muddy puddles

Our four year-old local granddaughter said that over and over the other day. It was not quite an appropriate term to use for the mixture of the water puddle created by ISHI washing our car, with our granddaughter throwing sand from a nearby construction site to the puddle. She was insistent in her use, and I later realized it comes from Peppa Pig, a show she is allowed to watch online, mostly as an electronic babysitter every once in a while. She was having the grandest of times, throwing sand that ended up, of course, defeating the purpose of cleaning the car. But c’est la vie. Clean never lasts for more than a second.

And it led me to a great insight, much bigger than the cleanliness issue.

It was about my mother. Her yahrzeit was yesterday, the anniversary of her death 11 years ago already, so I have been thinking about her a lot. I had noticed that the holiday closest to the passing of a person always informs about that person. I guess that’s why there is something particularly holy about someone who is born and dies around the same time, beyond a sense of completion of a cycle, but also a deep connection to the season. My mother died two days after Shavuot, when we commemorate the giving of the Torah. My mother never had much of an education of any sort, and certainly wasn’t given a Jewish education, which went to her brothers only (not that they did anything particular with it, either). So the drive for knowledge must signify something different for her, in my memory, at least.

What my mother taught me, today, 11 years after she passed, was her ability to handle the muddy puddles. She didn’t care about pretenses. She did care about propriety, but she knew quite enough to know not to put on airs. What you knew, you knew. What you were, you were. She knew enough fakers to keep as far away as possible, and she knew that nothing was guaranteed. If you did not please her, she would let you know, although often without speaking.

Apparently, I have inherited that from her.

Most of all, she had no need for protection from the Imposter Syndrome that I fall prey to, because she was in no way pretending that she was anything other than who she was. She tried to “better herself” by going to classes, but that was not because she had to prove anything to anyone but herself. She had to catch up with all the opportunities she wasn’t given. I don’t think she was bitter about it; it just was. (I wrote about her pursuit of travel here.) But she didn’t muddy anything about.

I am grateful for her sincerity, that she knew she shouldn’t/couldn’t/and really wouldn’t want to compete for the spotlight. Those around her who did burned out quickly enough. And yet…

Not that I’m looking for the spotlight, either! But I must admit I haven’t found my comfort level with the whole imposter syndrome. I often enough wonder about my successes, whether indeed I have worked hard enough for them. But I also get frustrated when I see so many other people who I would call frauds enjoy unwarranted success. So maybe really I’m the Imposter Police, with no power and no ability even to say the emperor’s not wearing any clothes…

Would you believe that there is a test you can take to find out if you “suffer from imposter syndrome”? There seem to be many, but this was the one I had seen last year in Science of Us column of NY Magazine.

Here’s the funny part of it all. Today I read another article on the same site: “Pretending You’re Someone Else Can Make You More Creative.

Are we searching for Creativity or Honesty? I certainly know what my mother would have answered, just by looking at her face.

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instead of that, i’m doing this this year

This year in Israel, if not in a rebuilt Jerusalem…

Instead of cooking (and cleaning and planning and shopping, in no particular order ever), I got to play with kids and enjoy the beautiful weather, even if it wasn’t necessarily beautiful. Yes, we were surprised that it did rain last Wednesday, even if just briefly!

Instead of doing a second seder, we got to travel and see friends. And water my plant at home, if just for a short visit before returning to be at our kids’.

Instead of savoring the taste of matzah, we went to a Gymboree in Efrat to attend a mini-Mimouna, a North African Jewish celebration of returning to eating bread.

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Blessings and props for the children to make their muffleta pancakes
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Blessing the children of all ages; like the new wheat grows, so we should also grow

Instead of worrying about everyone getting along, I knew they wouldn’t, and then they would for when it mattered. And then we could go home when we had enough.

Instead of sitting around the eighth day of Pesach, overeating, we went into Jerusalem to the Old City. We met different people we hadn’t seen in eight months; two years, and forty years. Instead of synagogue, we had synchronicity.

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Capturing people enjoying their Hametz after Pesach in the Old City

Instead of worrying about the community and who needs what, we got to think about ourselves and what we need. And worry about the whole world.

