looking forward!

I had started composing* a post last week that was all about what I won’t miss from the old neighborhood. I got to the end and realized I had to put in what I would miss. That made me realize I shouldn’t be focussed on the negative at all, and that wasn’t a good way to leave.

The best way to leave is to focus on the good. There were many good points about being here in the city for this past year, and I had to reframe my thinking. It should be all about gratitude for the past, and hope for the future. I then was able to see this year as an airlock between the states and our own home. So the airlock is not always the most comfortable, but it’s a process, and that’s what we are in, thank G-d.

And then I read an article I had been saving, How to Get Past Negativity Bias in Order to Hardwire Positive Experiences, so I had no excuses extra motivation!

I can truly pose all the negatives into positives, anyway…

Most of the complaints centered around the issue of privacy, so that is the top of the list right now. I am looking forward to our

own

space.

Privacy.

Country. I am simply a country mouse, and I accept that willingly.

Our own yard. I already bought a hose for watering what may come. And for our car.

Cleanliness. Of the air and the streets.

Quiet. Dogs run around, but don’t have the need to profess territoriality, so are happier, I presume.

Music of my choice, played quietly.

People who might be walking by and talking on their phones and walking by. Moving on.

Space, to put things, to have guests, to have space to do projects, to be creative in new ways. To expand and feel at home.

The stairs. Wide. Steady. Safe.

The views! The new views of the north and east. Our views from our porch were often wonderful, and that I admit that I will miss, but I can do that honestly and still look forward to the new views.

And since we’re not leaving Tzfat really, but moving to a different neighborhood, we will go back and visit the sunsets often enough. I can recognize what I want to see more of, and what is good to leave behind.

To smell the roses.

Yes, very much looking forward!

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*I chose that word carefully, having composed a song about our travails! I was inspired by our 4 year-old grandson, who wrote a letter I read as a song because why not?

gravity and revelation

Gravity means a few things. It can refer to importance; it also can refer to the physical property. Let’s use both, but start with the physical.

Last Shabbat, we had guests here, an old study partner of ISHI, from their days at YU, so that makes it 37 years ago. We had lost touch over the years, as this was before Facebook and even email. But with the help of a Google search, he did locate us and let us know he’d be here in Tzfat at this time with his recently-wed wife and his sister. We are in the middle of boxes, so we wouldn’t be able to house them, but they came for all the meals.

At some point at lunch, probably when I was pulling out serving trays, I dropped one of my favorite glass trays from Israel, and the decorative edge came off one side. It didn’t break, and we also realized it wasn’t fastened that well to begin with. And I sighed a large sigh of relief.

Later on that day, towards night, ISHI went to close the dining room window and hit a vase on the window sill. This time, we weren’t so lucky, and the shards took a while to clean up. Worse, of course, is that it wasn’t ours, but belonged to our landlords. The only good part of that was it was made in China, so not that expensive a piece. I had looked at that earlier this year.

After nightfall, when ISHI went into the living room to pray, he quickly came back into the kitchen to say something wasn’t right next door. He had heard some screams, and we should go quickly.

Earlier that day, I had seen our neighbors up on the porch of the other neighbor, working hard as the neighborhood watch. I had wanted to introduce our guests to them, because they all had a number of matching points of interest. And the sister and our neighbor were indeed happy to speak for a long time, in French, a little Moroccan Arabic with the other neighbor, too.

So I went with the sister, both of us quite concerned about what we might find. Our neighbor opened the door for us, and we saw his wife on the ground, having fallen. Had she fallen down the stairs? No, she just tripped and fell there, but she’s of a certain age where falls are not simple. The sister, who just happens to be a physician’s assistant, was able to speak with her in French in the most gentle way, softly diagnosing her vitals and the situation. Once our neighbors could remember the phone number, I was able to call Hatzalah, an  emergency company that arrives by motorcycle, or even this time, on bike, which is enormously helpful in old cities without easy car access. They came with crowds of helpers. I was quite impressed.

She was fine; she was able to wait to go the next day to get x-rays, which were fine. Bruised, embarrassed, but dignity basically intact.

Thanks to our old friend and his sister. And Google. And fate.

But it left me thinking about gravity, near misses and full encounters. And Gravity of gravitas, importance. Tisha B’Av, the fast day recalling the destruction of the Holy Temple over 2000 years ago. We are living in such grave times, with people not making personal connections, but allowing themselves to be used to further someone else’s objectives. We are taught that the Temple was destroyed due to Baseless Hatred שִׂנְאַת חִנָּם, and the most direct remedy for that is the opposite,

observing the corresponding precept is the antidote that will lead to the restoration of the Temple. Ibn Ezra (Lev. 19:17) expresses this concept when he states that by observing the commandment to “Love one’s neighbor,” we will return to our Land, because this mitzvah is the opposite of sinat chinam, which is what destroyed the Second Temple.

