Posted in Quotes

Walking to Listen

I really enjoyed this book “Walking to Listen” by Andrew Forsthoefel. It is his story of walking across the US with a sign on his back saying “walking to listen”. He documents his journey and talks about all the different people that he met in his journey.

This book reminded me of two things in my life. One was my train trip across the US, where I just met so many different people, and it was a space that was normal to talk to others. I met people from all walks of life. I wish that this was something I would be able to do in my everyday life.

The other thing it reminded me of was doing chaplaincy. When many people talk about their time in chaplaincy, they talk about being a vessel to hold pain or sadness. But for me, I really think that it is walking to listen. I walked around the hospital to listen to people. At times they needed to share fear or sadness, but other times they wanted to share things that make them happy or pieces of who they are outside of the hospital walls. For many, their illness is not something that defines them, but rather is just something that is part of a whole. And if you walk to listen- then you are able to see the different pieces that make up the whole.

Here are some quotes that he quoted that I really liked:

pg. 48

“This is in the end the only kind of courage that is required of us,” Rilke wrote, in his Letters. “The courage to face the strangest, most unusual, most inexplicable experiences that can meet us…But the fear of the inexplicable has not only impoverished the reality of the individual; it has also narrowed the relationship between one human being and another, which has as it were been lifted out of the riverbed of infinite possibilities and set down in a fallow place on the bank, where nothing happens.” The inexplicable. The unknown. The serendipitous. Best make room for them, I thought, so something will happen. 

pg. 241

Whitman was with Rilke on this one:

“You shall no longer take things at second or third hand… nor look through the eyes of the dead… nor feed on the spectres in books,

You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me,

You shall listen to all sides and filter them from yourself”

Posted in Life

My Year in Books

For as long as I can remember I have been going to the library and reading books. When I was younger it was a weekly trip with my family. My siblings used to joke that I was always reading. I knew that there were times that I would read 3-4 books over Shabbat (25 hours). In many of the places I have moved, one of the first things I have done (if not the first thing) was to get a library card. Even when I was part of the summer reading programs at the library I never actually kept a list of all the books I read. So when I moved to the US last year, I decided why not keep a list of books. They are a mix of fiction and non-fiction; serious books and really light reading; famous books and ones that I found by chance.  So here are the 101 books (I only listed books I read to completion), 29,703 pages, that I read since May 21, 2016. The ones that are bold are ones that I particularly liked.

