Siege by Snow


We thought we were leaving this kind of weather behind when we left America for the Middle East, but we couldn’t have been more wrong. Then again, the last time a blizzard this size fell down on Jerusalem, it was the roaring ’20’s. Either way, this is my account of what it was like to be under siege by snow.

A little background: The entire upper administration of the school where I work was away in America for recruitment and interviewing applicants for next year, meaning I inherited the entire school (and all of the responsibility that goes along with it) for two weeks. To ease the amount of work and time I needed to put in, we told all of the girls that they had to find housing and meals for themselves outside of our neighborhood for Shabbos, to give both me and the madrichot Shabbos off. That all changed when we saw the weather report.

You have to understand, when the weather report predicts snow in Israel, the average person doesn’t believe it for a second, until they get to the supermarket and it looks like the apocalypse is about to hit. Picture it – nothing on the shelves, a line out the door, not a single empty shopping cart to be found…

“SNOW?” they’ll say incredulously; “Last year it snowed and by the time it hit the ground it started melting!”

So when the forecast was calling for snow from Thursday to Sunday, I knew we had to come up with a backup plan. The only automobiles that have snow tires in Israel are ambulances and firetrucks; buses and especially the average car certainly don’t qualify, which meant getting out of the neighborhood was most likely going to be out of the question, even if the forecast was wrong. Thank goodness I had the foresight (siyatta d’shamaya) to send the handyman to the supermarket on Tuesday for enough food for 50 people for three meals — which we ended up having to prepare ourselves. I even thought ahead to ask the cook to prepare enough kugels on Wednesday, with the plan to freeze them if we didn’t end up needing them.

Waking up on Thursday morning was like a dream. I woke up at around 6:30 and let Lucy outside, already appreciating the gorgeous undisturbed ground the snow was falling on. At 10 till 7, the first period teacher called me to say that he would be able to come in to teach if we were still having school. After getting a hold of the other first period teacher who also said she’d be able to come in, I decided we would open school so that the girls could eat breakfast and maybe have some class. The girls meandered in, excited about the snow, while I made hot chocolate. After first period, the rest of the classes were cancelled, and the girls busied themselves with snowball fights and snowman making contests.

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#whiteout

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and it was just the beginning…

We ran home to get Lucy and Simba, who really enjoyed playing in the snow! At first, Lucy was a little afraid, but warmed up to it a lot once she realized how much fun it was to dig and play.

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YAY! Snow!

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Lucy found a flower in the snow.

At this point, we knew that if the snow kept up (and even if it didn’t) it would be very unlikely that the girls would be able to go anywhere for Shabbos, so we told them to call their hosts and cancel their plans. We went home to rest for a few hours and then went back to school to start cooking.

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passed out after playing in the snow.

As the snow continued to fall, another staff member volunteered to make challah with the girls while Jonathan and I got started cooking. Thinking (in our naive American mentality) that people like the cleaner and the fix-it man would be able to get into school to straighten up, we didn’t think much about logistics as we went along with our business, making tray after tray of chicken, pots of rice, and green beans. We were making three meals for 50 girls at each meal, so we had our work cut out for us. We decided to make two giant pots of chicken soup (one for night and one for day), cholent, and lots of yummy sides. Satisfied with all we’d accomplished, we decided to call it a night and went home to rest for a day of work to follow. Meanwhile, the snow kept on falling.

Friday morning, I woke up to a phone call and a text message that the store wasn’t receiving any challah deliveries, and the challahs that the girls made the night before were sent home with them to the dorms for them to eat. This resulted in a lot of tears from me, frustration that we had no challah, flour, or eggs to make our own. I sent a text to all of our students and told them we needed them to save Shabbos, and a madricha pounded on the doors to get everyone out on a trip to the makolet, where they would pick up pitas, loaves of bread, and grape juice by the case to carry back (in a blizzard) so that we would have enough bread and grape juice. In a minute, went from crying tears of frustration and feeling like I would never be able to pull it together to crying tears of joy from how impressed I was from all of these girls. Within 20 minutes, the school was sparkly clean, the tables were set, and the food was put up on the hot plates. We went home in the falling snow to get ready for Shabbos, and the girls did the same.