Instead of going to hear a speaker for Yom HaShoah, we’re meeting with the couple from whom we are buying our home and seeing what we want to buy from them. He is from Libya; she is also from a Mizrachi family; they have their own families’ experiences of hate and expulsion, which we will hear about.

Instead of looking at videos of the moment of silence on Monday morning in memory of the six million Jews who were killed, we will stand silent ourselves.

Here.

In Israel.

Our Homeland.

what the hashtag is it all about

what the hashtag is it all about

I started an Instagram account because I wanted to follow some photographers who had been mentioned in a few places. Or maybe it was a contest for travel that I wanted to enter. Or some combination. And I started also because it was a distraction from my lost and broken camera. For whatever reason, you can only post via smartphone, so I would take my photos and post them along.

Only a few people saw them at first, which made sense, slow learning curve and all. Part of which consisted of me applying hashtags to my photos. I don’t know what draws people to different sites. Me? It’s when a general site features a photographer who I admire, so then I follow that photographer as well. But the hashtags turn out to be fun, especially doing them in English and Hebrew. After all, I found this photo of the outside of my house by searching for #tzfat, or was it #צפת?

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Looking back at my work, I think I have improved. But, as here, what is appreciated by the public is not what I value the most. That’s okay, since I do know that the game on Instagram is to “follow” someone in order to draw them to follow in return.

I am following the advice given freely by who knows who to do something artistic every day.

Wait a sec–

Oooh, I like this one:

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep
Scott Adams

The next step is that I sometimes have chosen to showcase some of the Instagram photos on Facebook. And that’s where the title of this post comes in.

This is the response to a photo of us with our Israel kiddies that I sent my father:

Very good photo and a very good print.
I forgot to ask.  In your last letter, Why did you need so many #   #   #  ?  Take care . Love, Dad
I will mention here that my father is (poo-poo, kanna hara) 91 years young.
He gets overwhelmed with computers and technology on a regular basis. He also has more confidence that I will know how to fix things than I do, especially since he is working on a 9 year-old Mac, and I do PC. I wouldn’t even start to tell him how I downloaded it from a WhatsApp group photo. I guess I’m somewhat amazed that I can figure these things out, to a point.
My father also claims that every single ad in the LA Times is about hearing aids, which frustrates him to no end because his doesn’t work effectively, and his doctor says there’s nothing to be done about it. I cannot effectively prove to him that the reason he is noticing the various ads is due to his frustration, not the reality. So I understand that what is salient to him is what he cannot control. So we look for things he can control; being with people, enjoying people.
We ran into our neighbor Ima Esther yesterday on our way to a meeting. You don’t tell Ima Esther that you are late; you stand patiently while she tells you about her daughter who finally got permission to move away (not really sure what was the delay and where she went, but I didn’t want to start asking questions that would make us later than we already were), and a few other things. Her often-repeated phrase is ?מה לעשות; What can you do? in the most existential Camus (North African, after all) manner.
Que peut-on faire?
But here, of course, is the point:

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Because the 84 year-olds and the assorted under-the-attachment to technology kiddies will show you in a heartbeat what really matters. But you need them both.

On my way back home today, I was stopped by an older man who was whistling. He asked me,

“Is it okay for me to ask you a question?”

“Of course,” I answered, just a bit skeptically.

“What happened to your smile? Did you lose it?”

Of course, I smiled in return. It was a lovely way to get me to react, as opposed to how others have tried to impose a smile on my face in the past…

I told him I would be very happy to let my father know what he said.

He added, “After all, it says

Serve G-d in happiness; come before Him in singing.

 “עִבְדוּ אֶת-ה בְּשִׂמְחָה;    בֹּאוּ לְפָנָיו, בִּרְנָנָה

And he went whistling along the path.

what did they say about not going home?

what did they say about not going home?

Don’t burn bridges. Maybe that’s what they should say. I haven’t, I think. I remember someone who thought he was moving away opening his mouth in public about what everyone was doing wrong and how he knew what they should be doing, losing any respect I had for him, which was none by that point, but losing any credibility to boot for anyone else. And yet…

You can’t go home again, wrote Thomas Wolfe. I never read it; have downloaded it onto my kindle for a read.

