Monday, September 16, 2013

Less Talk is Less Trouble

"And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence.
'Fools', said I, 'You do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you'
But my words, like silent raindrops fell
And echoed
In the wells of silence." - lyrics by Simon and Garfunkle
Perhaps like me, when you read the lyrics to his song or hear it playing over the radio you think, "how poetic, how beautiful, how powerful."  At least that's how I felt until this past Yom Kippur when I took a vow of silence for the day, a tanit dibur. 
Yom Kippur is the highest and holiest day of the year where we, the Jewish people, dress in white, we don't wear leather, we refrain from eating/drinking, we don't shower or brush our teeth, we refrain from marital relations and spend a day in prayer and reflection.  Leading up to this day we prepare by asking anyone who we may have harmed over the past year for forgiveness.  We physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually prepare ourselves for our meeting with the Creator of Heaven and Earth.  We atone.  We afflict ourselves with many physical restrictions for the day and we prepare to ask Gd for another year of life, income, health, love, happiness.  We ask Gd to forgive us for our misdeeds, our broken promises, our gossiping, our selfishness, our transgressions.  I decided to add to this, without much prior knowledge of what I was getting in to, a 25 hour tanit dibur.
For the past few years of living in Israel I have heard stories of people who have completed a tanit dibur.  I honestly just thought it would be a nice break from small talk, not to mention probably nicer than talking to people with unbrushed teeth.  I truly had no idea what was in store for me.

Jeremiah HaNavi (the Prophet) compared speech to an arrow.  Once an arrow leaves the bow, it's gone.  The same applies to words.  No matter how deeply you regret saying something, once you said it, it has been said and it's out in the world.  Shelomo HaMelech (King Solomon) says that even a foolish person who is silent is considered wise.  If someone doesn't speak you will not find out how foolish he really is.  When a person thinks he's performing a very spiritual act, his Neshama is at work, and many times you have great ideas and they should be spoken, but think for a moment that you are taking something that is entirely spiritual, a thought, and turning it into a physical thing, a word.  When you think, you are in control of your body, but when you speak, your body is in control of you.

"Woe is to a man who lets something come out of his mouth who doesn't understand how he is saying it!  Every word that comes out of your mouth is written and recorded whether for good or for bad. (Midrash Tanchuma).  Can you imagine the scene in [Heaven] when they play everything you said?  You will realize that there are many things that you said that you wish you didn't!  The Zohar says that when a person is born, HaShem gives them a certain amount of words for a lifetime and after they use up that number, they cannot speak anymore!"

The bottom line is; How can you learn if you never listen!?  The Kotzker Rebbe says that our egos stand between us and HaShem, we speak so people will know how funny and smart we are.  Work on perfecting yourself on the inside and don't worry so much about what everyone else thinks. 

So I spent the day in silence.  

Thanks to a suggestion from a friend of mine, I made a card stating: "I'm sorry, but I'm in a tanit dibur. May you be inscribed in the book of life for the coming year."  If anyone tried to speak with me, I placed my hand on my heart as an apology and I showed them the card. 

A day of silence.  Can you imagine?  The only words I spoke were in prayer and repentance.  I "unplugged" and disconnected myself from my cellphone, computer, radio, iPod...small talk... everything.  One day of just me and just Gd. 

For me, someone who takes part in formalized and traditional prayer services, it seems to struggle at times to stay focused.  I mean, how do you make someone else's words meaningful each and every time you pray?  Sometimes, no matter how hard I try, it becomes mechanical.  Then when I try to speak my own private prayers from their heart, I often get side tracked and start thinking about the millions of other things I could be doing with my time.  *Sigh*  It's incredibly difficult to pour your heart out to Gd and to say what it is that you're sorry for, how you messed up, to ask for forgiveness, and to potentially ask for a few things that you need for the coming year... especially when we may suddenly develop ADD and the way the curtain is blowing next to the fan suddenly becomes much more interesting. 

Lets face it, we all do it sometimes.  We try to create a relationship with the Kadosh Barachu, but how do you create that connection with an intangible entity?  We're finite creatures attempting to have a conversation with Infinity.  I say, you should talk to HaShem like He's your best friend; tell the Holy One everything.  Easier said than done though.  I can sit here, close my eyes and say, "Ok Sarah, now's your chance.  What do you want to say?"  Only to draw a blank.

