Tag Archives: Shabbat

Shavua Tov!

On Havdalah
by Shocheradam

For a good week let us do all things deliberately.

Three stars light the sky, and it is time.
But do not light the candle, not just yet.
Let us savor this moment before its light dances
On the backs of our hands, on the walls, in our eyes.

Do not pour the wine, no, it can wait.
Its sweetness would overpower our tongues.
Let the cup stand empty for a moment still.

Leave the spices standing just a moment more.
The b’samim would overwhelm our senses.
Leave them on the shelf and take one look
At the table standing bare before we start.

Meditate on table, braided candle, empty cup,
B’samim box on the shelf, all waiting patiently.
Three stars light the sky above, but savor just the same
The fading moments of this holy time, this sacred space.

Think upon these fading moments ere we begin.
Think of something you will carry forward into the week.
Think of something you have set down to leave behind.

Think of this moment all week long,
For patience,
For courage,
For strength,
For shalom.

Now fill cup, light candle, sing the prayers:
Baruch atah, Adonai… Amein.
Lift the cup and b’samim box, lift the candle, see its shadows.
Say a word or two about sacredness and holiness.
Sip the wine and bid Shabbat farewell.
Dip the flame into the wine and sing to one and all:
Shavua tov, shavua tov, shavua tov.

For a good week, let us remember holiness.
For a good week, let us remember sacredness.
For a good week, let us remember this pause in time, this place in space.

For a good week, let us do all things deliberately.

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Friday Feature: What are you thankful for this week?

13 Kislev 5775

It’s time for the Friday Feature again, where I ask you what good things happened to you this week. This is direct from Telushkin’s Book of Jewish Values, Day 69.

This is supposed to be a regular Friday morning feature for this blog. Telushkin intended his book to provide topics for Shabbat discussions for at least a year, as each “week” is composed of six values (one per day) and then Shabbat, where he encourages us to talk about those values at our Shabbat dinners and services. I feel that the idea of gratitude is so central to Jewish practice that we should be reminded weekly of what we might be grateful for.

While I know that this might seem a little self-centered, I’m also doing this so that people will have some food for thought for their own Shabbat dinners about what they might be thankful for. I generally talk about the following areas of my life: work and career; family and friends; health; household; my conversion studies; miscellaneous life; and the wider world. Feel free to add or subtract as necessary for your own use.


I’m thankful for my husband (married 35 days as of today). I’m thankful for my kids, who spent last Friday and Saturday with us (we had Thankshabbat on Friday instead of having Thanksgiving on Thursday; my husband had to work on Thanksgiving and my kids couldn’t be here on Thanksgiving).

I’m thankful that my husband has told me he intends to convert with me, after taking the Taste of Judaism class. We’ve already registered for the full Intro to Judaism class in the spring. This excites me very much. Now that the school semester is winding down, I should have the ability to get back to my blog here and to my Judaism and Hebrew studies very soon. We’ve bought a menorah and candles for it, and my best friend gifted us Our First Dreidel. Now I just need gelt, and we’re good to go for Hanukkah. 😀

Menorah

I’m thankful that my teachers’ union was able to get us a raise, which should go into effect either this month or next month, and has some retroactiveness to it.

I’m thankful that I had a great interview for a full-time position yesterday. I’ll know by Monday whether I get a second interview. I’m hopeful. Even if I don’t get this job, I still have a full schedule of classes lined up for the spring, and a winter intersession class that I’m going to finish regardless of whether I get the full-time job or not. (Income is good.)

I’m thankful that my husband has Saturday off this week so we can go to temple for the first time in two or three weeks (sometimes his schedule doesn’t allow him to be home, and it’s hard to go to temple by myself when I’m stressed out about other things; his presence is calming for me).

I’m thankful that my friends are open to me converting and are willing to come over to Shabbat dinners on Friday nights. Our next planned one is the Friday during Hanukkah.

I have a lot of work to finish – student papers and homework to grade, so that next week all I have to deal with is their finals. So today, I’m going to be working on that while I bake challah and clean up in between stints of paper grading. But I’m also thankful that I have this work. It’s meaningful to me.

What are you thankful for this week?

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Shabbat Shuva redux

Erev Shabbat this week started out very stressful for me. My daughters don’t get out of school until 3 p.m., and I have to pick them up from my ex’s mom’s house, which is about 16 miles away.

16 miles away, you say? Not a bad drive – 20 minutes, right?

Try an hour and a half at that time of day. It’s awful. I can’t get there sooner, because the kids won’t be home yet. Getting there later means even worse traffic going back home. Welcome to Southern California.

