Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Mighty Like a Rose

Savta, I sit here staring into the candle that I just lit for your yahrtzheit.  I cannot believe a full year has gone by since you left the world.  I'm sitting, cuddling your great granddaughter, Ayala Ta'ir, for whom you are named.  Ayala, the hebrew for your yiddish name Hinda.  
Her eyes sparkle, she gives me huge smiles, and she laughs, enjoying our playtime together.
5 months old, and what a beautiful personality. Some might call it luck, to be blessed with such a wonderful little babe, but I know the truth.  By naming her for you, we are blessing her with your spirit. Your amazing, positive, optimistic, loving spirit. 
There is so much to tell you - so much has happened, so much that I wish we could be sharing together. You would love to see me as a mom- you would be so proud, tell me in your loving voice how you now love each great-grandchild more than the other.  Always so much love to go around.
Being a mom is tough stuff; I find myself in the hardest moments, thinking "oh, the joys of motherhood."  If you could maintain such a positive attitude in your later years, with your memory getting worse by the year, and your eyesight and hearing starting to go--and still say with a song, "oh, the joys of getting older" as you did a dance sitting down--then I can as well.  
You took what G-d gave you and blessed Him for allowing you to live, each and every day.  When we would ask you how you were , and sometimes even after hospital stays, you would respond with "B"h! I'm alive and I know it!"  You were a widow for 21 years, yet you didnt let that bring you down. Your apartment was always filled with your neighbors and friends, discussing politics, world views, religion, and your favorite: your grandchildren. 
Never in all my years knowing you, did I once hear you utter a negative word. You thought positively, you spoke positively, and you exuded positivity.  People loved being around you.  
You lived in a time of prejudice, and hate, of fear and depression.  And yet, you didnt let that cloud your perception.  You loved people--irregardless of ethnicity, race, or sexual orientation.  You said that "people are people"  and all deserve our respect.  You never judged--you loved instead.  
You turned to a life of observance at an older age because of your son, and the beauty you saw in the practice.  You believed that its never too old to learn new things--your learning continued- each decade brought something new. At 50, you learned to drive, at 60, you learned hebrew.
You came to take care of us when we were sick, and you came to all of our school plays, "days", and graduations.  You were there for it all, never missing a milestone.
You were married for 50 years to a wonderful, intelligent, special man.  A marriage built on commitment, devotion, love, and integrity.
You beat breast cancer by the power of your positive thinking.  It wasnt going to beat you; you were going to "flush it down the toilet."  And flush it down you did.

I miss our visits, our boggle playing (you always won!!), our trips to the beach, our sleepovers.  I miss the pictures of your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren that adorn your entire apartment.  I miss the oreos you kept  stashed in your freezer, the kit kats you had in the bottom drawer.  The lullabyes you sang, the dances you jigged, the wisdom you dispensed.  
I miss your laugh, your excitement at hearing our voices on the phone.  Your smell.  Your unconditional love.  The way nothing in the world was more important than us.  I miss sitting next to you in shul during the holidays, following along in your siddur, loving to be in shul.  I miss your hug and the way it would envelop every part of my being. I miss the way you would make me feel as though I were the most special in the world. There is nothing quite like a Savta's love.
I miss your "gevalkeshriegens!" and "sheshneid your zudick!!"  (to this day, none of us have any clue what they actually mean)  I miss your stories- the one of how you met Sabba ("there I was, a pretty girl with the blond curls and blue eyes, leaving the lecture with a bald man with glasses!! "  such laughter followed that story..told again and again..)  The story of Abba getting in trouble with his teachers, but when you called them, and laughed about what a rascal he was, the teachers ended up laughing as well.  Your educational moments (convincing us to smoke cigarettes in your dining room..to scare us from never smoking anything ever again)  Your understanding.  Your pride in our accomplishments, and your sympathizing in our failures.
Even in your later years, when your memory had all but disappeared, my Abba said to you "Do you know who I am?"  and you would respond with a smile " Im not sure, but I do know that you love me and I love you."  At the end, Savta, there wasnt much, but there was love. Which is what had been there all along. 

Savta, on some level you must know, but you would say to us, at the end of anything family related- be it birthdays, simchas, or just the pesach seder-  "next year,please G-d, with additions!!"  well, youll be so happy to know that the Schaum children have added not just one, but 3 great-grandchildren in this one year, and be"h another one on the way.  We lost a dear and precious neshama--but we have added 3 new ones.  3 new souls who you are watching and protecting with your love--3 new souls, who sadly, did not get the chance to know, and to love you.  