This Yom Kippur, my vow of silence (except in prayer) manifested into the greatest spiritual high and connection that I have ever felt.  The whole day was like a meditation.  Without the distractions from the outside world I found myself banging on my chest and saying every word of Viduy (Confession) with zeal that I've never felt before.  I stood before the Heavenly Court and chanted, "We have been guilty; we have betrayed; we have robbed; we have spoken slander.  We have committed iniquity; we have committed wickedness; we have sinned willfully; we have extorted; we have made false accusations.  We have given advice that is bad; we have been deceitful; we have scorned; we have rebelled; we have provoked [Gd's anger]; we have strayed; we have been iniquitous; we have sinned rebelliously; we have caused distress; we have stiffened our necks.  We have been wicked; we have been corrupt; we have committed abominations; we have gone astray; we have scoffed..."

As the day wore on (the hottest Yom Kippur Israel has had in 50 years, mind you) I weakly stood, energy dwindling, for the last hour and half of my fast and listened to the Chazzan's beautiful voice leading us through Nehila services.  I suddenly found myself uplifted.  24 hours and 45 minutes into a fast and vow of silence and I felt renewed, an extra burst of energy running through me.  I sang "Avinu Malkainu (Our Father, Our King), be gracious with us, and answer us, though we have no worthy deeds; treat us with charity and kindness and save us".  I yelled out with my congregation, "Shema Yisroel HaShem Elokanu HaShem Echad - Hear O Israel, HaShem is our Gd.  HaShem the One and Only".  At the sound of the last shofar blast... I was then transformed, energized and uplifted towards a different realm of personal clarity. 

The congregation burst into song and dance, "Next year in Jerusalem! L'Shana Habaa B'Yerushaliym!"  I bless us all that we may merit the building of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.  I bless us all with peace, tranquility, love, laughter, health, and happiness. 

I sit now at the doorstep of Sukkot, the feast of the fall harvest.  Now, after having spiritually cleansed ourselves we will move outdoors into our temporary dwellings for the next week.  We will eat, sleep, and enjoy our friends a family in a temporary booth made of cloth, wood, and palm branches.  As we lie out under the stars, enjoy the moments of silence.  Listen to the crickets, listen to nature, listen to yourself.  Under the stars we can ponder Infinity and if we're lucky, hear it...

The sound of silence.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Summer Insomnia

At 3:23am I just couldn't fall asleep.  Since about 11:45pm I had been attempting to go to sleep.  At 12:00am the Israeli government was making good on their promise to start releasing 26 (of 104) Palestinian terrorists.  Most were released to their homes in Judea (where I live), Samaria, and Gaza.  This move was made as precondition to get the Palestinians to the negotiating table for peace.  Let me reiterate... we, Israel, have so far released 26 convicted murderers back to their homes throughout the West Bank and Gaza.  

Disgusting.  Infuriating.  Unheard of anywhere in the world but here.  Anger and resentment boils over inside of me like a volcano close to erupting.  I'll get back to that.  Let me back up...

At about 7:30pm Tuesday evening I was driving from Tekoa to Jerusalem when I saw something unusual at the traffic circle by Herodian.  As I approached and slowed down I saw what must have been roughly 100 Arab villagers converging on the traffic circle, blocking traffic, and exiting their cars. Simutaneously I saw Israeli army jeeps arriving and IDF soldiers dressed in full riot gear walking towards the crowd.  Nothing was happening... yet.  No one was yelling or screaming, but my heart was pounding in my ears so loud that I could no longer hear the music playing on my radio.  Suddenly an Arab man starts waiving at me to drive forward, into the crowd.  At this point I was the first car in what was quickly becoming a traffic jam on my side of the road.  I saw an opening in the crowd and cars and I floored it.  The some 30 seconds it took me to get to the other side of the mass of people felt like an eternity.  I prayed, "Hear me Ha'Shem, grant me safe passage to their other side of this road.  Protect me, protect the other travelers, protect our soldiers.  I don't know what is happening or why, nor do I currently care.  Just protect us."  I silently thanked Ha'Shem as I drove and pushed 140km/hr racing towards the checkpoint to enter Jerusalem.  Thank you Ha'Shem, for allowing me to learn how to drive and handle any car.

Later, after driving back home on the same road, which was now deserted and silent, I again offered up a prayer of gratitude.  "May this be the worst of what I experience in my days living in Israel," I concluded.

