Rose among the Thorns


I FINALLY got to talk to my sister this morning. Becca left for Israel last Sunday, and she’s going for the trip of a lifetime.

I’ve been thinking about this post for a while, but I’m a little bit of an anal-retentive person, and have trouble writing when I can’t think of the perfect first line. Big surprise, right? I have writer’s block.

But I owe this post to Becca. I think that the problem is, I want this blog to be about me. I don’t mean that I wanted it to be about me in that I want all the attention that surrounds it, but more because I want to very clearly respect the rule that “once something is put on the internet, it can never be taken down.” And that’s a big rule to remember!

The truth is, Becca really needs this year. And I think that, just having been gone for close to four days, she’s starting to realize how much she needs this year.

To say that the past few have been difficult for her would be an understatement, but that’s her story, not mine, and I’m not going to share it here.

Before she left, I had our family go around and play the “love game” about her; where we each said one thing we love about Becca and one thing that we’re going to miss about her while she’s gone. After some tears and some laughter, we realized even more than we thought, just how much we’re going to miss her.

Rivka, the matriarch that Becca gets her Hebrew name from, is referred to as the rose among the thorns. Isaac chose to marry her because she cared for animals before she cared for humans, and his servant adorned her with nose-jewelry (yes, the biblical Rebecca had a nose-ring!) so that Isaac would know who she was. They teach that your name plays a large part in determining what kind of person you will be; I think that my sister would make her namesake proud.

She’s in the most incredible place in the entire world, Israel, where the land itself contains a mystique that no other place can capture. It’s the center of the world, both literally and figuratively, and now more than ever, the entire world’s eyes rest on Israel.

I’ve been lucky enough to have been to Israel four times, and each time I came back a little bit changed. I remember standing at the Kotel for the first time and thinking that it was smaller than I’d expected, and then going back most recently and crying into its crevices, awed by it’s sheer magnitude. I remember staring at the cotton-candy-colored Negev sky and realizing that there had to have been something out there that inserted order and brilliance into the crazy world that we live in.

It’s very appropriate that Becca left for Israel during the Hebrew month of Elul. Every month has a pasuk, or a line of Hebrew, that goes along with it, kind of like a slogan, using the month’s name as an acronym. The pasuk for Elul is, “Ani l’dodi v’dodi li,” which is traslated to, “I am to my beloved, and my beloved is to me,” a line that is usually used to refer to the relationship between a husband and wife. During the month of Elul, it’s representative of the potential of a relationship between humankind and G-d. This relationship has even more potential in the land of Israel.

Keeping all of that in mind, this year is going to be so much FUN for my sister. Think about it, who wouldn’t want to get away from it all for a while and just seize every opportunity! There’s nothing mundane or methodical about the year she’s going to have, no daily routine. And that’s something I would LOVE to get rid of!

So, Becca, before I continue I want to let you know (again) how much I love you and how proud of you I am. I also would like to gently urge you to start a travel blog to keep me, Jonathan, mom, dad, and all of your friends updated on the fabulous things you are doing.

I just thought I’d end with a list of things I wish I knew when I was my sister’s age, starting a new chapter in my life.

1.) It’s okay to be different, and to reinvent yourself often. Life’s boring if you never change.
2.) Just like you, the world will change around you. It’s okay, and not something to be scared of.
3.) Make new friends, but don’t forget your roots. The people you grew up with often play a large role in who you are today and who you will be tomorrow.
4.) Go off the beaten path. It’s okay to get in a little bit of trouble. (I don’t think my sister has trouble with this one at all!)
5.) There is such a thing as responsible trouble. Only take a large risk if you know you won’t get caught!
6.) Drink lots and lots of water.
7.) Wear sunscreen!
8.) Tell the people you love that you love them. Often.
9.) Spend more money on experiences than on objects. Memories last longer than any bracelet, t-shirt, or bumper sticker will.
10.) Don’t forget to look around – G-d created this world just for us to enjoy the things in it. Don’t miss what’s right in front of you.

 

 

Dor L’Dor


I met my father-in-law today for the first time.

We’ve been talking about going to visit for years, really, but he’s so far away. And I knew that it would be difficult, but I had no idea how hard it would really be. I know so much about him, but still so little. I know all of his memories. All of Jonathan’s memories of him, right down to the salami sandwiches he used to eat that drove my mother-in-law crazy enough that she’d kick him to the foot of the bed to eat them.

He always made Jonathan one, too.

I like to think that he’d like me. Ema says that he would have loved me; would have welcomed me into the family with open arms. From what I know about my father-in-law, I can’t imagine that he wouldn’t have welcomed me with open arms, whether he liked me or not.

