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

I believe in God.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Book of the Twelve

At long last, I have finally finished up the Book of the Twelve, otherwise known as the the Twelve Minor Prophets.  When I thought about what I wanted to say here, I realized that the adjective coming to mind to describe this collection was "bipolar."  I do not use that word lightly, nor am I a fan of one-sentence blog entries, so I turned to my father (who is a Rabbi, and one of my Rabbinic authorities) for his view.

If I understand him correctly, my father, the Rabbi, explained that each of the Twelve Minor Prophets (if you believe that each book was written by the person whose name is attached to it) was facing major political catastrophe all around.  In earlier times, the solution to such issues was to just go worship the "more powerful god."  The prophets whose works make up the Book of the Twelve were trying desperately to get Israel to stay with the Israelite God, and that is why their emotional state is not always consistent.

It is worth noting that the Book of the Twelve marks the end of the Prophets section of the Hebrew Bible! (Our Bible is divided into three sections: Torah, Prophets, Writings.)  I am very excited to begin the Writings section, which is sort of a catch-all for things that do not fit anywhere else and, as such, is most diverse.  It begins with the book of Psalms.  Even though I read a psalm every day after I pray, I plan to read through this book (again) anyway.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Two Years, Little Guy!

This kid.

Jacob sm

Two years ago today (at least according to this blog) I accepted an assignment as Prayer Warrior for this kid.


This is the longest I have prayed for any of "my" Reece's Rainbow kids.  I understand--I think--why "my" "Jacob" has not yet found a home.  His diagnoses are uncertain.  His description is less than flattering.  His pictures are less than cute.  But he is still a kid--a little kid!--and he still deserves a home.  Come what may, I will "pray him home," as Reece's Rainbow calls it.

Just wanted to say that today.

Best of luck to "Jacob" and all the others.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Board Games with Brother

Pretty much every day that I'm home, I play some board games with my older brother.  Today we played three: Chess, Nine Men's Morris, and Backgammon.


I hope you enjoyed these photos! Also--side note--yesterday I read the books of Amos (nine chapters) and Obadiah (one chapter).  Now I am in the middle of the book of Jonah, which has four chapters.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Just a Little--Yet Very Important--Note...

...to tell you all that I have completed the first two of the Twelve Minor Prophets! I finished Hosea (14 chapters) last night, and read all of Joel (four chapters) this morning.  Next up are:

  1. Amos
  2. Obadiah
  3. Jonah
  4. Micah
  5. Nahum
  6. Habakkuk
  7. Zephaniah
  8. Haggai
  9. Zechariah
  10. Malachi
Except for Jonah, which is read every year at the afternoon service on the Day of Atonement (and which I therefore know very well), I only know what I learned in my Hebrew Bible class this past semester--AKA next to nothing--about these guys, so I am excited to read these books and find out more.  I am also excited because these books mark the end of the Prophets section of our Bible, after which I will be two-thirds done, with only the Writings section left to read.

I just love being Jewish!

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Mezuzot in Our House

Traditional Jewish homes hang a mezuzah (plural mezuzot) on our doorposts.  A mezuzah is a holy scroll with excerpts from scripture, protected by a case.  There can be just one on the front door, or one on every door (except the bathroom!).  My family has one on every doorpost (mezuzot go on the right hand side of the room you are entering).  Here are pictures, and the stories that go with them.  I did forget to photograph the ones on the back porch, but you can enjoy these!


I hope you have enjoyed your tour of the doorposts in our Jewish home! I certainly enjoyed showing them to you!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Amidah: A Walk-Through

The Amidah, or "Standing Prayer", is one of the central prayers in the everyday service.  (The other is the Shema.)  Sometimes the weekday Amidah is also called the Shemona Esrei, or "Eighteen."  This is because it originally consisted of eighteen blessings.  (A nineteenth got added later.)  In this post, I am going to walk you through the Amidah, explaining each of the blessings to you.

