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Going Back

The time has come for me to go back. To go back to the “real world”. 

I am very grateful to the time I was able to spend in the US this summer. I have to say that it is really nice to be in a place where I am not worried about many things, people are supportive, and people to take care of me. I think (maybe for the first time in a long time) that I actually enjoyed being around my parents. Yes, at times I felt like a little girl and not like and adult, but it was nice to feel that way for a bit. I wouldn’t want to feel that way all the time, but there is something sweet to having someone care about you, and cook and do my laundry. It has been a while since that happened.

Working at the shul was great. I still want to do it, although the idea of being available 24/7 frightens me a bit. I still enjoy the different aspects of the work. 

Camp was wonderful. It really makes me think about what community I belong in, or maybe it is just that I belong in many communities at once, and that is ok too. I taught some great classes. Hopefully made some kids love Torah. Spoke to people and hopefully helped them. And I learned a lot. 

Seeing friends here reminds me of what I am missing out on by living 6000 miles away. Not that I don’t have friends there, but it is different. My friends here I only get to see once a year (and that is because I am lucky to have found a way to get back). There is something freeing that my friends here have. They just go about their day and go out at night. I am not sure what it is exactly, but I think there is less pressure and stress, and the hours they work are less. Or at least they have Sunday. Having a Sunday is really a great thing- having just one day where you can lay around, be lazy, see friends, hang out in parks- is just a wonderful thing. I didn’t think that I missed it, because I haven’t had one in quite some time, but it really is great and really is something missing. I would love to go out with my friends, and for it not only to be on Shabbat. 

And now is time to go back. I was hoping that all this craziness that has been happening in Israel this summer would be done by the time I have to go back, but unfortunately it is not. And that scares me. I have no idea what I am getting myself back into. How am I going to speak to people about my fear, when they have had to deal with it all summer? What do i do at work if the siren goes off? Where do I go at home? What if from my ride from the airport to the house a siren goes off? Am I going to go back to not breathing, and just waiting? I am worried about my friends and family who are fighting, living down South, living in Tel Aviv. I worry for myself, of am I strong enough to live through something like this. I worry for my friends who are afraid, but don’t know how or to who to ask for help. I am worried for my friends who feel scared, but don’t have any where to turn, but the idea of leaving is like a slap in the face to those who have no where to go. 

I am also worried about what this school year is going to bring me. Am I going to have to fight to not be treated like a high school student? Am I going to be challenged in a positive way? Am I going to have the strength to fight when I need to and be quiet when that is the only option? 

In my mind, I can feel the heat of August in Jerusalem, and the walk up the stairs to my apartment. I can see my bedroom, and I know where all of my stuff is. There is something comforting to know where I am returning to. That familiarity. But there is something equally comforting to sleeping in my parent’s house, in my childhood bedroom. There I feel like it is my world, but I feel a bit alone. Here it is my parent’s world, but I feel protected.

I know that I live in two places at the same time. In some ways I always have. I guess a good way to think about it is that I have a home in two sides of the world and I am lucky.  


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A Whirl Wind Ending

Somehow this summer moved very quickly. I arrived in the US over three months ago, and I am surprised that it is almost time for me to go back to the “real world”. 

Camp was great. It is so nice to be in a place that I am appreciated and that I am able to do what I want to do. My job is about teaching and leading and learning, what more could I ask for? I am able to work with people who respect my opinions and try and push me to be better. I am not afraid to ask questions with fear that they will then think that I am stupid, and by that not promote me to try and get a job that I want. If anything it is the opposite- that because I don’t know they are going to force me to try so I can learn. 

It really makes me wonder about the orthodox movement and where I stand. Can I be halachic and be in a place that actually respects women? Or do I need to stay in the orthodox world for me to feel like I am doing something “authentic” whatever that might mean. When I was younger, I never thought that I would be involved in anything that is conservative or egalitarian, but here I am, and I think that I am definitely moving more in that direction. When I was asked about if I would ever wear tefillin, my answer now, is I don’t know. I know that any choice that I make that moves me to the left will change my abilities to get a job and potentially force me out of school. But really what is the fine line of liberal orthodoxy and halachic egalitarianism? Is it just that women are allowed to do stuff? And if that is the case- why would I want to go there? 

After camp starts the busy week of trying to see everyone, finding a chance to see my friends and family that I get to see once a year now that I decided to live in another country. First stop was going to Philly to see my old college room mate who we have now realized we met 10 years ago. How is it that I started college 10 years ago? It is amazing to see within myself how much I have changed and grown up. It was great to see her and some other friends, which reminds me that there are people in life that no matter how much time they are not together, there is something amazing that keeps them connected and it is as if nothing has ever changed. 