But we didn’t go home, since that isn’t our home anymore. We were asked if we were going to go by our old house. Why, we asked? It’s not ours and it holds no interest to us. I took ISHI to my old house in Baltimore when we were there back in May? June? So long ago. It was curiously small, but I was smaller then, too. A good lesson when thinking about space requirements for children, perhaps?

I found that I wanted to buy very little; what did I bring with me on return? Sunscreen. Brita water filters (only because we were in Target, buying some other things with my father for his house, for the great-grandchildren). And pillowcases to match a set at home (yes, Target). Oh, but I must mention; a new camera and a new phone. Fixing things that are broken can be a good thing.

I bought a necklace only because a favorite one of mine that I always were for traveling broke. It had broken when I came to Israel in the summer; I had just gotten it fixed here, but clearly it wasn’t a good job, and then it got lost.

Things break; what remains?

I went back to the states and saw family and met our new granddaughter and caught up with old friends. I can’t tell you how much the hugs were worth; priceless, as the ad says.

I didn’t just not go home; I went back in time. I met up with an old friend I hadn’t seen since the beginning of college, back in 1970. We are not young, and that was just fine, since we don’t have to pretend to be anything else but what we are.

Otherwise, it’s a false screen separating us from our own reality.

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See how I did that? A chance to show off my new camera! Taken at LACMA by the ticket booth on a rainy LA day
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And let’s say this is symbolic of my trip back to the states

So really that was what I learned the most about going back; it’s what I take forward that matters. What we can take with us is the care, the love, the connection.

Perhaps it can never be the same because, after all, we are not the same.

And as I write this, I hear the tour guide outside our window, giving his nightly tour of Tzfat, even in the aftermath of enormous rains. He is not having them sit down in the amphitheatre next to us, per usual; he is standing outside our window instead!

Oh, home sweet home!

another myth bites the dust

We are getting our sukkah space ready to put up our sukkah this year, our first in Israel. My self-appointed job was to cut back the growth from the tree which hangs over our porch as much as possible, even if the tree can’t possibly be cut back as much as needed. Part of the laws of building a sukkah requires it not to be under shade of any other kind. You have to make your own shade, independent of your environment, in order to see the stars through the makeshift roof. The rabbis never talked about nightlight pollution, but back to our story:

I cut back quite a bit, trying hard to keep it on our rooftop, but of course, one large branch and a number of other smaller ones, fell over into our neighbors’ yard.

“Oh, shoot”, I heard myself say.

I heard my neighbor shuffling below.

“I’ll come and clean it up right away. Sorry about the mess. I really tried to keep it up here.”

So I went downstairs, went outside, over to their house, and rang the bell.

No one. Rien, absolument rien. (She’s French Moroccan and they usually speak French together. Or English.)

After a while, she comes down her stairs and opens the front gate for me. I explain what we were doing and apologize for the mess. Of course, she has already cleaned up the branches that I dropped, but she clearly appreciates my efforts. She then proceeds to give me the full story about the tree.

It’s a carob tree that grew with kids of the neighborhood eating carobs and spitting out the seeds on the ground. They never planted it at all.

When did this happen? She said fifteen years ago. Even if she had said 50, I was still surprised. After all, I thought that carobs took 70 years to grow!

Yes, I know how most fruits take a while to grow, even after the tree has established firm roots and all, but the reality is that I have no idea how long that really is. That’s how far removed I am from living on the land.

Or at least having fruit trees.

But why I was dumbfounded was because of the story of Honi HaMe’agel, Honi the Circle-Maker. It’s a fascinating story that is found in the Talmud (Ta’anit 19 and 23) about a man who was asked to call for rain (why would he not have done it without being asked, I wonder), which he does in a pretty chutzpahdik way. And then he goes off on his merry way, coming upon someone planting a carob tree. When asked why he is bothering, since it won’t bear fruit for 70 years, he is told that his grandparents did it for him, so he is doing it for his grandchildren.

So it must be a fact that it takes 70 years for the carob tree to bear fruit, right?

It turns out that the idea of 70 years is symbolic of the years of the exile after  I the destruction of the First Holy Temple. (Read more here, if you wish.)

