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

I believe in God.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

When Life Gives You Lemons...

Life has certainly given me many metaphorical lemons recently, with which to make much metaphorical lemonade.

I am in a lot of pain again, using crutches most of the time.

This time, however, I remain in charge as much as possible, and I know I will emerge victorious.

Meanwhile, I am determined that even as I am immobile and laid-up, the important parts of my lifestyle will not change.

I am still praying regularly.  I may do it sitting down, but I am doing it.

I am continuing to read Halakhic Man for an hour every day.

I have also introduced extra Bible reading to my schedule: two extra chapters a day.

And I am rereading the "magic workbook," searching, always searching for a cure.

No matter how bad I feel physically, I am determined to find meaning in my life.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Thoughts on Tisha b'Av

  1. Tisha b'Av is fast approaching (yes, yes, pun intended).  The actual day is this Saturday, but because the only fast day that supersedes the Sabbath is the Day of Atonement, Tisha b'Av will be observed one day late, beginning Saturday night at sundown and continuing all through Sunday.
  2. I am nervous about being able to complete the fast.  Sh'va Asar b'Tammuz was very difficult for me this year, and that was one of the shorter fasts.  how much worse will Tisha b'Av be? No matter how hard it is, however, I will do it.  I will.
  3. As I mentioned in a previous entry, last year I attended services at the local Orthodox synagogue on Tisha b'Av eve.  It wasn't worth it; the unequal seating etc. made me angry.  This year I am going to go it alone.  Nobody else in my family observes Tisha b'Av, so I will truly be alone, but after living in dorms where nobody else was Jewish, this kind of solitude simply does not bother me.

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Jewish Reading Challenge

For the rest of the summer (about a month and a half), I have decided that I want to challenge my brain with sophisticated reading in a topic in which I am interested.  To that end, I have started reading difficult Jewish philosophy/theology for an hour every day.  Here is my plan:

  1. Currently I am reading Halakhic Man, by Rabbi Josef Soloveitchik.  Sololveitchik was considered a modern Orthodox Rabbi, but he wrote in the 1940's, so the book has an antiquated feel.  His basic premise, with which I do not think I agree, is that "Halakhic man" is different from your typical "homo religiosus" simply because he is Jewish.
  2. After I finish Halakhic Man, I plan to read Maimonides' Guide to the Perplexed, in English translation.  A lot of Jews claim that this book should be read in Hebrew, but since even Hebrew was not the original language (the book was originally written in Arabic), I feel no compunction about reading a translation.  Maimonides was a thirteenth-century Jewish sage who revolutionized Jewish theology.
  3. Next will come a book by Abraham Joshua Heschel, because my parents tell me that is where to start with Jewish theology.  They also say all Heschel books tend to sound the same, so I only need to read one.  I will probably choose God in Search of Man, although we do have something close to half a shelf of Heschel in our living room, so who knows?
  4. Finally, if I finish all of that and still have time before I go back to school, I will turn back to my favorite author, Neil Gillman.  Gillman actually taught my father in Rabbinical school.  He has written many books, but the ones I like and know best are The Way into Encountering God in Judaism and Doing Jewish Theology.
And that, folks, is my plan for the rest of the summer.

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Paradox of Av

Today is Rosh Hodesh Av, the start of the Hebrew month of Av.  Rosh Hodesh is always a day (or sometimes two days) for relaxation and celebration.  Extra prayers are added, which is always fun for me.  Traditionally Rosh Hodesh was a women's holiday, when they lightened their workload; in honor of that, I wear jewelry and use my Sabbath-Holiday-and-Special-Occasion fancy bobby pins to attach my kippah to my head.

And yet Rosh Hodesh Av is a paradox, because in just under a week and a half (nine days, to be exact) we will be mourning the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem.  The first Temple was destroyed in 586 BCE, the second in 70 CE, on the same day.  For 25 hours we will fast; abstain from washing, lotion, and jewelry; and refrain from wearing leather shoes.  We will read Megillat Eicha, the scroll of Lamentations.

Last year on the eve of this day of mourning (known as Tisha b'Av), I went to the local Orthodox synagogue, the only place where a reading of Eicha was happening.  I am the only one in my family who observes this day, and I did not want to go it alone.  I was angered, however, by what happened at that service.  Traditionally, we sit on the floor while Eicha is being read; because of the barrier between the men and the women (present in every Orthodox synagogue) I could not see a thing.  Also, the people who chanted the words could not do so in a compelling, gripping manner.

With all that in mind, this year I have decided to do Tisha b'Av on my own.  I will read Eicha out loud to myself, first in English and then in Hebrew, in the evening, and possibly again in the morning.  There is no specific commandment to hear Eicha, so I have room to maneuver and find what works for me.

Yet today is Rosh Hodesh.  Today we are happy; indeed, today we are celebrating.  I will put Tisha b'Av from my mind until the day is comes.  Time enough for that when it happens.

And that is the paradox of Av.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Sh'va Asar b'Tammuz

Today is the fast day that falls on the seventeenth of the Hebrew month of Tammuz, the day when we commemorate the breaching of Jerusalem's walls by Babylonian forces, the day that, for many Jews stricter than I, begins the three weeks of mourning before Tisha b'Av.  I am already hungry, but it will never do to think like that, so let's talk about the meaning and keeping of this day.

Sh'va Asar b'Tammuz is a minor fast, only sunup to sundown; it started while I was still asleep and will end at 9:14 tonight.  I have decided to wear the kippah that I was saving for three specific days of the year on all fast days, for they all mourn something, as well as on Yom HaShoah and Yom HaZikaron.

On fast days, we add a prayer called "Avinu Malkeinu" to our morning and afternoon prayers.  "Avinu Malkeinu" literally translates to "Our Father, Our King," and it is about how God loves us and guides us even through our sin.  We pray for God to bring us back to Him.

Sh'va Asar b'Tammuz gears us up for the major (25 hour) fast of Tisha b'Av that comes three weeks later.  Watch for a post on that closer to the time.  In between, of course, we have Rosh Hodesh Av, the start of the Hebrew month of Av.  Rosh Hodesh is always a happy occasion.

Friday, July 3, 2015

No Conclusions; Simply Passion

*NOTE: This is going to be a very long post.  There will be no pictures to help entertain you, just my words.  It's been a long, long time since I wrote a post of this sort.*

I simply love Judaism.  I breathe it in and out as I go about my day; my heart pumps Judaism to my veins.  My religion makes my soul sing, and my passion for Judaism is unequalled by my passion for anything else.

I am well on the way to becoming a Rabbi; I simply could not imagine being anything else.  I love God; God loves me; we walk this road together.

And yet I do not keep commandments simply because I am commanded to keep them.  In fact, I don't always believe that I am commanded to keep them.  A Jew does Jewish things because he or she does; God is mixed up in it somewhere, but not necessarily as commander.

Just as a parent's role changes as the child grows up, so too does our relationship to God stretch, grow, and change with the seasons of our lives.  When we are little children, God is our parent.  As we grow older, God becomes friend, cheerleader, confidante, but not parent anymore.  God does not command us to act in a certain way; our actions are up to us.

"Save a life and you have saved the world."  How those words resonate with me! One day I will save lives, and honor God through my work.  I am so excited.  I simply cannot wait.


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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!