Wednesday, March 08, 2017

The Year Yom Kippur began on Purim

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That Purim was bitterly cold. I was newly divorced with two babies, scared and lonely and tired. I probably wasn't thinking straight, but all I knew was I couldn't afford a babysitter for the night-time megillah reading. So I hauled the kids along, to a friend's shul, basically a tiny storefront deal. The women's and men's sides were separated by a wall with just a few tiny windows for sound. I also noticed that mine were the only small children there.

Once the laining began, we crowded in, straining to read along with every single word. There were graggers, but they had to stay silent for the first two chapters. My son, then two, was holding his, but out of boredom, he’d begun turning it around. Click…click… No big deal; we could still hear the megillah.

But after a couple of minutes, the woman beside me started shushing. I didn't know what to do. If I took away the gragger, he'd start screaming and really disturb things. Click…click… I felt everybody's eyes on me, and the shushing woman glared with a "do something" look.

Monday, March 06, 2017

The Big Bat (very short and somewhat bilingual divrei Torah)

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So the Rony Pony baby is… um, not exactly a baby anymore?

When did that happen?  We just woke up one day and – well – you know.  All the cliche stuff.  It’s all true.

I started this blog, of course, to blog about her infancy and the joy of being with all four of my children every single day – or at least, of feeding them supper every day, of diapering them every day, of homeschooling them every day.  After a decade of being a single and working mama, it felt like a miracle a lot of the time.

Now, a big chunk of that period is behind me.  Probably a lesser person would get a new blog and move on, but this is my home, and it’s okay to redecorate from time to time as our lifestyle changes.  True, I don’t come home very often these days, but when I do, it’s happy-making to be here.

Here’s what I said at the not-so-big event last week.  We made a challah-making party for the girls in her class.  No shtick, no DJs, no craziness.  It was very DIY and very fun and very exhausting.

Here’s what I said. (I had a very kind friend check the Hebrew over for me to make sure it wasn’t godawful.).  Naomi’s dvar Torah follows.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Taking Time Off to (not) Write

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Everyone knows writers write -- every day. So how are writers supposed to deal with Shabbos – a day that comes once a week, always at the worst possible time, interrupting the “flow” and standing in the way of creativity?  And what if you get your best ideas at a time when you’re forbidden to write them down???

I’ve dredged this old article up from the archives – published back in 2001, and maybe not how I’d write it today, but still highly relevant.  Enjoy!

Gorgeous Hebrew typewriter photo © Shira Gal via Flickr.

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Everyone knows writers write -- every day.

But since I became an Orthodox Jew a decade ago, writing hasn't been an option at least one day out of every week. From sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, and on holidays, traditional Jewish law prohibits writing, whether with a pen or computer.

The goal of the Sabbath isn't just "not working" but "not creating" -- as God did after making the world. It's hard enough for the busy stockbroker or doctor, but at least those jobs can be left behind. For a serious writer, who should be creating constantly, it's an even bigger challenge.

What if I'm writing a great story on Friday, but the sun's about to set? What if I think up my best idea ever on a Saturday afternoon at the park with my kids? I know if I don't put it down on paper right away, there's a good chance it's gone forever.

Yet despite this hurdle, I manage to write articles, essays and stories that editors and readers relate to. So I'm wondering whether this "handicap" might not give me an advantage over writers who write on a treadmill, never taking time to recharge their spiritual batteries.

For me, the Sabbath is an island of peace and reflection in my hectic life. As a single mother, I don't have time during the week to just "mull". I scribble shorthand notes during my subway commute and stuck in traffic. At home, the kids fall asleep to my weary typing late into the evenings, while the dishes drip-dry in the background and the dryer hums upstairs. But on Friday, just before sunset, it all comes to a full stop. What's left behind is me, my family and an indescribably holy stillness.