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the calm before the blackout.

We got home just in time for our power to go out, along with all of the power along our street. We live on the same street as Baer Miriam, but miraculously, the school still had power that held over Shabbos, but we had no hot water, no heat, and no lights. We piled on the blankets and invited the dogs into bed with us, and somehow stayed warm at home, but definitely took refuge at school, where the heat was pumping and it was very comfortably warm.

Shabbos afternoon, the power came back and stayed back, unlike for many other people in Jerusalem. After Shabbos, we found venturing outside was dangerous and made us feel like we were in a third-world country – cars were abandoned in the middle of the road, the streets went unplowed, trees fell in the middle of the roads, and nothing was done about it for days. Our neighborhood is on the outskirts of Jerusalem, and doesn’t lead to any major highways or hospitals, making it the last on the list to get plowed (by the three snow plows owned by the country). That, and very few people own snow shovels, making clearing your car out (not that we have a car, but wishful thinking) or clearing the sidewalks next to impossible. The city brought in army tanks and policemen to clear the roads, plow the streets, and direct traffic.

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Even now, the majority of the trees on our street are still on the sidewalks, making walking very cumbersome, even a month after the storm.

Israelis are notoriously bad drivers, and that makes driving in the snow here a dangerous activity as well. Jonathan and I needed to go out a few days after the storm (cabin fever had started to set in), so we walked to the commercial neighborhood next to ours, where we set up a cell-phone plan for Yael, Jonathan’s sister. We hitched a ride on the way back with someone from our neighborhood, and spun out into the snowbank as we slid over black ice. Car rides that would have taken 5 minutes took close to 2 hours or more as more people began to venture outside, and the owner of the supermarket in our neighborhood took it upon himself to sleep in his store rather than have to commute from his home. The roads got so bad (and Israelis drive so recklessly) that the city had to close the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway after 8PM for a few evenings to prevent people from driving on the ice.

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The snowfall started on the 9th of Tevet and fell through the 10th of Tevet, which is a minor fast day for the Jewish nation. The 10th of Tevet was when the walls of Jerusalem were breached, and the siege of the city was complete. No longer could anything be imported or exported from within its walls. We fast on the 10th of Tevet to remember that it was the beginning of our exile. This year, on the 10th of Tevet, we were also under siege. Nothing could come into Jerusalem, and nothing could leave. Nothing could even come to the makolets, and we didn’t even have heat or light in our homes, except for our Shabbos candles. It would take days for things to return to normal — cell phone towers were running interference for days, buses were suspended for almost a week, school was cancelled for 5 days, and we were confined to our little homes and neighborhoods within walking distance. For just a minute, we got an understanding of what it felt like to be under siege.

Where in snowfalls past, the snow would melt within a day or two of the storm, this snow held on for weeks, even as the sun beat down on it. Life slowly but surely started to get back to normal, the roads thawed during the day and re-iced over at night, and after a while, the normal routines resumed. But people (including the New York Times) continue to speak about the snowstorm of a century.

We’ll definitely remember it forever.

*(I just have to take this moment to give a shout-out to my amazing Husband and other half, Jonathan, who helped me hold it together during this very stressful and high-pressure time. I never would have been able to pull off the snow Shabbos, or the week of running a seminary, without his help, expertise, and everlasting love and support.)

 

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 cliché, 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!

Okay, Cupid?


Tu B’Av Sameach!

Appropriately, I’m also going to take this opportunity to wish my dear friends, C&A, a HUGE Mazel Tov on their engagement! It’s not official until it’s on the web, folks!

