman; your life has ended, but your buildings live on.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Rosh Hodesh Shevat

Tonight marks the beginning of the new Hebrew month of Shevat. Honestly, the only holiday in Shevat is the rather small occasion known as Tu B'Shevat, the new year of the trees. More on that when it actually comes.

It's funny to see Shevat in America because the trees are all still bare and brown. In Israel, however, the trees are just beginning to bloom at this time, making Tu B'Shevat a fitting occasion. This month and the associated holiday serve to remind us that the Jewish year is based around the Lunar calendar and Near Eastern agricultural schedule.

My Prayer Warrior Child

I would like to introduce you to "Erin". Erin, assigned to me by Reece's Rainbow, is the current target of my Prayer Warrior efforts. Although this picture appears to depict a young child, no one knows for sure how old the picture is. (I've looked into it.) Erin's birthdate, however, is known, and she is turning nine this month. Please join me in praying for Erin's safety, comfort, and future family!


Blog Archive

About Me

My photo
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!