You told us to dance at your funeral, because it was a celebration of your life.  Dance, we didnt, but we did sing you the lullabye that soothed us to sleep growing up. 
This candle I lit tonight, is your light that will continue to shine--through all of us, and through our children.  Ayala Tair--She will be"h shine in this world, with your blessing. 
Yahrzheit commemorates your life- and the celebration that it was.  I shed tears tonight---sad that my daughter will never know you, and your incredible soul--but at the same time, celebrating your life that was, and this precious life that will be"h continue to be. 
Please look down on us from on high, and continue to pray for us, and keep us...I miss you more than you can ever imagine,

"go to sleep and dont you worry, we're all here, so dont you worry, sleep and dream, our sweetest savta.  sweetest savta, everybody knows, dont know what to call you, but youre mighty like a rose.  looking at your family, with eyes so shining blue, makes you think that heaven is coming close to you.."  
o how i wish it were...



Wednesday, November 21, 2012

"let there be peace"

This week has been one of the most unsettling, emotionally draining weeks I've ever experienced.  The fear. The vulnerability.  The anxiety. The knowledge and feeling that there are people in the world who want you to be brought in "black body bags" and who want to kill you in any way possible. 
It takes a toll.  The 5 people who died.  The thousands of children who will suffer from this trauma for years and years; who wet their beds at age 7, and who cant sleep at night.  The parents; who put on such good faces, who are brave and strong for their children, but who just want to cry to sleep every night for the pain and anguish and the helplessness they feel.  The adults, who feel paralyzed to do anything, or go anywhere because fear has taken over their lives.  
It's funny. The people I know DO feel for the innocent loss of life on the Palestinian side as well.  As  the most moral, humane army in the world, we do everything in our power to avoid their deaths.  But at the same time, we also know that we must do what needs to be done.  And that is protecting our citizens.
It has baffled me this past week, all the people posting their liberal leftist views. Yes, everyone is entitled to their own views.  But, for one moment- how can you possibly compare us to Hamas?  Most agree that not ALL Palestinians are evil people; the ones who want to live in peace with us, we'll gladly be your friends. The problem becomes that their leaders do NOT want peace, they do everything they can to abort peace.  The leftists seem to be unaware of history- and all the compromises we have made in the past in the name of peace.  And yet, and yet, we have never been given peace.  Even most secular leftists in Israel have given up on the idea of "land for peace" as it is something we have tried for so long in the past, and have never been rewarded with peace.  We have given back so much land, and have not received peace in return.  So what exactly doesn't the world understand? Why do they think we haven't tried the peace thing?  We gave them all of Gaza, gave them the opportunity to build a real society, gave them millions of shekels, dollars, euros- in order to create a flourishing society. And instead- they build warehouses for rockets, and rocket launchers, all of Gaza becomes a battlefield.  What does the world want from us?  We offered them  97% of the West Bank, and they chose to begin the Intifada 12 years ago. I'm just not sure where else there is for us to go, what other options are left. It's depressing, this thought process. 

And yet..some silver linings to be found in all this darkness . The statuses from the facebook world, able to take a horrible situation, and paint it pretty. The memes that make you laugh.  The song written for the children in the south dancing about "Color Red" with smiles on their faces in order to cope.The soldiers preparing for war by singing songs about belief in G-d. The pictures of us treating Gazan patients in our hospitals.  The radio broadcasts that talk about G-d and the beauty of Shabbat by secular broadcasters.  The overwhelming hospitality displayed by the entire country in housing residents of the South, to give them some respite for Shabbat. The unity displayed by our people.  An incredible light shining in the darkness. 

And then, the ceasefire.  Words that created such anger, disappointment, sense of betrayal.  Wanting to finish what we started. Wanting to bring quiet to the south(and to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem).  Feeling that we were duped.  Feeling that we lost a real opportunity.  Feeling that our citizens are not being protected. Wanting. Wanting to believe that there is a reason behind it all. NEEDING to believe there is a reason behind it all. A greater plan.  That Netanyahu knows what he's doing.  That G-d is really with us.

We pray every day. For peace.   The Messianic vision is for peace. We want it just as badly as the "Peace Now" activists, yet we want it when its REAL.When it LASTS. When it doesnt mean being scared to ride on buses, when it doesnt mean fearing for your life when you get into bed.  We want peace. So so badly. And yet..I feel like this time, it needs to come from on high. Maybe that's why we always pray that G-d grant us peace.  We've done our effort- now its YOUR turn, G-d.  You need to help us in this.  

