Wednesday, February 25, 2009

OII #7- Brothers and Babies

I'm always amazed here in Israel by how phenomenal the soldiers in the army are. They go through three years there, starting when they are still in their teenage years, and even after that, they still participate in the reserves until they no longer can by law.

They are tough individuals, strong, brave- people you would want to have defending you and your country and people. Walking around all day with a gun on your shoulder might scare the passerby, or make them realize how special you are- to give up some of the time in your life to do something so constructive and valuable.

They put on this gruff exterior when they are on duty- no nonsense, no funny business or even cracking a smile to those watching. But peer out of the corner of your eye, and you see them laughing with their comrades in arms, playing jokes on the men they are supposed to command, and generally acting like normal people. Each one of these soldiers is a brother to some, a son to some, and they act it, despite the fact that they have learnt Krav Maga- a deadly form of martial arts.

I was in a mall with a friend and her baby daughter. As we passed through security, she needed to remove her daughter from the stroller, because the little one was scared by the metal detector. All of a sudden, the stern-faced security guard and his soldier friend turned into different people. "Aize Metuka!" (such a cutie!) they cried, and started to make funny faces to cheer up the slightly shocked baby. "Chamuda," they said, as they grilled my friend as to how old the baby was. The little one made their day by giving a grin, and these soldiers thoroughly enjoyed themselves. I would have thought they would have grabbed the little one and bounced her on their laps soundly, if they hadn't been on duty. That's Israeli security. Give them a little one- and they turn into the brothers of the sisters they left at home.

Recently, I was in the Old City with NBD, and I wanted to get from the Kotel to the Rova. Being as I had a stroller, I had to take the long way around. When I got half way up, I saw a security guard standing by an entrance- and I asked him if that way led up, and were there stairs. He looked at me, and at NBD- and said, "What's the problem?! I'll carry her up." And so he proceeded to do, chattering all the while about how cute she was, and how he has a 1 1/2 year old at home waiting for him.

So, beneath that exterior lies something waiting. No Israeli can resist a baby.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Erev Shabbos #11- Conversationalism

Ever noticed what we converse about?
I once heard that old saying-
Small people talk about others
Medium people talk about things
Great people talk about ideas

I never was totally sure about it- as most conversations tend to generalize about all three, but it is true that the more a person talks about others, the worse the conversation tends to be. The Chofetz Chaim was once approached by someone who asked him how it was possible to have a conversation free of Loshon Hara (derogatory speech about others). "I mean, what is there to talk about?!" R' Yisrael Meir Kagan shook his head, and asked, "You mean that you can't find a single thing to talk about except about others? That's very sad."

I've found that conversation, unless you have decided to get into an intellectual debate with someone, usually focuses around what you've been doing lately. For those in school, it's their finals and tests. For those who are married, it's Shabbos preparations, or timing of graduate school classes. For those who are parents, it's their child's latest antics. And so it continues. (These are all examples. Please don't read into them.)

I happen to enjoy the intellectual debate type of conversations, but there are very few people in this world who are interested in conducting one with me. I mean, how many people are interested in debating Nosson Slifkin's view of the universe and the perspective of the Rabbanim involved, or the fact that entropy figures in an excellent Ramban in Bereshis....
And particle physics- well, I can't discuss that with most anyway. Oh well.

So my conversations tend to range along the lines of most of the other stuff. And, people are content by this.

On Shabbos- my table abounds with conversation. In my parents' home, it used to revolve around the parsha. My parents would make it a point to read the entire parsha in English straight from Artscroll on Friday night, whether or not everyone had learnt it already. And when I say read, I mean every word. People were encouraged to chime in with Divrei Torah at appropriate intervals. At my table, conversation can range from all sides of the spectrum. But, discussion of Torah does remain paramount.

I think that's an important idea in conversation. All the week, at the table, we discuss the commonplace things. But on Shabbos- conversation should have some measure of Kedusha, holiness, in it. It doesn't matter if you read straight from Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski's Parsha Points, or you interweave your own Devar Torah from the sources you've learnt. It doesn't even have to go with the parsha of the week. But there should be something there.