So I spent most of the morning doing work that I could do: cleaning up the kitchen from the Rosh Hashanah meal the night before, setting up exams for my students (four of my six classes have an exam starting on Sunday morning, and not all of them were up yet), answering emails, doing a gasoline-and-grocery-run with the fiancé now that his check for the week had arrived; the usual stuff. I had one more exam to finish when I left at 2:45 to pick up my kids, and I knew that my fiancé would be at work that evening because that’s how his work runs and we can’t make them let him off for my religious holidays.

I got to their home at 4:15. We took streets home and that was another hour plus, with a stop at the grocery to pick up a couple things I’d forgotten in the earlier grocery run.

We didn’t arrive home until close to 5:30. So I decided that from now on, Shabbat starts when I light the candles, because no way was I going to be able to bake challah AND make dinner before sundown. Daughter #2 helped me make the entire Shabbat meal, and both daughters took over cleanup when it was done.

Shabbat meal, though late, was lovely: raisin-honey gluten-free challah (I made three loaves: two braided-mold and one piped-spiral crown challah); apples with honey (natch), tomato-garlic soup, plain potato kugel (which Daughter #1 LOVED – which is great, because she’s a picky eater), roasted chicken thighs with spices, Kedem grape juice for kiddush, ice water. I had planned on a dessert of apples and strawberries with Greek Gods honey Greek yogurt, but we were all too full! And I cooked for armies; we had enough soup to fill two quart containers, four pieces of the chicken, half the kugel, and even some apples left over.

Crown Challah

Crown Challah

To make the crown challah, I put a little over a third of the batter into a plastic bag and turned it into a giant piping bag, and piped it into a round baking pan in a spiral. I ran out of batter just before I would have been able to make that little spiral on the top, but it was definitely recognizable as crown challah. I was pleased.

The kids also stood with me while I said the blessings, lit the candles, and said kiddush and ha-motzi. We put away one of the braided loaves, and the round loaf for kiddush at temple this morning (about which, more later) but the one loaf we left out disappeared halfway through the meal. I think Daughter #1 got most of it.

I finished putting together the last exam, and then I collapsed into bed and slept the sleep of the righteously exhausted until pretty late this morning. I didn’t wake up until nearly 9 a.m.

The fiancé and I went to temple while the kids stayed home, which was fine. I was running on coffee and a bagel; I didn’t realize that my fiancé was running on short sleep and only a cup of coffee until halfway through the service. He had to get up and leave for a while. It was also not being run by the rabbi; he was with the B’nei Mitzvah seventh-graders at a thing at the park today, so it was the other fellow leading the services. He’s a great guy, but he’s not the rabbi, and my partner’s patience was very frayed due to hunger and headache. It was also awkward when he led us in “I am a Jew because…” as the main prayer and made a point of saying “I don’t want those who are our non-Jewish guests to feel excluded.” Um, dude… that’s only for me to mention, okay? I also wondered if I wasn’t allowed to say this prayer yet. Awk-ward.

No. It was an accident on his part. I am certain there was no malice. But damn it, I’m on the path, I’m not turning back. Sh’esani Israel. I am as Jew-ish as I can be without the mikveh dip. And that will come, hopefully no later than early June (I want it earlier, but that’s going to be up to the rabbi). But it still made me and my fiancé uncomfortable. I may take the man aside after High Holy Days are over and say “I would have been better with it if you had not made a point of it, okay?”

On the other hand, the crown challah we brought with us got a very happy reception when the worship leader lifted the challah cover and revealed not just their usual big loaf of regular challah but our little gluten-free crown loaf. The response was this sort of breathless chorus as it was revealed: “CROWN challah!” to which the worship leader responded by explaining a) it was gluten-free and b) the significance of a round loaf during High Holy Days. Everyone tried it. It was slightly more cake-y than I’d hoped, but it still tasted good. The alterations I’d made to the recipe (increasing potato starch and decreasing all-purpose gluten free flour, adding two more eggs and a half-cup of honey, and adding raisins) really worked well.

I got asked to submit the recipe to the new Sisterhood temple cookbook.

Then we came home to the discovery that Daughter #1 is without her anxiety meds for the weekend. We’re all trying to be patient with her; it must be hell for her. So we’ve all eaten (mostly leftovers) and now we’re at our corners of the apartment, trying to take the day easy.

After havdalah tonight, I’m going to be back on the emails and student work stuff. But for now I’m going to rest. Tonight I’m going to do some grading so that I can start making headway on it and not be wiped out all day Sunday doing nothing but grading. But that can wait until after sundown when the day changes.

Shabbat Shalom, all.