We certainly  have a lot to celebrate! Last night was the start of one of the happiest days of the year, Tu B’Av (the 15th of Av), which commemorates six miracles. One of these was the end of a plague that accompanied the Israelites in the desert as a result of their building the Golden Calf, which condemned all of the Jews in the desert to death (gloomy, right?). So anyway, that year, the last 15,000 people mentally, physically, and spiritually prepared themselves to die, and the day of doom (Tisha B’Av or the 9th of Av) came and went without anyone biting the dust. So, they had a typical Jewish reaction — they argued about the date. They thought maybe they were wrong, and that tomorrow was actually the 9th of Av, and then the next day, and then the next…conveniently, the Jewish calendar is based on Lunar cycles, and once the full moon came (on the 15th of Av) they knew that meant the decree had been lifted, and their sins had been forgiven! YAY!

With a little extra dose of divine intervention, G-d also gave Moses the opportunity to speak to Him once again (the highest form of prophecy), making the 15th of Av forever a day to celebrate relationships.

Some years later, when one tribe of the Jewish people realized they were about to die off (once again), some brave women took the future of humanity into their own hands and married men of what once was a forbidden tribe to marry into on the holy day of Tu B’Av, thus confirming what the wise Jewish people already knew – the 15th of Av was a day to celebrate relationships of all kind.

Some people count Tu B’Av as the Jewish Valentine’s Day – which is interesting, because while on the surface they are both days to celebrate love, they are two totally opposite types of love.

Valentine’s Day is a day that celebrates a  lusty, love-at-first sight kind of love that literally hits you like an arrow and then wears off as soon as Cupid sees fit. That kind of love doesn’t exist in Judaism, a religion that believes that there is no such thing as love at first sight or romance, instead subbing in the term passion for both of these things. Judaism believes that for one thing to be true, it has to be true in every single situation, so there can be no such thing as love at first sight because the world would literally be in chaos as people fell in love with their parents, siblings (ew, gross!), restaurants, foods, ect. The passion that Judaism recognizes in love is the same kind of passion that is present in every situation, meaning that whenever something is new and good it is like the initial joy at breaching the hill of a roller coaster — it’s a unique, exhilirating feeling when it happens, but it is also fleeting. This is true for everything — when I first started my job, I thought I would be here forever – I loved it! Trying a new food? I went a little leek crazy last week after realizing I was just cleaning them improperly (I know – sand is not good for digestion) and wanted to include them in every meal. Turns out there’s only so much leek soup one person can handle.

We can say the same for relationships. At the start of a new friendship, two people can’t learn enough about each other; can’t get enough of each other either and as soon as the novelty wears off, you start to notice those little quirks that may drive you up the wall; depending on how much you’ve invested into that relationship, you may choose to continue it or not. And we all know about “puppy love,” the love in the earliest stages of a love-relationship that’s a mixture of passion, infatuation, curiosity, and desire.

Obviously, this exhilaration is necessary for the survival of any relationship or people wouldn’t feel the urge to build new ones; if it didn’t have a purpose people would have developed a medical remedy to the feel-good warm and fuzzies that blind our judgement so severely with those gosh-darn rose-colored glasses.

That being said, Tu B’Av does have something to do with that initial passion, but that is precisely what makes the holiday so interesting. Love, in Judaism, isn’t viewed as a perpetual romantic comedy. It’s recognized that it’s not all pretty, and it’s recognized that there’s a lot of whirlwind (good and bad) associated with it.

In fact, under the chuppah, the couple is given a blessing that they should experience six different types of love, “mirth, song, delight (rejoicing), love (harmony), peace, and companionship.” These types of love are illustrated as a roller coaster, the initial flight up (mirth), the moment of extacy when the car goes over the hill (song), the descent down (delight), the moment at the bottom of the hill (harmony), and then the ascent can begin again with peace and companionship. Love has to be representative of the whole picture, and can’t be viewed only as that moment of extacy or initial infatuation.

