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August 30, 2014 / 4 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Rosh Chodesh Kislev’

Kislev (and Hanukkah) Approaching

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

The Jewish Calendar is fantastically, brilliantly created combination of the lunar and solar calendars. You can get a pretty accurate idea of which day in the month by the size, shape and location of the moon in the sky.  A full moon means we’re in the middle of the month, while the skinny crescents mean it’s either the beginning or end of the month.  An extra month added every two or three years according to a brilliant bit of pre-computerized calculations assures us that the Jewish Holidays will fall in the correct seasons and not float around the year which happens to the Muslims.

The month of Cheshvan (or Marcheshvan-bitter Cheshvan, which it is also called) is supposed to be the first very rainy month of the year.  Unfortunately, we haven’t had any serious, long heavy rains; although it has poured a couple of times in some of the country.

Yesterday I was in Jerusalem which enjoyed* unseasonably warm, dry autumn weather.  I was rather surprised when I got back home to Shiloh and noticed very wet roads and sidewalks.  Apparently it rained very hard in Shiloh a couple of times during the day.

I organize Women’s Rosh Chodesh Prayers at Shiloh HaKedumah-Tel Shiloh. The next Rosh Chodesh, Rosh Chodesh Kislev, (which is the month when Chanukah begins) is next week, and it’s a double one.  That means it’s celebrated both on the last day of Cheshvan and the first day of Kislev.  My friends and I were debating on which day we should go to pray together.  It’s not that easy when it’s raining, although we’d never complain about the rain.  It would be sort of sacrilegious to do so.  Rain is so precious here.  Finally I decided on Sunday, the 30th  of Cheshvan, because it’s always good to start the week with something special and to do a great mitzvah as early as possible. Here are the details.

Women’s Prayers at Tel Shiloh
Rosh Chodesh Kislev

Sunday, November 3, 2013

30 Cheshvan 5774, 8:30am
Tour of Tel Shiloh & Dvar Torah, Short Torah Lesson
Please come and invite family, friends and neighbors

*Such continued dryness should be more worrisome than enjoyable.

Visit Shiloh Musings.

Will We Have a Wintery Rosh Chodesh Kislev?

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

This is almost a tongue-twister, except for the fact that the “w” sound isn’t very confusing for the tongue.

I’ve been organizing women’s prayers at Shiloh HaKeduma, Tel Shiloh, where the Biblical Chana successfully prayed for a son, for quite a number of years already.  There’s Rosh Chodesh, the First of the Jewish Month all year long, including the winter and very rarely have we found it too rainy to walk around the Tel, the digs all the way to where most experts think the ancient Mishkan Tabernacle had stood for three hundred and sixty nine 369 years.

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This year’s upcoming Rosh Chodesh Kislev is a two-day one, the last of Cheshvan and the first of Kislev, Sunday November 3rd and Monday November 4th.  I asked some of the women who come to the prayers which they prefer, and nobody could give a definitive answer.  There’s always a chance that G-d willing it will rain on either or both days of Rosh Chodesh Kislev.

So I decided that it’s best to start the week off with our group prayers at one of the holiest sites in the HolyLand, Shiloh.

In all of the years I’ve been organizing the Rosh Chodesh prayers, we’ve almost never had too much rain to pray at or near the site of the Mishkan.  There are buildings in the Shiloh HaKeduma tourist site we can use as shelter if needed. For some of us with very busy schedules it’s hard to reschedule at a “moment’s notice.”  So I don’t see the point in saying that rain on Sunday means rescheduling until the following day, because it can rain even more heavily then.  And in the winter it is forbidden to pray for dry weather, since the rain is a blessing.  We only get rain in the winter, and if there isn’t enough rain it’s a curse, a punishment from G-d. So if it’s raining on 30 Cheshvan, then we will ask the workers in Shiloh HaKeduma for the use of a room.

Women’s Prayers at Tel Shiloh
Rosh Chodesh KislevSunday, November 3, 201330 Cheshvan 5774, 8:30am
Tour of Tel Shiloh & Dvar Torah, Short Torah Lesson
Please come and invite family, friends and neighbors

Please join us.

Visit Shiloh Musings.

Appreciating ‘Greshik’

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

Rosh Chodesh Kislev marks the 10th yahrzeit of my father, Chaim ben Aaron-Yosef Hakohen. Lately, whenever I think of him, the image that pops into my mind is of him sitting at the kitchen table, eating a bowl of “grishek.” I think we would call it porridge – although that term seems to be outdated these days.

To me, there is very little that could be more boring and unappetizing for breakfast – after all, how exciting can grayish, gluey gruel be? I imagine my mother thought it was healthier for him than cereal.

My father, a Holocaust survivor who was quiet to the point of almost being invisible, never uttered a word conveying his opinion about this dish that my mother so frequently prepared for him. Yet I know he savored it. I saw it in his face. No, he didn’t smile as he brought the spoon to his lips every few seconds. He didn’t have to. I knew that just the fact that it was there, that it was his for the taking, was enough to make him relish it.