Something more than straight old conversation for conversations' sake.
Gut Shabbos Everyone!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Who Knew?

Who knew typing one- handed would be so hard! Ah, joy.
Trying to keep up with the backload of posts, emails, and comments though. Thanks for your patience, and thanks for continuing to check this blog.

Growing up, I had very devoted parents. They did (and continue to do) so much for me through out my life. My parents used to drive an hour each way just so I could attend a Jewish day school. Eventually, we moved to a frum community, but those hours of daily commutes still stick in my mind.

What did I do with those hours? Well, I listened to tapes. Anyone remember Loshon Hara 911? And who could forget the Marvelous Middos Machine! I mean, those hippopotami are still out there, still lazy and slow. And the milk never seems to get cleaned up.

I listened to A Ton of Mon, which made me have a craving for ice cream, and The Talking Coins, which suprised me every time, no matter how recently I heard it. The Longest Pesach was a favorite, as was The Purim Story during Purim time, and the Chanukah Story during Chanukah time. Those cute kids telling us that they no longer use their Jewish names, but instead are called by secular ones- it just never gets old.

I have a family friend in Israel who has 13 kids, bli ayin hara. And, when you have 13 kids, there is no possible human that could read all of them a story at once- especially since the 9 boys want an adventure story, and the 4 girls want something fun with a happy ending. So, she came up with a brilliant idea. She buys the Israeli tapes- stories in Hebrew for her Israeli kids- and sets up a tape machine in each room. Then, when it's time for bed- she just pops on the tape- and like magic- all her kids look forward to it.

Who knew that kids would develop such an attachment and fond memories for these childhood pastimes? The things I know from these tapes stuck with me till today.

So- you never quite know what your children will hear, or see- or what you will hear or see- that will affect you years later. We say that these things only have limited effects- that these memories eventually fade with time. But, sometimes, things affect us more than we realize, and pop up years later for further review.

Our entire enviroment affects how we view the world, starting from childhood, and only getting stronger as we grow up.
This is one of the reasons why I chose to live here in Israel- I wanted this enviroment for myself and my family. I wanted the effects of the 'Sviva'- and with that comes both good, and bad, as some are aware.

But every person has to make that choice. What Sviva do you want for yourself? What 'tapes' are you listening to?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A Listening Ear

Sporadic Intelligence recently posted on visiting Kever Rochel, and she made a really good point.
Although, I'm going to approach it from a slightly different angle.

I used to visit Kever Rochel every Sunday in the afternoon, rain or shine.
I've been there since the time when it looked like the representative picture, when it was surrounded by an Arab village, and you had to ask a grocery shop owner for permission to visit the kever (gravesite).
I've been there now, as it evolved into something resembling a security compound, with those white, ominous concrete slabs surrounding it on all sides. The tomb itself is covered in camouflage netting, soldiers' lookout stations, and an Israeli flag.

I've gone on days when it has been so crowded that in order to get on and off a bus, one had better be prepared to get shoved from all angles. I've been there on her yartzheit, when candles are lit on every side of the ancient structure. I've been there on days when the only people there are me and two or three other Yerushalmi ladies, all sitting and saying Tehillim next to the paroches (curtain) made from Nava Applebaum's, A"H, wedding dress.

Somehow, it's different to me than when visiting other holy sites, like the Kotel HaMaaravi, the Western Wall. Somehow, I feel that through her zechus, my tefillos might actually make it up there. I've gone there to daven for numerous things, for friends, for family, for myself.

And each time, I come back feeling like I've been heard by Hashem. I don't know if I have the merits to reach so high, but maybe if I rely on the fact that I'm Jewish, and that I am a descendant of Mama Rochel, maybe I can get heard. It's new each time to me, unlike some places, where although I feel the Kedusha, it can wane after a while, and just become 'another' place.

