Monday, September 30, 2013

Chaviva 3.0

I have to give a huge nod to Ronit for her mad skills at coming up with the quirky title of this post. I hadn't yet had the boost of creative juice to realize that today, my 30th birthday, is a new version of me.

I'm not really sure why or when the 20th, 30th, 40th, etc. birthdays became such a big deal, but the reality is that after 21, you don't have many other major milestone "something happens" birthdays (if you're born in the U.S. anyway).

  • Ten was a step toward the teens.
  • Fourteen was getting a job (technically I started two months before my 14th birthday). 
  • Sixteen was a driver's license.
  • Eighteen was the right to vote. 
  • Twenty-one was the right to (legally) drink. 

And then? Well, I guess 25 meant that I didn't have to pay up the wazoo on rental cars, but other than that, not much happens. I haven't gotten gifts in years (this year was the first in many for receiving gifts, thanks to my most awesome MIL), and the attempts at attempting a birthday party simply didn't happen.

So my 30th has mostly come and gone without much fanfare. My Hebrew birthday was last week, and after a nice dinner out with Mr. T I got violently ill (glutened?) and have been under the weather ever since (bummed that we spent the money when I just regurgitated it all). Today was a work meeting, a visit to emergency care (again), and stressing over finances (again, as we're paying rent in two locations for the second month in a row with money we don't really have).

Perhaps, then, too much value is placed on birthdays. There are many in the Jewish world who believe that celebrating birthdays is a no-no, something in the vein of what pagans once did and something that Jews aren't meant to (in the Bible, the one birthday mentioned is that of Pharaoh, believe it or not). I joked with Mr. T today that henceforth, mommies count time in the days of their childrens' lives.

Time to spend the few hours left of this Chaviva 3.0 upgrade mumbling like a madwoman in HaShem's general direction. All I want for my birthday is peace, strength, patience, and a healthy, happy, curious child.

What do you think about birthdays in the Jewish world? Was 30 a big one for you or did it float by without any recognition? 

FYI: Sukkot was amazing. We spent time in the north with friends in Ma'alot minutes from the border with Lebanon where we ate delicious chili and chatted the night away in the sukkah. We spent the next day driving back home with a detour past a winery that I visited ages ago that just wasn't the same, but I got to see some beautiful landscapes of Israel that reminded me of Colorado with their greenery. Check out some of the pictures over on Flickr!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Israel and My First Sukkah

I'm sitting in my favorite Jerusalem coffee shop because our wifi in the new apartment isn't working and I am a "work from home" desk jockey, and right before my eyes, arising out of nowhere, is a sukkah! (And it's coffee themed, no less.)

Yes, the beautiful thing about living in a Jewish community is that all of your favorite restaurants throw up sukkot -- or booths, huts, shanties -- for the weeklong holiday where we're commanded to eat, drink, and be merry all outside in the sukkah. The great thing about living in Israel is that this is basically happening everywhere. Why? It's a mitzvah to eat in the sukkah! So if you're the kind of establishment that wants Jews of every flavor and religious leaning to show up during the holiday, you put up a sukkah.

Note: The sukkah is meant to be reminiscent of the temporary huts the Israelites were forced to dwell in during their 40 years wandering in the desert. It's also one of the Three Holidays that the Israelites/Jews would pilgrimage into Jerusalem to the Temple. Oddly enough, according to the prophet Zecheriah, in Messianic times, all nations of the world will celebrate Sukkot and pilgrimage to Jerusalem to celebrate. So to my non-Jewish readers: Brush up on your sukkah knowledge now! You never know when Mashiach will show up and you'll have to set up your own sukkah.

It might be hard to believe, but after "doing Jewish" for around 10 years now, I've never had my very own shiny, sparkly, law-abiding Sukkah. Despite a Reform conversion in 2006 and an Orthodox conversion in 2010, my sukkah experience has been relegated largely to community huts and those of close friends -- not to mention Sukkah City 2010, which was quite the experience.

One year my ex-husband attempted to install a sukkah on his deck, but he got flack from the neighborhood association and it fell down before we could even use it. I have experience with one-person pop-up sukkahs, large community sukkahs (including one that fell down around me), and sukkahs built in backyards, front yards, and everywhere in between.

But never have I built or decorated or dwelled for even a moment in my very own Sukkah! So this year, folks, this year is the year! It's the year of My First Sukkah. It's also the first year that I only have to observe one official "holiday" day at the beginning and end of the weeklong holiday. (In Israel, most of the Jewish festivals are only observed for one day, because theoretically we're close enough to Jerusalem know the calendar. Outside of Israel, most holidays are two days, because the idea is that Jews in the Diaspora would have to wait to hear when holidays began/ended. Yes, we have the internet and calendars, but this is just how we roll.)

With the holiday just a few days away, however, I'm left with a bit of panic: Where do I buy decorations? Do I even want to buy decorations? Should I create a theme that will create a tradition in our family? Should I go minimalist? Ahhhh! Plastic fruit: yay or nay? Cheesy posters of the patriarchs (who we invite in like visitors, because it's a huge mitzvah to invite people into your sukkah)?

The benefit of never having a sukkah of my own was that I never had to decorate it. May this be the worst of my problems this year, right?