My father had a deep, unwavering hakarat hatov for the warm albeit bland food in front of him. He who had known excruciating, unrelenting hunger, and had seen fellow Jews slowly starve to death in the labor camp where he was forced to do slave labor for the Nazi war machine – appreciated the gruel he was eating decades later in Canada. He understood that this grishek would nourish him, would give him strength to live another day. And he embraced it.

Although he has been gone for a decade now, the life-enhancing lesson of appreciation that he taught by his silent example has outlived him, for I carry it with me everyday. At least I try to.

I try to accept – if not enjoy- the “grishek” in my life when I would rather have something more appealing. For example, I would love to fly first-class when I travel instead of flying economy – or going on an overnight bus as I often have done to minimize the expense. But from my father, I have learned to appreciate the fact that I can travel in the first place. That I am healthy enough to do so, and that I have a destination to go to – my children and grandchildren. Of course I wish we all lived within walking distance – life would be so much easier – but I appreciate this “greshik” on my plate.

Still, I am only human, and it is a struggle to do so all the time, for I look around and my perception is that others have it better, others have more, and that what I may have found so challenging to attain came so easily to so many.

I know that this ” I want something better” attitude is universal among mankind. We all would like a daily “breakfast” of fresh fruit, and pastries, omelettes and cheeses, fresh rolls, bagels and lox, herring, juices and flavored coffee – and we whine and complain so bitterly when we end up with “grishek”. We gripe, we get angry, we feel deprived and depressed when life gives us “gruel” instead of the “feast” we feel we deserve and are entitled to.

And that is why the requirement to say brachot almost constantly is such a huge gift from Hashem.

I used to wonder why we had to make a bracha for every little thing from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to sleep, especially since brachot are not actually blessings in the traditional sense of the word – but rather are expressions of gratitude. I would ask myself why our Creator, the Master of the Universe – seemed to need our constant thanks, our verbal “pats on the back.” After all G-d doesn’t have an ego – why the requirement from us lesser, mortal beings that we sing His praises literally 24/7? Why this seemingly very human need for validation?

I came to realize that it wasn’t Hashem who needs expressions of hakarat hatov. We do. For when we utter a blessing, we become aware – if only for a fleeting moment – of how the mundane, “don’t give it a second thought” aspects of our lives, such as waking up, going to the bathroom, getting dressed, etc. are truly precious.

Each time we make a bracha on what we mindlessly take for granted; each time we express hakarat hatov for what we consider routine, dull and boring- we are reminded – if only for a moment- to embrace and enjoy the “grishek” in our lives.

When we do so, we become that much closer to dispelling the unhappiness, resentfulness and regret that drain us, and step closer to living our lives b’simcha.

The Light After The Dark

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

This column is dedicated to the memory of my beloved father, Chaim ben Aaron Yosef HaCohen, a Holocaust survivor who left the darkness of This World nine years ago on Rosh Chodesh Kislev to bask in the brilliance of Olam HaEmes.

 

Many of us, especially those who are in mid-life, have weathered certain “storms” in our lives – some easier to cope with and “get over” than others. Some have had to deal with major traumas and soul-breaking loss – the fortunate ones have only had to deal with arguably benign but annoying setbacks and disappointments, but because they seem to be never-ending, they are physically and mentally draining nonetheless.

 

The question that comes up from time to time, whether we think it privately or utter it out loud to close friends and family is – why? Why do we have these troubles? Most of us consider ourselves good people, and we basically are when compared to the many individuals or groups who from time to time have crossed our path – or those of our friends or loved ones – or our community – who have been nasty if not downright evil?

 

Our history is tragically replete with the reality of our brutalization by individuals and nations. And on a personal level, all of us no doubt can list a handful of people from our childhood and adulthood who have caused us untold misery – be it a classmate, neighbor, employer/employee, landlord/tenant, family member, friend, etc.

 

In addition to having toxic people stress and distress us, the agnas nefesh “good” people are put under can be caused by situations over which one has no control. Some are relatively minor in the greater scheme of things – like a flat tire on the highway or tripping on the ice and breaking an arm – or major – like the loss of one’s parnasah or a debilitating, chronic illness.

 

Sometime we wonder why we were even born, and indeed a consensus by Talmudists centuries ago determined that it was better not to have been born than to be born and suffer.

 

We do however believe that a better existence awaits us in 120 years, and that gives us much comfort. But there is still the nagging question: Why didn’t Hashem just skip this part – our life in This World – and just place us in the Olam HaEmes? Why go through a lifetime of aggravation- at best -or of heartache at worst?

 

I don’t in any shape or form have the chutzpah to think that I have an answer for a question that has eluded more learned and scholarly minds than mine. But a little incident when visiting my granddaughter, Tamar Rachel, who is a toddler, gave me a possible, tiny glimmer of insight.

 

Tamar, who usually takes a late morning nap, ended up one day – shortly after the clocks were set back an hour – falling asleep during late afternoon. Normally, it is still daylight when she wakes up, but that time it was already dark when she opened her eyes.

