Friday, September 26, 2008

Reflections as A Week Closes, A Year Closes

It's been a busy and emotional week. Considering I was on vacation for most of the week, that's pretty sad. I've been thinking a lot about the blog lately. It's almost a responsibility, to come back and report what you are feeling or what is happening. I've gotten so many incredible notes on and off the blog, wonderful compliments on how I write (which I don't ignore, I just don't know how to respond to them).

I love writing. Words flow for me and it took me many years to understand that it isn't this way with everyone. What I can write in five or ten minutes will take others long periods of time playing with and manipulating words. I don't take this for granted; I just enjoy it. I also find it easiest (and fastest) to write about the things I love - like my family, my country, my people. For as long as I can remember, I've used writing and words to help me sort out my feelings. Writing helps clarify my thoughts and allows me to move beyond them.

I've written articles in the past about how upset I was about one thing or another. One such article was published in two major newspapers in Israel (Haaretz and Jerusalem Post). A few weeks after I'd written it, people were touched enough to seek my phone number and actually call to tell me that I shouldn't feel the way I did; that those who had treated me a certain way were not typical of Israel, etc. The funny part was that having written the article, I had exorcised the bad feelings from within and though these well-meaning people wanted to help because they thought I was upset, I felt like a fraud because I was better - I'd found my balance again.

So, having finally gained back my balance this week (though still having 6 loads of dirty laundry to deal with and food to cook for the Sabbath), I'll turn briefly to something else on my mind.

The High Holidays are a time of reflection for the Jewish people and this year, life has gotten in the way of preparing myself enough. I suddenly woke up last night to the reality that I had done nothing to prepare and the holidays were almost upon us. The holiday of Passover, which comes in the spring, is all about cleaning your house. Well, actually, it shouldn't be just about that at all - it should be a celebration of freedom as we left Egypt, of becoming a people, of unity and so much more. And yet, it often comes down to cleaning your house.

On these holidays, there is little pretense of this mad dash to sanitize your environment. Instead, you try to "sanitize" your soul. You clean out the bad feelings you are harboring; you clean up those nasty disagreements and misunderstandings as best you can. You assess your life; see where you might have gone off track, and seek to realign it.

When you've cleaned internally as much as you can, you turn your prayers to the heavens and ask God to accept you as you are because you simply can't do better. There's this fear, as Yom Kippur arrives, that maybe as good as you can be, it just won't be good enough.

You make a bargain - take this, but not that. When my middle son was celebrating his bar mitzvah, a most amazing thing happened. A cousin lost her diamond engagement ring and wedding band. Thirty-five years they were married. I was horrified for her. I felt terrible. I apologized that it had happened, though it was she who had left her rings by the sink, not I.

She looked at me for a moment like I was crazy and said, "kaparah."

"Kaparah?" I was astounded. Loosely translated, this means "scapegoat." She's just lost her rings. Imagine the emotional devastation (never mind the financial loss). Kaparah?

"Paula," she said to me as one would say to a child, "every year we pray that God takes our punishment in money and not in sickness. Now that he has, I should complain?"

Her rings. Thirty-five years of having those rings. Kaparah?

"Besides," she said with a smile, "Yaakov has already said he'll buy me new rings for Pesach." Yaakov is her husband. Pesach is Hebrew for Passover, and these people live in a small apartment where they raised nine children. Most of their children were married, but still, they help them as they can. They don't have money for this. Kaparah?

But even as I thought of these things, I realized she was so right. Kaparah - it's a wonderful concept. It means prioritizing and realizing what is really important in life. And it wasn't her rings. Wouldn't you give your rings (or your wife's rings) to know your children would be safe and healthy another year? I would. I would give all that I am, all that I possess. She later found her rings but the lesson for me has lasted more than 5 years and continues to effect how I react to "bad" things (or try to). Kaparah.

I haven't had enough time to internalize the holidays this year, so I'll work harder in the next few days to think over what I've done and how I feel about all the facets of my life. When I look at my children - all my children and not just Elie, I know that I must have done something right; something so amazing. I don't know what it is or why I have been so blessed. Maybe all I can do is ask God to protect all that I love. To keep my husband and my children safe and healthy. To protect my country (even from the foolish government we had, have and likely will have).

Since this blog centers around Elie, I'll add one more prayer. Please God, please, please, please watch over him day and night and keep him safe. When he is awake and when he sleeps; when he stands guard and when he is at rest. Don't let me ever, ever, ever get that call. Keep him and his friends and his friend's friends and all the soldiers safe and please, please, please - let this be the year that our captives come home (those held by our enemies, and those held by our friends).

And to those of you reading the blog - wherever you are - may it be a year of peace and health and happiness. May you be safe in your travels and at home. May your family know only good things and be blessed. May you all be written in the Book of Life for a long and happy and meaningful year. Shana tova and shabbat shalom.

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