Because art is a process.
A good time was had by all, and to all a good night.Read More
Too much, too fast, and you can come undone.Read More
Bimonthly, Rivka creates a more professional piece on the awesome Hevria.com website. You can check it out at http://hevria.com/author/rivka/Read More
I wonder how much we Jews need to disperse and reunite,
And how much togetherness we can take.
How much do we find ourselves not surrounded by ourselves?Read More
You don’t mess with the Jewish people in their own neighborhood, when they’ve got their own army.Read More
My husband, being an online marketer, disclosed to me that FB hires people whose JOB it is to make Facebook addicting. Something about that got to me.Read More
I see these women, and I can barely look away. They’ve got the Tznius Look.Read More
Sometimes, you have to take a physical accounting of where you are at. Sometimes you have to envelop yourself in a whole other world completely.Read More
"Mommy, where are we going when we come home from St. Louis?" Tanya asks me tonight as I'm washing dishes.
"Where are we going? " I assume she means when are we coming home. "We are going tomorrow and we will be back next Wednesday. 7 more days. "
"NO, Mommy," she insists. "WHERE are we going when we come home from St. Louis?"
I study her face. I have learned that when Tanya asks a question, she has a really good critique, observation, or point, that is hidden behind her 3 year old inability to bring it out.
"Where are we going?..... "
Suddenly I understand. Last time we took a trip, we were back for a few days before everything went haywire and we were forced out of our apartment, apartment hopping for two months until finally finding a home. I realize that with all the Pesach cleaning and me putting most of her toys away in a closet, she might think the same thing is happening again. The ground is shaky.
"We're coming HERE!" I exclaim. "This is our HOME! We're not moving again, silly!"
She laughs, and with a bright grin of relief, runs away to play.
My first time at the Children's Rally for the Rebbe's birthday. I come bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to be taken to great heights. I sit with Tanya next to me, Naomi on my lap, feeding them potato fries every so often to keep them content. There's nothing like some food in the purse to keep a mother feeling like Everything Is Going To Be A-Okay. There's nothing like potato chips shaped like fries to capture children's attention.
The excitement soon descends into mild enthusiasm. The roll-calling of all those young children who have done amazing feats of memorizing Tanya and Mishnayos ( of which I could only imagine, and I do start to, and start to realize that my daughter could be doing this one day) nevertheless starts to drag on me. The promise of prizes for their achievements has me crinkling my nose a little, just a little. I mean, c'mon, it IS amazing. But where's the fire? Where's the heart? Where's the love of Torah beyond what it can give to me? Where is the singing?The objective, the man at the microphone states, is to reach 300, 000 something lines memorized from Chabad schools throughout the world, some multiplication of something Rebbe-related that falls from my memory. As they roll-call through all the schools, of all those hundreds and thousands of lines of Tanya and Mishnayos these children have learned BY HEART (what?!) , I watch the three girls in front of me reacting to the numbers applauding and giggling with each other. "50 THOUSAND?!" they mouth to each other, and then "12?" when it inevitably comes up to a probably smaller school. And then one girl, the middle one, about eight years old per my guesstimatation, in this super fashionable short haircut most women get when they are 20 years older than her and certainly not in frum circles, grabs their hands and stops them, abruptly but cheerfully. "You guys, it's not a COMPETITION! We're in this TOGETHER! We're trying to win TOGETHER!" And there you have it. That's life. That's Jewish life. In a sea of people trying to do the right thing and somehow clumsily celebrate and reach truth and find the fire, there are the lamplighters. The girls and boys and men and women who stop others short of their judgements and bring them to the higher perspective. We're in it together. Let the mitzvah tanks roll. I'm sure the Rebbe would be proud.
When You arranged for the kidnapping of three Israeli youth, hitchhiking for a ride home, I walked around in a cloudy haze praying for their rescue, and was crushed when it was found to be impossible. When You allowed the shooting of four Jews in a kosher supermarket in Paris, killed simply because they were Jews, I was terrified.
When You took away the life of a dedicated Yeshiva bochur, who suddenly couldn't wake on Purim day, to the shock of his study partners and friends, I was saddened and confused.
When You took away the life of a upstanding father of four, who was celebrating at his son's siddur party, I was deeply pained and scared.
But when You created a fire, from the very hot plate that was used to ensure no cooking happened on the Sabbath just like Your Torah commanded, from a frum woman who dedicated her life to raising eight Yiddishe children, and as the flames erupted and the mother jumped out the window with one child, standing, yelling for her children's rescue as the screams of "Mommy, help me!" rang through the night, I could not take it.
When we fight against enemies and we lose our best and brightest, there is pain. When random things happen to good Jews, there is also great pain.
But when a mother, who toils her entire life to raise her children, spoon by spoon, word by word, loses those children, to witness her children screaming for her when she can't save them, a mother's greatest nightmare, the deepest void within our hearts screams in unbearable anguish.
Gd, it needs to stop. Tell us what we need to do, very clearly. We are willing and able to change our lives, to ensure tragedy doesn't befall us again. Show us the revelation immediately, for the sake of us and the sake of the dear, poor parents, of why this happened, like you did with the Israeli youth, from whose lost lives we revealed the sinister plan of Hamas's underground tunnels intended to infiltrate the Israeli kibbutzim. Let us see the revelation and the deep, meaning. Concealed good may be the deepest kind, but it's time for the unveiling to begin. Put us in motion, tie our hearts together, move our feet forward in the right path, and heal the world from this tragedy.
Baruch Dayan HaEmes 16-year-old Eliane, 11-year-old Rivkah 6-year-old Sara 12-year-old David, 10-year-old Yeshua, 8-year-old Moshe 5-year-old Yaakob
May your memory be a blessing.