Will it be the worst?  My ideological and hopeful peace-loving side of my self fervently hopes that it was.  The realist in me knows that is bull-shit!  She knows that I have only seen a sliver of the truth of what it means to be an Israeli.  

So there I sat, at 11:45pm reading news article after new article announcing the release of men like Raai Ibrahim Salam Ali.  Raai Ibrahim was arrested in 1994 and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder - using an axe - of 79 year-old Morris Aizenshtat who was sitting on a park bench in Kfar Saba reading a book at the time.  Let me also reiterate that... Morris, a 79 year-old man, was sitting on a park bench reading a book when he was murdered by Raai Ibrahim with an axe.  An axe!  As of last night, Raai Ibrahim was most likely welcomed home to Gaza with party and fan fare as a true hero of the Palestinean people.  As I write this, I have to swallow hard to make sure that I don't throw up out of disgust and anger.  I cry with and for the Aizenshtat family (and many more), knowing that their loved ones murderer is a free man who is being celebrated as a hero.

Yet somehow, it is believed that all of this will bring peace?

As my insomnia kept my mind running and my adrenaline pumping I attempted many things to wear myself out.  I watched a movie.  I read a book.  I tried to meditate and breathe deeply.  Sometime after 3:00am the real noise started.  Pop, pop, blast, pop, pop, bang, blast, bang, bang... over and over and over again.  I haven't been here long enough to know the difference in the sounds of fireworks versus gunfire (apparently one develops an ear for these things), so I silently told myself that it must be fireworks... it was gunfire.  I rolled over, once again attempting to fall asleep.  Sometime around 4:00am (I'm not sure what time exactly) I hear the Muslim call to worship for morning prayers to begin.  The pops, bangs, and blasts had barely begun to lessen when the loud speakers kicked in from the Arab village across the way.  "Aaaaalllllllaaaahhh!!" it wailed, followed by a series of undecipherable chantings.  The speakers blared as if someone was standing outside my bedroom window with a mega-phone.  "Allah hu Akbar" it screamed through my sleepless mind (Allah is great).  At nearly 4:30am, you know what's really great?  SLEEP!

I am now sitting on my couch as the latest wave of pops and bangs and blasts echo across the waadi from their hilltop to ours.  Every sound amplifies the fury inside of me.  Each celebratory blast for them is another kick in the chest for us, knocking the wind out of our tired and frustrated sails.

The UN makes us, Israel, out to be the terrorists of the Middle East.  Somehow, we are still the bad guys.  As rockets are fired into Southern Israel, as murderers are welcomed home as heros throughout the West Bank and Gaza, and as Northern Israeli hospitals continue to care for and treat victims of the Syrian civil war, we are lauded as the 'bad guys'.  Despite, or maybe because of this, the resilience of Israelis is still unsurpassable.  This stops no one from living their lives.  It is currently two weeks before school starts up again, and Israelis are still vacationing in the Red Sea, jumping into waterholes, hiking, camping, shopping, going to movies, etc.  

These murderers are welcomed to their homes as freedom fighters, defenders of Allah, true heros.  This "bargain" for peace is nothing more than an incredibly harmful illusion and political manipulation at its finest.  If Bibi (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu) really had balls, not one convicted murderer would leave jail.  Not one!  If John Kerry truly understood the history, pain, triumph, tragedy of the Middle East, then I'm sure he would be preaching a different path to peace.  America does not negotiate with terrorists, remember?  Why should we?

Despite my cynicism, I still pray for peace.  Real peace.  Lasting peace.  Despite the fighter jets and helicopters that seem to fly so low it rattles my apartment windows.  Despite the questionable pops and blasts that could either be fireworks or gunfire.  Despite seeing IDF dressed in riot gear approaching a group of Arabs who are blocking the road.  Despite it all, they, our Arab cousins, will NOT drive me out from my home.  They will not bully me into giving up my home.  They will continue to push until we are driven into the Mediterranean Sea.  We can not compromise with terrorism.  We can not compromise with bullies.  

