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 →
I was born a contradiction. On the Sabbath, the day we are commanded to rest, I prompted my mother to labor and deliver me into the world. So it’s fitting that I struggle with the God thing still.
Soon after we gave birth to our first kids, one of my dearest friends confided in me that pregnancy and childbirth made her feel closer to God than ever before.
Huh. Not me.
I tried to figure out why.
From early on in my pregnancy, I needed to see it to believe it. I waited until I saw the results of the home pregnancy test before embracing the possibility. I waited longer still for the first ultrasound to feel like it was actually happening. It wasn’t real until I had proof. Some have faith; I wanted certainty.
“Please God, help me sleep!” That was my prayer, my urgent plea, while lying in bed wide awake three days after the birth of my son. I was beyond exhausted and I knew I only had a short window before I’d have to wake up again to feed him. My baby boy had just fallen asleep after his middle of the night feeding, and I desperately wanted to fall back asleep before he woke up again. My body ached with exhaustion and the pains of a still-healing episiotomy.
The problem was, I was wide awake. And in this state of being wide awake, I found myself contemplating the worthiness of bothering God with my desperate plea to sleep. I’ve asked for, and received, a lot of things over the years, big and small: a good job; a husband; a short line at the airport so I don’t miss my connecting flight; warm weather for my week of holidays. I had prayed like crazy for a child. At the age of 38, there was no way I took for granted a healthy pregnancy and now, the arrival of a healthy, eight pound baby boy.
I admit that over the years I have suffered from what I like to call the “not enough” syndrome. I’m not pretty enough; I’m not talented enough; I’m not ambitious enough; I’m not spontaneous enough; I don’t earn enough. There are even competing “not enough’s” such as: I don’t work hard enough and I don’t spend enough time with my family. I relate to this as a syndrome that disproportionately affects Jews, kind of like lactose intolerance (yes, I am lactose intolerant) although I’m sure we Jews haven’t cornered the market on feelings of inadequacy (or on lactose intolerance, for that matter). Read the rest of this entry →
Well, that was a colossal failure. Months of planning, 10s of thousands of dollars, two trips to Cyprus, a really promising early pregnancy–and we have nothing. We have no donor embryos left. Our last cycle resulted in my seventh pregnancy, with fantastic early signs, but I miscarried at six weeks. We’d already been tested for every cause of recurrent loss, and honestly believed the genetically tested donor embryos were the answer.
What do we do now? Nothing has changed on the adoption front (we are still on the years-long waiting lists for domestic adoption here in Israel, and international adoption remains out of reach financially). We could try a gestational carrier, but both in Israel and abroad the costs and logistical hurdles just seem insurmountable.
For now we wait. We are in shock. We really thought this approach, and this pregnancy, would bring us at least one baby (and possibly a sibling in a few years). Read the rest of this entry →