And in the meantime, we need to continue to do the things that increase light in the world, as we have shown that we do so well.  Because there is too much darkness. Even if it's unilateral.  Because eventually, the light will be so blinding there wont be any room for the darkness.

Need to sleep. Need to rest my mind.  Falling asleep at the computer, to songs of peace on the radio channel...soothing, calming, hoping for a better day, a better tomorrow...when we will sit on our terrace, and children will play tag..עוד תראה, עוד תראה כמה טוב יהיה בשנה הבאה ("just wait and see, how much better next year will be") Waiting for that day...




Sunday, March 20, 2011

purim thoughts..

wow. 430 a.m. and just coming down from purim craziness. tonight i drank--i drank for so many reasons, none of which truly justify my super drunkenness that was, but there were o so many reasons to drink.
i drank tonight, thinking of ilan tokayer z"l, who died a mere 2 weeks ago, suddenly, so tragically. i drank for his wine that he was making, for all the wine he had hopes and dreams of making.  i drank, thinking of the family in itamar, a family whose 5 members were brutally murdered in their sleep, and i drank..for japan, and all their 15000 who perished in moments in the wake of a natural disaster. 
disasters personal, national and universal.  all within the month of adar. a month that is supposed to be filled with joy, increased happiness. and yet, yet, there is such pain. such bad. such evil. and just not understanding any of it. why is there such evil? ilan was such an amazing guy, with so much left to give, so many dreams unfulfilled, and was taken so suddenly. why??!!  why was a family cut down so horrifically?  where is the good? how am i supposed to understand, to continue to praise G-d, to be happy?!!!
i think..well, i think life is complicated. and there are no answers. i drank tonight, to try to get to the place of the "beyond knowing."  i wanted to see the bigger picture, to somehow glimpse a piece of G-d's crazy tapestry.  
i cant say that that happened. what did happen was that i was a witness to a lot of love, a lot of goodness. and i like to think that somehow..somehow, we are still here as a people for a reason.
i think of tali ben yishai, the mother of ruti fogel hy"d (from itamar) and the grandmother of 3 precious neshamot that were snuffed out so cruelly. in an interview, all she spoke about was that she might not be their mother but she has a lot of love to give. going to the shiva and speaking with her, i was witness to the hundreds of ppl who had come, to show their lovr and support. and before i left, i told her am yisrael from around the world send their love, and support and are standing behind them-- at which point, she started crying, and grabbed my hand and wouldnt let me go. i realized, as sad as she was, that my words had an even more important message than i knew.  my message was one of love. that in the midst of all this horror and cruelty and evil, there exists some love.
listening to the megillah was just listening to our history and our present.  but i kept on thinking, there is a reason for all this. somehow, amongst all odds, we are still here. even tho all wish to destroy us, we're still around. and if you read news reports about "settlers" helping palestinans give birth just days after they were attacked, well then, you have some sense of why we are still here. because our desire for life, our desire for love and good, is what keeps us going. that is our life force. 
tonight, dancing drunk with lots of girls, it was amazing to see the love that emanated from everyone. those who helped their friends in bad places, even when it was disgusting--that is the ability to go beyond oneself--that love, that is eternal. 
i am blessed to be part of this nation. as much as i might not understand G-d's plans for me, for my friends, for my nation--i believe that we are here to make this world a better place. and that we can bring so much light into this world.
layehudim hayta ora v'simcha v'sasson v'ikar--we have joy and light because we are the bearers of the light!! 
may we be blessed to one day understand, to see how everything is ONE, and to love, to love so deeply.
purim sameach!

Monday, December 6, 2010

walkin' the streets of jerusalem..