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Filed under Conversion Process, Identities, Jewish Practices, Judaism

Community and Hallelujah

27 Elul 5774

It’s almost Tishri, and I find myself thanking God for that.

It has been… a rough couple of weeks. Although last Friday I managed not to set the oven on fire while baking, I still managed to forget to bring the loaf of grain-free challah I’d specifically made for kiddush after services to services on Saturday morning. I’ve been facing a lot of whelm (as in, overwhelmed) at work and outside of it, even though positive things are happening. Depression – the clinical kind – has been an inconsistent, but constant, visitor. It’s been hard sometimes to keep my mind on what I’m heading for. 2014-09-19 at 18.38.53

See? And I felt so bad, and so idiotic, for not remembering to grab it on my way out the door.

But… I also got to talk about what this last Shabbat’s Torah parshah (Nitzavim – Deuteronomy 29:9 – 28) meant to me in Shul that morning. I’ll just quote the part that the rabbi had us read, and then talk about the Torah study that our rabbi makes a regular part of our Shabbat morning services, in lieu of a sermon.

 “You stand this day, all of you, before the Eternal your God – you tribal heads, you elders, and you officials, all the men of Israel, 10 you children, you women, even the stranger within your camp, from woodchopper to water-drawer — 11 to enter into the covenant of the Eternal your God, which the Eternal your God is concluding with you this day, with its sanctions; 12  in order to establish you this day as God’s people and in order to be your God, as promised you and as sworn to your fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 13 I make this covenant, with its sanctions, not with you alone, 14  but both with those who are standing here with us this day before the Eternal our God and with those who are not with us here this day.

I had tears in my eyes, reading that, for two reasons. I started out with a copy from a website, and then I went and got my copy of the Torah and copied it out here, because the wording matters.

“even the stranger within your camp” and “with those who are not with us here this day” was what brought me to tears that morning. All people who want to be part of it can be. Anyone who wants in, can be in.

I want in. I said that back at Pesach, didn’t I?

Everyone in the shul that morning who heard me say that for me, this was God saying to the stranger and the not-yet-Jew, “You are also part of this covenant,” told me that they were happy I was there and part of their community.

I’ve been going for two weeks. Then I missed a week due to the oven fire. And still, they already see me as their community member. As part of what they are doing and who they are.

I can’t express what that means to me. To already be accepted. To already belong. To be, in some small sense, already a Jew in their eyes.

This part of this parshah also speaks to me as a ger, because those who are not there in body may still be there in soul – as at Sinai, nu? And my soul is being braided into this community, into this place, into these people, with every time I go to shul.

God is in this place, and how could I not know?

Afterwards, I got to talk to J, the man who usually leads song, and asked if he could teach me some of the songs so I could maybe lead sometime when the rabbi asked. He was more than happy to have another singer in the group.

Again, belonging. Perhaps someday, mispachah.

2014-09-19 at 11.43.37

Front of Havdalah candle holder.

I also had my first-ever Havdalah this past Saturday night, and it was more special than I thought it was going to be. I made my own havdalah candle holder and my own bisamim box from crafting materials and acrylic paint over the past couple of weeks, and on Saturday night, they were ready to use for Havdalah. I’m trying to create these items just like my father created so many of my family’s holiday decorations that were so important to us every year.

Back of havdalah candle holder.

Back of havdalah candle holder.

I can’t honor my father in most ways that are religious (although I bought a yarzheit candle for him so I have one when January rolls around), but I’m going to make as many of my own ritual items as I can, and what I can’t make, I’ll purchase carefully.

2014-09-19 at 11.44.07

Bisamim box.

I plan to at least make a hanukkiah and a kiddush cup (I just have to find an appropriate cup). I may draw the line at a Seder plate, though.

I stumbled sometimes, and stammered, and I admit that I didn’t have all the prayers down, but this production from Moishe House Rocks helped me a lot (the song is also really catchy):

I’ve been thinking about Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur coming up much faster than I thought they would. For Rosh Hashanah, I can only point to this rendition of Psalm 150 (Hallelujah) by Hillel Tigay and the community of IKAR, in Los Angeles, for the joy that the thought of Rosh Hashanah fills me with.

And finally, although I know I’ve shared it before, sometimes music just speaks for me more than words can. So once again, I give you the Maccabeats and their amazing Yom Kippur song, Book of Good Life.

I am thankful for all these things. I am thankful for you who read my posts. I am thankful for my life and for the people who sustain me.

On Rosh Hashanah, that’s part of what I’ll be singing Hallelujah for.

And as Yom Kippur is coming up very soon, I ask forgiveness. If I have wronged you in the past year, please let me know. I will do whatever is necessary to make amends.