Until then, the day of true, uncompromising, peace... all I can do is pray.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

40 Days of Joy Journey

The past month has been a pretty rough month for me.  From my Dad's trip to the emergency room (thank Gd he's recovered well), to the tragic death of a neighbor, and don't even get me started on the news from around the world.  I've felt like I've been spinning through a vacuum of bad news and tragedy.  Out of the emotional roller coaster, I believe, can only come goodness and blessings.  To that merit I've been looking for a new focus.  Something uplifting and meaningful.  Recently, I found an article on Huffington Post online about joy and happiness practice.  It's a 40 day challenge of Joy.  40 different ways to try to add more joy and happiness to your life.  So, for me, living on the edge of war and peace... in the midst of tragedy and triumph... I'm looking to take life by the reigns and add more joy into my daily life.  I hope that this 40 day challenge will help me on my path to maintaining the joy that I search for in my life.

* UPDATE: I'm so glad that I decided to try this 40 day challenge.  As I'm now on my 26th day I can truly say that having a daily focus and making the choice to be happy is very powerful.  I have recently learned (in my Laughter Yoga course) that the idea behind "fake it til you make it" is very simple... By simply saying "I'm happy", laughing, smiling, being silly, etc you are over riding the logic of your brain and stimulating feelings of joy within yourself.  Thus you are actually making a conscious effort to change your mood, attitude, and state of being.  Depression, stress, and anxiety some of the most common and under treated illnesses today.  By choosing to turn that frown upside down and even force a smile if you have to... you will eventually "fake it til you make it."  You will be come a happier person.

So here's the list and I invite you all to also join in the joy.


Day 1: July 10 - Play with kids.
Today at work I played with my preschoolers.  How can I not find joy when I see these little beautiful faces and smiles every day?

Day 2: July 11 - Laugh and smile no matter how you're feeling.  
Although this is an old picture, it still represents the essence of the day's challenge.  
Today I woke up with a stiff lower back and pain shooting down my legs, but I decided to go ahead and keep laughing and smiling.  I took it easy after work by doing some slow stretches and sending out a few emails to friends.  My phone and facebook lit up with love this afternoon.  I stretched out on the floor on my yoga mat and I found myself smiling and laughing and joking as I received calls and messages from friends filled with joy and laughter.  It was truly an inspirational way to lessen the physical pain radiating through me.  

Day 3: July 12 - Play like a kid.
Again, thankfully I work with kids.  This is my "legendary" fight with Yoav as Peter Pan vs. myself as Captain Hook.  Play fighting is always fun for both kids and adults of all ages.

Day 4: July 13 - Connect authentically with friends and family, sharing your vulnerabilities.
Thank goodness for Shabbat.  I was able to speak to family and friends on a real and complete level without the distractions of technology.  No phones, no tv, no computers... just real connections with real people.  Thank Gd for Shabbat!!

Day 5: July 14 - Exercise.
Well it's summertime in the middle east, so what better way to cool off and to exercise at the same time than to swim?!  It was a beautiful, therapeutic, and quiet morning at the pool today as swam laps.  I finished off my pool time by reading a book and eating grapes under a nearby tree.  Bliss.

Day 6: July 15 - Prepare and slowly eat a healthy meal.
Today to prepare for the fast of Tisha B'Av I decided to make myself a really healthy meal.  The wraps are made of rice papers and are stuffed with kale, lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, and red peppers.  The dipping sauce is a combination of peanut butter, natural local honey, and glutton free soy sauce.  To top off the meal I made organic brown rice and seasoned it with garlic and zatar spices.  For dessert I had grapes and dried pineapple.  YUM!  To all of those that will also be fasting, I hope that you have an easy and meaningful fast!

Day 7: July 16 - Get rid of stuff.
It's an amazing feeling to clean out the closet and donate all the stuff that I truly don't wear to a second hand store.  

Day 8: July 17 - Count your blessings.  (Literally make a list)
What better place to do so but the Kotel?  As I stood and prayed at the holiest place on Earth I realized just how truly blessed I am.  I live in Israel with a roof over my head, clothes on my back, shoes on my feet, and food in my refrigerator.  I have a job, running waters and electricity.  I have loving family and wonderful friends.  I have great books to read, a computer that allows me to write and blog.  I have a cellphone that keeps me connected to my loved ones all over the world.  I have a spiritual connection with the Creator of Heaven and Earth.  I couldn't ask for more.

Day 9: July 18 - Offer to teach someone a new skill.
With my little sister's recent arrival to Israel I was able to offer to teach her to make challah and do hafrash challah before Shabbat this week.  Her challah was big hit during dinner Friday night!