So yes, I have a connection to Kever Rochel. Some feel that same feeling when they visit the Kotel, or when they head to other kevarim, or when they head to a grandparent or family member's gravesite. But I know that Mama Rochel does intercede for her children up there by the Heavenly Throne. And sometimes, we all need an advocate.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Erev Shabbos #10- A Matter of Luck

Well, in the 20 or so minutes I have until NBD wakes up, I thought that now would be a good time to post.
This Erev Shabbos is more hectic than most, with guests from Chutz L'aaretz arriving every 3 hours, and a Kiddush to prepare.

But, taking a few minutes to step back and realize- I'm so lucky to be here in E"Y.

I'm lucky enough to be able to set up a kiddush for NBD, not on the same scale as a Kiddush in the US, but something beautiful, for the men and women to come to and enjoy.

I'm lucky enough to have neighbors that continuously drop platters of food at my door, hoping that they were the first, and the last 4 people's food had been eaten already.

I'm lucky to be here, staring out at my window, at the gorgeous view of the hills surrounding Yerushalayim.

And, I'm lucky enough to have given birth to my first 'Sabra'- someone who's first breath of air was the air of Yerushalayim. It's a phenomenal concept to me- how much I'm in love with this city.

I love the dirt and dust that washes off every stone in this glowingly white city. I love the trees, the sky, and the air.

And, I'm lucky enough to spend Shabbos here, a time of total Menucha (rest), and a time to reflect on how lucky we are.

Mazel- luck. So when we wish someone Mazel Tov, we wish them good luck, in essence. We wish them that the luck they have had from Hashem until now should continue.

And that's what I wish you all. A Gut Shabbos, and Mazel Tov.
That you should realize just how lucky you are, no matter where you are in the world.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

R' Noach Weinberg, ZT"L

Just thought I would write a short post- my own words can't do this great man justice.

The day R' Weinberg passed away, my daughter came into the world.

Hashem gives, and Hashem takes.

My own life has been enriched immensely by Aish and Discovery, through its teachers, seminars, and life mentors. I was not one of those who became frum through R' Weinberg's efforts, but I reap the benefits of much of his life's work. Members of my own family have learnt at Aish, and friends of mine participated in Discovery.

EYAHT boasts some of the most special teachers that I know, many of whom have created an impact on me that has lasted throughout my life.

So, no, I did not know R' Weinberg personally. I heard his shiurim, benefited from his teachers and programs, but I did not know him. I know of him, I know of his greatness, his caring, his love for every Jew. has several articles up on R' Weinberg, zt"l. Please feel free to peruse them at your leisure. His presence will be dearly missed. May his mourners be comforted among the mourners of Tzion and Yerushalayim.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Chesed and Neighbors

I know I've posted before on the phenomenal amount of Chesed that goes on here in Israel- but being the recipient of some recently, I just had to say it again.

My family has been blessed. When my family moved to a frum community in America, (they were living a bit further out before), they looked for a house in the neighborhood. They didn't even check the neighbors out, just the general area.
They moved in, and were blessed by Hashem with phenomenal neighbors. Neighbors that care, that ask, that give without thought of repayment.

Neighbors that do chesed on a daily basis- from walking the elderly man on our block to shul every day, to babysitting in a pinch, or a friendly visit from the doctor who lives down the block. When a child got sick, or a person got married- the whole block was there, helping and giving. Thank you all.

Then, I moved to Israel. And again- we didn't check out the 'courtyard', but rather, the neighborhood in general. And again, Hashem gave us a tremendous bracha by giving us devoted, caring neighbors.

Recently, when I was in the hospital with NBD (Newly Born Daughter. Thanks, Anonymous 613), my neighbors sent so much food- an army could have been happily satiated. I got visitors, people who took off from their schedules to give me a hello, and I received advice, as being here without family makes it hard to adjust to motherhood. I came home- and people brought supper, brought advice, made phone calls, and helped me so much that I wouldn't know what to do without them. And all of this- why? They're my neighbors.
I feel so blessed.

Although- this brings up an interesting point, that I've mentioned before. Do you choose a neighborhood for the neighbors? Or do you choose it for other factors- school, community, lifestyle, religiosity, and hope that it all falls into place?
What's the most important thing to look for?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Mazel Tov!