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The Spirit of the Law and the Value of NOT Doing It All

"Sunrise Los Angeles" by Bryan Frank on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license.

“Sunrise Los Angeles” by Bryan Frank on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license.

Things looked better on Shabbat morning. And fortunately, that continued for the rest of the day into our afternoon at home and our evening with friends. 

Things usually do look better in the morning, did you ever notice that? Something about sleeping on it really does help fix most of the problems of low spoons, lack of energy, and general overwhelm.

Of course, I was trying too hard. I was trying to live by every rule, everywhere, to be a perfect Jew, even as I had admitted that it’s okay not to be perfect. There’s a definite difference between saying it and practicing it, and G-d called me on it on Friday, I think. I was at the end of my rope, frazzled, tired, worn out, overwhelmed, and still thinking I could somehow put together the equivalent of a holiday dinner AND bake challah for the next day’s temple Kiddush service when I was almost completely out of cope and energy. I was convinced that I could still follow all the rules and make things somehow come out perfectly even though I was scraping the bottom of the energy barrel.

Reality. It hits you in the strangest ways. Obviously none of those things happened. I’m just glad that the fallout was a few pieces of dough hitting the coffeemaker and the carpet, and nothing worse than that (like a cut hand due to a knife accident, or a concussion because I slipped and hit my head on a wet floor). 

It occurred to me this morning that one of the things I find so healing about Judaism is that Reform Judaism is not a rule-bound system. I grew up with a strong and frightening sense that if I didn’t follow every rule perfectly, all the time, to the letter, then I was in big trouble. Yesterday’s experience at temple in the morning, where I participated in the mid-service Torah study, and where I was reassured that everyone has had kitchen disasters and not to worry – we’ll love to try your challah next week, showed me it’s the spirit of the law, not the letter of the law, that we’re trying to get at here. People (and G-d) don’t expect perfection. They expect an honest effort. They don’t expect me to do it all correctly the first time. They expect me to focus on doing my best to do a little bit better next time.

It’s not about perfect adherence to the rules. If that was all it was, any religion would do. 

My life before Judaism didn’t allow a lot of time for contemplation or doing things deliberately. Due to some disabilities I have, for example, getting dressed in the morning can be a very complicated process. If I put on my jeans before I put on my socks, it’s harder to reach my feet, for example, because that restricts motion enough that bending my knees far enough to reach my feet becomes almost impossible. But there have been times when I’ve been rushing because I feel like I’m late (I rarely am) and then I have to undress and start all over again, usually berating myself for not paying attention well enough. Eating deliberately? What’s that? I have still caught myself being halfway through the meal before I realized I haven’t really tasted it (and that I haven’t said the brachot yet), and then kicked myself for it. I wasn’t raised with the habits of deliberation or contemplation. I was raised with the habits of rushing, doing it quickly, getting it done, and getting on to the next thing. While going to church was calming, it was only one hour a week. That’s not enough to get used to being calm and quiet (and for me it was always upset in the middle by the angry sermons I had to sit through). 

But with Judaism (at least as I’m practice it), it’s not about rushing out of bed and running around like a headless chicken trying to get six things done before breakfast so that things are always perfect. It’s about staying in bed when I wake long enough to remember to say the Modeh Ani before I get out of bed. It’s about taking the time to remember to say the brachot over my morning coffee. It’s about remembering to slow down and take time so that those become things I remember before I need to do them, not after. It’s about taking an entire 24-hour period every week to NOT rush, to NOT hurry, and to let that peacefulness carry over into the rest of the week. It’s the complete opposite of what I was raised with – reflection, rather than rushing.

The rushing seemed to me to be required. If you aren’t running around “looking busy,” you’re lazy, aren’t you? But then I wonder how many people would call a Buddhist monk “lazy” for his meditation practices. I know a few Westerners who probably would, but that’s not the point here. The Type-A personality should not be setting the standard for what reasonable effort looks like – they’re at one end of a very long spectrum. It is possible to be unrushed and not be automatically lazy. It is possible to take time to think and contemplate and not be lazy. 

And it is all right to take a day where rest, contemplation, consideration and thought take precedence over running around trying to do everything all at once. It is all right to live by the spirit of the rules as much as, if not more than, their letter. A blogger I follow on Facebook calls this “living hands-free” – to stop worrying so much about what everyone will think and start focusing on the moment, the process, rather than the goal. 