Day 10: July 19 - Help someone in a small way.
As I was walking home from the pool on Friday afternoon I saw a cellphone go flying out of a truck as it went around a round-about.  Thankfully it wasn't damaged, but I called the 'last dialed' number and spoke to the phone owners wife.  She thanked me and arranged to have her husband come and pick up the phone from me. 

Day 11: July 20 - Lose yourself in a great book.
I love Dan Brown books.  I've read them all, including his new book Inferno.  This Shabbat I decided to start rereading my favorite, Angels and Demons.  I love getting lost in a Robert Langdon adventure.  

Day 12: July 21 - Serve others. Volunteer.
Although I've typically been working for this amazing family, tonight I decided to volunteer some time to help put the kids to bed, fold laundry, and be a hair model for Hodayah.  What started as learning to french braid quickly turned into a session of "how crazy can we make Sarah's hair look."
Ps.  Follow her Imma's incredible journey on her blog at: Triplet Journey

Day 13: July 22 - Discover a new smell or food.
Raw fish.  I'm a very picky fish eater and so I rarely eat sushi (usually opting for something with veggies), but today I tried raw salmon (safe to start with).  It was good, but I still prefer my veggies.

Day 14: July 23 - Pay a compliment to a stranger.
While riding the bus in Jerusalem today I complimented a woman who sat across from me.  She had the most beautiful sun umbrella.  It looked like it was from India with lots of colors, fabrics, beading, and tiny mirrors.

Day 15: July 24 - Listen to uplifting music.
Thanks to Mordechai Yitzhar and the release of his new disc I was (and still have been) listening to this non-stop!  

Day 16: July 25 - Sing out loud.

"Here's a little song I wrote.  You might want to sing it note for note... Don't worry.  Be Happy."  I love singing this Bob Marley version of Bobby McFarren's song to my gan kiddos. I'll teach them English through music!!

Day 17: July 26 - Ask for help and say thank you.
After an exhausting week I had no more energy to cook for Shabbat.  Thankfully my sister, Debra, took the reigns and made a yummy quinoa salad.  Thank you Debra!!

 Day 18: July 27 - Watch a favorite old movie.
Well I haven't watched this movie in ages.  So after Shabbat my sister and I sat down and watched an old favorite together.

Day 19: July 28 - Get out in nature.
I just love the Mediterranean Sea.  The blues and greens give me peace.  I could look at that water forever.  (I should truly be a professional beach bum.)  My favorite thing to do in a place of serenity is strike a pose and breathe deeply.   

Day 20: July 29 - Walk in the rain.
This one was hard for me.  It's summertime in the middle east and so there is NO rain.  Therefore when I was at the park earlier today with my gan kiddos and the sprinklers came on, I took it as the next best thing... and played in the water.

Day 21: July 30 - Snuggle.

Hugs and snuggles after nap time are the best.  This particular kiddo really knows how to give the best hugs and snuggles.  With the gan year ending I just know that I'll miss seeing him and snuggling him everyday.  

Day 22: July 31 - Eat a cupcake with no hands.
My brother made me promise to do this one with him.  So since he had a few days out of the army I said, "Yallah let's go eat cupcakes!"  This one was incredibly fun, and especially so since I was able to do it with my brother, David.  Thanks Doivid!!

Day 23: August 1 -  Spend time with your pet.  (If you don't have one, use a friend's pet!)
My cousins' awesome dog, Bamba, followed me home from the macullit this afternoon and then hung out with me in my apartment for a few hours.  Have I mentioned that Bamba is awesome?  Well, she is.  By far, she is one of the coolest and smartest dogs I know.

Day 24: August 2 - Write a thank you note to someone for no reason but to say I appreciate you. 
This long overdue thank you note and teapot was given by me today to my amazing friend (and boss), Netta.  I appreciate her and her family so much.  I truly enjoy having their light, joy, and love in my life.  Shabbat Shalom!
The note reads: 
Dear Netta, I love and appreciate you so much!  You, Mordechai, Nevua, Malachi, and TalOr are bright lights of love and joy in my life.  You are an incredible mom, ganenet, and I'm honored to call you my friend, mentor, and boss.  Thank you for everything, Sarah
לנטע היקרה, אני מאוד מעריכה אותך וכל כך אוהבת אותך! אותך ואת מודכי, נבואה, מלאכי, וטלאור אתם נורות של אהבה ושמחה בחיים שלי. נטע, את אמא יוצת מן הכלל, גננת ואני מרגישה כל כך הרבה כבוד לקרוא לך חברה. את דוגמא אישית, חברה ו’בוסית’!! תודה רבה על הכול, באהבה, שרה. 