Philly once again reminded me, and made me laugh, at all of the things that I have done in life. I still find it amazing that I can go to a random place, and know people, or find connections with most people that I meet. It makes me wonder how it was that I did not meet them at an earlier time. I am glad that I am still able to interact with the world while still being a bit more settled in one place (at least for now). 

Philly also made me think about what it would be like to be back in the US. It was actually a very nice community, I think one of the first that I felt that I could live in, if/when I move back for work. There was something very laid back and comfortable there. But something that I have found throughout my stay, is how much I am not American anymore. Like, everyone talks about Israel, and fighting for Israel, and dealing with Israel, and yearning to go– and yes, I live there, but I never thought nor think too much about that. Also hearing people talk about how much better Israel is or how much better the Jewish people are, really bothered me. I agree that there are horrible things in the world, but I don’t want to believe that we should put down others, to make ourselves look better. That yes, those of Hamas are not good, but that doesn’t mean that we are great. It just means that they are bad. There is this narrative being told, that I don’t believe in. It is so hard for me to hear actually. 

Then I went back to NJ, was able to hang out with my grandmother, best friend and sister. Then went to NYC to see some friends to catch up. It was funny to catch up for longer with a friend I didn’t realize I was so close with. 

And now I have three days left. Three days before I need to go back to work. Three days before I have to start thinking about school, and the fights I will need to fight this coming year. Three days of reading the news and feeling nervous from 6000 miles away, worrying about what it will be when I get there. Three days of my mom doing my laundry for me. Three days of my mom cooking for me. Three days of being able to just lay in bed with nothing to worry about. 

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Tu B’Av- The Day of Marriage (and Maybe Love)

In the past weeks in the midst of all of the fighting and horribleness, my friends have been getting engaged. A lot of them have- I think almost one a week for about a month and a bit. Don’t get me wrong, I am quite happy for them. But at the same time, I am worried for myself. Here I am, still not dating anyone seriously. Still finding myself being in very bizarre relationships, that either aren’t actually relationships, or ones that I am not sure what the status is. 

I was reading an article about how Tu B’Av teaches us to take chances- to go out of our comfort zone. This made me think a lot about myself. Maybe I need to actually be ok going out of my comfort zone. Maybe the type of guy I thought I would be dating, is not at all who I should be dating. Maybe it is ok if he is different to me with regards to religious level or extrovertedness. Maybe I need to try and push myself to be vulnerable and share. Maybe even push myself to share these fears with specific people in my life. 

I was asked by a friend why I don’t like being vulnerable. The idea of sharing, like really sharing, makes me squirm. It makes me sweat. It makes my stomach tie in knots. I am worried that they might think that I am stupid. I am worried that their feelings are not the same as mine, and that I will get hurt in the process. I am worried that once they know these things they are going to be able to hurt me. I am worried that I am going to seem weak. 

Intellectually, I know that it is good to share. That it is actually important to share, that sharing is how we form relationships with other people. That no one really wants to be in a one sided relationship. And that in most situations, both parties are quite nervous to actually share, for fear of what the other person might think. But even with this knowledge, I still want to squirm when I think about having this conversation. 

I’ve had the conversation many times in my head. In my head I can say things to everyone and anyone. I am very open with the other people. But in my head, I also can control what the other person will answer back. In my head, I am the one in charge. And that is my fear. I’m afraid of not being in charge. That if I give that power over to someone else, things won’t happen. Or they might happen wrong, and in that way I can get hurt. At least if I am in control, I only have to blame myself. If there is someone else, then maybe I’ll get into a fight. Maybe things won’t work out the way that I wanted them to. Maybe people will think that I am a failure. 

The Mishna at the end of Ta’anit, that talks about the holiday of Tu B’Av, teaches that the women would all swap dresses with each other, so that no one would know who was rich and poor. Then all the women would go dancing in the vineyard seducing men to marry them. Thinking about that- if it is a small town or village, swapping dresses isn’t going to make people not know who they are. Everyone knows everyone. And to go out and say- “hi boys, look at me, choose me to marry”- that is putting one self out there. 

So what why trade dresses? I think that it has to do with a costume swap. When you are wearing clothing of someone else, you allow yourself to act a bit differently. You might do things that you are not always willing to do, because you have to hold your self differently. And just from behind, people won’t recognize you. By doing this the women were able to put themselves out there. They were able to put themselves in a vulnerable position, saying- take me, I’m single, I’m looking for a partner, I’m looking for someone to be close with. 