"Avot v'Imahot:" "Fathers and Mothers, God of Our Ancestors:" In this blessing, we praise God as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah.  (Traditionally, the Matriarchs are not included, but I always put them in!) We say that God will send a redeemer (this is a reference to the Messiah; some modern Jews, uncomfortable with the notion of the Messiah as a physical person, say "redemption" instead) because of the merits of our ancestors.  This blessing ends with an acknowledgement of God as "Shield of Abraham and Guardian of Sarah."

"G'vurot:" "God's Might:" This blessing acknowledges some of God's miracles, such as the resurrection of the dead.  An excerpt from an English translation of this blessing (from one of my favorite prayer books) is "You sustain the life with kindness, giving life to the dead with great mercy, supporting the fallen, healing the sick, freeing the captive, keeping faith with those who sleep in dust."  This blessing ends: "Praised are You, Eternal, Who brings the dead to life.

"Kedushat Ha-Sheim:" "God's Holiness:" In the private, silent recitation of the Amidah, this is a one-line blessing pointing to, you guessed it, God's holiness.  In the public, out-loud recitation of the Amidah, this section is much more elaborate, with call-and-response and special body language.  This is widely regarded as the holiest part of the service; in fact, if one enters the sanctuary at this point, one is supposed to stand silently at the back until this section is over.

"Binah:" "For Wisdom:" This next blessing is also quick and simple.  We pray for "knowledge, understanding, and discernment."  (The three Hebrew words used here are "De'ah, Binah, v'Haskel.")

"T'shuvah:" "For Repentance:" We ask in this blessing to be drawn closer to God's Torah and God's service.  We acknowledge God as welcoming repentance.  This blessing sets the stage for the next one.

"S'lichah:" "For Forgiveness:" In this blessing--the only section like this in Jewish daily prayer--we tell God that we have sinned, and we know it.  We thump our chest with a closed fist, the way we do during the confessional on the Day of Atonement, twice: once on the word "sinned" and once on the word "transgressed."  We praise God as "gracious and abundantly forgiving."

"G'ulah:" "For Redemption:" We praise God as "a mighty redeemer," Who "redeems Israel," and we ask for that redemption to touch us and affect us in a mighty way.

"R'Fu-Ah:" "For Healing:" In this blessing, we pray to God for healing for everyone who needs it.  In the middle of this blessing is a special passage to say in which one can insert the names of anyone who is sick--mentally or physically--for whom one feels like praying.  I currently pray for both brothers and one very dear friend, but I don't feel comfortable sharing the reasons this publicly.

"Birkat Ha-Shanim:" "For Prosperity:" Here, we ask God for a blessed year and a bountiful harvest.  The middle of the blessing changes based on the seasons: in summer months, we simply say "Grant us a blessing;" in winter months, we say "Grant us dew and rain for a blessing."

"Kibbutz Galuyot:" "For Gathering the Exiles:" We ask God to gather us from the four corners of the Earth, and praise God for the ingathering of the exiles.  This is clearly a messianic blessing, asking for the coming of the Messiah.

"Ha-Shavat Ha-Mishpat:" "For Restoration of Justice:" This one I think can be described best by directly quoting the passage in translation from my favorite prayer book, so here it is: "Restore our judges as in days of old; restore our counselors as in former times.  Remove sorrow and anguish from our lives.  O may You alone reign over us with steadfast love and compassion, and with justice, sustain our cause.  Blessed are You, Eternal, Sovereign Who loves righteousness and justice."

"Birkat Ha-Minim:" "Against Maligners/Wickedness:" We ask for all evil to disappear, for God to "crush the arrogant" (Yes, really!) and for all sinners to return to the proper path.

"Tzaddikim:" "For the Righteous:" In this blessing, we ask for God's mercy and blessing on the following people: the righteous, the pious, the elders of the House of Your People Israel and its remaining scholars, faithful proselytes, and lastly, simply "us".  We place our trust in God and declare that because of this trust, we will never despair.

