Time never stood still for anyone – why would I be the exception? In my hubris, I thought that somehow I would live forever – and I suspect we all have secretly felt that way, even though we know it’s a fantasy.
One can argue that forgetting something on a regular basis is a sign of advancing age and it’s time to for a neurological evaluation, but based on the number of young people who need to replace a lost smart phone (too bad it’s not smart enough to warn its owner that that they have become separated – or is there an app for that too?), I safely can say that losing “stuff” cuts across the generations.
For quite a few days in late December, Toronto was transformed into a breathtaking – literally and figuratively – frigid winter wonderland, where every twig, leaf, car door, and outdoor wire and cable was totally encased in ice. When the sun shone the landscape was blindingly brilliant as if billions of diamonds had been glued to everything the eye could see.
Outside is a winter-white wonderland replete with dazzling trees, wires, and sidewalks seemingly wrapped in glittery silver foil. It’s quite lovely to look at, which is about all I can do since I’m stuck indoors. Icicle-laden tree branches are bent and hunch-backed by the frozen heaviness of their popsicle-like burden, and the voices squawking from the battery-operated transistor radio I am listening to are warning people not to go out since walkways and roads are extremely slippery, and there is real danger from falling trees.
The necessity of speaking up when you “have a hunch” applies even more when it comes to shidduchim. One little girl did just that – she said something – and I was fortunate enough to be in town for the very joyful, lively wedding that resulted from her speaking up.
Let me begin by congratulating my dear machatunim, Soraya and Jay Nimaroff, on being the recipients of the Community Service Award at the Sderot Hesder Institutions 18th annual anniversary dinner.
The Hebrew month of Kislev has a special, albeit bittersweet, significance in my family, as it is the month my father was born and passed away.
But even though their medical situations were similar, how they mentally dealt with their new status quo was often as different as night and day.
How confusing it was growing up with conflicting messages. On the one hand, we were told, even admonished, to eat everything on our generously piled up plates (it was a sin to waste food), yet we were made to feel like we were a lower form of human being if we were overweight.
While in New York recently, I was invited to see a performance of "Waiting for Godot" – a multi-layered play on the human condition that I was introduced to in high school. What was fascinating and unique about this particular production was that this renowned play was being performed in Yiddish - with English and Russian subtitles beamed onto a screen for non-Yiddish speakers. (Staged by the New Yiddish Rep, at the Castillo Theatre, and directed by Moshe Yassur, it stars Shane Baker, David Mandelbaum, Rafael Goldwaser, Avi Hoffman and Nicholas Jenkins.)
Now and then my Bubby would open up about what she went through in the camps, of what she witnessed... From time to time she would talk about her baby sisters - twins - and how she would sew them identical dresses and braid their hair the same way challenging everyone to guess who was who.
Our community has a very different mindset - we live to have children. Each child is considered a bracha - a priceless commodity to cherish and nurture.
I read an article recently that described the fascinating phenomenon of mainstream, well-educated, responsible men and women deciding not to have children. According to the article, these people have given the matter a great deal of thought and have come to the conclusion that parenting is not for them.
Now and then you read or hear of a tragedy – typically a car accident - where those involved are suffering from life-threatening injuries or unfortunately have lost their lives. Frequently, in the initial reports, the victims remain nameless “pending notification of next of kin.”
A friend of mine, a young mother, related that her oldest child, now three, was starting pre-school in a few weeks. Her voice, full of pride, quickly took on a tone of annoyance as she described the “welcome package” she had received as a new parent. Amid the rules and regulations concerning drop off and pick up was a dress code for mothers/female caregivers who brought and took home the children. One of the “requirements” was wearing closed–toed shoes. Sandals were not allowed.
Think of how you feel when you pick up a baby and she starts crying and shrieking hysterically. You can't help but feel somewhat chagrined and inadequate.
After my son Moshe got married in Israel several years ago, I decided to keep in more frequent touch with my cousin Ruzah. I would call her on a weekly basis (a good opportunity to practice the Ivrit I learned in day school), speaking to a woman who was of an older, wiser generation - rendering her more like a mother. Ruzah, like all my first cousins was indeed my parents’ age, married with children before I was born. Her experiences mirrored my father’s generation, although she really was from mine. Her mother and my father were siblings and my unknown grandparents were hers.
The 21 days of semi-mourning that is collectively referred to as the Three Weeks, culminating with the fast day of Tisha b’Av - the ultimate day of mourning in the Jewish calendar - begins in a few short days. During this period of time Jews reflect on the myriad of tragedies that have befallen us since the destruction of the Holy Temple and our subsequent exile.
A popular topic of discussion in newspapers, magazines and talk shows revolves around the management of personal finances - or rather the lack of them. In most cases, dealing with overwhelming debt is the topic de jour. Seems many people are drowning in it. Spending more than they have has mired countless consumers into a financial quicksand with maxed out credit cards and collection agencies knocking on the door. Speaking of doors, many face eviction and the loss of their home.
With the semi-mourning period of Sefira behind us, and the festival of Shavuot as well (as evidenced by the tightness of our clothing due to over-indulging in irresistible versions of cheesecake that is an integral component of celebrating our receipt of the Torah), our community can look forward to participating in joyous engagement parties and weddings.
One of the subjects I was taught as a young child in school was Tefillah. Since we spoke only Ivrit during our Limudei Kodesh and secular Hebrew studies - literature, creative writing and Jewish history - we pretty much understood the words we were davening.
Shortly before Pesach, I received a rather agitated call from a long time reader of The Jewish Press who pleaded with me to write a column regarding what she insisted was the unwarranted high cost of Pesach food – in particular shmurah matzah – and how hard it was for young families to pay what she felt were over-inflated prices in order to keep strictly kosher.
The price of deliberate obliviousness is very high - emotionally, physically, socially, and financially.
How is it possible that a person of seemingly normal intelligence (nowhere does it say he is simple) not have the ability to ask a question - to not react and enquire as to the why of the hustle and bustle around him?
It was one of those cold, rain-soaked evenings - the kind that make you look forward to a hot drink, a good book and a soft couch to curl up on. With those happy thoughts in mind, I proceeded to cross to the other side of the street.