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

I believe in God.

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.


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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!