"Binyan Yerushalayim:" "For the Building of Jerusalem:" We ask God to rebuild Jerusalem and to restore the Davidic line to the throne.  This one is also an expressly messianic belief, for a couple of reasons.  Number one, we are talking about a throne, which means a king, which is not how Israel is run today.  Number two, we are specifically asking for a king from the Davidic line; it is traditionally believed that this line will  produce the Messiah.

"Matzmiach Keren Yeshua:" "The Flourishing of Redemption:" We ask again for the flourishing and strengthening of the messianic figure.  We tell God again of our hopes for redemption, and we thank God "for causing salvation to flourish."

"Shomei-ah T'filah:" "For Hearing Our Prayers:" We ask that God "accept our prayer with mercy and favor."  This is also the time to insert any personal prayers.  I keep a running list of prayers for other people, which I max out at seven, only because if I pray for more I do not feel that I can pray effectively.  At present I am praying for: both brothers, my dear friend "Joey," "Jacob" and "Rheann" from Reece's Rainbow, and the Qualls family as a whole.

"Avodah:" "For Acceptance of Our Prayers:" Here we ask God to restore the sacrifices in the Temple.  I do not want these back, but I pray this prayer anyway for the very valid reason that it is included in my prayer book.  This passage ends with a beautiful blessing, at least I think so: "May the service of Your people Israel always be worthy of Your acceptance.  May our eyes behold Your merciful return to Zion.  Praised are You, Eternal, Who restores His Divine Presence to Zion."

"Hoda-ah:" "In Grateful Acknowledgement:" This blessing contains many names for God.  We talk about God as the "Rock of our lives," the "Shield of our salvation," and we acknowledge God's miracles that are with us each and every day.  During the public recitation, the leader recites one version of this paragraph while the congregation whispers another.

"Birkat Shalom:" "For Peace:" Here we pray for personal peace, peace for the Jewish people, and peace for the world as a whole.  We ask for peace in every season, if it is God's will.

The last paragraph really has to be quoted for you to get the full effect.  Here it is: "My God, guard my tongue from evil, my lips from speaking slander; help me ignore those who would curse me.  Let my soul be humble and forgiving to all.  Open my heart to Your Torah that I may pursue Your mitzvot.  Frustrate speedily the designs of all those who plot evil against me and make nothing of their schemes.  Act for the sake of Your merciful Name, Your power, Your holiness, and Your Torah.  In order that Your loved ones may be rescued, deliver with Your power, and answer me.  May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of my heart, be pleasing to You, Eternal, my Rock and my Redeemer.  May the One who makes peace in His high places, make peace for us and for all Israel.  And let us say: Amen."

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Wrapping Up Ezekiel

This afternoon, I finished up the book of Ezekiel.  It does get gentler and prettier nearer the end, and I'm glad I stuck with it.

Towards the end of Ezekiel is the Vision of the Valley of the Dry Bones, a hopeful vision of the restoration of Israel after the Babylonian exile.  Very powerful stuff.

Now I am on to the book of Hosea, the first (at least in Jewish bibles) of the Twelve Minor Prophets.  Should be fun!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Whispered Blessings; Big, Important Dreams

I have been thinking a ton recently about "my" little Reece's Rainbow guy, "Jacob."  It's been very nearly two years since I became his Prayer Warrior (I will do a special post on the day that marks this two-year anniversary), and I am feeling the pressure to make a difference and find him a home.  I began to pray for "Jacob" shortly before his third birthday, and now he's turning five next month.

In all this time, "Jacob" has not had new pictures, an update to his description, nothing.  Its sad really, because I don't even completely know whether he's alive or dead.  Yet continue to pray I shall, because what else can I do?

And here are "Jacob's" pictures, my only connection to this precious boy, again, just in case his special someone sees them today:

JacobJacob sm

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Book of Ezekiel...and Other News

It's been a relatively long time since I posted about my Bible reading journey.  I am now in the book of Ezekiel, the last of the three major prophets.  Next up is the Book of the Twelve, also called the Twelve Minor Prophets.  They are minor not because of importance, but rather just because of size: I'm pretty sure every single one of the twelve is ten chapters or under.