Sorry I've been a bit out of touch- looking at my backload of comments, and the fact that my last post was Tuesday of last week...
But, Mr. NMF and I get a Mazel Tov- we had a delicious baby girl this past Thursday night!
Hopefully, I'll be posting again quite soon, but if I don't- I have a wonderful excuse why!
May we all share in continual simchos!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The NMF Syndrome

People tend to think that once one becomes that NMF- newly married friend- that person will lose all interest in anything she held dear before, and now has her head crammed with laundry, Shabbos, shopping, and homemaking.

It's like the brain stops working, the head turns off, oh- and did I mention the NMF forgets and neglects to call me!! How dare she!

Truthfully, I find NEFs (newly engaged friends) much harder to reach and get a hold of. Especially when they are wedding planning constantly.

But, as soon as one becomes an NMF- well then- the perspective seems to change. Not only does her brain not ignore the passions and dreams she had before- but she has those, plus all the new responsiblities.

Oh, and did we mention all the new things that come on to the scene? More bills, insurance, money managing, budgeting, household management, time management, childcare, and that wonderful significant other's feelings, emotions, and actions as well.

Add to that the whole 'leave the community you now live in and move to another community/city/state/country'- and you've got more in the NMF's head than ever.

Plus, those dreams and passions don't leave- they stay too. So you've got one very busy little brain working overtime.

And those who are not married criticize. Well, let them figure it out. I mean- when I wasn't married, I don't think I noticed the price of margarine, flour, or water. I mean, sure, I looked for a sale, and used coupons, but did I really think it made a difference- every cent?

When I wasn't married, dealing with household chores was easy. Don't have patience to make dinner- eat out. Didn't do laundry yet- it's okay, it can wait for next week. Oh, and that paper for school- I'll get to it, in my endless free time.

Somehow, becoming a NMF changes all that- you have to do all the stuff you did, plus more. (I'm not complaining, just trying to show how things change.) And, all the ideas you had- graduate school, business plans, job plans- they still have to happen (after all- you don't change, just your status) and you have to figure out how they fit in amidst all the NMF chores.

So single friends- don't think our heads are in the air, full of newlywedded bliss. We're solidly grounded. Possibly more than you. And, we have a lot more on our shoulders. So don't blame us for the stereotype. Wait till you get to that stage of life- and we'll see how you handle it. Then, you'll be calling us for advice, and regretting how you treated the NMFs.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Overseas Communication

We live in a time of endless technology- cellphones (anyone remember when the first car phone came out? With a wire still attached to it!), computers, cameras, internet- you can think of a dozen examples, I'm sure.

All of this technology makes it so easy to communicate with those back home. Just pop open your computer with built in wireless chip (thank you, Israeli Intel) and video camera, install Skype from your Internet browser and subscription, and chat with friends across the globe for free, with live video conferencing.

Mail- well, snail mail takes about 5 days to get across the Atlantic (not registered mail, of course). Email- it can be there in a second. And, don't forget the IMs, G-chats, and Twitter updates.

Reb. Ruchoma Shain mentions how her father, when living in Israel, didn't have a telephone- they had to phone the gemach upstairs, and it cost 40 dollars for one phone call.

When she was living in Mir- her sister (Reb. Sheinberg) brought a small travel iron to the town, and when she plugged it in, it shut down the entire town's elecricity. Her newspaper from America- came a month late each time. And, don't even mention telephones there. Hey, they didn't have indoor plumbing.

We're so lucky to live in an age when living in Israel doesn't mean you're cut off from the rest of the world. I mean, sure, you have to calculate time differences, and it may mean that California has a 10 hour difference from Israel, or Australia- with a 24 hr time difference (which is actually convenient).

Of course, it means that family knows just about everything that goes on in your life- as if they were living next door- but that's a good price to pay for such a wonderful thing.

Israel is no longer a place where people have to live without their relatives- they can call every day, email every second, and share their photos on Picasa.

So- I'm lucky to live here in a time when communication is simple.
Just pick up the phone and dial away.