So many people, when relationships start to get comfortable, say that the romance is gone — that they don’t feel the “spark” that made them so sure once the relationship began. The spark is important, for sure, but it’s not the whole love experience. Love is an undercurrent of every aspect of life, from the mundane Sunday morning to the passionate fire of Friday night — without the mundane, the passion cannot exist.

Most religious couples don’t meet the way that Jonathan and I did, nor do they meet at such a young age. I’d like to say that we are lucky enough to have experienced a lot of that initial passion and excitement, more so than other people, but that wouldn’t be completely true. In those moments, we felt (and still feel) a little out of control of our feelings. We’re run totally by hormones, and (trust me!) that is not always the healthiest way to conduct a relationship. Fire is a dangerous tool to have on the bridge of a ship; it can burn down the entire ocean.

I don’t know when we realized that this was going to be the forever kind of love, but I think that we both realized early on that fiery passion isn’t the kind of love that’s easily sustained. Instead, it’s the safe kind of sweatpants on a Sunday love, the trips to the supermarket love, the kind of love that makes you feel you have two feet planted firmly on the ground but you could fall back and have someone catch you kind of love that we wanted to water and nurture to watch it grow.

This brings me back to the idea of Tu B’Av. Like I said earlier, Tu B’Av is a holiday that celebrates all types of relationships. All stages of relationships. And it, like many other Jewish holidays/concepts, helps us to realize so much about the world that we live in.

I love roller coasters. Jonathan and I were supposed to go to Six Flags yesterday, but we got rained out. I love roller coasters because I love the feeling of being out of control, but safely buckled in. I love the feeling of going up a hill right after being whirled around a corner, that slow and steady uphill that promises the fast, stomach churning descent is right over the bend.

But you know what I love more? I love feeling safe, with both feet on the ground, once the ride is over. And that’s the real kind of love – the kind of love that promises to take you on trips and adventures and to make you feel like you’re out of control…but at the end of the day, stands next to you, both feet on the ground.

C&A, B&D, J, and every other person in a relationship or looking for a relationship on the blogosphere: you should fully experience the full picture of love every day for the rest of your lives.

un-Orthodox


Now that I got The Dreaded First Post out of the way, I thought it would be appropriate to jump into some of the more juicy aspects of who I am. Sure, I told you a little bit about myself in my first post, specifically about how I love to write (poetry and prose) and how for the past three years, it’s been a huge challenge to sit down and get some of my thought out into tangible and real statements.

So – if you go to the About Me page you’ll see that I specified that I am not only Jewish, but that I’m an orthodox Jew. Because I’ve never really done this before on this kind of medium, and because every day I realize a little more about why I was drawn to this way of life, I’m going to try to divulge to the best of my ability my journey towards this rich and meaningful way of life.

I was raised happily in a reform temple by my incredible parents, who both had very interesting pathways when it came to their religiosity and spirituality. While I can’t speak for them, my understanding of their relationship with G-d and Judaism is that it came from a lot of inconsistency; meaning, they were often taught that the right way was very different than what the practiced way was in their home. For example, my mom once spoke about how when my orthodox Pop-Pop would daven at shul, she would be allowed to watch television with my Mom-Mom, and when they saw him shuffling up the driveway, they would have to turn off the television (which is a forbidden activity on the Shabbos) and pretend that they had done nothing of the sort. Similarly, my father’s parents couldn’t afford to send him to a reform Hebrew School, so he had to go to the Orthodox one, which would let him come for free. They were deaf, so when he learned the rules of kashrut, and how mixing meat and dairy is forbidden, he couldn’t ask them why they would send him to school with turkey and cheese. Surprisingly or not, this confusion is not uncommon, as many people continue to learn the “archaic” rules of Judaism through the institutionalized lens that what they are learning is no longer applicable to the world we live in while still learning that the Torah, the text that outlines all of these laws, is a divine and holy document.

No wonder people have such issues with religion, right?

