Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Comparative Religion

A NYTimes Article struck my eye- "Basic Religion Test Stumps Many Believers"- in that a survey was sent out with basic questions about different religions, and most answered incorrectly (more than half) as well as people answering wrongly about their ownreligion. However- out of all the people in the US who took the survey, atheists and agnostics, as well as Jews and Mormons- scored the highest in knowledge.

That's pretty good, I think- that we actually, as Jews- know what we are talking about- about our own religion, and about others. And, the atheist statistic doesn't surprise me either- I think that most feel that they have to do research before coming to such a decision about faith. Realize, though, that I said most- I have found so many irreligious Jews who don't do research at all- who don't know about anything really, that has to do with religion, Jewish or other.

But what was saddening to me was that 43% of Jews didn't know that the Rambam- Maimonides- was Jewish. What do you think the explanation for that was?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Chofesh: Why Israel Is So Cool

Yep, I'm typing this from Ben Gurion, as I wait for my flight out of Israel. Yet another reason why Israel is truly awesome, to be hippie-like: there is free Wi-Fi internet access. In all other airports that I've been at- it's a paying enviroment- but here it's not.

Anyway- I'm on my first Chofesh- ie, vacation- in the last year and a half- and I'm determined to enjoy it and relax. Israel also makes me appreciate vacations- since they give them so infrequently, I appreciate them more when they actually show up- and coincide with a time that I can actually use. Again, another reason why Israel is cool.

Interesting fact: To get an esrog (citron commonly used for Succos) out of Israel, you need a special certificate stating that it is not infested with bugs. Any esrog dealer should have a few lying around- don't forget to ask for one, otherwise customs will give you a hard time. But it's all worth it for an Esrog from Israel.

So L'hitraot, and Chag Sameach!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Small Bit of the Kibbutz

My Ulpan is still going on, and with it they are celebrating the 100th year anniversary of the establishment of the Kibbutz. We have been shown films, text, and other various presentations regarding the establishment of the Kibbutz, Kibbutz life, shared life, living, sleeping, shared education, and the eventual breaks among the Kibbutz and among the movement.

I am definitely not the expert of a Kibbutz. I’ve read Batya Gur’s ‘Murder on a Kibbutz’, which was illuminating, heard the words of various Israeli writers on the subject, and recently watched the documentary film of Ran Tal- ‘Yeldei HaShemesh’.

Ran Tal spoke personally to the group afterwards, and mentioned an interesting point- that before one judges the kibbutz society, and how they lived, with the minimal time spent with parents, and the shared environment in general- one should see that in families where there are problems among the family itself- a broken home, an abusive home, and so on- that the family model is not necessarily perfect either. The Kibbutz model has different problems, but neither model is perfect.

In R’ Mattisyahu Solomon’s recent book, ‘With Hearts Full of Love’, on Chinuch, he discusses the interesting idea that before a Jewish marriage, no one presents the young couple a certificate, or even a training course, saying that they are fit to become parents. He questions why not, and his answer is that he believes that within each person, within in each Jewish marriage, they are equipped with all the necessary tools to educate their future children, albeit if they need advice or so on- but they have the tools necessary.

The kibbutz movement felt to eliminate these problems would be to create this shared environment, to make sure that the children would be educated and so on in the way that they wished, without these problems. I can see their point- from their side, but watching this movie brought tears to my eyes.

To see these young parents not being able to relate to their own children, because they were not brought up with love from their own parents, to not being able to even give them a kiss or a hug from true feeling, simply because they were brought up in the kibbutz lifestyle. To see a sobbing child being brought back to the shared children’s room, and crying for their Ima, until the wee hours of the night, or to stay awake all night, afraid to go to sleep- it’s the saddest thing in the world. To see a child, sneak out of the children’s room, wandering outside in the dark till they found their parent’s room, and then to sleep outside the door, or to clutch their parents’ sheet, but not wake them at all- simply because their parents would bring them back- just to be in the same room with them- it literally made me cry.

For one, I am glad that the Kibbutz movement eventually got rid of shared sleeping spaces- but it taught me something powerful: there is nothing more important in a family than the loving relationship between a parent and child. And how blessed I am to go home to my daughter, to hug her and to kiss her, and to be a true family with her.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Only In Israel #21: Of Cabs and Mitzvahs

A friend of mine recently took ill, and was sent by her doctor to Shaare Tzedek Hospital in Jerusalem. She’s a new olah, with no family in Israel, so when she was admitted, she decided to call me, hoping to get a visitor, a listening ear, and someone who spoke Hebrew to come help her out in the hospital.

So, after much dithering on my part (it was late at night, and I do have a little one at home and a husband to feed supper) I called a cab, and away we went.
The cab driver, a middle aged guy who was not wearing a kippah, noticed my morose mood on my face, and asked what was doing. I replied with the tale ofmy friend the olah, who needs someone by her side in the hospital, and how I’m jumping in a cab to go help her out, since I’m the only person available help her.

He listened, interjecting remarks, and then replied, “You know, you’re doing a BIG mitzvah. Actually, two big mitzvot. One, you’re visiting a sick friend who needs you. Two, you’re being like family to her- doing such a great chesed by coming to her aid as a new person in Israel without family.”

He continued without prompting. “You know, you’re like my wife. She goes up to the Rav of our Beit Knesset and asks, who are families that need food, who need support- and quietly, privately, she sends them food and necessary items, she offers them a shoulder to cry on, and a listening ear. It’s a big mitzvah.”

I listened, heartened to hear that one more member of Am Yisroel is doing such a wonderful thing.

He drove me to my husband, who I picked up on the way, nad then to Shaare Tzedek. When I asked for the price- he quoted something very low. When I asked why- he said, I too want a share in this mitzvah.

How’s that for OII!!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Aseret Yemei Teshuva

Rosh Hashana passed here, along with its uncommon three day Yom Tov here in Israel. Even after only a few years here in Israel, I still feel it odd to actually celebrate three days of Yom Tov. After all, most holidays here only last at maximum two days, and we end earlier than outside of Israel, which is especially nice for Pesach.

And now we enter in to a new stage- the Aseret Yemei Teshuva- from Alef of Tishrei of Rosh Hashana to the Yud of Yom Kippur. Along with the buses that have switched their flashing phrase from ‘Shana Tova’ to ‘Gemar Chatimah Tovah’, and the Kaparot stations that have found their way to every street corner, alleyway, and intersection- it also comes a feeling of limbo.

Our jobs from Heaven have been set out for us on Rosh HaShana, the final Din is reiterated on Yom Kippur in clay, and sealed in blood on Hoshana Rabbah. We’re in between, in a bit of limbo, without a concrete stage of life to understand. After all- we try our best during these ten days to just be a bit better- to add in more prayers to our every day ones, to try to do what we would like to do during the rest of the year, but somehow are prevented from doing. But we’re still in limbo- one good thing could just push us over the edge, right into that book of life.

So let’s make a proactive effort. Take on one small thing- one thing to push you over that edge, to try to make you into that better person that you have in your own ideals and dreams. And try it for the rest of these days- see what happens. It’s the little steps that count- and that which can pull us out of limbo and into the Hebrew ‘Chaim’- life and all that it represents.

Gmar Chatima Tovah L’Kulam.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

OII: Seasons and Buses

Just noticing that again, just in this wonderful country that we call Israel, even the buses wish you a Shana Tova and a Gemar Chasima Tova on their flashing signs which also state which place they are going.

And I wish you all the same- to all my readers, a Shana Tova- happy New Year- and a Gemar Chasima Tovah. May we all continue to be inscribed in the Book of Life- filled with happiness, joy, blessing, health, and prosperity.