Day 25: August 3 - Take a nap.
So this isn't where I was this Shabbat, but when I napped in the afternoon this is where I was dreaming I was!! Shavua Tov.

Day 26: August 4 - Learn something new.
I've been super excited about the idea of learning to be a Laughter Yoga instructor for a while now, and today I started my training!!  I drove way up north to Zichron Yaakov to attend the first of a 4 part private series taught by Alex Sternick.  I'm learning the psychology of happiness, health benefits, diaphragmatic breathing, the art of nonsense and gibberish, how to "fake it til you make it", and much much more.  I'm really looking forward to starting laughter clubs in my area, volunteering, and in general teaching this practice.  We should all be more joyous, happy, and silly, oh and speak nonsense too!!  

Day 27:  August 5 - Memorize a poem.
The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I couldn't travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And look down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way.
I doubted if I should ever come back,
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference

Day 28: August 6 - Meditate and enjoy the silence.
This is both a daily struggle and practice for me.  I consistently am working on silencing my mind and opening my heart and soul.

Day 29: August 7 - Dance or skip.
An impromptu laughter yoga session broke into dance at my friend's house tonight.  It's so fun to dance even without any music!

Day 30:  August 8 - Turn errands into an adventure.
Any day of errands that ends with an evening of great music, is one accomplished.

Day 31: August 9 - Get messy.
What can I say... I love to walk around barefoot.

Day 32:  August 10 - Set a goal, then reach it.
I'm "in process" of achieving my goal, but I am stretching more often and doing more yoga.  It definitely helps on my quest for better back health, strength, flexibility, and balance.

Day 33:  August 11 -  Travel.
Sibling road trip!  This week I persuaded my sister Debra and brother David into coming along with me on a sibling travel day!  Destination: Northern Israel and specifically Zichron Yaakov and Kyriat Atta.

Day 34:  August 12 -  Watch a sunrise or sunset.
This beautiful sunset in northern Israel is just one of the many I get to see (I watch the sunset almost every day.)  B"H.  Soooo beautiful.

Day 35: August 13 - Create something.
My first attempt at making jewelry with guitar strings and hand made beads (by my friend, Debi).  I am happily accepting any and all broken or replaced instrument strings.  Save your strings and give them to me.  I'll make something!

Day 36: August 14 - Spend an evening by candle light.
I loved doing this one.  I set up little tea light candles all around my living room, played the guitar and enjoyed the serenity that the atmosphere created for me.

Day 37: August 15 - I didn't do anything off the list today.
I had a rough day, and you know what... that's ok too.  I wasn't able to check anything off my list, but I did "repeat" from a prior day: I asked for help and said thank you.  I somehow threw out my back and my wonderful friend and neighbor helped me with usage of a cool back machine and a great oil to help the pain, and even pasta for dinner.

Day 38: August 16 - Dress up in costume for no reason.
Really any chance to wear my blue wig is a good one.

Day 39: August 17 - Change a bad habit.
It's time I stop procrastinating (I'm an expert at waiting til the last moment with stuff like this), get my act together, and start planning for the new school year (which starts next week).  Lesson plans need writing and a classroom need setting up.  I guess summer vacay is just about over.

Day 40: August 18 - Nurture romance.
Chick flick movie night with 'When Harry met Sally'.

Day 41: August 19 - Surrender.  Give it up to Gd.
 Emunah.  It's really all about having faith, trust, and letting go.  There is a power that is bigger and greater than we are, and if we truly surrender ourselves and have emunah we can reduce our worries, problems, and anxieties exponentially.  Gam ze la tova.  This is also for the good.  

Saturday, May 11, 2013

לב – Heart

As I sit on my bed, MacBook on my lap, reading terrifying news from around the world I can hear birds chirping out my bedroom window.  My neighbors grey-water system water fall trickles soothingly and steadily in complimentary rhythm.  My serenity.  I can close my eyes and drink in the sounds of spring time.

I open my eyes and scan another article.  An Israel air strike last weekend in Syria.  The civil war in Syria is still threatening to spill over our borders in the north east.  The Hamas ran Gaza strip has still fired rockets into southern Israel while residents were celebrating the beginning of Lag B'Omer.  Hezbollah in Lebanon is teetering on the edge of joining the Syrian soldiers against the rebels.  Meanwhile in the US, a couple of psychos bombed a marathon in Boston and fertilizer plant exploded causing massive damage.