Anyway, this upbringing led my parents to a reform synagogue in northeast Philadelphia that led prayers mostly in English, where they felt like they could actually understand what was going on, unlike in their parents’ rigid and cold shuls. I went to pre-school and kindergarten in this synagogue and then went on to public school, and when my sister was going to be entering kindergarten there, the school decided that they would start bringing in McDonald’s Happy Meals once a month for the students (see: not Kosher), my parents decided that this way a leap way too far left from their Jewish ideology and moved to another reform synagogue in the suburbs. Additionally, my parents would often send my sister and me to my Mom-Mom and Pop-Pop for Shabbos, where I would sit at the Shabbos table for hours asking him questions (such as, “Why aren’t dinosaurs in the Torah?), shmoozing about the week, and learning about Jewish concepts.

That’s how I grew up, and I can honestly say that I wouldn’t have the Jewish self-esteem to have made the leap into my spirituality without the help of this synagogue, my parents, and my grandparents. They made me proud to be Jewish, made me want to be more Jewish, made me want to marry Jewish, gave me a love of Israel, but most of all: they made me want to learn everything about this rich religion called Judaism.

That being said, my parents’ synagogue is very right wing for a reform synagogue; in fact, it’s the only reform synagogue in the greater Philadelphia area that has a kosher kitchen, and since I knew no other reform temple growing up, I thought that every reform synagogue was like theirs–

so you can imagine my surprise when, working for a caterer that has both a kosher and unkosher division, I was working at a Bar Mitzvah at a synagogue, serving pigs in blankets right next to mozzerella sticks.

Surprise, but also dismay. I think that in that moment, watching the mozzerella sticks go down right next to those greasy hotdogs, I understood exactly what my parents felt (or my understanding of what my parents felt) while they were growing up. That certain things that were supposed to be so clearly defined as right and wrong, just didn’t play out in the real world. Which made the whole thing moot.

I’d like to say that was my last catering stint, but it wasn’t, and it would be many years before I realized that while I owe much of my spirituality and ability to understand both Hebrew and Judaism to that reform temple, the ways in which they made me want to be more Jewish were both impractical and unproductive.

For example, the concept of tikun olam is integral in the Reform ideology; to become a better Jew, you must become a better person; in order to become a better person, you must do acts of love and kindness; i.e., tikun olam. While this idea is not only integral to the longevity of humankind and the world, they missed the mark by using this idea and this idea alone to create a familial relationship between fellow Jews. That doesn’t work, and it doesn’t portray the whole image of Judaism either. Joel Alperson’s recent op-ed on this idea hits the nail right on the head: while tikun olam is integral to Judaism, it is not the sum of Judaism as a whole, which I didn’t merit to learn about until a little later in my life.

Somewhere along the way, I met Jonathan, who grew up a little more traditionally than me. We joke that, when we met, he told me that he wanted to go to yeshiva, and I told him that if he came back with peyos and a beard, the relationship would be over. Now, I would never dream of suggesting that he cut his sideburns, and if he wanted to grow a beard, I might be able to get over it. Jonathan and I discussed Judaism often, with me stubbornly refusing to budge from my Reform pride and him stating with so much conviction that he could not stand the english droning of liturgy during a reform Shabbos service. So we agreed to do some research.

Four years into our relationship, I officially declared my major at Temple University to be Jewish Studies. I was so excited to critically analyze Jewish text, ask deep, probing questions about what messages we could take from the moral implications laden within these texts, and to share this information with the world. Now that I was going to be an expert in Judaism, I could do anything — even be a Rabbi, where I could share my message of tikun olam with everyone. Yes, the world was on my shoulders, and I felt strong enough to handle it!

Boy, was I wrong.