I always knew that Jonathan grew up without a father. I always say that he raised his brother and sister, 7-year-old turned father and husband. One of my earliest memories of our relationship (I was 16!) I remember his mother being on the phone with the insurance company, for one reason or another. She didn’t understand what the insurance agent was saying, so she put Jonathan on the phone. Just like a wife would put her husband on the line to clarify, to toughen up the agent so that she could get what she needed. She had Jonathan for that.

When people ask him if it was difficult to grow up without a father, he always says no. He doesn’t have a choice about not having a father but he had a choice about whether to make it difficult. He chose not to.

But to reach each milestone without a father – that is difficult. When Jonathan walked down the aisle at our wedding, he walked down with his mother. I walked down with my parents, mom and dad. He’s smiling so wide; he didn’t even feel the emptiness on his right arm. But it was still there. And Jonathan’s father was on everyone’s mind in that moment. My best friends cried for him when they saw his empty arm.

Today, standing in front of a stone slab that read my father-in-law’s name, the reality sunk in for me, for the first time. The truth is, I never thought about Jonathan’s father as my father-in-law. He was always Jonathan’s father. But today, I realized.

Today, I really met my father-in-law for the first time. I realized that he’s not just Jonathan’s father, he’s my father now, too. And when we take our children to visit him, we’re going to be taking them to a concrete slab, and telling them that it’s their grandfather.

Today, my husband turned to me and said, “It really doesn’t get easier.”

From everything that I know about my father-in-law, he would be so proud of his oldest child. Everything that Jonathan does would make him very, very proud.

They say that on your wedding day, the souls of all of your family members come down from shamayim and stand beside you under the chuppah, to usher your now-complete soul into the world with the ultimate amount of holiness behind it. I know that Jonathan’s father, my father-in-law was there. I drank sweet wine out of his kiddush cup. Everyone felt his warmth.

And I know that in a lot of ways, he’s still here. But mostly, he’s in Jonathan. Even though he was so young when his father died, he has so much of his father in him. Their mannerisms, their passions, all the same – even the resemblance is uncanny. So, when ema says that my father-in-law would have loved me, I believe her. Because I love their son so much.

Today, I met my father-in-law for the first time. And we’re going to go visit more often.

I don’t know what you had for dinner, but tonight, we’re having salami sandwiches.

 

 

Name Your Babies


GAH! I hate when I have NO IDEA how to capture the thoughts in my head and/or how to put them down on paper…er…computer.

I remember, during my freshman year, spring semester, emailing my favorite teacher from high school and telling him that I had MAJOR writer’s block and had no idea how to make it stop.

He told me there was no cure. Except to keep writing. And to not care if what you were writing was incoherent, or bad, or gibberish. But to keep writing because that’s the only thing that creates better writing.

So now I’m here – writing – trying to type without pause – so that I can just practice. Because just like with everything else, Shawn (my teacher) was right. I was taking a poetry class at the time, and absolutely hated everything I came up with. I thought it was all trash.

And then, somehow, towards the end of the semester, I got inspired to write what I still think is the best piece of poetry I’ve ever written. And it made every other line of terrible poetry I’d written up until that moment worth it.

I used to breathe poetry. I used to sit in class; scrawl furiously on lines of paper — feel like the veins in my body were filled with words and verbs and word-verb hybrids that rode ontop of adjectives and just flew — flew out of the blue vein in my wrist through my hands into the pen and finally onto college-rule. I used to pass back-and-forth lines of prose with my best friend scribbled on with red ink the comments and criticisms. She never used punctuation and I hated that.

I love words – I’m fascinated by them. I’m fascinated by the way that the human mind works that when I say “apple” what you picture is red, even though apples aren’t always red – they can be green, and yellow, and pink–

I learned that in a country that has no word for red, it doesn’t mean that they can’t see it. There’s one community in South Africa that only has words for the colors black, white, and red. But that doesn’t mean they don’t see blue. They’d say something like “black like the summer sky” and everyone would know exactly what they were talking about.

We’re taught that all that G-d had to do to create something was to say it’s name. For example, the concept of light didn’t exist until G-d created light in saying “Let there be light.” There was no physical labor that went into the creation of this light, other than the utterance of the words.

But isn’t that what we do, every day? When we say something is good, we make it better? When we say the word love, acknowledge that it exists – it’s existence becomes that much more important? When we write down our thoughts, doesn’t that make them much more real?

I love words. I love learning about them, saying them (ha ha – you can all laugh, especially you, mom!), molding them until they fit the sentences I carefully construct with the help of the Power that created all of these words in the first place.