This sharp contrast between peace, harmony and beauty versus terror, war, and devastation is like teetering on the fence of sanity and insanity.  Do I dare taste the fruit of the tree of knowledge between good and evil?  It's all just one click away.  In the palm on my hand sits my smartphone, the miniature sized computer that, with the tap of a finger, can give me a wide range of answers to looming questions.    Do I dare to get them answered?  Instead I read headlines and scan over a few articles that catch my eye, taking a break from the black hole of bleak-sounding news from around the world.  It helps me to breathe a sigh of relief.

Meanwhile, back at home... in Tekoa the wind picks up and blows fiercely out my window.

To live in Israel, to be an Israeli in the Jewish homeland, you must really really want it.  You have to work hard to be a citizen.  You must be ready to fight for your rights, your place, your home.  Not only ready to stand up for Israel's right to exist, but your own personal existence as well.  In a country in modern infancy things like bureaucracy, diplomacy, and even pleasantries can be hard to come by.

This is what we have.  This small sliver of land that is disputed all over the world.  Even intellectual greats like Stephen Hawking choose to boycott against Israel, the only democracy in the middle east.  This means that his support is for "Palestine", a nation of "displaced refugees" who's national charter calls for the complete annihilation of the country I call home.  For this man, boycotting Israel should not be a limited one.  If he truly is going to boycott Israel, he should please remove the Israeli Intel technology that helps him and allows him to speak.

Mr. Hawking was invited to a conference in Israel hosted by President Shimon Peres called Facing Tomorrow.  This conference is meant to bring together a diverse group of 5,000 world leaders and intellectuals for discussions on an array of pressing world topics including; geopolitics, economics, environment and culture.  President Peres, a Nobel Prize laureate is using his position and political capital to address some of the world's most pressing issues.  "To boycott this effort is not reasoned criticism but rather pure chutzpa - an attempt to destroy an Israeli initiative not on its merits, but simply because it originates in the Jewish state." - Yvette Alt Miller via Stephen Hawking and the Israel Boycott - Sometimes very smart people do very dumb things.

Situations like these blatant anti semitic protests tend to leave me at a loss for words.  There is nothing that I can say or express that would accurately depict the racism and ignorance that I see.  That, makes me sad. 

Fortunately I was able to read something good in the news this past week.  A man by the name of Charles Ramsey became an over night hero when he responded to the screams of a woman in distress in Cleveland, OH.  This imperfect man with a scattered past did what was right and what needed to be done.  "There was a woman in distress, so why turn your back on that?" he told interviewers.  On that day, Charles Ramsey rose to the challenges he faced and was the man he had the potential to be.

We all have that potential within us.  We have the potential to be the greatest possible version of ourselves.  When we're scanning the news and feeling overwhelmed by the hatred and violence that surrounds us we can think to ourselves about how we positively affect our olam hakatan (our personal small world).  Our home, our neighborhood, our community, our city, our country... Do we have it within us to be a Charles Ramsey?  To ignore that inner voice that says we've done wrong, we've hurt, we've lied, we've cheated?  Instead just do what needs to be done to help others?  To turn down the cash reward and be humble?  

Charles Ramsey gives me hope that the intrinsic goodness of mankind is still in there... somewhere, despite the ignorance of intellectual greats like Stephen Hawking.  

Just a few days ago, the 27th day of the Hebrew month of Iyar, I celebrated my 32nd birthday.  In gematria (Hebrew numerology), the number 32 correlates with the Hebrew letters lamed ל and bet ב... spelling LEV לב - HEART.  As many friends and family have told me the year of "Heart" should lead to an opening of the heart.  To that merit, I bless each and every one of you to also have an opening of the heart.  You should find your inner strength and heroism in the face of intolerance and cruelty.  Open your hearts to joy and love.  Only then will we be able to make this world a better place for us, our children and our children's children.


On a final note... I found some interesting information about astrology according to the Hebrew calendar.  The month of Iyar makes me a Taurus whereas my English birthday (May 31) makes me a Gemini.  Since I'm living on the cusp of two signs, I've included both passages.

