Our family recently lost a dear friend, and my husband and I have had to digest and process the immeasurable loss with our children. Soon after the death, my oldest daughter told me that she would never pray again. I asked her why. She said that she had prayed and prayed that our friend would heal, and God didn’t answer her. I hugged her. I tried to say the right things–that God always hears our prayers, even if God doesn’t respond the way we want; that perhaps our prayers did have some effect that we don’t understand; that there is always so much more to pray for, and we have to keep trying; that praying is good for us, it helps us feel that we are doing something, even if things turn out so differently from what we hope.
Not long after, I found myself spending the entire day in the emergency room, with severe abdominal pain. Apparently, these things happen, especially on days when one’s babysitter texts at 6 a.m. that she’s home sick with strep (which she caught from your kid). While the doctors were puzzling over my cecum, I was left lying supine, unable to see beyond the privacy curtain. Those curtains are not soundproof, though, and it’s hard not to hear the pressing experiences of the other stricken human beings in the room. I was left with no choice but to eavesdrop. Read the rest of this entry →
It finally happened. Six years, 14 IVF cycles, eight pregnancies, and we finally took our little girl home. She’s healthy, happy, and growing like a weed. In my wildest dreams (and there was plenty of time to dream!), I never imagined the amount of happiness and peace we would find in our tiny daughter.
But while our daughter fills a special place in my heart, we are still struggling with our faith. Though my husband and I were raised Orthodox, as I’ve written before, the last six years have made both of us lose our faith in God. For our one daughter, we’ve had to say goodbye to 10 other babies. That makes it too damn hard to believe that there is a God who is in charge.
With our first diagnosis of severe male factor infertility, we didn’t question God. Infertility was a challenge, but that kind of thing happens. Everyone has some kind of challenge. We were lucky to have each other, a happy marriage, and stable finances. No one can skate too easily through life, right? IVF was a mountain, but not insurmountable. Read the rest of this entry →
My 6-year-old son lost his first tooth a couple weeks ago. It was so exciting, yet scary, as so many new things tend to be. There was blood. He wanted to know where the blood came from, if it was OK or bad.
“Blood travels through your body and helps keep you healthy,” I explained. He nodded seriously.
“What about da Toof Fairy?” my son lisped. “Is she going to come take my toof?” Yes. “What does she do with them?” he inquired. “Does she put them in her own mouth?” No. He nodded again in approval. “But how big is she? Is she going to touch me? How will she get in my room?” Read the rest of this entry →
A hard lump of something rose up from deep in my chest and got lodged in my throat.
This was the kind of question that pierced right to the heart of things, the kind that forced you to take sides, make a decision, woman up. The kind of question my 4-year-old daughter excels at. Read the rest of this entry →
My 16-year-old daughter is an atheist. You can’t imagine how many people–both Jewish and non-Jewish–this seems to bother more than me.
She’s been an atheist for a long time, years perhaps. First, we forced her to have a bat mitzvah–at least that’s what she says. She still resents having to say a bunch of words she didn’t agree with, though I don’t remember her complaining at the time. She seemed to enjoy the DJ, dancers, food, friends, and gifts at her party. And she did an excellent job reading her Torah portion and leading the service. It was a proud day for all of us.
But now she tells everyone she is an atheist; her religious grandparents who attend services every Friday night, her friends, and my friends. Most of the adults generally look at her in horror. They look at me in horror, too. What am I doing, raising a godless girl? It doesn’t matter if the adult she’s talking to is Jewish, Christian, or Muslim. It just seems awful to them. Check off their “this mother sucks” box. Read the rest of this entry →
Rounded off by a subsequent burst pipe, flooding all four floors of your newly renovated house, making it uninhabitable and having nowhere for your family to live, one of whom is only 4 days old? Read the rest of this entry →
As a kid I learned that the so called Gates of Heaven opened on Rosh Hashanah and stayed open until the end of Yom Kippur. I therefore had about 10 days or so to get all my prayer in until The Gates slammed shut and I had to wait until next year to apologize for all my lies or ask for a Wonder Woman outfit.
I thought about this business with The Gates while I was in Foot Locker with my boys yesterday.
Sometime during my first pregnancy, or maybe soon after the baby was born, my mother-in-law gave me a copy of “Parenting as a Spiritual Journey” by Rabbi Nancy Fuchs Kramer. I put the book in a pile with all of the other parenting books I intended to read; some of them I got to as the need arose, and some of them ended up gathering dust, including the one from my mother-in-law. Not surprisingly, my spiritual needs and practices took a back seat to the latest theories on how to feed my girls or get them to sleep through the night.
It’s been almost six years, and I still haven’t read the book. Meanwhile, my parenting journey took an unexpected turn as the stress of parenting took its toll on me and I began yelling at my girls. I wasn’t looking for a spiritual practice, I was just looking for a way to stay calm when my daughters were raging or sobbing or just plain needing more from me than I had to offer.
I had the heart of a social worker and the mind of an academic long before my soul found its home in Judaism, so it’s not surprising that I turned to the social science literature for ideas on how to find a little solid ground again. My research brought me to the practice of mindfulness, to the value of coming back to the present moment again and again, to the fundamental importance of noticing, and then letting go of, the worries and fears and wishes and all the other crazy spinnings of my brain so I can truly see my daughters, and myself, for who they are and what we need. Read the rest of this entry →
It all started on Purim in my daughter’s nursery school in Jerusalem. Her teacher went into a considerable amount of detail regarding the hanging of Haman and his ten sons and the murder of Queen Vashti when she refused to appear naked (“in just her crown”) in front of the Royal Court. I assumed that Raphaela had no real understanding of the finality of death, at the age of 4.5.
It continued with Passover, with the teacher’s in depth explanations of the 10 Plagues, with a liberal use of the words “death,” “died,” and “killed.” In this black and white view of the Universe, my daughter was taught that the plagues affected only the Egyptians and their property, because they had enslaved and abused the Jewish people. Pharaoh and the Egyptians deserved their fate, because they were wicked and the Jews were good.
I’m a fan of Purim. Yes, I love the costumes, the hamantaschen (chocolate filled, not fruit), and the general revelry that’s vastly different in atmosphere from other holidays. What I surprisingly like most about Purim, however, is the way it forces me to think about the spark of the Divine in my life, or I guess you could call it a higher power.
Okay, I’ll just say it without any euphemisms. Purim makes me think and even talk about God, which is a strange sentence for me to type. For all the writing I do about Jewish topics, I don’t use the G-word very much at all. When I try, it feels forced and unnatural, which is true when I’m in conversations offline as well.
Although I grew up with a strong cultural Jewish identity surrounded by tons of Jewish friends, nobody I knew in my family or in my social circles ran around dropping the G-word. In contrast, I hear my Orthodox friends say “Hashem” with so much ease and frequency that I never know what to say in return. It’s a conversation stopper to say the least. Read the rest of this entry →