 

I heard her crying and ran to get her. As I turned on the light, her crying, her obvious terror and loneliness evaporated – and she flashed me a brilliant smile.

 

It occurred to me, that in her baby view of the world, she had gone from a scary, sad place to one of light and happiness. No doubt the 60 or so seconds she experienced in the darkness, feeling helpless and vulnerable and stressed must have seemed like a lifetime to her. And when the light came on, her world changed into one of warmth and safety – and her eyes radiated with joy, relief – and appreciation.

 

A bit of a light bulb went on my head as well, as I thought that perhaps this is why we have to spend time in this imperfect, scary world – so that when we reach the Next One, we will appreciate its perfection all the more.

 

Human nature is such that one has to be in the dark in order to truly and fully enjoy the light. Perhaps had we immediately been put in Olam HaEmes, we would not be able to embrace its wonder. How sweet sugar is after we swallow a bitter medicine.

 

To Tamar, her seconds in the darkness alone must have seemed never-ending, a lifetime, but blessedly replaced by nonstop light and the presence of a loved one.

 

 To us, the woeful days of our lives must seem like an eternity, but they are not. They too are like the blink of an eye, and our loving Heavenly Father quickly and compassionately turns on the light for us. Forever.


 

‘Getting Back On The Swing’

Wednesday, November 7th, 2007

         I remember a mishap years ago while in first grade and happily swinging on the playground swing during recess. I had just put the finishing touches on a sand castle in the sandbox and, proud of my achievement, I jumped on the swing in celebration.


 


         As I joyfully swung back and forth, I noticed some fellow students had come upon my work of art and had set about stomping on it.

 

         I was so outraged that I leaped off the swing to stop them. The only problem was that I was still up in the air when deciding to jump, and I went flying through the air – headfirst. My next memory was of opening my eyes and seeing a sea of adult faces hovering over me, worry and concern etched on each one of them.

 

         When it appeared that I was going to be okay and the teachers could start breathing again, they asked what in the world made me do such a dangerous thing like jumping off the swing in midair. I explained that the castle I had worked so hard to create was being destroyed, and I had to stop the perpetrators. I guess even then I didn’t think  “land for peace” would work.

 

         But that isn’t the point of this story. What is the point was my resultant fear of getting back on the swing. I had a nasty lump on my head, and it hurt and throbbed. Any little shake of my head made me feel nauseous. But long after the pain had left, I feared going on the swing – even though it was something I had always enjoyed. I guess on a subconscious level I was afraid of history repeating itself – that if it could happen once, it could happen again. And I was terrified of putting myself into yet another situation where I could be hurt like that.

 

         However, a very wise teacher seeing me standing near the swings everyday, watching the other kids enjoying themselves, encouraged me to get back on. I was reluctant, and initially refused to get back on. But eventually her heartening words and reassurances that I would be fine convinced me to try again, and not let fear stop me from doing what I truly wanted to do.

 

         This long-ago memory surfaced as I thought about my father, Chaim ben Aron Yosef HaCohen, a Holocaust survivor – and by association, those of his generation who survived the churban of the Shoah. He had been on my mind due to his approaching yahrzeit on Rosh Chodesh Kislev.

 

         As I have mentioned previously when writing about him, the overwhelming perception I had of him was of a very quiet, even timid man, a “shrinking violet” who seemed to want to avoid detection. He almost seemed invisible even when in the room.

 

         However, as I grow older and have more insight into the human condition, I am in awe of what I now realize was his incredible heroism and bitachon (faith) – his, my mother’s and that of every survivor of extreme trauma and immeasurable loss.

 

         I feel this way because they did not let their understandable fear and raw emotional pain, along with the possibility of it “happening again,” stop them from trying life again.

 

         They got back “on the swing.”

 

         Most had torn away from them – in horrific, brutal and atrocious ways that decent human beings cannot fathom – the beloved mothers and fathers and siblings and spouses and babies who were their emotional oxygen. With the ones they loved and cherished with every fiber of their being ripped away from them – never again to be seen, held or embraced – how is it that they kept on breathing?

 

         How is it that they, with broken bodies and shattered hearts, had the mental stamina and spiritual faith to go “back on the swing” and start life anew – making themselves vulnerable again to possible loss and pain? How could they again dare to live and love?

 

         I ask myself if I had been in the survivors’ shoes and experienced the ultimate evil possible, and knowing that if it happened once it could happen again, would I have gotten married (again) and had children (again).

 

         Would I have ever said “Baruch Hashem” or made a brachah (again) like they did?

 

         I would like to think that I would have, that I would have had the superhuman determination to live, rather than merely exist.

 

         But I truly don’t know for sure.

 

         But what I do know is that in his own way, my quiet, humble, meek father – who suffered such unimaginable loss that he could not bear to ever speak of it – was truly a superman.

 

         Not only did he grab the ropes of the swing, but he also swung away from the past and soared into the future.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/getting-back-on-the-swing/2007/11/07/

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