But what came to me today, in mourning the loss of the Holy Temple, was that we need to make the personal connections work because that’s what we are truly missing. The Temple was a place of connection, of continued revelation of G-d to us, but it got lost even before the actual building was destroyed. We turned things into the essence, rather than the connections with G-d, and with people. So our redemption will come when we reconnect, first with people, and then with G-d. That our revelation will flow from us back to our Source.

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Do you see how much we all want to connect?

 

 

here we go again for the first time

A year has passed with us here in the center of Tzfat. It is time for some peace and quiet. But to get to there, we have to pass through another rite of passage, and we are again living with boxes. Again, we are weighing our possessingness. Again, we are self-judging why we have this stuff. Does it bring us such pleasure? Comfort? Right now, of course, since we are boxing up what we haven’t necessarily used in a year, to add to the boxes of stuff in our storage space that we definitely haven’t used in a year or even thought of, the answer should be “no.”

The question is in the should be.  But as I started this blog to figure out what possesses us more than what we possess, it’s the value that we inherit and also place upon things that matters.

I could continue playing with language about things and stuff and being possessed, but I’m finished. For the moment, at least. After all, I wrote about my battle with things already here  and  here and here (basically all of last August when we were first unpacking our life lift). What have I learned in the year? In the past 64 years, to be exact?

I am a person who thrives on order; place. I don’t like thinking about where things are; I like/need, really need, to know that I can reach into a particular drawer, and on the right side of that drawer, I will find that certain spoon I require to stir that certain dish. I like having specific things to be used as often as possible for specific tasks, not multi-tasking. Yes, it’s a level of comfort that I want. I was tired of grinding my fingers along with the cabbage, so we purchased a food processor, even though I had said we wouldn’t buy anything before moving into our new and bigger place. Thankfully, it’s also fun to use, so I’m feeling more productive with my cooking. We purchased fans to work with the air conditioners here. It’s hot and stickier than it should be.

I’ve worn heels I think twice this year, both times to weddings, and not to all the weddings we’ve gone to. Again, comfort wins. But I’m not getting rid of the heels so quickly. I’ve gotten rid of the shoes I don’t like already. I like what I have.

I didn’t need to pull out the big guns of my heavy down coat last winter, but I definitely won’t give that away. It gets cold here in Tzfat, and it does snow every eleven years or so with some significant accumulation. The last storm was three years ago, so we’re due soon enough. We brought one snow shovel for then, and I’d rather be over-prepared than desperate.

I am so looking forward to having a place for my things, with a sense of purpose for all of them, even if they are only for nostalgia.

I’m looking forward to knowing where all the tools are, or at least where they should be returned after their use. I want to know where the toys are, again, at least in potential. Same with the broom, and the flour, and the machzorim, the special prayer books that are used only once a year.

I am looking forward to pulling out all the books we did bring and then figuring out what books we can now buy. Yes, the big birds of Israel book, once we are settled. That will be around the time of the next bird migration. We will be waiting for them at our new place.

I’m looking forward to all the musical instruments being in one room. Not sure which one yet, but we’ll figure that out.

I’m looking forward to figuring out where guests should stay, where they will enjoy the peace and quiet that we hope to gain there.

I am looking forward to guests having space, so we can all enjoy each other in ease.

Having guests, having adventures, enjoying nature. Space for our technology, the computer and camera accoutrements.

And still hanging our clothes to dry in the breeze.

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the view across our street; yes, that’s Mt. Hermon in the distance

 

 

the year of living wackily

In Tzfat. Where you can always expect the unexpected. And we are so normal it’s not normal.

זה לא נורמלי!

It’s not normal! Is the normal thing to say.

I am thinking of our year here as Act I in the play about our move to Israel, our aliyah to the Land. I don’t know what Act II will be like yet. It hasn’t yet been written. But this year has been something [via Google Translate]

בֶּאֱמֶת
really, truly, in sooth, straight up
מַמָשׁ
really, very

not normal.