Title Author Date Pages
What is Not Yours is Not Yours Helen Oyeyemi 21/5/2016 336
Willful Disregard Lena Anderson 208
Eat, Pray, Love Made Me Do It 240
Good Mourning Elizabeth Meyer 24/5/2016 288
The Good Death Ann Neumann 25/5/2016 248
The Version of Us Laura Barnett 28/5/2016 416
The Golem of Paris Jonathan & Jesse Kellerman 512
Astor Place Vintage Stephanie.Lehmann 396
A Life Need Mukherjee 357
Lust and Wonder Augusten Burroughs 6/6/2016 304
The Two of Us Andy Jones 9/6/2016 336
The Awakening of Miss Prim Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera 13/6/2016 (Shavuot weekend) 272
A Short History of Women Kate Walbert 272
Virgin Radhika Sanghani 304
Scary Old Sex: Stories Arlene Heyman 240
Piece of Mind Michelle Adelman 320
A Guide for the Perplexed Dara Horn 368
Yentle Issac Batsheva Singer 64
Peep Show Joshua Braff 266
The Masseuse Sierra Kincade 353
A Lover’s Dictionary David Levithan 224
The Wounded Storyteller Arthur W. Frank 14/6/2016 280
A Woman of Independent Means Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey 20/6/2016 279
The Book of Lost Things John Connolly 23/6/2016 339
The Tumbling Turner Sisters Juliette Fay 25/6/2016 352
Modern Romance Aziz Ansari 29/6/2016 205
Dancing for Degas Kathryn Wagner 3/7/2016 366
Semi-Charmed Life Nora Zelevansky 327
I am Malala Malala Yousafzai & Christina Lamb 313
French Lessons Ellen Sussman 236
Fishbowl Bradley Somer 8/7/2016 304
Anthropology Dan Rhodes 9/7/2016 203
Jennifer Johnson is Sick of Being Single Heather McElhatton 292
Foreign Tongue Vanina Marsot 365
The Great Perhaps Joe Meno 414
Wonder R.J. Palacio 11/7/2016 310
Hitman Anders and the Meaning of It All Jonas Jonasson 16/7/2016 298
Devilishly Wicked Kathy Love 267
Enchantress Maggie Anton 368
The Obituary Writer Ann Hood 3/8/2016 292
The Ringmaster’s Wife Kristy Cambron 6/8/2016 340
Paris is Always a Good Idea Nocolas Barreau 296
The Painted Girls Cathy Marie Buchanan 3/9/2016 353
The Newspaper of Claremont Street Elizabeth Jolley 9/9/2016 174
Before Jamaica Lane Samantha Young 13/9/2016 404
Stealing Rose Monica Murphy 20/9/2016 301
The Margaret Thatcher School of Beauty Marsha Mehran 283
Beautiful You Chuck Palahniuk 24/9/2016 222
Return: Daily Inspiration for the Days of Awe Erica Brown 25/9/2016 147
The Final Testimony of Raphael Ignatius Phoenix Paul Sussman   412
Down London Road Samantha Young 3/10/2016 369
Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures Vincent Lam 8/10/2016 337
Watercolours Adrienne Ferreira 15/10/2016 339
The Portrait Willem Jan Otten 18/10/2016 184
Echoes of Scottland Street Samantha Young 316
The Illusion of Separateness Simon Van Booy 25/10/2016 212
The Paper Magician Charlie N. Holmberg 29/10/2016 214
Smart Women Judy Blume 12/11/2016 354
My Grandmother Sends Her Regards & Apologises Fredrik Backman   342
The Other Einstein Marie Benedict 3/12/2016 284
Hindsight Mindy Tarquini 315
The Lonely City Oliva Laing 10/12/2016 281
The 2 AM Principle Jon Levy   271
The Stargazer’s Sister Carrie Brown   323
The Sleepy Hollow Family Almanac Kris D’Agostino 328
This is Where you Belong: The Art and Science of Loving the Place You Live Melody Warnick 18/12/2016 257
Off Kilter Donna Kauffman 24/12/2016 310
Drink, Pray, F**K Andrew Gottlieb 195
Cream of the Crop Alice Clayton 317
We Show What We Have Learned & Other Stories Clare Beams 25/12/2016 174
The Dead Beat Marilyn Johnson 19/1/2016 231
But What if We’re Wrong? Chuck Klosterman 23/1/2016 262
Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlife David Eagleman 25/1/2016 110
In the Country Mia Alvar 1/2/2017 347
The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry Gabrielle Zevin 5/2/2017 258
Tell the Wolves I’m Home Carol Rifka Brunt 12/2/2017 360
We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For Alice Walker 15/2/2017 251
The Road to Character David Brooks 19/2/2017 270
The extraordinary journey of the fakir who got trapped in an Ikea wardrobe Romain Puertolas   302
All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation Rebecca Traister 23/2/2017 300
The Red Notebook Antoine Laurain 25/2/2017 159
The Dark and Other Love Stories Deborah Willis 3/3/2017 254
Bachelor Girl: The Secret History of Single Women in the Twentieth Century Betsy Israel 7/3/2017 264
The Motion of Puppets Keith Donohue 10/3/2017 260
Close Enough to Touch Colleen Oakley 17/3/2017 310
Confidence Rowland Manthorpe and Kirstin Smith 2/4/2017 309
Death is Not an Option Suzanne Rivecca 4/4/2017 222
A Man Called Ove Fredrick Bakman 6/4/2017 337
The Yacoubian Building Alaa Al Aswany 20/4/2017 255
The organized woman Christiane Collange 22/4/2017 253
The Best of Adam Sharp Graeme Simsion 367
Nine Folds Make a Paper Swan Ruth Gilligan 26/4/2017 336
love in lower case francesc miralles 1/5/2017 224
The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud Ben Sherwood 5/5/2017 269
Today Will Be Different Maria Semple 6/5/2017 258
The Canvas Benjamin Stein 12/5/2017 342
Dating Tips for the Unemployed Iris Smyles 288
Station Eleven Emily St. John Mandel 19/5/2017 333
Miss You Kate Eberlen 20/5/2017 433
The Heart of Men Nickolas Butler 386
Walking to Listen Andrew Forsthoefel   365
Posted in Life

One Year

It’s hard to believe but it has been a year since I moved to the US.