This is still very hard for me to grasp. We live in a culture that values speed and efficiency and the goal over reflection and deliberation and the process. But living a hands-free kind of life – which for me, more and more, means a Jewish life – demands adherence to the spirit of the rules over the letter of the rules, more often than not. It’s also about bringing that sense of reflection and consideration into the rest of the week, not just leaving it on Shabbat. I had had an entire week of no reflection or consideration, of feeling rushed, of trying to do too much at once, and I paid for it on Friday evening when things finally fell apart because I couldn’t keep all those balls in the air and the plates all spinning at the same time. 

This week, I will forgive myself for dropping the ball. This week, I will not punish myself for taking time to reflect and consider. This week, I will work on reducing my need to live up to every rule and stress myself out by rushing through every process. This week I will make room for contemplation. 

And next week will take care of itself. It always does – have you ever noticed that? 

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Shocheradam And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Erev Shabbat

Ever have one of those Shabbats that goes so fantastically wrong that you can’t imagine it ever going right again? Read on.


 

Sad

“Sad,” by Kristina Alexanderson on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license.

I really should know better than to write about perfection.

After I put up my post that I made just before the Friday Feature, it feels like everything just went south for me this Shabbat, or at least on erev Shabbat. I had to go to a job HR intake thing that I did not feel prepared for, for starters, having got the command, er, invitation to come in at 10 on Friday morning the previous night. I do not do well with “Surprise! Come here RIGHT NOW!” kinds of e-mails at the best of times, and this was not the best of times. It had been quite a rough week, all things considered. So, resigned to losing my entire usual erev Shabbat morning routine, I went in. The HR person was not a nice person. I felt very conspicuous in my kippah, which made me feel defensive. Probably not the best thing.

I wasn’t in the best of shape when I got out of that meeting. First there was the exhaustion that happens after I have to meet someone new under circumstances I don’t control. Then there were student emails to answer and other work to do that I normally do in the mornings, which was now pushed to the afternoon. Then there was the nap that took away most of the later afternoon. Then there was the realization that someone I’d added on Facebook was a person I had had a very bad interaction with under an IRC handle 12 years ago, and being shook up over that as I defriended them. And the issues the HR person continued to send to me in e-mail all afternoon, some of which are fires I can do nothing about until Monday. And we didn’t really have lunch as such; we just had a late breakfast, so I had a lovely low-blood-sugar episode that I didn’t realize was low blood sugar until I was far beyond the point of no return, and ended up babbling and incoherent, as well as weepy and unable to cope. The phrase that I, and most of my friends, use for this situation is “out of spoon error.” Go read this link for more on that. (Basically, when I’m that low on cope, I become a babbling idiot and I can’t even find my own feet without help.)

Long story short, we didn’t even make it to the grocery, so I started Shabbat (such as it was) without any grape juice or challah, no new flowers on the table, and a sink still full of dirty dishes (morning stuff that didn’t get done thanks to the HR intake intervention blah blah). I resigned myself to a dinner of reheated random leftovers, with no candles, kiddush, or ha-motzi. Basically, my life became a whole big world of no, after the sun went down.

And then, thinking that at least I’d make a loaf of my grain-free challah and bring it with me to Saturday morning service’s Kiddush as I had promised to last Shabbat, I managed to instead make the stand mixer lurch across the counter, flinging hardened batter everywhere and wasting ingredients that don’t exactly come cheap.

Suffice to say that it was a really bad way to go into Shabbat.

Fortunately, after sleeping on it, things seemed some better. We did go to services on Saturday morning and it was refreshing, and my stories of the demon-possessed stand mixer after services were over made people laugh (although I promised that next time I would absolutely have grain-free challah for them for morning Kiddush). Singing the service is getting easier already; I’ve been picking up the melodies. The Torah teaching session that seems to be a standard part of the services was enlightening and made me feel like I belonged, since I could contribute to it intelligently. My partner looked, well, very Jewish in the green handmade kippah I loaned him. And just being among fellow Jews was a hugely calming thing.

Last week, when praying the Birkhot Haschachar, I sang Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu melech ha’olam with everyone else. Where our congregation then sings the rest of each prayer in English, however, I fell silent at the line “Thank you for making me a Jew.” This week, I sang it out with everyone else, with tears stinging my eyes. It was a much-needed reminder: I may still be a ways off from my entry into the mikveh and full membership in the Tribe, but my soul is a Jewish soul. And like I said on Friday afternoon, I do not have to be perfect to be a Jew. I just have to keep trying to do a little bit better each time.

Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha’olam, she’asani Yisra-eil.

 

 

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Friday Feature: What Are You Thankful For This Week?

It’s time for the Friday Feature again, where I ask you what good things happened to you this week. This is direct from Telushkin’s Book of Jewish Values, Day 69.

