Many thoughts about the world, meditation, parenting, Judaism, pregnancy, teaching, cancer survivorship, moving from West Coast to East and more.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Like Adjusting Back To Being Home

We commented yesterday that ending Pesach is like adjusting back into being home. But that's exactly what we're doing, though not really. ND and I returned this morning on a red eye flight from Oregon on Jetblue. We move into our house THIS WEEK. Yes, in two days we will be "homeowners."

It was a wonderful trip. So much to say, but to be brief I'll just mentioned that ND learned a lot:

-She can now say dog, bird, flower, thank you, or rather gogog, bir, fower and daku
-She walked really really far in the park.
-She met horses, chickens and several new dogs. (She is fascinated by dogs but doesn't like them touching her and doesn't like touching them.)
-She can now throw more dramatic tantrums than previously. I actually saw her practicing how to fall to her knees dramatically. I have learned not to get involved when she does that but stay as patient and level as can be. It works!
-She likes to point at things and tell me all about them, whether or not I know what she means.

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Point Of The Progression Of Plagues

This year we will be here in NJ for the seders and then ND and I are flying to Portland. (Sadly it's a quick visit, so very little time to see friends... if you are a Portland friend and I have not contacted you.)

The second seder will be at the rabbi's house and he has asked participants to prepare different parts to contribute. As usual, I am taking this very seriously (much Too seriously) and am totally psyched about the challenge of putting together a mini-drash.

1. One thing I want to do is about my etrog basket. At school last week I was reading to the children from Passover Around The World (written by a woman I met at our shul last year at Pesach). We read that the Jews of Gibralter save their lulavim from Sukkot and, six months later, burn it as fuel to make matzot before Pesach. This led to my sharing with my students about how I have used lulavim and about turning an object of a mitzvah into something else. (Many of these kids have seen very little handmade art by people they know.)

When I showed it to my Hebrew counterpart at school (the woman who teaches the Hebrew/Judaic half of the day to my students), she held it with all the respect and love of a person who understands art done from the heart. She told the children it was like the basket that carried Moshe (Moses) when he was a baby.

So I'm hoping to bring the basket and talk about it a little. One thought is that the basket was created from lulavim, significant because later in the Pesach story, the Jews will be in the desert and will create Sukkot. But this basic to carry Moshe, is at the beginning of the story. There is a timeless chronology, a which-came-first feeling to it. Kind of cool.

2. The makot (plagues). The Rabbi asked me to talk about modern day plagues, but I want to do plagues in a different way instead. I'm going to go with Nile vs. Rainfall theme I think since it's relevant to my latest meditative goals. I'm taking many of these ideas from articles I read about Pesach on the Chabad website, particularly that of Yanki Tauber

Many of the plagues originate from the river. I would say most importantly are the first two, the blood and frogs. The Egyptians got everything they needed from the river as it was such an agriculturally based society. When they needed water, they took it... to drink, to water crops etc. Even the cows, symbolic of years of plenty within Pharoah's dream during the story of Joseph, come from the Nile.

When Hashem essentially poisons the water with blood, G-d is showing symbolically what good has come of Egypt's wealth -- the oppression of others -- and is also weaning the Jews off their need and/or desire for the river. They need to be prepared in the dessert and later in Israel, as well as here in our time and place, to receive everything (including rain) from Hashem.

It seems to me that the plagues actually have an upward progression:

They begin at your feet, literally water level.

Then they leap up in the form of frogs all over your body.

Then there is an invasion below the skin with lice.

Then wild animals come and threaten real bodily harm.

And then the Egyptians animals, their means of economic survival, are killed by epidemic, a silent killer.

Another silent invader comes as boils appear on their skin from nowhere.
Then hail from above.

Locusts from above and everywhere else too.

Complete and total darkness. All encompassing. Like depression both inside and outside your soul.

And then most devastating of all, death of the First-Born, the very future is now at risk.

In our time, when we are faced with severe trials, people often try to find ways to surrender themselves to Hashem. You can fight the event or no reality, but it will only tear you up inside. Through all of that pain, eventual acceptance of your situation is ultimately comforting for most people. Though these plagues are aimed at the Egyptians, not the Jews, it is training for both to realize that Hashem is in charge and that bitachon, or trust in G-d, is a path we're being asked to take.

I admit I find this very difficult. If something REALLY bad happened, I would much rather fight with G-d. But I also know that it would probably ultimately kill me to do it if I didn't eventually accept whatever happened as being Hashem's will and that Hashem's will is ultimately good.

In the meantime, while (thank G-d!!!!) nothing horrific is presenting itself to me at the moment, I just want to remember through daily practice that Hashem sends all that is good as well.

The final challenge of course is what to think about situations that are neither mine to accept nor to change. Genocide in Darfur would be a good example. So would much of the hunger in the world that has increased in the last few weeks. If I'm not the one suffering, I have no right to "accept" what Hashem is allowing. And as a teacher in New Jersey, I can sign a petition or two, but that's it.