Today was not something special. I chose not to speak about it in school, because really I had nothing to say. Since going to the mikvah the other week, things have been a bit calmer and I am less upset. I am even able to say that I am living here and what I will be doing next year, although I have not yet written anything on Facebook or anything public like that (although it was just in an announcement from school). I don’t know it was the mikvah that changed things or if it was just the timing that changed things.

But for now I am closer to ok with what I will be doing next. I’m not yet at the excited and happy point, but maybe that will happen.

It is next week that I will take my final exam and have my klaf signed. I am nervous. I am nervous that I will blank on everything on the exam. I am nervous of what it means when this is done. I have been a student basically for my entire life, and now I will not be. So much of my identity has been being a rabbinical student- it will be an interesting change being a rabbi and a chaplain.

I am also excited. I am really going to be a rabbi. This crazy dream I had is going to be real. I am no longer going to be a student. I am going to be a rabbi and a chaplain. I know that I know things, and that they are not expecting me to know everything.

I think about the things that have happened in the past 12 months:

  • Moved to the US
  • Completed a unit of CPE
  • Moved to Australia
  • Taught at an embassy
  • Saw the Great Barrier Reef, Sydney Opera House, Bondi Beach and other places
  • Worked as an assistant rabbi of a shul
  • Had an internship at a shul
  • Had explicit conversations
  • Became an aunt
  • Wrote tshuvot
  • Lived in New York City
  • Danced with Bill Nye
  • Went to Zurich
  • Felt like my heart was broken but then had it mend a bit

It was by far not an easy year. There were parts that were amazing and parts that had me crying almost daily. I hope that this upcoming year I will feel like I made the right choices. I hope that it is one of growth and feeling of calm. A year that I feel complete.


Posted in Life

Taking the Plunge

It has taken me a bit of time to write this, and I think it is because of how nervous I was before going.

I am going to be training to work in a mikvah, and part of the requirement for the training is to go into the mikvah. I signed up for this course because I work with many women (so far no men) that will go to the mikvah. This organization is one that guides people into the mikvah not only because of nida, but also because of other life situations, and I figure it would be a really great tool for me to have as I am about to finish my rabbinical studies very soon.

It took me a long time to sign up for my mikvah slot. I was really nervous. It felt like it was such a big act for me to go into the mikvah. It is not something that I have ever really thought about for myself. It is something that you do if you are married or are having sex, and I fall into neither category. It is something that some do because they are more “spiritual” than I am, marking changes in life or wanting to feel “pure” or “changed” or to mark the transition, but that is not me for the most part. I would also have to be naked with another person in the room, which also made me nervous.

I did sign up, because I needed to. In some ways, it was good because earlier this year I felt the need to go into the mikvah or go swimming naked, but I did not have an opportunity.

It was something that I thought about all day Wednesday. I was thinking about what it means that I am going into a mikvah as a non-married woman; what would other people think if they saw me; what would I say to someone if I saw someone I knew in the waiting room. I had ideas that my first time in the mikvah would be before my wedding. It would be a time that I learned and prepared for. That the next day (or upcoming days) would be when I would have my wedding.

I was also thinking about what it means that it is happening now. I was thinking about the fact that I have basically decided that I will be in NY for another year. I really am marking a change in my life. That the world and life that I had, really is not what I have right now. I am finishing school in only 53 days. I will be starting a real job, be it not my dream job, nor in the city I dreamed I would be in. I am not who I was a year ago.

I was also thinking about what it means to be naked with another person in the room. Even when going to the doctor there is a something covering parts of my body, but here I would be naked, not that the person would look. It has been an interesting year with thinking about my body and nudity. I had a relationship that was quite physical. I’ve been having a conversation with a friend that is very explicit, including pictures, which is different. I’ve been thinking more about my body than I have in years- not in a negative way. And here I would be completely naked, walking into a body of water, with someone else inside.

