When I call my friend on her birthday and ask her how it feels to be her new age, she answers, “It's better than the alternative.” Yes, we’ve all heard Vivian Greene’s words: “Life’s not about waiting for the storms to pass, it's about learning to dance in the rain.”
A pale young man shuffled into the small Jerusalem yeshiva during kriyat haTorah one Shabbat morning.
We live in a world that is often too cruel and unkind. Living in Israel for the last 30 years, I have attended too many funerals for those whose lives were taken through incomprehensible acts of terror. During the years of the second intifada there were many days that I found it impossible to continue teaching, as a student would burst into my classroom and announce that there had been another terrorist attack. How could I just go on with a regular lesson when lives were lost?
Living in Staten Island provides us with a certain type of suburban living that is enjoyed and appreciated by most, if not all. We have less congestion of cars, easier parking and more camaraderie, as there are less people than in the other boroughs. We have no alternate parking, and it’s easier to park in all shopping areas. The rabbis know each person individually, and are very familiar with their families and life histories. This is not an advertisement for our neighborhood; it’s simply background to my story.
“If you have children, you are a millionaire. And if all of your children have children, you are a billionaire.”
The start of the school year had already passed. Our youngest son was waiting for community leaders to determine what should be done for the students of his beloved school that had recently fallen apart due to lack of funds. The result turned out to be better than anyone could have ever expected.
The first and only time I said I was a rabbi was also the first and only time I had a gun pointed at me. What led me to that moment was my need to stay on the Upper West Side for a Shabbos and a hospitality committee that arranged for me to stay with a man who lived in the former janitor’s apartment on the fifth floor of a synagogue.
There were three names with brief bios on the list. All had similar qualities and were within the correct age and frumkeit range. With nothing to distinguish one from the others, we could have enlisted the tried-and-true option of “Eeny, meeny, miny, moe…” Instead, we decided to base our decision on practical and geographic considerations. So we opted to go with the candidate from Teaneck, New Jersey, reasonably close in proximity to our son’s apartment in Edison.
Like many children, some of my grandchildren tended to rush through the berachot they recited each day. Somehow, the first few words were inclined to run together. The last few words often got swallowed up, especially those that were part of berachot made before eating something they really liked.
To be honest, I never really understand what’s happening on the screen during an ultrasound scan. But on this visit the technician was strangely quiet. I looked at the screen. “How come you’re not showing me everything?” I asked. “It’s all still there, isn’t it?” I asked jokingly.
It is very important for Jews to first help family, then other Jews close to us, then Jews not as close. Next, if possible and appropriate, Jews should help those of any race or creed.
Is it just me? Maybe it’s the aging factor. The shorter days perhaps? Somehow by the time the day is done there is still so much left to do. This nagging sensation becomes even more acute right before the end of the year when you know you’ll soon need to give a din v’cheshbon and will, in all likelihood, come up short.
As night fell and Shabbat drew to a close, a minyan gathered in my sister’s home in Manchester, England.
We were literally in “seventh” heaven. The Sabbatical year in Eretz Yisrael was almost too good to be true. My husband was enjoying a rare break from his hectic schedule of teaching and administrating and was thrilled to be able to instead sit on the other side of the desk, quenching his perpetual thirst for knowledge. The entire family felt blessed to have so much heretofore unheard of quality time with Abba, while living in the Promised Land and participating in frequent exciting family activities and touring opportunities with the program. We unanimously agreed that our proverbial cup had indeed runneth over.
Once a week or so some of my friends and I get together for activities and a little socializing. Over time I have gone through some personal changes and growth, and I sometimes feel out of place with these girls, some of whom I have known for years. I experienced a real struggle during a recent get-together that will surely have a long-lasting impact on me.
Having faith is often difficult, especially when having to deal with more than one life challenge.
It was the last week of the summer season that I would spend in my upstate home. I was looking forward to a relaxing weekend, although a busy week of cleaning and closing up the house for the year was in store.
Our first Shabbos leichter was an inexpensive brass model we bought from the Queens Judaica store managed by our beloved uncle, z”l. It served us faithfully until we made aliyah a year later. Then we traveled to Bnei Brak and purchased a stunning pair of silver candlesticks, in a simple yet elegant Yemenite design.
Since suffering from colitis as a teen, I finally adopted a strict diet in my 30s that ended my torment. It wasn’t easy to forgo white flour, white sugar and all chemical additives, but it meant that I spend the last 40 years pretty much free of doctors, medications and illness, thank God. Thus, I was surprised when two weeks before Rosh Hashanah, I began to experience increasingly severe stomach discomfort – until I was barely able to move. Despite what I was soon to endure, it helped greatly to focus on the moment-to-moment miracles.
I almost never met the man I married. No, I am not from a very strict chassidishe home where dating is taboo and a brief meeting suffices before the engagement is announced. My husband and I actually dated for a few months, by which time my parents were beginning to grow concerned and the neighbors were having a heyday gossiping about us. But if not for a significant helping of siyata dishmaya, we never would have managed to get together in the first place.
It is painfully difficult to start and end the hectic day seeing my daughter wander, almost lifelessly, from room to room and sibling to sibling with no desire to venture out into the scary world of society. With her bundle of strengths and weaknesses, and despite my countless pep talks, our 27-year-old daughter chooses to spend most of her time in the comfort and safety of our home. That is until recently, when terrible loneliness finally pushed her out the door.
I never thought I would see the day when “Yossie” would smile. He was not an unhappy man, but rather very serious in demeanor. He never said hello, or any words, to his customers other than those absolutely necessary.
It was the mid ‘60s and I was living with my mother and brother in public housing on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. We moved there from Brooklyn a decade earlier to be near my mother’s family when my father died suddenly of a stroke.
As I sit at my home computer typing these words, virtual gale-force winds are blowing through my apartment, filling it with fresh – and free – air. This has not always been the case. In fact the electric bill for the past two months was astronomical, due in large part to our high usage of air conditioning virtually around the clock.
Yael was tired of sticking the highchair together with glue or Sellotape. It had lasted through five children, a miracle in itself, but now it seemed to have given up all hope – and decided to self-destruct.