"We do not study astrology so we can learn how to draw up people's horoscopes. On the contrary, the purpose of kabbalistic astrology is to rise above the influences of the cosmos and take control over our own lives." - Wisdom in Astrology

Taurus is a fixed sign, ruled by Venus (Noga, in Hebrew), and the Hebrew letters Pei and Vav. Taurus' inner energy is fire, as it is the left column of the earth signs. Because Taurus is an earth sign, Taureans are in a constant search for stability in life and financial security. They are typically self-employed business owners which places them in "control" of their monies and property. Taureans have a very strong will to purchase and buy property, houses, land and real estate – all in order to support their need for security. Taureans are very capitalistic, jealous and possessive of their property. They will frequently experience loss of money to learn to let go of the physical world's domination over their lives.
Taureans have healing powers and deep talents to be doctors, astrologers, artists, chefs, singers and, of course, businesspeople. The Hebrew name for the month is Iyar, which stands for "Ani Hashem Rofecha" – "I am God, your Healer". This offers us all the ability to instigate healing processes during this month.  Taurus is associated with the Thyroid gland and the neck, best known by their "stiff-necked" stubbornness.
The entire month of Iyar falls during the period of Sefirat Haomer (the Counting of the Omer). During this time we count 49 days between Pesach and Shavuot, and each day gives us an opportunity to correct negative things we did in our past. These 49 days are seven times seven different levels of negativity, all leading up to the revelation on Mount Sinai and Immortality, accessed on Shavuot. Because the month of Iyar always falls during the Omer, it is time of low energy. It is a time in which we can earn the Light that we received on Pesach and prepare ourselves for freedom from all forms of death and end – in relationships, business, health, and all aspects of life.


Sivan is the third month of the Hebrew (lunar) year, and is Central Column of the air signs.

The controlling planet is Mercury, in Hebrew – KochavKochav's numerical value is Caf Vav = 26 (the Yud Hei Vav Hei or the Tetragrammaton) and Caf Bet = 22 letters of the Hebrew Alphabet, together creating the most powerful and energetic combination.

Mercury is the planet of communication, which means it has the qualifications of an electrical cable, telephone wire, a teacher, an adviser, a story teller - basically anything that can transfer any information from point a to point b.
The letter (Zayin) created the sign of Gemini and the letter (Resh) created Mercury. Together these two letter create the word Raz, whose numerical value is 207 - Light (Or). Raz also means secret (sod) in Hebrew.
Many secrets were revealed in the cosmos during the month of SivanSivan is known as the month of "Matan Torah - the giving of the Torah." The sixth day of the month, the holiday of Shavuot, is the cosmic day on which we finish the the counting of the Omer and culminates the 49 days that we began counting on the first day of Pesach. When the awesome light of freedom was revealed on Pesach, this light was given to us with no effort from our side. That is why we "count the Omer"; to build vessels, through correcting our actions that cause the Light to be concealed. On this fiftieth day after Pesach, we reach the level of Binah. An awesome amount of light is revealed on this day, as it is the anniversary of when people of the world received the Torah. The energy of Zeir Anpin - the endless Light of "bila hamavet lanetzach – when death was swallowed up forever, which resulted in immortality. The very same energy of immortality is revealed each year on Shavuot. The Ari says that whoever remains awake on Shavuot, engaging in Zohar study, is promised to be total protection and safety until Rosh Hashanah.
Geminis are intellectuals who have the desire to know everything, and an unlimited curiosity to collect information of every kind. This is because knowledge is power, and the more information gathered today will make future choices easier to make. The Gemini's need to collect information enables them to choose what is good and what is bad, what is right or wrong. This explains Gemini's tendency to jump from one subject to the other, and that is why, of course, they have many questions, doubts and uncertainties. The end result is their reluctance to enter any sort of commitment.
The solution for this personal obstacle is to find a teacher, someone that is able to give satisfactory answers to all questions. This will enable the Gemini to focus on one way, one God, which gives them a better chance to reach certainty. There is no greater teacher than a Gemini with a firm sense of certainty. As a communication sign, Gemini can be the perfect channel, one who can learn, understand and teach. The ideal for a Gemini is to be a channel for as many people as possible, especially for those who are lost on their path, and help others to reach their own personal certainty.
The duality of Gemini is expressed in every area of life. They embody the ability to do more then one task at the same time, as well as the the difficulty to commit in relationships. They have trouble with loyalty to one political party (as the servant of two masters), and they tend to change moods, like the wind changes direction and strength. That is why Geminis can be a different person each day.