I got to the mikvah early, and so I took a walk around the block, just trying to calm my nerves. I walked trying to accept NY as a place that has beauty, that can be a place that will give me happiness and fulfillment, that I am making the right choice. As it became closer to the time, I got the Mikvah, but I could not bring myself to walk in. The guide I was meeting said that she would meet me outside or I can wait inside, and I just couldn’t bring myself to walk in. As I finally walked to the door, she was there to greet me.

She was really sweet and patient. I felt silly that I was so nervous but I was. There were so many options as to what I would do in the mikvah, and making the choice was just too over whelming. I felt weird about saying a bracha, because I wasn’t doing this for something other than myself. I didn’t want to say shehechiyanu because I didn’t want this to be real. At first I did tell her I wanted her to watch me go down once. I was unsure if I wanted time alone in the water.

And then it was time to prepare. The bathroom is beautiful with everything that one could need. In a bathroom full of mirrors, I slowly took off my glasses, my necklace, and finally all of my clothing. I was trying to breath through all of this. I got into the shower and showered as usual. I was trying to slow down a bit because I was so nervous, but at the same time I didn’t want her to have to wait for too long. I did not know the time frame that I should be taking. After finishing my shower I went through the check list of things to do – I brushed my teeth, I cleaned out my ears and belly button, I brushed my hair, and took out my nose ring. I then put on the slippers and my robe and walked down the hall.

I was naked under my robe, and I would be taking it off soon. I would be walking into a body of water and everything of me will be touched with the water. I was nervous, and scared, and sad, and excited…

I walked into the mikvah and the guide told me what would happen. In the last minute I did not want her to say anything or check that I went under. Being in the water felt different. It was warm. It was a bit overwhelming. She was standing at the top the stairs with the robe over her eyes. I dunked once, and then immediately felt the need to dunk two more times. I wanted to just stay under the water for as long as I could – to feel the pressure, to feel the warmth, to take in the experience – but I kept bobbing up, it was pushing me out. I thought about staying in the water, but I was too overwhelmed in it. I was unsure of what to do. I both felt calmed and that I couldn’t breath. And so I just walked back up the stairs, put my robe back on and went to get dressed.

It was when I got back into the bathroom that I started crying. There was just so much, and I’m still not even sure what it was. I cried because I felt calmer. I cried because I hope that this is not the only time that I would go to the mikvah. I cried because I am afraid that I will never go to the mikvah for my wedding. I cried because I felt like I wanted to do more, but it just felt like too much.

I was too nervous this time to have a kavanah for going in. I was too overwhelmed to think about what I really wanted or what I wanted to feel.

I do know that after leaving the water, I was warm, in some ways too hot. I was tired. I was calm. I got dressed and brushed my hair. I went upstairs, and luckily no one was there so I didn’t have to see anyone, paid the fee. And walked out into the cold NY air slightly sad, slightly floaty, slightly in thought, and all together calmer than I was when I walked in.

Posted in Israel, Life

The First One Away

It’s Yom Ha’azmaut and I did not go to a Tefilla chagigit last night. I didn’t go out and dance and drink all night long in Jerusalem. I’m not going BBQ hopping and seeing everyone outside in the park, with everyone enjoying the sun and air and not caring that the entire country smells like a BBQ.

I’m in New York. Actually I’m in bed because I’m not feeling so well. I’m not sure if it is because I am sad or exhausted or allergies or in the process of getting sick or a mixture of all three. Yesterday on Yom Hazikaron I did not have a moment of silence (actually the night before I was at a wedding…). I went home early from school, but being in school did not even feel like the day. It was just a day like any other, just my heart knew that my friends were sitting at the graves of their loved ones.

Last night I went out for burgers with a friend instead of going to a tefilla. This is her third year not in Israel and couldn’t bring herself to go to shul. She warned me that it would be really difficult, and I just followed her and had a burger. It had to be burgers so at least we fulfilled the obligation of having burgers on the day (there aren’t many obligations, but this sounds like a good one).

Yom Ha’azmaut last year turned into the day that I broke up with A. It was the marker to the time that I had left in Israel, as I flew out only a few days later. It is the marker that it is almost a year since I left, and coming even more in my mind after coming back to NY and knowing that it looks like I will not be there for a while still…