It is tied into a question that Honi asks before our story begins;

Said Rabbi Yochanan, “All the days of that righteous one, he was troubled about this verse (Psalm 126:1), ‘A Song of Ascents: With the Lord’s return of the captivity of Zion, we will be like dreamers. ‘He said, ‘Is there someone who can fall asleep for seventy years in a dream?’ One day, he was walking on the road and saw a certain man that was planting a carob tree…

The commentator Rashi says right there, “‘like a dream’ the 70 years of Babylonian exile will seem.”

Here’s the whole Psalm, again for context:

Psalms Chapter 126 תְּהִלִּים

א  שִׁיר, הַמַּעֲלוֹת:
בְּשׁוּב יְהוָה, אֶת-שִׁיבַת צִיּוֹן–    הָיִינוּ, כְּחֹלְמִים.
1 A Song of Ascents. {N}
When the LORD brought back those that returned to Zion, we were like unto them that dream.
ב  אָז יִמָּלֵא שְׂחוֹק, פִּינוּ–    וּלְשׁוֹנֵנוּ רִנָּה:
אָז, יֹאמְרוּ בַגּוֹיִם–    הִגְדִּיל יְהוָה, לַעֲשׂוֹת עִם-אֵלֶּה.
2 Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing; {N}
then said they among the nations: ‘The LORD hath done great things with these.’
ג  הִגְדִּיל יְהוָה, לַעֲשׂוֹת עִמָּנוּ–    הָיִינוּ שְׂמֵחִים. 3 The LORD hath done great things with us; we are rejoiced.
ד  שׁוּבָה יְהוָה, אֶת-שבותנו (שְׁבִיתֵנוּ)–    כַּאֲפִיקִים בַּנֶּגֶב. 4 Turn our captivity, O LORD, as the streams in the dry land.
ה  הַזֹּרְעִים בְּדִמְעָה–    בְּרִנָּה יִקְצֹרוּ. 5 They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.
ו  הָלוֹךְ יֵלֵךְ, וּבָכֹה–    נֹשֵׂא מֶשֶׁךְ-הַזָּרַע:
בֹּא-יָבֹא בְרִנָּה–    נֹשֵׂא, אֲלֻמֹּתָיו.
6 Though he goeth on his way weeping that beareth the measure of seed, {N}
he shall come home with joy, bearing his sheaves. {P}

It’s all about context.

The carob tree of our neighbors is a symbol of the strength of our people in our Land.

True joy of belonging.

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the dolls have come home

Opening all the boxes is a process I understand will take much longer than packing them. And I have learned and I really really get that we need much less than what we have to get along just fine. As I have said before, there are just a few things that I want to locate to make me feel at home.

Oh, maybe I didn’t say that exactly, but I’m saying it now. This is the process; finding out what is essential and what is valuable and what is delightful.

One of the things that I wanted to locate was a basket of dolls and stuffed animals that my mother bought as gifts to my kids while she was traveling around the world. She had decided to become a travel agent at one point later in her life to give her the opportunity and the wherewithal to do this kind of grand travel. My father never has forgiven himself that he did not go with her more often; she chose not to wait for him, which was one of the ways she showed her wisdom.

My kids were not really appreciative of the dolls at the time. Or they were as much as they could, since they weren’t really the kind that you could play with. They were from China, Japan, South America (Peru, probably), Germany, Russia, Spain, India,

not even sure where some of these are, truly.

I did try to hand them off to the grandkids. And the Aussiettes really did connect to them, until they broke some of them and I realized that, no, these are just dust collectors and should just sit on the shelf somewhere.

And that’s when I realized they should sit on my shelf somewhere.

In Israel.

My mother was very proud of being Jewish; she would not have thought to move to Israel because she knew that the language barrier would be too much for her, but she was supportive of my sister when she and her family went, and she was supportive of the grandchildren (well, the 2 that she was aware of) going to learn there, and she was the one who insisted on visiting our daughter when she was there when ISHI was undergoing chemo and we couldn’t travel. The supreme irony was that she had already had some kind of stroke earlier that year that the doctors didn’t detect; they called it a Parkinson’s onset; and that she would suffer a larger debilitating stroke the week after ISHI finished radiation. And that when we were going to go visit the kids in Israel a few years after that, she said, in her broken way, she wanted to go with us.

