K’Siva V’Chasima Tova!

Happy New Year!! I’m sorry I haven’t been updating as regularly as I (and I’m sure, all of you, my loyal readers) would have wanted — I kept forgetting to bring my camera with me and I didn’t think it was as fun to update without pictures — in hindsight, I wish I’d updated more regularly because now I don’t know really where to begin!

This past month, the Hebrew month of Elul, has been intense, to say the least. It’s a time of learning and self-evaluation, and that energy can be felt all over the country. In everything from going to the supermarket to riding on the bus, there is a feeling of anticipation present in Eretz Yisrael during this time of year. Just to give you an idea of how intense it can be, here’s a few pictures of the checkout line in the supermarket:

It took us about an hour and a half to checkout — by the time we got to the front of the line, we decided that our next venture to the supermarket, one of us would stand in line and the other one would shop!

Another thing we certainly do not lack here is exercise: I’m uploading a step-by-step (literally) visual of my commute to school:

The first flight of stairs — which I forgot to get a picture of, is about 30 steps or so.

Then, I approach this beauty:

And walk ALLLLLL the way to the top.

Then, the next flight of stairs is about 10 meters from this one:

And more:

Then, there’s an AMAZING view at the top of these stairs, which I stand and “admire” while I catch my breath.

You can see my house from here!

Then, when you think you’re finished walking up all the stairs in the world, there’s another flight:

These are the perks of living literally ON a mountain — where our town was built, and from where we live, there’s no way to go but up.

As the new year (5773) begins tonight, I have to say that I feel extraordinarily blessed and happy to be celebrating it here in Eretz Yisrael. The only thing missing is our Philadelphia family and friends, who we miss very much.

This year has been very trying for my family and me — from unexpected health troubles, to the loss of my beloved grandfather, to changes and circumstances that are not always understood, this has been a year where each of my family members (including myself) has had to learn ways to stretch ourselves to fit the ever-changing needs of our environment around us and to help each other get through particularly trying times. It sounds a bit clichĂ©, but I’m hoping that next year’s challenges are going to be less…challenging. More clarifying. I don’t believe that learning to stretch yourself is a bad thing, on the contrary, I think it’s a beautiful way to grow; all the same, I do not wish any challenging circumstances upon anyone, including myself.

I’ve learned a lot over the past month, but one thing that I learned that I think stuck with me above all else is that if you want to make a change in your life, no matter how big or small, you have to meet yourself where you are at that moment. And if you’re looking to get from point A to point D, you’re better off stopping off at point B and C along the way — taking a leap doesn’t always work the way you necessarily want it to. There’s a concept in Judaism called “opening the eye of a needle” — when we want to make a change, and G-d wants us to make that change, He doesn’t ask us to do anything drastic to get there. Instead, He just requests that we “open for Him the Eye of the needle,” and He’ll show us the rest.

I can really see this concept clearly in my life these days — when I think about the fact that four months ago, Jonathan and I weren’t even planning on going to Eretz Yisrael. We went, from one day, having what we thought was our “plan” for the next few years, to making the decision to go, to finding ourselves on an airplane, and living in a beautiful apartment in a beautiful neighborhood all in the blink of an eye. That eye of a needle for us was making a concrete decision to come — and we were really shown the rest, given a path, given help (financially and emotionally) to make it work, allowing us to live the year we’ve been dreaming about since we got engaged to be married.

When you’re little, and your bones and muscles begin to stretch, we call them “growing pains.” What we don’t learn at a young age is that these growing pains do not cease when you get older and your bones and muscles reach their “grown-up” length — the pains just become more emotional, more spiritual, more internal rather than physical. Growing pains aren’t bad — they measure progress, they teach you your limits, and help you ultimately define who you are, what you do, what you want to be. To experience these pains in a beautiful and fulfilling way, all you need is the eye of a needle.

We want to wish everyone a K’Siva V’Chasima Tova from Jerusalem — that 5773 should be a year of health, healing, bracha, parnasa (prosperity), and of achdus (togetherness) for all of our loved ones here and elsewhere.

Shana Tova u’Metuka!