What has been normal for me, of course, is not normal for most people in the world. I have to go with my experiences. I also realize that one part of moving to Israel was my desire to be normal; to live in a place where you are not the exception; you don’t have to explain yourself to people about why you dress a certain way, why you eat certain foods, why you don’t travel on these days, why you wouldn’t go out to certain places, why so many things that seem normal are not my normal. It is a great deal to belong, to fit in, to not have to think about what other people are thinking.

לִהְיוֹת עַם חָפְשִׁי בְּאַרְצֵנוּ          To be a free people in our Land

is what it says in the national anthem Hatikvah.

So, do I feel free yet? Do I feel free to walk about?

As I write this, tons of people are passing by my window. Well, busloads.

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Tours of Birthright kids coming to find out what their birthright is to this land. It’s curious, if not outright humorous to hear what they are told about Tzfat. We can hear them from the comfort of our dining room when they give their pitch about art, or Tzfat, or what is Kabbalah, or what does holy even mean? Everyone has their story, and it’s not necessarily what I would say. But let them come and hear! When I get a chance, I tell them mine.

We are grateful to live here in the middle of the chaos so we can show our visitors around; so we can give them our version of the truth. We can show them our amazement at the stones, the places with so much history that they can hardly stand up, but most of all, the people.

But when it comes down to it, we will be quite happy to do this from a little bit of distance. We hope to move to a suburb of Tzfat in August. I can know that I belong and yet be happy to be on the other side of the hill, looking to figure out what Act II is all about.

I’m looking forward to smelling the roses there.

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of mice and me

This is a combination of things, as most things truly are. We are just a few days before the holiday of Pesach, when the typical Jewish woman has a hard time distinguishing between dirt and the forbidden leavened chametz. I, of course, am not that. I know very well that I am doing spring cleaning. I removed the heavy quilt from our bed and washed the heavy linens. We opened our windows today, removing the bubble wrap that we had as insulation. And that was where we enter this post:

If you remove the wrap from your bedroom window, you might see the glass shelf above it leaning precariously.

If you see it leaning, you might realize that the window shifting probably was the unexplained noise you both heard the other night, but were too tired to investigate.

If you try to fix the glass shelf, you might have to find some wood to prop up the shelf, since it won’t come down, either, but you can’t take a chance of leaving it there.

If you start cutting some wood, you might as well make a platform for the computer that is on the floor of the study that has mysterious wet tiles there.

If you start looking more closely at the floor, you might think about taking the box of printing paper off the floor.

If you open that box once it’s off the floor, you might notice that it’s oddly packed and already opened.

If you remove the top of that box, you will discover that it’s not paper at all, but many many many more CD’s that you of course did not know were missing.

And if you think about things that you can’t possibly track, you think about learning the laws of getting ready for Pesach in a class 42 years ago, discussing the physical limits of searching for chametz, considering the limits of where one should search for chametz, whether a small rat or mouse might bring the forbidden food into some hidden area of the  house.

And when you think about what you learned, you remember your teacher saying, “I have two little mice who bring things everywhere”, referring, with love, to her children.

And when you think about mice and children, you might think about how mice are a convenient symbol for so many things, like well, yes, me, the country mouse (see? I wrote about it here and here and in detail here).

And when you realize that it’s all connected, you remember this post you wrote  also about giving a virtual mouse a cookie, of sorts, and you can write another tale about your adventures here in Israel, today, that all of this is not old but new for me, and perhaps I should be reciting a blessing of newness for all of this renewal, for the ability to experience limits and setbacks here in this Land, so I can be a country mouse in my country.

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The sky is falling, said many

It all comes together now, slowly, slowly.

Why wait until after the winter to look at real estate?

Why paint before Pesach?

Why worry about allergies outside when you have mold in the house?

What work that the city did?

Oh, yeah, there is a spring under the house. And the city closed it off last year, so it has to go somewhere.

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See the wet below? The engineers didn’t do the best job of closing things off.

And so that’s why things went bump in the night,  which turned into pieces of plaster falling off the outside wall, taking down the tsotchkes that they had hanging on the walls.

And that’s why the floor in the study (which we don’t really use because the overhead light is broken, and it’s really really dark in there) was wet. Not the whole thing; just one square.

So, putting it all together, yes, we knew there was a mold problem in Israel in old houses, especially the old stone ones. It turns out that the house we are renting is over 200 years old, with some later additions. The owner who grew up in the house told us how all his family members would take turns bathing in the kitchen in some kind of tub, heating up water and then pouring it over themselves. Apparently, there were no doors, either.

But that was then; this is now. We knew to keep spraying the mold that appeared, but didn’t think that there would be a piece of the ceiling that could fall on our heads.

