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

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Other Kind Of Pesach Preparation

I've come to learn over the years that Pesach works best for me if I set spiritual goals. All the chagim work that way, but I find that Pesach is the best for actually acting out a process to meet those goals. For most holidays, I know what the day is about, but then we just eat a lot, show up in shul and read certain sections from Tanakh there. That unfortunately leaves plenty of room for disconnect. At Pesach, we gather at the table with a long set of things to do and lots of time to talk during it about the process... mandated dialogue as well as our own speech. 

I listened this year to a live class on the phone from Simon Jacobson. At the end he spoke about the seder as a 15-part process towards transformation or freedom. On the call he talked a lot about materialism vs. spirituality. I have trouble thinking in those particular phrases because on the surface it seems like just the question of acquiring stuff vs. thinking about G-d. But I think materialism also stands for anything that comes in the way of our loftier goals. 

The past two years, leadership has been a major theme of my life. I've found myself in formal and informal leadership positions and have been uncertain of how to frame my work towards these ends in effective ways. This includes leadership within my 2nd Grade team at work, within two committees at school on which I serve, within trying to bring environmental consciousness to my communities at school at shul and towards helping children and adults both be in-tune with their inner selves. I've met some goals within these realms and failed miserably at others. 

One thing in particular came up recently. At school, someone with whom I work closely did something that was not OK. I found myself worrying about whether to speak about it to her and how. The realization that I needed to speak would be a spiritual realization, because I realized the obligation to do it in order to stand for what was right. The fear would be material, because it was about putting my ego at risk.

In the end, I did it, and it was a successful and meaningful (although uncomfortable) conversation. During our talk it came out that this person looks to me for guidance in many ways and that I had been modeling  some things poorly.

By the end of the day I felt so proud for speaking up, and so enlightened of the power of things I do -- both good and bad -- without thinking about them. I really want to think, this year, about how and when to lead.

It's not easy. I don't want to offend people by being "bossy" and at the same time I can and want to make a difference. Just the other day I was eating in the staff room and remarked that I hadn't had a lunch that I didn't work through for 2 weeks. She said, "but you're the one who taught me never to do that... to always take a break to get you through the day." Once again, I was a teacher and didn't know it.

And when ND and I walked to shul recently, we left the stroller at home. Someone passed us and said, "you're so patient." My response: "This is our time together." Will she remember that? Will that help her be patient and available to a child too?

When Hashem approaches Moshe to lead, Moshe says, "but I stutter." Have I missed opportunities by worrying that I too have a metaphorical stutter? I want to take this to heart as I go into the chag to see how I can let go of some fear and find other meaningful and heartfelt ways to reach out to others in the coming year.

Chag sameach.

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Pesach cleaning

This process is truly insane and can ONLY make sense if I view it as some sort of external expression of an internal process of cleaning and preparation. I hope others see that too or we're all wasting our time!

That said, I do kind of like it... for the very reason that I DO find it cleansing.

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

ND's first haircut

The beginning pictures look a little goofy because she had a mouth full of muffin.

OK. To be honest, I kind of wish we hadn't done it. It's always a little sad to cut off hair. But her hair was getting pretty ratty. It will grow out again by next Pesach, and I kept a few curls.

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Saturday, March 20, 2010

JOFA reflection

Last week when my friend and I attended the JOFA conference, we both attended a session on "Raising Feminist Children." While there she commented to the group that she is usually the first woman to come to our shul on Shabbat now and that many of the women don't come at all. She talked about going in order to make a difference and to help boys see, too, a woman who valued coming to shul.

I keep remembering her saying that because I felt like I wanted to explain why I don't come early and often don't come at all. Or rather, why I don't anymore. 

In Portland I used to come very early to shul and was often the only woman. I loved it. I loved being special, feeling a little above everyone else, frankly. It was a culture for me not necessarily of spirituality but of halakhic-one-upmenship and I wanted to be in the in-crowd. 

But I'll you the truth, it didn't feel particularly satisfying and in fact I just grew tense from trying so hard to "make it" in a black hat world. I didn't get much from it and didn't feel more connected spiritually. In fact, I got bored and, about an hour into the service when more and more people started to come, I would leave for very long walks and just wish it was all over.

The culture was different when we got to Englewood. I still wanted to be "the woman" that came. It was no longer a culture of even trying to be yeshivish, but I liked to come. I still was the only woman many times, especially on Kabbalat Shabbat. It was lonely and sometimes embarrassing. I learned that one man told his wife he should be like me, which really wasn't fair for me or for her. 

After ND was born I stopped coming on Friday nights, and about a year ago I decided I could make the choice of not coming at all sometimes. I would feel guilty for not coming to shul, but found that some days I just wasn't up for the social hurdles. And the guilt I felt was not related to my relationship with G-d. It was about wanting to do the right thing socially. However nice everyone is, I still find it taxing to trust I'm saying and doing the right thing. It's pathetic, I know, but some days that's just what it's like for me. I discovered that when I stay home I daven more intimately and learn more Torah than I ever accomplish at shul. So, some days I just don't come.

Is this just about my spiritual path, or have I given up something feminist as well? Do I need to make a change? I'm coming to understand more and more in my life that sometimes when I do things, I make a difference just by being seen doing them. Am I losing an opportunity to somehow make a difference in the world by taking this choice? Or am I taking myself too seriously?

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I was invited, along with my whole shul, to an enormous surprise birthday party in Newark. I opted out, then changed my mind, then changed my mind again. I sometimes complain about not getting to do fun things like everyone else, but when it came right down to it, I didn't feel like going to something like this without U. We watched a Point Blank instead.

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Friday, March 19, 2010

Kids At The Seder

OK, so this isn't really a real post. It's a place for me to store some information for myself that I ran across on making the seder kid-friendly.

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Sunday, March 14, 2010

JOFA and stormy weather

Busy Sunday...

Went today to the JOFA Conference. I'm really glad I went. I feel frustrated so often by what Judaism looks like in Bergen County, or at least within the parts that I see. The JOFA conference, though, is an opportunity to dialogue about change and what-is-possible in the Jewish Feminist world. I don't know yet what to take from my experiences today. I'm still just overwhelmed from going to 4 different talks, most of which related to my thoughts about how to raise a child who is comfortable and powerful in her body, in her womanhood, as well as in her faith and practice. I feel glad that I took the time to brave my way into NY where the action is really happening on these fronts, and deeply confused and frustrated why there was so little representation from my communities (school and shul) over here. I'm glad to say I went with a friend and neighbor with whom I can continue the dialogue, at least.

Meanwhile there have been unbelievable storms here. For over 24 hours the wind blew wildly, raining all the while. I went to shul anyway to see one of the prospective new rabbis speak, but it was dangerous. Two men were actually killed by a falling tree in Teaneck on their way home from shul. Very sad. There is wreckage everywhere. As we drove home exhausted from the conference today, my friend and I were delayed by trying to find a way home that wasn't roped off with debris. Above is a picture of what we saw when we first arrived in NY with abandoned and broken  umbrellas positively littering the sidewalk.

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Sunday, March 07, 2010

Snow's Thawing

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