Ezekiel--at least the part I've read so far (the first 22 chapters)--is a violent and angry book.  In just about every chapter, there is an oracle (the prophet hears something) in which God threatens to destroy the Israelites.  Given my track record with Jeremiah, you would think I would simply love reading this, but somehow this stuff is too violent and angry even for me.  I understand that Ezekiel smooths out and gets more peaceful in later chapters; I am looking forward to reading that part.

In other news: I have my last final today at noon, and then I am DONE with my fourth year of college! (Not graduating just quite yet, I have one more semester, but still exciting.)  My father is coming afterwards to help me pack up, and we will be out of here for the summer this evening!

 For the first time in a long time, I do not need to take any incompletes, and therefore do not have any school work to do over the summer.  In order to be productive and not go crazy sitting at home for three months, I plan to either volunteer at the local synagogue, get a job, or both; I will also continue my Bible reading project intensively and in earnest, and possibly even pick up another Jewish book before I finish the Bible.

 I know that I would like to reread Seek My Face, Speak My Name by Arthur Green, which I have picked up several times but never finished; River of Light, by Lawrence Kushner, would probably also be good to reread, because it's very complex and I think I was simply too young for it the last few times I read it.  (Yes, it's that good, good enough to reread several times! River of Light is actually one of my favorite Jewish philosophy/theology books.)

In "world" news, Julia and Rob Nalle, who blog over at covenantbuilders.blogspot.com , are on their way home (I think) with their newly adopted son, John.  Although a monkey wrench was thrown into their adoption process (they had gone over for a girl, "Harper," but she said no, she didn't want to go with them), everybody agrees that their finding John was a huge answer to everybody's prayers, not least because their son Aaron, also adopted from Eastern Europe and also disabled, now has a playmate on an equal level.

And now...because I have to...the one and only..."Jacob" (who, I point out, is turning five next month!)


Friday, May 8, 2015

In Limbo

So here I am, "in limbo" if you will, at quarter-to-five am, waiting to prepare and leave for my second final exam.  I set my alarms this early because I didn't expect to hear them at first...and then I heard them immediately, annd here I am.

My final last night was a disaster! In preparing for the one this morning, I did not prepare enough for that one.  There were a couple of sections (one that is coming to mind is Banzhaf power distribution; I don't remember any specific others) where I literally couldn't write anything down.  Maybe I blanked, and maybe I never knew that information in the first place.  The second seems less likely, as took the midterm with that on it and did OK, but there you go.

This Sabbath, a couple who are both alumni of my college are celebrating the Bat Mitzvah of their daughter.  They are holding the ceremony and lunch on campus, and they have invited any students who want to come to the service and the lunch.  My favorite Rabbi is officiating,and my friend "Sammy" will be there. ("Sammy's" a new-ish friend but already very dear to me). So will the friend who is too dear to get a code name (unless I gave him one earlier and simply don't remember).  I haven't been to a Bat Mitzvah in a long time; it's going to be a blast.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Lots Going On

  1. I walked away with--I think--the most prestigious award the Jewish Studies department at my college gives.  To celebrate, I bought myself a set of arba kanfot from Netzitzot.  (Side note: I ultimately decided on size medium, not size small.)
  2. Finals week began today, and I have my first final exam (Topics in Math for Liberal Arts) in a little over an hour.  Then I have another (Introduction to Hebrew Bible II) tomorrow morning at 8:00 am (yes, that is twelve hours between exams!), and a third (Modern Jewish Philosophy) on the thirteenth at noon.
  3. Today celebrates Lag B'Omer, the 33rd day of the Omer.  If you follow the belief that a plague broke out amongst Rabbi Akiva's students during the Omer, killing twelve thousand pairs, today is the day that students stopped dying.  The day is traditionally celebrated with bonfires, barbeques, picnics, and archery and racing contests.  Those who follow mourning customs (in remembrance of Rabbi Akiva's students, I think) the rest of the Omer lift them on this day.  What with finals etc. I'm not making it to any celebrations, but I wanted to be sure to mention the day, at least in passing.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Random Poetry--Enjoy!