So, Mom, this is the way that you get to go with us.

The dolls have been located and the dolls are here at home.

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work in progress

In my mother’s honor and in her memory and in honor and memory of all those who would have come home if they had the chance. And that this be the last Tisha B’Av, where we mourn the destruction, and we build something awesomely new.

:תְּקַע בְּשׁופָר גָּדול לְחֵרוּתֵנוּ. וְשא נֵס לְקַבֵּץ גָּלֻיּותֵינוּ. וְקַבְּצֵנוּ יַחַד מֵאַרְבַּע כַּנְפות הָאָרֶץ. בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה’, מְקַבֵּץ נִדְחֵי עַמּו יִשרָאֵל

Blow the great shofar for our freedom, and gather us from the four corners of the earth. Blessed are You, G-d, who gathers the remnants of His people Israel.

I have everything 

Like Avraham who was blessed with everything, Yitzhak from everything, and Yaakov everything.

כְּמוֹ שֶׁנִּתְבָּרְכוּ אֲבוֹתֵינוּ אַבְרָהָם יִצְחָק וְיַעֲקב, בַּכּל. מִכּל. כּל. כֵּן יְבָרֵךְ אוֹתָנוּ כֻּלָּנוּ יַחַד בִּבְרָכָה שְׁלֵמָה. וְנאמַר אָמֵן

 (from Birkat HaMazon, Blessing after the Meal)

But I have to figure out what to do with it all…

I found my phone charger. It was in plain sight, really, just blocked by two enormous boxes. I have a new Kindle on its way from America, already loaded up with new books (Book Bub!). I have no camera, but a mystery to solve of what became of it, and what will become.

My friend asked if we are making new friends. I found a handyman who helped us with putting some of our furniture together. By the time he left the other day, we felt like we could depend on him. He told us to consider him a friend.

He cut himself pretty deeply while using ISHI’S pocketknife. He asked for coffee grounds and asked me to put a spoonful in his hand. He dipped his finger into the grounds for a few minutes until the bleeding slowed down.

חכמת סבתא, he called it. Chochmat Savta; Wisdom of the grandmother. I listened. This is part of what I need to learn, since I never really knew my grandmothers. I’ve been making it up as I go along myself.

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from Beit HaMeiri, Tzfat
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See more about this museum here at https://olddogwitholdtricks.wordpress.com/2015/07/02/technical-difficulties/

He told me how, when he was a youngster and he fell out of a tree right before Shabbat, cutting himself right above his eye, his mother calmly took turmeric and put it as a compress on the cut. On Sunday, she took him to the doctor to get it stitched up.

Yup, turmeric and coffee both check out. I think I’d avoid using glass, though.

I don’t need most of the glasses I brought. I don’t need all the coffee mugs, either, so  I repacked them away; I certainly don’t want to wash all the glasses that I have unpacked; I’m the dishwasher, so I will have pity on me. Fair warning to those guests who visit us during this next year of transition; we will use disposable. Lord knows I brought enough of those…

I’m not even opening the good dishes, although I would like to know where are my candlesticks. My knife block was in a box marked”office supplies”. So it’s anyone’s guess.

ISHI did find our new living room rug! It was marked “MBR”. How would the movers have known it was for the living room, if that’s where they found it? Any metaphors come to mind? Yes, no sweeping anything under anywhere.

We went to a funeral on Sunday. This was not a terror incident; this was a simple tragedy, if anything was simple about it. A young man, 26 years old, on his way home right before Shabbat after going to the mikveh, was hit and killed. A pure soul, in all senses of the word. He was on his way to getting engaged soon, to another pure soul who we also know. The father, upon seeing his never-to-be daughter-in-law, broke down even further than he already had been.

His grandfather and his mother was extraordinarily calm at the funeral. The grandfather spoke first in what would turn out to be a 2 1/2 hour funeral, not counting the burial. He spoke without notes, not missing a single one, sending his grandson off to his world-to-come with poetry, with dignity. The mother stayed at everyone’s side, dignified and steadfast. Someone who went to see them at the shivah house mentioned that she has learned the same method of focusing that she has studied; and she was already connecting to her son in his world-to-come.

No, I am so very grateful I already have enough mysteries to last a lifetime.