Jul 10 2014
The turquoise Mediterranean glittered in the late afternoon sun. Smoky barbecue drifted toward me as I helped my daughter and her cousin build sandcastles. No English for one and no Hebrew for the other, they built a beautiful, sandy city together with nods and smiles, gestures and touches. Up ahead three horses carried their riders toward the dunes. The sun sank lower.
The boys played Frisbee. The girls built their castles. The grown-ups drank beer and sparkling red wine, and the dog lay in the cooling sand, watching and sleeping.
They were photo-perfect moments happening every second, and my cousin ran from group to group and captured each one. “Chayim babu’ah,” she said. Life in a bubble. Read the rest of this entry →
Jul 8 2014
If it wasn’t for the news and my Facebook feed, I wouldn’t know any better. Sure, I might be wondering why my neighborhood in Israel has suddenly turned into the flight path for the airport, but I probably wouldn’t be worrying too much.
You see, my life is wonderful. I have a great husband and five amazing kids. Everyone is healthy. My husband and I have jobs. We have a beautiful house. My eldest son recently got engaged and we are in the midst of planning a wedding. My day to day, although quite filled and hectic, is quite normal. No sign of the tension, no blaring sirens signaling a 15-second warning to run to a bomb shelter. Nothing at all.
That is unless you look at people’s faces and body language. Read the rest of this entry →
May 29 2014
People were murdered last week. And it was my fault.
Last Friday night, a mentally ill man stabbed his roommates and then, with a gun, proceeded to murder college women on the street.
And it was my fault. Read the rest of this entry →
May 16 2014
On a Shabbos morning some months ago, my husband, fatigued by minor surgery he had the day before, left the service in the main sanctuary of the synagogue and went into the small, empty chapel downstairs. He lay down on his back on a pew and closed his eyes. Soon, he told me, he heard the voices of young children.
“Do you think he’s dead?”
“He might be sleeping.” Read the rest of this entry →
Mar 13 2014
“[The father] has dreamed about [the son] every night since the event, dreams of pervasive sadness rather than fear; he had told me that he could not be afraid of his fate as [the son’s] father, even of being murdered by his son. Recently, though, he had the worst nightmare of his life. He was walking past a door; a figure in the door began shaking it violently. [The father] could sense hatred, anger, ‘the worst possible evilness,’ and he could see upraised hands. He realized it was [his son]. ‘What surprised me is that I was scared as shit,’ he recounted. ‘I couldn’t understand what was happening to me. And then I realized that I was experiencing it from the perspective of his victims.’”
These sentences would make any person’s blood run cold. Andrew Solomon’s recent piece in The New Yorker about the psychological anatomy of Sandy Hook mass murderer Adam Lanza is a compelling, horrifying read. Well aware that his son had psychological issues, Adam’s father Peter walks Solomon through various meetings with psychiatrists and many, many attempts to defuse the ticking bomb of Adam’s profound unhappiness, until it was too late and Adam murdered his mother and the children and staffers of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Read the rest of this entry →
The noisemakers are already going in my house. By “noisemakers,” I mean my kids. The groggers are going, too, of course, along with an endless medley of preschool Purim songs as my children’s excitement about the upcoming holiday reaches a fever pitch. It’s a little chaotic, but I’m glad that my kids are eager to celebrate Purim…and it’s not bad to get a reprieve from the constant refrains of “Let It Go” that have comprised our family’s unofficial soundtrack for the last three months.
“Mommy,” my 4-year-old asks, “Do you know any more Purim songs we could sing?” On a whim, I launch into that corny old Hebrew School chestnut, “Oh, Once There Was a Wicked, Wicked Man.” My children listen delightedly as I began to sing, then look at me in consternation as I pause abruptly, not wanting to sing the words “he would have murdered all the Jews” (describing Haman’s evil plot). I continue singing, instead substituting the words “he would have punished all the Jews.” My children smile at the song. I feel relieved, and very guilty.
As a rabbi, I’m committed to a view of Jewish sacred text that affirms the sanctity and importance of our foundational narratives. When I was an idealistic college student, struggling with passages in the Torah that I found ethically or historically troubling, I believed that such difficult sections of our sacred text should simply be excised. We’re an enlightened people. Why do we need Torah verses that seem (or are) sexist or homophobic? As I deepened my understanding of Jewish text and interpretation, though, I began to understand that each of our texts, even the troubling ones, have something to teach us. The sages of the Talmud imagined Rabbi Akiva as being so gifted in the art of Torah interpretation that he was able to derive meaning not only from the words of the Torah but even from the decorative crowns that adorn the letters in the Torah scroll. To the Jew, there is meaning in everything, and so every story must be retained, honored, and plumbed for its overt and hidden lessons. Read the rest of this entry →
Jul 15 2013
The thing about “causeless hatred” is that it sounds like something that other people do.
Causeless hatred is something other people do–because it’s something that is obviously wrong. And we aren’t people who would do something obviously wrong. We’re thoughtful most of the time. We have people in our lives that we love. But causeless hatred–hating someone else for no reason? That’s something other people do, people who are bigots, idiots, war criminals, or terrorists.
This is a convenient emotional shorthand that we all adopt from time to time: we assume, in the big scheme of things, that we are the “good guys.” I’m sure most of us are “good guys.” And I’m equally sure that we are all guilty of instances of causeless hatred. Read the rest of this entry →
Feb 21 2013
“Abba, what are those doors up there?”
“I’m not sure, I think it is some kind of a fence.”
“Can we go visit them?”
“No not tonight, sweetie, we are going home now.”
We are driving back from Tzur Hadassah, a suburb of Jerusalem within the Green Line (which separates Israel and the Palestinian territories). The quickest route back into Jerusalem (and into the beds of our two sleepy children) is past Betar Illit and kvish haminharot, the “tunnel road” which connects Jerusalem to the Gush Etzion bloc in the West Bank. Read the rest of this entry →
Dec 20 2012
We don’t have any toy guns in our house.
Okay, that’s not 100 percent accurate. We have a handful of miniscule, grey, plastic Lego guns so tiny you don’t even notice them until you step–barefoot–upon them, and then you notice them plenty. But they don’t count. They’re not real approximations of guns that can hurt or kill.
I’ve battled with myself over the toy gun issue for years now. When my son was 4 he suddenly picked up an interest in guns. I’m not sure where his intrigue or even knowledge of guns came from. Television and other media was limited to family-friendly shows from PBS and the like, and neither my husband or I are gun enthusiasts or ever felt the need to discuss guns around the house. I may have watched one or two seasons of 24 while nursing my son on the couch in his first few months of life–but I can’t imagine that’s what turned him on to guns… right? Read the rest of this entry →
Dec 17 2012
A Huffington Post article that was published over the weekend asked the question that so many of us have been struggling with since the news broke of the school shooting in Newtown, CT: Where were you, God?
Here at Kveller we write a lot about various aspects of raising Jewish children, but it’s not often that we write about God. Perhaps it’s because a belief in God isn’t necessarily a requirement for full participation in the Jewish community, or perhaps it’s because faith and God are such incredibly difficult topics to think about, much less write about in a public forum. Yet when such an unspeakable tragedy occurs, one that left so many of us parents of young children in tears over the weekend, it’s hard to imagine that we weren’t thinking about God. Read the rest of this entry →