This is a regular Friday morning feature for this blog. Telushkin intended his book to provide topics for Shabbat discussions for at least a year, as each “week” is composed of six values (one per day) and then Shabbat, where he encourages us to talk about those values at our Shabbat dinners and services. I feel that the idea of gratitude is so central to Jewish practice that we should be reminded weekly of what we might be grateful for.

While I know that this might seem a little self-centered, I’m also doing this so that people will have some food for thought for their own Shabbat dinners about what they might be thankful for. I generally talk about the following areas of my life: work and career; family and friends; health; household; my conversion studies; miscellaneous life; and the wider world. Feel free to add or subtract as necessary for your own use.


 

10 Elul 5774

Shabbat CandlesI have a lot to be thankful for again this week, starting with my work situation. Add-drop is over as of midnight tonight, and after that I’ll have stable populations in all my classes (well, as stable as college students ever get) and we’ll be able to get into more of the meat of the classes and what I want them to do. I also got my hiring paperwork taken care of at the school I’ll be starting at mid-semester for an online class, and got as much of the paperwork as possible taken care of. I have research that I’m doing which is going well, too, so on the whole I’m pretty pleased with this past week’s work.

My partner got a story published and we finally decided that it was time to take the plunge; we’ll be getting married and we’re both really excited about it.  While I’m worried for my younger daughter, who injured her ankle pretty badly last week, I’m glad to know that it’s not as bad as it might have been. Her sister’s birthday is this weekend, and we plan to be in touch that day to just say hi on Skype at least, since it’s my ex’s weekend with them. We also have a birthday party to go to tomorrow night for my friend Eric, who turned 40 last weekend. It’s been a while since we’ve had real social time, so this is all to the good.

My health is reasonably good, and I am able to purchase my prescriptions even in a month that is somewhat money-low due to a month of unemployment. 

The apartment is so clean from my last two weeks of erev Shabbat deep-cleaning sprees that I won’t have to do much this evening beyond cook dinner and bake a couple of gluten-free challot (one of which will go to services with us tomorrow morning for use at the Kiddush afterwards). We are considering getting a cat, but that’s still kind of up in the air.

I’m almost ready to start my own independent conversion study again, working on Hebrew and transliterating Torah, mainly. This is an independent study, and I wish I had someone to study with, but perhaps that will simply have to come with time. 

I’m thankful that the cease-fire in Israel continues to hold. 

What are you thankful for this week? Maybe you could talk about it over your Shabbat table. 

In any case, I’ll be seeing you on Sunday or sometime thereafter. Shabbat shalom!


Image credit: “Shabbat Candles,” by slgckgc on Flickr. URL: https://www.flickr.com/photos/slgc/13316760215/in/photolist-9d9PUP-uz1c4-62cznH-bFb8W7-4VhB5f-dXbo4N-mhKSS4-aXNxrB-99kMQA-4dPSMa-4dTXuw-4dTW2W-4dPTJH-4dPUdv-4dPW68-4dPYSr-4dTVzb-4dTUfq-4dPTfc-4dTUGm-4dPXVH-4dTYBG-4dTWww-4dTTHN-4dTZ8s-9nHiyz-8bq8Gg-9EiE-bo1Kr-j7wrA3-6RZZyi-8bqcBM-8bq8T8-8bq8Pa-A3srd-525Abj-8btq2y-bXcH8-8bqcBr-8btq11-8btq4s-6PDNQX-a4pe1X-dPuz2S-Bts1-GvC3m-5q6My2-4EzwEx-9cnnzU-9c3gQ4/ Used under Creative Commons license. 

 

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Friday Feature: What Are You Thankful For This Week?

It’s time for the Friday Feature again, where I ask you what good things happened to you this week. This is direct from Telushkin’s Book of Jewish Values, Day 69.

This is a regular Friday morning feature for this blog. Telushkin intended his book to provide topics for Shabbat discussions for at least a year, as each “week” is composed of six values (one per day) and then Shabbat, where he encourages us to talk about those values at our Shabbat dinners and services. I feel that the idea of gratitude is so central to Jewish practice that we should be reminded weekly of what we might be grateful for.

While I know that this might seem a little self-centered, I’m also doing this so that people will have some food for thought for their own Shabbat dinners about what they might be thankful for. I generally talk about the following areas of my life: work and career; family and friends; health; household; my conversion studies; miscellaneous life; and the wider world. Feel free to add or subtract as necessary for your own use.


Shabbat ShalomToday I have an enormous amount to be grateful for, both from the past week and going into the new week. 