I hope for this Tu B’Av that I too can learn from these women. That I can find it in myself to really think about what I want and what I need from a partner. And on top of that, that I can allow myself to be vulnerable, to share and to explore with another person- even though it might terrify me. And maybe only with this realization will I be able to find a partner, and hopefully experience the happiness of my friends. 

Posted in D'var Torah, Israel

The 9th of Av

The 9th of Av is a weird day in the middle of the summer, where we stop having fun and stop enjoying ourselves, and mourn. Mourn for the destruction of Jerusalem, mourn the horrible things that happened to the Jewish people- all in the past. Yes, there are Kinot from the Holocaust, but that is still far away, that is the time from my grandparents (and for kids in camp- their great-grandparents).  

This year was strange. Unfortunately, there was something to mourn. Something that I was experiencing at that very moment. Something that I have first hand experience. But at the same time, I found myself not being able to mourn. I felt that it was more of a fake day than usual.

Eicha and the Kinot did not make my heart break and want to pray. Praying while fasting and weary didn’t make me want to call out to God and hear my prayer or the prayers of those around me. 

In some ways- it felt that it was a light day. I can’t say that I was happy, but I definitely wasn’t sad. I wasn’t in a state of shock. I wasn’t in a state of holding in prayer and tears.

I think that this was because for the past three weeks I’ve been holding my breath. For the past three weeks, I have been tied to reading the news. For the past three weeks I had been praying and crying and saying extra Tehillim. For the past three weeks, every time I heard of another soldier killed, I mourned. In some ways, I don’t know if there was more to mourn. I don’t know if my body was able to take it. I couldn’t get to a sadder place (ok, maybe I could, but I didn’t want to go there). 

And at the same time, that was the start of the cease fire, and one that was actually holding. That was a time to rejoice. The soldiers were told that they could leave Gaza- that was something to rejoice. The residents of the South were finally told that they can go to camp and school, and were allowed to leave their homes- that was a reason to rejoice. With those things to rejoice, how can I be full in mourning? 

Now that the ceasefire time is coming to an end, it is terrifying to see that Hamas might not want to keep it. That if they don’t get their demands, they will start sending rockets. That the soldiers will have to go back and fight and kill. That the residents all over the country will have to go back to figuring out how to do things in between rocket attacks. That Israeli will have to continue to kill in order to defend, and with that the public image will go down. 

I hope that this is not a false quiet. That this was not a time for bad people to learn how to destroy and kill more than they were able to in the beginning. I hope that this is a time that we can learn how to leave in peace. And that the world is able to learn how to help those who are in need. And that no one, on either side, has to live a life of fear. 

Posted in D'var Torah, Israel

על אלה אני בוכיה

על אלה אני בוכיה

For those who will never be the same because they were forced to kill another person. 

For those who were forced to mourn their children and grandchildren. 

For those who were forced to mourn their parents.

For those who were born and will never know their father or mother or brother or sister. 

For those who did not have a summer vacation from school or work because they had to spend their time in bomb shelters.

For those who had to try and hide even though they didn’t have a safe place.

For those who were up all night worrying about their loved one- not knowing what the news in the morning will bring. 

For those who have become totally numb to rockets and rocket warnings because it is an every day occurrence, and they have never known a time without it. 

For those who have no where safe to go. 

For those who are afraid to be who they are because someone is trying to kill them. 

For people not having respect and understanding of other people and things. 

For people who want power and fame just for themselves. 

For the world looking like a horrible and scary place.

For it being a real struggle to find the good and the beauty in the world and in other people. 

For these things, and more, I cry.

השיבנו ה’ אליך ונשובה חדש ימינו כקדם

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I feel empty. I have no more prayers. I don’t know what to do anymore.

How is it possible that people are so horrible and cruel? How is it that in today’s day and age thousands of people are being murdered on a daily basis? How is it that we have the ability to create such beautiful things- but at the same time create the things that are the most ugly and destructive- and those are the things that get the most publicity? How can we not have learned from our past? Is there anyone out there that really wants their loved one’s to be killed? to never see them again? To live in a state of fear and panic? 

I was praying and I want to cry- but I am not sure how to anymore. I want to think that it can do something- but maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it is just a childhood fantasy that the world can be a good place. Maybe I must just accept the fact that the world is bad. That the world is one of death and destruction and murder and sadness. That all the positive things are just small and mean nothing- or maybe I am just making up that there is a good thing…

I pray for peace. I am hopeful for peace. But really the question is, what is peace? Is there such a thing? Or is it just a false idea from a Utopian society?