Luckily, for us, our sukkah in the new apartment is up year round. According to the laws of sukkah, we're covered by the fact that there are two cement walls attached to the apartment where there is a glass sliding door, plus the rails on the fourth side of the balcony (with a beautiful view, I might add). We're borrowing the "roof" (called a skach in Hebrew) from our new landlord, and we recently picked up some plastic chairs that are currently serving as our dining room chairs (we're classy, and not rolling in money). As far as the basics, we're set.

As of now, the only "decoration" I have is a printed out and laminated infographic on Sukkot. I could run with the theme and just go nuts printing out and laminating infographics on the holiday, but that might be a little wonky and once Little Z is less fetus and more small child making cute pictures in school, I don't know how well they'll match. (Here's a thought: Teach Little Z about infographics in-utero!)

Decorations or not, I'm just blessed to live in a country where on every corner, on every balcony, in every little nook and cranny in this country, I'll be privy to sukkot of all shapes, sizes, and colors.

Do you have a theme for your sukkah? If you don't have your own sukkah (yet), what would be your theme of choice? 

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Yom Kippur Approach

Oh hello there half of my new, large kitchen. 

Well, it's a new year, and I'm finally settled (or sort of settled, after roughly 24 hours) into a new apartment with a real kitchen, real living and dining space, but much smaller bedrooms and only one real bathroom. Life, as it goes, is all about compromises and, on occasion, sacrifices.

The past year (not to mention the past two years) has been quite the whirlwind. Moving to Israel, meeting Mr. T and getting engaged, losing both of my jobs, getting married, moving to Neve Daniel, Mr. T hitting rough professional/financial times, us struggling to get by ... and then finding an amazing job, money showing up that we were owed, an apartment popping up that perfectly suited our needs with an impending baby and a 10-year-old boy with us part-time.

It was a year of blessings and curses, in a way. And I cried a lot this year, and not just because I was pregnant for a lot of it (oh hormones).

I learned a lot about myself and what it means to daven (prayer), but not in the "I'm going to synagogue on Shabbat and reading out of the siddur (prayer book)" kind of praying. More the Chana style of praying. I like to think of it as silent but deadly: the quiet, angry moments with HaShem, coupled with the blissful, confusing moments with HaShem. I whispered myself to sleep with all of the problems and blessings on my lips, and I began every Shabbat with silent requests preceded by thank yous for all all of the beautiful things I've been gifted with -- from friends and family to parnasah and the beautiful baby I'm carrying.

After last year's immensely successful (for me) Yom Kippur, where I fasted successfully for the first time in years, I've been wondering how this Yom Kippur will be for me. I'm pregnant, and with the up and down of my blood pressure and dealing with some almost-black-out moments on days where I didn't eat or drink enough, I won't be fasting. Eating as little as possible, I don't even know if I'll make it to synagogue. It's going to be a Chana-style Yom Kippur/Shabbat experience for this gal.

What I do know is that I have all the hope in the world that 5774 will be a year of forgiveness, a consolidation of Jewish peoplehood and religion, and peace to all nations of the world. It's really all I can hope and wish for at this point. HaShem has smiled upon me in many ways, and no matter the amount of "curses" that seem to come my way, the "blessings" are abundant. It just takes a few moments for things to come into focus, sometimes.

Wishing everyone an easy fast, and g'mar chatimah tovah!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Sukkot: The Ushpizin Infographic

Absolutely loving this infographic. Hopefully, you'll be able to find it in my sukkah!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Shana Tova!

It's funny that this time last year I'd just pulled into Denver after a quick divorce and really had all the time in the world to sit down and pen a thoughtful and pensive post about life changes, ebbs and flows, and HaShem's plans for me.

This year? I was busy cooking, cleaning, working, and trying to get everything perfect for the three-day Jewish version of "Eat, Pray, Sleep." (Two days of Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish New Year, with Shabbat tagged on at the end -- oy!)

The funny thing is, basically every year of my life since I graduated college in 2006 has been something completely and utterly different. Whether it was my physical location, schooling, who I was dating, conversion, life's tumults ... something was always changing. I haven't had two years of fairly consistent anything in a long time.

So my prayer is for the mundane with a twist of excitement in the unexpected, as usual. I pray that this time next year, I'll have a happy little baby on my hip, a wonderful husband at my side, and a home where people come and go and it feels like home. I don't think it's too far out of reach, either.

To everyone on the face of the planet who I've wronged in the past year -- please accept this meager attempt at an apology for misspeaking, misunderstanding, or just plain wronging.

So here's to my first year in Eretz Yisrael. It started out wonderful, got really, really rough, and has picked up since then. People say that this land tries with all its might to chew people up and spit them out, and I don't doubt the accuracy in that statement for a second. Judaism, as a whole, has a tendency of doing the same thing. You have to really want -- nay, need -- to be Jewish, to be all in with this fight for religion, peoplehood, identity, and culture.

Nothing here comes easy. Nothing.

Happy New Year. Shana Tova. Even if it's the absolute least you can do, eat those apples and honey with a huge smile on your face. This life is a gift. This life is all we have.

Let's start 5774 off right.