I have been offered a class at a new school, and the hiring paperwork meeting will be this coming week, which will get that squared away and get me started on an online class for the last half of the semester. I’ve also got many students petitioning to add my classes, which is admittedly a big ego boost for me. And I’ve finished my first full week of classes, mostly unscathed! And I’ve been told I’ll have a full schedule in the spring at at least one school, which is also fantastic news.

My partner and I have moved towards our marriage plans – tentatively, but it’s still motion towards. My kids were here last weekend and that was simply lovely; the older one was a huge help with chores and the younger, although laid up with a sprained foot, was wonderful company. Tonight my partner is going to go with me to temple and the pre-service oneg, which has me very excited that he’s showing interest in my conversion. 

My health seems to be all right. Even though I’ve had a bad backache, I can still move and do what needs to be done, which is a good thing. 

I got in four hours of cleaning in my home today, including (finally) deep-cleaning the bathroom where our late cat, Mimi, had lived before she had to be put down. I have had trouble going in there but today I finally got it taken care of, which is an accomplishment. It’s now a usable bathroom again. I’m trying out a new smaller reduction of my challah recipe to see if it will work in the little pan. A half reduction still rose wayyy outside the pan edge when I last tried it, which resulted in a mountain of bread with a little challah on top. If this one works (I reduced my original recipe into one-third), I’ll take this small loaf with me to the oneg tonight and cook a larger one for here at home – or, maybe, the other way around. Who knows? (Edited to add: It worked! Exactly the right amount of dough for that pan. I’m making a second one as I write this, to take to the oneg. Whee!)

I’m also considering finding repurposed items to use as ritual items, instead of spending money on spendy items that I can’t afford. I am not sure what I’d repurpose for a Havdalah candle-holder, but I can see repurposing a spice jar as a Havdalah spice-box, for example. Some of my ritual items are already repurposed; most notably, a goblet a friend of mine gave me is my Kiddush cup. 

Now that my preps are done and my classes have started, I can start really working on my Hebrew studies again. That starts this coming week, with actual scheduled time for me to spend on it every single day. No more shirking!

I am very thankful for the new cease-fire in Gaza and the intimations that a longer peace may be coming. Long may it hold. 

What are you thankful for this week?

Shabbat shalom! I’ll see you on Sunday, most likely.


 

Image credit: “Shabbat Shalom” by Karen on Flickr: “Shabbat Shalom” by Karen at Flickr:http://preview.tinyurl.com/lbayfzu Used under Creative Commons License.  

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August 29, 2014 · 1:08 pm

Friday Feature: What Are You Thankful For This Week?

It’s time for the Friday Feature again, where I ask you what good things happened to you this week. This is direct from Telushkin’s Book of Jewish Values, Day 69.

This is a regular Friday morning feature for this blog. Telushkin intended his book to provide topics for Shabbat discussions for at least a year, as each “week” is composed of six values (one per day) and then Shabbat, where he encourages us to talk about those values at our Shabbat dinners and services. I feel that the idea of gratitude is so central to Jewish practice that we should be reminded weekly of what we might be grateful for.

While I know that this might seem a little self-centered, I’m also doing this so that people will have some food for thought for their own Shabbat dinners about what they might be thankful for. I generally talk about the following areas of my life: work and career; family and friends; health; household; my conversion studies; miscellaneous life; and the wider world. Feel free to add or subtract as necessary for your own use.


I have a lot to be thankful for going into this coming week, and finishing this past week. For starters, as long as enrollment holds up and funding holds up, I’ll have classes in the fall. I’m also almost done with my preps for those classes, except for their exams, which I’ll be tweaking and polishing over the next week or so. Today I plan to work on editing the final groups of Powerpoints so I’m all set to go on Monday. 

There are a number of possible jobs that I can apply to for full-time work starting next fall, and that’s the other major thing on my plate work-wise. There’s one in Los Angeles that is especially tempting so I’m going to work on that next week. 

I presented a paper with my co-author at a conference a week ago today, and it was very well received. My partner and I then spent the weekend with friends in the Bay Area. We stayed at a friend’s house; she’s also a convert and we had a very meaningful Shabbat dinner with her. Afterwards, she gave me my very first Havdalah candle, and I was very touched that she would think of me that way. Overall, the weekend last weekend was a very good (and Jewish!) one, spent with people I care about. (Completely coincidentally, my co-author is also a Jew, although a secular one.)

My kids are healthy and happy, my partner is healthy and happy, and most of my friends are in a good place right now, which is good. 

My health is reasonably good at this point. I’m trying to pay more attention to what I put in my mouth (I tend to be a stress eater) and that’s helped me have fewer pains and problems. 