It's been a while since I posted anything I'v written, but I just woke up around 1:00 with the irresistible urge to do just that.  (Don't worry, Mom; I'm going straight back to bed after this post.)  So enjoy this sample of my work, below:

Little green notebook,
Ink on paper.
Blue lines dash
Across the page.

The words spill out,
Mish-mash, swish-swash.
Words, letters, words.

Ink on paper,
Splotchy letters.
A spoem is born.

This next one was written while I was trying to get permission to pray with prayer shawl and phylacteries with the Orthodox prayer group on campus.  The title translates  to "Strength and Faith."

Koach v'Emunah
These are not the 1920s.
I am not a suffragette.

I don't want to fight for rights.
All I want to do is pray.

They won't let me.
They don't get me.

I am Woman,proud and free.

It shouldn't be this hard.
It shouldn't be this hard.

 Jewish Uniform
Arba Kanfot:
"Ropy things,"
One set,
Five sets,
Look the same.

Leather straps
Binding them down.

Cornered piece of cloth.
"Ropy things"
And fringes too.

Kippah, also
\Crowning glory
Tops the head.

Properly dressed Jew.:

Monday, May 4, 2015

The Book of Jeremiah

Since about last summer (I do this on and off)--so almost a year ago now--I have been trying to read through the entire Hebrew Bible.  I am reading it in English; I simply call it the Hebrew Bible because Jews should not use the term Old Testament, because it implies that something new or better came after, which we don't believe.

Before I started this project, my favorite book of the Bible, hands down, was Esther.  I loved the twisting plot, the court intrigue, the characters.  I loved Esther's bravery.  The fact that this book--in the Bible, mind you--never mentions God made it even more intriguing.  What's not to like?

Now, however, I think I may have found a contender for "Sarah _________'s favorite book of the Hebrew Bible."  It is the book of Jeremiah.  Jeremiah is one of the three major prophets.  The other two are Isaiah and Ezekiel; there are also twelve minor prophets.  Most of the people to whom I have spoken like Isaiah best of these three, especially Third Isaiah.  (It is fairly well-accepted in most circles that the Book of Isaiah was not actually written by the prophet Isaiah, and that there were multiple authors.)  I, however, found Third Isaiah to be a bit too...well...lovey-dovey.  Of the Book of Isaiah, I enjoyed First Isaiah (chapters 1-39) the most, and I like Jeremiah even better.

Many people feel that Jeremiah is judgmental, even violent.  I definitely agree with that, but I have come to realize that I like my Bible stories with a bit of gore.  For example, my favorite Torah (Pentateuch) stories are the plague of quail that massacres the Israelites in the desert and Korach and his followers getting swallowed up by the earth.  Hey, someone has to like those stories, right?!

And now, just for fun, a selfie of me in pajamas:

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Please Listen!

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I am blogging again about "Jacob."  For those of you who are new to my blog, "Jacob" is a little boy listed with Reece's Rainbow.  Reece's Rainbow is an organization that works to find homes for disabled orphans worldwide.  They also have a system called Prayer Warriors, in which volunteers are assigned children to "pray home."  I am "Jacob's" Prayer Warrior.

"Jacob's" disabilities are Down Syndrome and heart defects.  His description says he is not talking yet, but that description is also about two and a half years old.  I started praying for "Jacob" shortly before his third birthday, and now he's turning five in June.  In all that time, there has been no update to either photos or description.

But I know that "Jacob's" family is out there, waiting to find their little boy.  You now have all the information I am at liberty to share; please consider! I am aware of the fact that I may be "Jacob's" only chance, so I am doing what I can for him.  Little as it is, it is still something.

And here are "Jacob's" pictures.  Most of you have seen these by now, but I am always hopeful that someone new may come by.

Jacob smJacob


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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!