My Jewish Studies degree led me to study a lot of things, but I wouldn’t call most of them Jewish — the only class I had that introduced Jewish text (other than my internship teaching Hebrew School, where I got to choose the texts, and my capstone on Bereshis (Genesis), where I got to pick the topic) was taught by a pastor, and not given any Jewish background whatsoever! My classes were about Jewish history, Jewish anthropology, Jewish culture, but none of them had any Jewish substance! The people and religion was taught like it didn’t exist anymore, contained cultic traditions and rituals, and all of it had a self-hating undertone. Most of my teachers were Jewish, but they aligned more closely with Karl Marx and Woody Allen than they did with Moses Maimonides and the Baal Shem Tov.

This was not what I signed up for! I wanted to learn about Judaism, not Jewish people! I wanted to live a more Jewish life! I wanted my studies to enrich my Jewish experience, not to make me depressed about the struggles and plight of the Jewish people! I wanted it to inspire me with the story of miraculous Jewish survival!

Somewhere around this time, I met who would become two of Jonathan’s and my closest friends, who are both Orthodox Jews. My friend’s husband was offering classes at Temple for any Jewish student which would enrich their Jewish education. So I went, every Wednesday night, to hear about an aspect of Judaism for half of the session, and then to hear from a speaker the second half about living a Torah life in the secular world, mostly with a secular job. We heard from soldiers, lawyers, investors, and scientists; all about how Judaism not only was integral in what they did; it made them do it better.

Everything suddenly started to fall into place for me. I’d been keeping somewhat kosher for a few years at this point, and decided that I wanted to keep Shabbos as well. So I did. I started dressing more modestly, first, pulling on a cardigan or sweater over my shirt, and then eventually wearing skirts instead of jeans or pants. Everything I’d thought about what it meant to be orthodox until now was totally backwards. I thought that women had to wear long skirts and long sleeves to cover up, to suppress their sexualities and personalities; that they were seen as objects instead of as women. I don’t know where this backwards thinking came from! The more I did, and the more I covered up, I realized people had to look at me for my intellect, not for my physicality! My voice suddenly began to matter more than my body, and my self-image issues associated with my body took a back seat to the confidence that came along with using my voice in this protected, modest way.

I started seeing the world through different eyes — I understood what it meant to be Jewish and enabled myself to continually evolve that understanding; meaning, I began to understand what it means to be me.

One of the most beautiful things about Judaism is the use of a parable, or in yiddish, a mashul, to describe something. One of my favorite mashuls has to do with the idea of a neshama. Every neshama, or human soul, contains a divine spark that can be likened to an eternal flame. A flame is very delicate: a lack of oxygen can smother it and a surplus of oxygen (like a gust of wind) can put it out. A flame that is eternal, though, cannot be weakened by either of these things, but it can be covered or closed away. This mashul is so powerful, because it conjures up images of people fighting very difficult battles; looking at them, you can see that their eyes used to sparkle, but their difficult pathway has dimmed, but not put out, that light. Similarly, a person who in the most dire of situations, retains hope and faith, or emuna, that they are not near the end, can shine, and that light can continue to get brighter and brighter for all to see with the right actions and frame of mind.

As I continued to learn and grow more in my emuna, I began to shine. I began to see inspiration, began to see divinity in everything. Wanted to enrich my relationships with the people I loved, wanted to create new relationships. Understood what it meant to be in a relationship that was holy.

And that brought me here today. Writing is about inspiration; something I didn’t realize until I was in Israel and visited the Kotel for the first time in five years in March 2010. When I went up to the wall, my heart was filled with a type inspiration I had never felt before. The wall turned into letters, and my mouth was filled with poetry, and I had been given the power to put them together into phrases filled with fire.

Obviously, this post doesn’t even come close to defining the essense of Judaism, but it is a start. It’s the beginning of a journey of love and growth, of growing relationships, and an evolving knowledge and understanding of self and HaKadosh Baruch Hu.

It’s very fitting that I started this blog on a Friday, as tonight is Shabbos, and I will be entering this sanctuary (a time-warp, really) with the warmest of thoughts and tons of gratitude to everything that brought me to where I am now.

We should all merit to grow, love, and learn to our fullest potentials.

Good Shabbos!