Getting to talk with the new rabbi was a really big deal for me. I’ve arranged for the services I want to attend for High Holy Days, so that’s also in the works, and that makes me really excited. Now that the stress of the preps is winding down, I’ll have more time to crack the Hebrew studies again. The rest of my study is pretty much “on hold” until formal classes start in the spring. My partner has also expressed some cautious interest in going to the classes and, perhaps, converting with me. (This makes me tremendously excited.) Right now, my conversion is largely focused on practice, as it should be.

In terms of miscellaneous life stuff and the wider world, I’m trying to focus always on the positive, while still being realistic about it. I had a bad bout with depression last week but it got better once I was able to throw myself back into prepping and working. Also, Robin Williams’ death, while a horrifying thing in itself, has raised public awareness of depression, bipolar disorder, and Parkinson’s disease in ways that I don’t think he would have expected it to. (And for his death: baruch dayan emet, and may his memory be a blessing.) I also admit that I’m meanly pleased that his ashes were scattered in San Francisco Bay the day after his death, and that the Westboro Baptist “Church” won’t have a chance to protest his funeral because it was done before they even began to plan to disrupt it. 

The situations in Gaza and Ferguson are upsetting, of course, but even there I can find things to be thankful for. I am thankful for all the community members in Ferguson who stood guard over stores to either stop looting that had begun or prevent it from happening in the first place. I am thankful for the cease-fire lasting as long as it did in Gaza, and hopeful that we will soon see a longer truce. And I pray, every day, for the victims in both of those places and hope for a speedy resolution to the tensions. 

And as long as I’m mentioning Ferguson, here’s some specifically Jewish food for thought. Why Jews Should Care About Ferguson

Shabbat Shalom, everyone. I’ll try to update again on Sunday. 

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Filed under Conversion Process, Day-to-Day, Israel

Friday Feature: What Are You Thankful For This Week?

It’s time for the Friday Feature again, where I ask you what good things happened to you this week. This is direct from Telushkin’s Book of Jewish Values, Day 69.

This is a regular Friday morning feature for this blog. Telushkin intended his book to provide topics for Shabbat discussions for at least a year, as each “week” is composed of six values (one per day) and then Shabbat, where he encourages us to talk about those values at our Shabbat dinners and services. I feel that the idea of gratitude is so central to Jewish practice that we should be reminded weekly of what we might be grateful for.

While I know that this might seem a little self-centered, I’m also doing this so that people will have some food for thought for their own Shabbat dinners about what they might be thankful for. I generally talk about the following areas of my life: work and career; family and friends; health; household; my conversion studies; miscellaneous life; and the wider world. Feel free to add or subtract as necessary for your own use.

 


This week, I’m thankful that I finished my lit review and presentation slides for the conference coming up in one week. I’m thankful that the job interview I had on Tuesday produced an offer for an eight-week online course in the fall (later in the fall, so I can train for their system and set up the course well in advance). I’m thankful that I am feeling almost ready to start applying for full-time positions again, which is a place I wasn’t sure I would ever come back to after last year’s experience of being on the job market.

I’m thankful that my younger daughter has a great day planned with her friends for her birthday today, even if it means I don’t get to see her (there was a miscommunication, and I’m not going to derail her party with her friends). I’m thankful that my partner has had another story published this morning and that he’s working on a new one. I’m thankful that I got to see several friends again this week, including my co-author for that conference paper. I’m thankful that my partner has the day off and can spend the day with me. I’m thankful that my best friend is safe on the ground in Philadelphia after a two-week trip to Europe and will be home soon. And I’m glad that our friends from Chicago made it here safely and that we have a great day planned tomorrow with them.

I’m glad that my health is doing all right and that I’ve been able to walk better than 5,000 steps a couple of times this week (for me, that’s a lot). I’m thankful that we have healthful food in the house and that I can cook. I’m thankful that today is Shabbat and I can make a grand dinner for us for tonight. I’m thankful that the bills are paid.

I’m very glad to have heard back from the new rabbi and to have an appointment with him for next Wednesday. I’m glad that I am finally no longer in a mentally dead state and can get back to work on my Hebrew studies. I’m glad that the new rabbi has a structured program for conversion and that it looks like my work schedule will allow me to actually go to the classes.

I am very grateful for the pro-equality court decisions in the past week. I’m grateful that justice was served in the case of the young woman who was shot by a homeowner at point-blank range simply for approaching his house for help after a car accident. I’m thankful that my town elected a gay man as mayor. And I’m thankful that this blog and this blogging community exists.

What are you thankful for as we go into this week’s Shabbat? I’d love to know.

Shabbat Shalom. See you on Sunday.

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