Our Vows /
I doDo you promise to accept me, when I talk out of turn, when I embarrass you in front of your friends? Do you promise to remember the person I could be, when it seems I have abandoned myself for another? Will you remember that I do my best, even when things are a chaotic mess? Will you reserve your critiques for another time, when my undulating heart settles in? Will you remind me on repeat of good qualities and merits, so when I look in the mirror that’s what I see? Will you stick up for me against all accusations, both internal and external, even if your own irritation at my actions has you throwing daggers as well ? Can you remember to laugh and laugh with me, so that our home becomes light and strong? Will I be the last thought on your mind before your head hits the pillow, the first image that crosses your mind when you sit down at your desk? Will you build with me, invisible and true, the fortress of our souls and home? Do you promise that our home will be a safe dwelling place in which things in this reverberating world finally come to rest and the Shechina rejoices? Will you work on these vows every moment of our lives, revising and reworking them in our hearts? I do. For all of these and more, I do.
It's All About You
After you give birth to your first child, make sure that you've prearranged with an older experienced mother ( preferably in her 50's or above, before society condemned anything less than nursing and rocking a child to sleep for all time) who is trained in a simple method:
Convenience beckons and tempts us with thoughts of future pleasure, of relaxation and contentment. Of the universe being in sync with our plan in life.
And yet, on a more subtle scale, waving quietly in the background, is our actual need and desire, for dignity.
We run after convenience but we inwardly thirst for dignity.
In our last apartment, it got to the point that with two little kids running around, I felt like I could practically stretch out my arms on both sides and touch opposite walls. I was a monster in a tiny room, running around in little toddler-shaped circles. The list of why this place was a disaster could go on for a long time, but I will refrain from going over every single ridiculous thing that happened there and the fact that it felt like we were living on top of a garbage landfill. I will just briefly mention that I always felt this sensation of being watched( I remember discussing this at a Shabbos table at our home, which first received some laughter around the table, then as I continually exclaimed- " Don't you feel it? ! Don't you feel like someone is always watching you here ? Like you're not really alone? Don't you feel like you're on stage?!" the guffaws slowly faded into worried grimaces, glancing at one another. The subject was shortly changed.)
But it was so convenient to feel like we were on some Big Brother Landfill of Brooklyn, because we were one block away from not one but two produce stores, all the kosher and Jewish shopping you could dream of, a trendy flower shop, two blocks from the Subway, two and a half blocks from 770. I mean we were in Prime Real Estate. That was one of the big reasons why we took the place, and the main response we got when we told people where we lived :" Great location!" It was a great location. It was so convenient. Yes, it was kind of Very City, but with the cost of moving, we couldn't move, could we? We couldn't find a better location than this, could we? So we stayed, surfing the landfills in DisasterLand. I never felt alone or completely calm a day in the almost three years we lived there.
By the Hand of God, we were plucked out of Big Brother Apartment, and pushed to the streets. Through a diligent search, that ended with Gd selecting our current location despite us, we signed a lease for our current home.
Let me tell you something, sit down New Yorkers if you're prone to anxiety: We live FIFTEEN long minutes away from my daughter's school. That's right. We have to walk 15 minutes to get to her school EVERY DAY ( New Yorkers seem to find these types of times and distances excessively alarming). However, it's true, this location is not as convenient as our last place, and it's true that with the sidewalks only slightly paved in the middles, and 3 degree weather, going back and forth is not that pleasant. Honestly, during the snowy winter, it takes me half an hour each way. Which can add up to two hours a day if I take her both ways. It's good you're sitting down. It's true, our new home is not as convenient. It's true, it's harder. It's true, it's not easy.
But dignity-wise? I feel like a normal, breathing human being. I feel like I can walk around in my own home. When I close my door at night and sit down to write, I feel beautifully, gracefully alone. I feel like I have gone from walking on all fours to heaving myself upwards and joining the human race. And it's all worth it.
Similarly, I have begun to question my decision to stick it out financially and not buy trendy but comfortable footwear , and just wear my super sassy neon colored sneakers. Back where I came from, wearing sneakers and pajama pants was acceptable. You could make pjs cool. People would go out to the store in their workout clothes before a long run. Or after. Or during. You do not do these things in New York.
So, in the name of convenience, I strut around The Block in my workout shoes and basically a neon sign that says : I Am Not From Here. M'Karev Me.
Yet our clothing, our homes, speak to us. It gets inside our head. "C'mon", it smirks, as I neon-strut, " How much better would you feel with nice shoes? Is it worth it? "
There is nothing convenient about a lack of dignity. It eats us up. The things we own, own us. They worm into our sense of integrity, our inner malchus, and began to erode our center, our foundation. We lose critical energy trying to fend off and argue with its attacks, its destabilization attempts.
Choose dignity over convenience I to try repeat to myself, a physical/spiritual mantra.
Just last night, I complained to my husband about a recent fairly terrible doctor appointment I just had. " You have to find a new doctor," he wisely advised. "But it's so conven-" I clamped my mouth shut.
Convenience is a tricky creature. Be advised and stay on guard. And invite some dignity in for a cup of tea. She's quiet, but she's so so worth it.
I would always stare at the way the girls in class's hair would lie, stick straight. No static. Once, at Allison's, her mom brushed my hair with what seemed like a very fancy brush that poofed in the middle, and I looked so great. I was convinced it was the brush, and tried to get a similar one. But that one broke apart, and that original hair-day effect seemed to be a fluke, or something that only Allison's mom could pull off. I was always looking at other girls, trying to be neater, cleaner, straighter. I didn't even see who I was, what beauty graced my own face, I just saw what I wasn't.
Saying you don't draw because " all you can draw is stick figures" is like saying you don't blog because " you don't know how to use pronouns and adverbs correctly". It's like you saying you don't dance at weddings because you never took any professional dancing lessons.