"i walk the streets of jerusalem and my head is bowed..cant let you go now.." - moshav band

woke up this morning to a blessed rain. amazing how the day after the horrible fire finally stopped raging, we were showered upon with bountiful, beautiful, glorious rain.
it's incredible, how the rain changes moods here. ill never forget that rainy days in ny are dismal, gray, gloomy, and all around no fun. here, however, there is nothing more that people love than to be caught up in a rainstorm. it means that good things are happening. it means, on some level, maybe, just maybe we're doing something right. it means we're being blessed. and we feel that so strongly.
just wanted to share two funny stories that happened to me on this lovely, cold, rainy evening in jerusalem.
i was all decked out in my bright orange-ey red poncho (which i love btw, it protects me so well, and is quite the smart piece of clothing) and i had just exited a wonderful show that i had seen with my sister. she got into her taxi to head home, and i decided to stop into the supermarket as i was in dire need of something to drink.
when i walked in, the dude at the cash register took one look at me and started cracking up. i was like "whaaat?"  he says, still laughing, "zeh ma ze keyf lirot otach kacha" (its super fun to look at you like that) and continued by saying how awesome it is that it is pouring outside.
i was cracking up to myself, as i continued walking along the street, thinking how funny i must look, when all of a sudden i'm  waiting by the light, and some guy walks over to me and says totally seriously "efshar l'hatzia lach shidduch?" (can i offer you a guy to date?!!!) whaaat?!!! dude, have you seen the poncho i've been wearing?! i gave him my biggest smile and said thanks, but no thanks..
continuing along, i realized there is nothing i love more than walking the streets of jerusalem. where all things are bound to happen. where my head CAN'T stay bowed, because then i would miss all the beauty and craziness that goes on around me. and where i cant let you go now..

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Light and Love

 It is 3:45 a.m. and my head is racing from the events of the past two days. I have so much running through me, and I dont know how coherent this post will be, but all I do know is that I feel compelled to write...


What does G-d want from me???!!
This was the theme of the last two days here in Migdal Oz, the beit midrash I have the honor of learning in. As part of a two day yom iyun (intensive learning) for Chanukah, they invited people from the different streams within religious Zionism to speak to us about their hashkafot, their world views.  The goal was to hear ideas and opinions that would be different from ours, to encounter people we might not normally encounter, to listen to ideas with respect even if we dont agree with them.


We sat for two days, listening to one person after the other describe to us how they view the world, how they view the State of Israel, Am Yisrael and Torat Yisrael.  We heard from those who disconnect themselves from the state because of how its run by secular Jews, from a rebbetzin with thirteen children living in a settlement called Har Bracha,(which is near the city of Shechem), from a chareidi woman living in Bnei Brak, from a woman who is trying to make Jerusalem more secular-friendly, and from a man who is a Rosh Yeshiva of a pre-military academy. 

Each person who spoke had such different beliefs, different ideas and different focuses.  It was very easy to see how even in the "religious camp" in this country, we are extremely divided.  I have much to say on the ideas that were raised, on the points that were brought up, but I will please G-d, save them for another post.
It was two days of intensity.  People in the audience often disagreed, and there was much tension in the room.  The speakers spoke adamantly about the path that they live, each convinced that their "truth" is the one truth.  For me, in all honesty, it was painful to see how drastically apart we are, how we live, how we view each other.

Tonight we were treated to "Playback theater" from a group of improv guys who did a phenomenal job.  Someone tells their story, and the actors play it back, doing a great job of mirroring the persons story-from different angles, and it is their "interpretation" of the story. The stories we focused on were encounters we have had with those who are not like us. How we react both practically and often emotionally. They really struck chords deep within.

And then..and then, we all heard about the horrific tragedy that occurred, and is still occurring, in the Carmel, up north, near Haifa. And tonight, after dinner,  we had a "pegesh", a Migdal Oz term for sitting in a circle and sharing your thoughts and feelings with everyone.  It was supposed to be about the yom iyun, and it was eventually. But it began with talking about the fire.  That killed 40 people, and is devastating an entire region. 12,000 people and counting were forced to evacuate, thousands upon thousands of dunam were destroyed. "Who will die by fire, and who by beast?"...These facts became too difficult to comprehend. A fire that has spun out of control. On the 2nd night of Chanukah. A holiday where we are supposed to be increasing light. Where light has been increased--to a horrific proportion.  Where we are remembering our battle against the Greeks.  Who are now coming to our rescue with their planes. None of it makes any sense.  Like rain that falls on Sukkot, being likened to a master throwing the cup he receives back into his servants face, where G-d is saying "I dont want you to perform this mitzvah", here too it feels like G-d is somehow not happy with our fire.  Throwing the fire back in our faces.