Now, in terms of the painting, I had heard from our Hebrew instructor back in the states that her mother used to paint their house every year before Pesach, along with making everything else by herself (and raise a large family!), but it wasn’t until I saw this photo that it made sense.
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This was in last week’s copy of Shabbaton, a very nice compendium of Torah articles from a Zionist Religious perspective. But here it is; paint your house before Pesach!
Rough translation: using the four cups of the Seder and the textual inspiration for each as a model, they list four words describing the painting process.
  1. והגנתי I protected (against mold and fungi)

    And if this weren’t enough (dayenu, anyone?), they do continue with three more

  2. והידרתי and I decorated
  3. וניקיתי and I cleaned (fascinating it didn’t start there)
  4. וחסחתי and I saved (brilliant!)

So, there you go. As we move into the OMG it’s almost Pesach mode, we can enjoy the renewal of our people in our Land in all ways possible.

And look forward to our new home outside of the land of mold!

לְשָׁנָה הַבָאָה בִּירוּשָלַיִם הַבְּנוּיָה

 

my atonement

The other night, on our way into meeting with the couple in the house that we want to buy, my skirt got caught on the thorns of a rose bush and ripped a bit. It’s the same skirt that got ripped a few years ago on the way back from Israel. I don’t remember exactly how it happened then, but I do know that I put the skirt away for a few years until I decided to try my best to darn it. And darn it, I did.

(See what I did there?)

And now it sits waiting to be darned again, but in the meantime, I had to wonder if it was a sign of some sort. Not that I believe in signs, but when something so big is happening, and something goes off-kilter, it is bound to make some people pause. And there’s nobody that’s somebody other than me.

I wanted to take a photo of the rose on the bush, one gosh beautiful rose in winter, but I didn’t dawdle anymore than the time it took to take my skirt off of the thorn. Priorities. So here’s a photo from last winter in Israel, because beauty should never be taken for granted.

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I did wonder why it had to happen just then, so I did continue the question with ISHI maybe even the next day, of why did it happen. He said,

“Take it as a kapparah.”

Hmmm.

“What should that mean? How should I take it?”

I know what kapparah means. כפּרה; It’s what we seek on Yom Kippur, to be cleansed/atoned/forgiven for any and all sins/mistakes that we have accrued over the previous year. But how to take it here?

Like this?

  • [the relatively minor mishap should be] an Atonement [for my/our/your sins, rather than something more serious]

EXAMPLE SENTENCES

  • We “were set upon by a swarm of angry bees on the last afternoon of the hike. We were each stung multiple times… his first reaction after we outran them was ‘kapparah.’ It was a few weeks before Rosh Ashanah and I told him his words were doubly appropriate.”…

  • NOTES

    Different usage from the Yiddish kapore ‘scapegoat’. The most common scenario when this is used is at a family meal or communal affair when dishes or trays fall with a loud crash. Everyone says Kapparah! And it is usually followed by a laugh as people are reminded that this is something Sephardic Jews say.

So do I take it as a minor payment towards something I may have done, or more accurately, may not be aware of having done? Is that enough to say let’s move on? Or let’s move?

Or this, which we have heard often enough now:

But the word is also used as a term of endearment by and for men and women alike, usually by Israelis of Middle Eastern or North African (Mizrahi) descent, in much the same way as words like “motek” (“sweetie”) and ”neshama” (“soul”). When that happens, the emphasis switches (as it does for “neshama”) from the last syllable to the middle one. Thus, you can ask God for ka-pa-RA, but if your taxi driver uses the word when he addresses you, with an affected affection rendered meaningless by indiscriminate use and repetition, he’ll be pronouncing it ka-PA-ra.
Use of the word in this context, or an extended version that literally means “atonement be upon you” (“kapara alekha,” for a man,or “alayikh,” for a woman), comes from a phrase in the Jewish dialect of Moroccan Arabic that means “I’ll be a kapara for you,” according to Hebrew language maven Rubik Rosenthal.
In other words, like the chicken to which one’s sins are symbolically transferred during kaparot, the traditional pre-Yom Kippur ceremony that involves a fowl being waved in circles around the head, those who use the term “kapara” or “kapara alekha” are, in theory at least, saying they are essentially ready to die for the other person. In the case of humans, though, the scapegoat (scapechicken?) is presumed to be acting out of love, not because he or she is being gripped forcefully around the neck, blissfully unaware that a certain soup that goes well with matzah balls is on the menu.

And since I work in symbols, does the thorn of a rose mean more than a rose?

And now, should I laugh?