I shared the following words at Pardes, wishing my friend Yevgenia and her family chizuk (encouragement, support) and Hashem’s rachamim (mercy).
She was born with a congenital heart defect, which has always impacted the quality of her life. Last Sunday, a week ago, I was not entirely surprised to learn that she had been hospitalized.
Yevgenia inspires me to believe that we can all achieve more than we may believe possible if only we push ourselves to succeed and live our lives to the fullest. She has certainly done so herself. Continue reading →
We have built Temples of our bodies, dear
Built them in sweat and groaning
In the saliva that collects in your mouth
when pushed too hard
The dryness in your throat when pushed too far
The burn of muscles over-used
And the shaking relief when we fall, exhausted,
in sprawled heaps of splayed-out limbs
Only to haul ourselves up again
And keep going
With only a little over two months left in my second round of adventures in Jerusalem, I’ve been disappointed in myself for not keeping up my reading and writing habits as a part of my day to day life. I have been clinging to the romantic notion that living in the Holy Land would inspire my creative side, and that perhaps my study of Torah and my so-called yeshivish lifestyle would instill the discipline necessary to keep up good habits, like reading and writing every day. But alas; bad habits are so much easier to keep up than good ones, and though the environment that surrounds me inspires all kinds of meaningful emotions, thoughts and impulses, it would appear that I still have to get off of my ass once in a while and take the initiative to be productive in my literary practices…or rather, to sit on my ass, but with a pen and paper in hand, a laptop with an open Word document in front of me, and a new book sitting at my side, waiting for me to turn the next page.
Where have I gone wrong? It’s not as though I don’t love writing and reading, so why have I not been doing it all the damn time? I’ve been battling the same aversion to good habits when it comes to running. I used to be a runner you see, just on my own time and for my own pleasure, and after doing it several times a week for a month or so, it started to feel really Continue reading →
Today is my mother’s birthday. She would have been 68. What a strange thing to think. Sixty-eight, so young. Such a difficult life, surreal in ways I can’t imagine and in ways I know too well.
My mother was an amazing woman, as you’ve either experienced first hand or heard me say many times. Independent, she left home at 18 to join the Navy against her Jewish mother’s wishes and leaving her 13-year-old sister behind, recently fatherless and alone. My mother worked hard, sent money home, saved, put herself through nursing school, survived boot camp, basic training, and three years of Stateside service during Viet Nam.
She was the first in the family to go to secondary school, the first to own a car, the first to live outside the family’s one-bedroom apartment in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Continue reading →
When I asked him why he made the haggadah he took a step back and gave me a weird shocked face, and said, “no one has asked me that question.” I also looked surprised, “no one has ever asked you why you wanted to make a haggadah?” He replied, “Well, not tonight.” (three hours into a five hour open art haggadah gallery of in the fancy Inbal hotel)
He then goes on to tell me why he made the haggadah. His wife got diagnosed with cancer around Passover time, went through chemo; and eventually, Continue reading →
Now that the craziness of preparing for Pesach and the seder itself is over, I have time to write about the Golan Tiyul. It was so beautiful! Flowers in bloom everywhere! Last week we experienced such a different climate than in Jerusalem, it was rainy and much cooler. We were joined by the families of several Pardes faculty members, which was really nice. Of all the tiyulim we have gone on this year, this has been the one with the most “modifications”. Rain made our first hike interesting, it was very muddy. As someone with a reasonable fear of slippery surfaces ( in 7th grade, I broke my ankle when I lost my footing on some wet leaves on a hill), I was not a happy camper. At the end of the hike, I was ready to throw out my mud saturated sneakers, but a friend brought them to the bus for me. Even though I felt like I never wanted to hike again, this was a good thing because after a good night sleep I was ready to do the hike the next day. Continue reading →
IDF Soldiers at the Western Wall (Photo credit: Israel Defense Forces)
With great power comes great responsibility. Now that the Tabernacle has been completed and we have received the instructions on how to make the appropriate offerings, the next piece of the sacrificial puzzle must be put into place. Who will be commanded with the proper administration and sacrifice of the offerings brought to the alter? Aaron and his sons. The priests are given certain rights which are detailed early in the parasha, but are also expected to be responsible for this critical element in the Israelite’s relationship with God. Similarly, army service in the State of Israel is a responsibility that accompanies the privilege and rights of living in the Middle-East’s only democracy. This week I completed my tzav rishon (first order or first command) which is the official beginning of the army’s draft process.
Tzav rishon consists of multiple stations on different floors of the local draft office. An interview to verify personal information, psychological aptitude, and a Hebrew exam, even for native speakers. A complete medical evaluation, including walking through the hall with the sample cup, two 19 year old girls with an extremely tight blood-pressure cuff, and a bunch of waiting. Finally, a test Continue reading →
If anyone has not yet visited the Hadassah Medical Centre at Ein Kerem it is an absolute must!
I had a personal reason to visit the hospital this morning. In 2006 I was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a genetic blindness disorder, during a routine visit to the Optometrist’s office. Since that time, doctors have scoured my DNA genome for the presence of a mutation that might be responsible for my genetic disorder. Today, I received new hope that I might soon know where the mutation in my genome lies. At noon today, I gave three blood samples for mutation testing to a lab that has achieved a 33% success rate in the identification of mutations among RP patients of Ashkenazi descent. 33%!!!! None of my previous testing has come even within the same stratosphere as that kind of success rate! Here’s hoping that something will come of it!
The other major reason to visit Hadassah Ein Kerem is for the Chagall Windows. I had seen the windows in pictures many times before, but trust me, it is something completely different to see them in person. The Chagall windows are all present as the walls of Hadassah Ein Kerem synagogue, where they actually have services every week for Friday night and Shabbat (it would be so amazing to doven in that space). The windows have so much detail, the longer you look at them the more you see!
So you really do need to visit the Hadassah Hospital in Ein Kerem!
I am usually a very tolerant person, especially when people are trying to understand human diversity. I will kindly explain that, no, Connecticut is not New York and that, yes, I would rather watch reruns of “Gilmore Girls” than new episodes of “Jersey Shore.” I will gladly explain that I would much rather bake with a guy than go to a bar with him, and I’ll even accept his offers to get things for me from high shelves.
But this weekend, I reached a limit. There comes a point when I can no longer make jokes about all the things I should make jokes about.
The scene: Friday night dinner with a few Pardes students and a wealthy British family.
The subject: Being gluten-free.
Here is the text of today's Creative Davening at Pardes:
In this week’s parsha, we build and furnish the Mishkan and attire the kohanim. When the work is complete, the Holy Presence comes to dwell among the people. Today, in our Shacharit of Healing, we build our own Mishkan of hope and invite the Presence to be with us as we journey towards health, wholeness, and peace. At the conclusion of Sefer Shmot this week, we say, “Chazak, chazak, v’nitchazek”. How fitting to wish each other strength when we pray for healing!
Shacharit of Healing, Parashat Vayakel-Pekudei
Creative Davening at Pardes, Feb. 6
Va’ani Tamid Imach
(I am always with You.)
Though my heart is troubled and I’m filled with dread
I turn to face Your Mystery
Though I’ve been lost inside my head
I open to Eternity. (R. Shefa Gold)