But all of a sudden, with our minds focused on this tragedy--the pegesh and what we thought and felt, and the nuances of differences between all the speakers, and who we agreed with and who we were angered by--seemed trivial.  Because here we are, a nation facing the greatest threat of all--nature.  And in the end of the day, its not just us in this battle against natural disasters, we as a world are in this together.  We are bnei adam, fighting. Human beings. No longer is it important how religious you think  you are, whether you are religious at all, or even whether you are a Jew or not. Greece, Russia, Italy, Turkey are all coming to our aid. Because they realize that first and foremost we are human beings, up against a world --and a G-d who sometimes sends disasters our way. But maybe its time to hear G-d this time. Maybe just because we are lighting the candles, we are not REALLY lighting the candles. We are not lighting the fire within ourselves, within each other. Instead, we are lighting a fire that consumes.  We are not lighting a fire that increases light. Light. The holiday of so much light. But the world is so incredibly dark.

"We have work, begin to light the candles", sings Michael Shapiro, in a beautiful song called "Gentle Voice."
Two summers ago I participated in an amazing 3 day workshop with an organization called "call of the Shofar".  They do a lot of intense workshops, where the participants journey into themselves, finding their places of pain and constriction, and work through it, coming to a more whole, peaceful place.  Getting to know these women I was with for 72 amazing hours was an extremely special experience.
At the end of the time, we sat together and we each lit a candle. As we stood in front of our candle, each person was given the opportunity to say to the one who lit, "so-and-so, the light I see in you.is.."   It was most beautiful to see, to hear the wonderful light that each person saw in each other.  And it was funny. I wasnt entirely sure that there would be what to say to everyone. But as each woman stood there, with the light of the candle she lit reflected on her face, it was easy all of a sudden to see the light within her soul.

So I bless us this Chanukah, that as we light our candles, to stay there for a moment, look at those whom we are lighting with, see them for who they are, see the light within. To see the light within ourselves.  Because only from the light within, from the flame we light, from the source, from the shamash, only then can we add the light. And then, with G-d's help, instead of lighting fires that consume and destroy, we will be lighting fires that increase light and love, beauty and blessing within this world that we are all an integral part of.

Monday, November 15, 2010

End of week musings

Over dinner Friday night, the host asked a question - what was your Godly moment of the week??
And blessedly enough, I had one to share.
As the sun was setting over the Judean hills on Thursday evening, after a long day in Cholon (a city near Tel Aviv)--I was feeling overwhelmed by the blessing of sight. I had just spent my 2nd time in דיאולוג בחשיכה, Dialogue in the Dark, a fantastic place where you can experience the world as the blind see it. Guided by a woman who is completely blind, married and with two children, we got to experience a "boat ride", heard music, went to the "shuk" and bought chocolates, all in complete darkness.  It was incredible to see how all our other senses were heightened--you suddenly heard everything so clearly, you could touch things and know what they were.  You end up using your friends around you to help you out. Everyone holds each other for support. I was  blown away to experience this, finding myself lost and afraid at times, while our guide Michal was able to tell me exactly where to go. It was as though she could truly see.
The most amazing moment was when we sat around at the end, eating the food we had bought from the "shuk", able to ask any questions we wanted to. The girls I was with were extremely fascinated, and eager to ask personal questions just because they could. Michal was very gracious and answered most honestly.  The question that hit me was when they asked her "Isn't it weird that you've never seen your children?" And she responded so clearly, "Of course I've seen them.  Just not in the way that you do."
And thats just it. Most of us are blessed with the sense of sight. And we use it to experience G-d's world in the way that we know best. Only sometimes we let our sight take hold, and rule all our other senses. What would happen if we didnt see for a moment all the external trappings of this world, and listened instead? Listened to our brothers, to our parents, to our friends, and to our enemies. So much of what divides us is based on the externals. But if we listened--deeply, genuinely, and with our hearts open, we might be amazed to discover how much we are all the same.
Its so interesting. In Israel, we are faced with a scary, threatening rain shortage.  Its the middle of november, and we are experiencing summer conditions! It is brutally hot, dry with no rain in sight. And I am always bothered that it seems as though we are not doing something right, it seems pretty clear from the shema that we recite every day that if we only did certain things, we should be blessed with abundance and rain. But as my shabbat host pointed out so beautifully- in shema, it says "v'haya im shamoa tishmeu et mitzvotay..le'ahava et hashem elokechem..v'natati matar artzechem b'ito.." usually translated as "if you heed my commandments..to love hashem..i will give rain.." but the word thats used isn't "ta'asu" rather its "shamo tishmeu" its all about the listening. We must listen deeply to what G-d wants of us. Only then will He bless us with the rain we so badly need. And if we listen, maybe we'll eventually be able to really see.