So though I have a few meek semi-answers to this, the question is better left unanswered.

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

I Like Cleaning For Pesach

I admit it.

And yes, of course it's spiritual quest for me. (What isn't?)

This year is especially interesting as we're planning for our own exodus from renting and apartment living into owning and house living.

Everyone says we should have moved before Pesach, but this is working just fine... I'm boxing things as I clean and seeing the apartment emptied more and more by clutter and reduced instead into boxes and even neatness in some places. (Having the housekeeper come yesterday REALLY helped.)

Emptying out chometz is supposed to be like emptying out ego. For me this year it's working on more general letting go. There are many things both physical and otherwise that I hang onto out of a panic of how I might feel if I lost them, out of holding tight to the past, or out of a delusional concept that I might use them in the future though the evidence points otherwise.

I'm not good at getting rid of physical things, and there will still be plenty of clutter even after we move in, but I'm hoping to keep most of it in a single room ... my office... where I can continue to keep or not keep things at my choice without it affecting the rest of the house and household.

One thing I've been wanting to write about a lot is some recent questing I've been doing. I need to touch on this more later, but briefly... I've been straying a little and reading a lot about spiritual paths other than Judaism. I fully believe that Judaism has within it everything I need, but I am having trouble finding the texts. So as I read some other things, mainly After The Ecstasy, The Laundry

A moment just to talk about the book. It is written by a Buddhist teacher but is more of an anthology of quotations from people in all spiritual traditions. Part of what I love about it is that it demystifies a lot about mysticism, you could say. He's honest about how people are sometimes betrayed by corrupt spiritual leaders, and that once "enlightened," a person may still have terrible times with relationships etc. In any case, it is a book that validates my recent desire to leave as spiritual of a life as I can, but always understanding it will be within the context of family and a busy life, not some ascetic quest into the wilderness. This is, at its core, very much of what Judaism is about in away that other traditions sometimes neglect.

Some of the most meaningful things he says in the book he says within a non-Jewish context, but most I can then translate into Judaism terms for myself. For example, when he talks about people reaching a point of accepting that all in the world is really G-d (and even sometimes talks about this in terms of love from an individual that Christians have claimed as messiah) I can still translate into, "Oh, that's like the Shema... The Lord our G-d, the Lord is One."

So here I am cleaning for Pesach. Almost every person I interact with on a daily basis is also cleaning for Pesach. For many it's stressful (including me). For some it's silly. For some it's mysterious. For some it's an opportunity for spring cleaning. For some it's because the community expects it. There are many other ways in which people approach it.

For me it's trying to prepare a blank slate within myself and my home, much like at Rosh Hashanah, but with the physical act helping so much more. It's a chance to prepare a vessel to receive blessings in any form from Hashem. By "in any form" I mean, blessings that are obviously good and blessings that may take soul-searching to determine as good.

One last thought... in addition to preparing myself to receive blessing (which I'll write about more in another entry), I also want to be more in the moment. How else can I receive if I'm not there to do it?

An example is of course any moment I'm with ND. Sometimes I grasp at moments. Grasp is a term used often in the book I mention above. I want to appreciate every second with her, so I sit with her and feel a desperation that the moment is passing and will never come back. On the other extreme are the times when I'm focused on other work and can't give her attention but feel guilty about it, afraid I'll lose this moment in her life. With both of these, the way I behave with her is the same. She other gets attention or she doesn't. But if I can receive the moments openly, they have a more timeless quality, more expansive. There is more appreciation and yet less fear of loss.

We are here.

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Special Days

It's National Ant Day!

In honor of this glorious occasion, I'm going to let you know why I have completely forgotten to prepare anything for this holiday.


I haven't said anything until now because I wanted make sure everything was in place. I think by now it's safe to spill the beans. I have a week and a half to finish preparing for Pesach. Then U., ND and I enjoy the seders at other people's houses with a good friend of ours visiting. Early early early the next morning after the Yom Tov, ND and I head to Portland. We return in the middle of the night after the end of the Yom Tov on April 28. The next day, Tuesday, we do the walk through. Wednesday we close. Thursday the washer and dryer should be delivered. Friday the movers come. (Meanwhile U. is taking off those days to move stuff even before the movers come.) By Shabbos, we are living in a house!!!


I'm so superstitious. Now I'm afraid something will go wrong based on this disclosure.

I hope there are some wonderful ants that live OUTSIDE the house only! And if ants are a problem, may they be the only one!

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Sunday, April 06, 2008


ND has discovered the little shutter button on our videochat camera. She doesn't know it takes pictures, but she does know it makes a cool noise.

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Friday, April 04, 2008

The Parent Trap

Great article

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Thursday, April 03, 2008

Peepau and ND Video

I'm learning the wonders of Youtube.

Let's see if this works. (Click on the link to see the movie.)

Now let's see... does this embed it correctly...

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