Saturday, September 15, 2018

Parashat Vayelech is Coming ... and My Daughter is Eating Soap!

Oh how I love these two crazy blond monkeys. 

I'm two days into my self-care regimen of writing every day, and as Shabbat approaches I'm feeling stressed. This is the opposite of self-care, right? Self-care is supposed to be relaxing, rejuvenating, refreshing ... calming?

Instead, I'm sitting in the bathroom on a tiny Target clearance chair from last season trying to give my daughter a bath. I go to quickly wash her hair and body using one of those pouf things and she, my 2 year old wild child, dips her finger in the soap and takes a big lick.

"No! That's soap! We don't eat soap!"

I've taken a brief moment to recognize that I say "we" like the royal "we" and every time I do I think, "Good lord I'm one of those parents." But it always just comes out. "We don't do this, we don't do that." Why is that? Maybe another time.

"But mommy, it's yummy! Yummy soap!"

She didn't even cringe. She didn't make a face. She enjoyed the soap. She asks for more, and I have to remind her, "Don't eat it!"

I had really wanted to sit down and read this week's parashah, Vayelech, and try to do some learning, but like all well-laid plans, that one fell apart before 10 a.m. In the time that I probably could have sat down and turned everything off and read the portion and tried to glean something meaningful and relevant, I was running to the dry cleaners (I forgot to take stuff before Rosh HaShanah and felt like a jerk) and to the store to pick up a few loaves of sourdough for Shabbat.

And now we're on the couch. T is watching Daniel Tiger and I'm trying to suss out something from the parashah. Here we have Devarim 31:16-18:
And they will forsake Me and violate My covenant which I made with them.
And My fury will rage against them on that day, and I will abandon them and hide My face from them, and they will be consumed, and many evils and troubles will befall them, and they will say on that day, 'Is it not because our God is no longer among us, that these evils have befallen us?'
And I will hide My face on that day, because of all the evil they have committed, when they turned to other gods.
The thing is, I've been having a hard time connecting lately. To the universe, to HaShem, to my family, to my work, to just about everything. Everything feels big, overwhelming, exhausting, like I'm walking in sand. I have these moments of pure clarity where I feel caught up, calm, like I'm finally getting somewhere, but then I just get overwhelmed again. 

I look at these verses like most people probably do: I did something bad, I'm being punished, HaShem is a million miles away and more. You can expand it and look at global warming, disease, murder, poverty, and every other major catastrophe and wonder, "What did we do?"

When I'm having a hard time, I have to remind myself that Judaism, my core set of beliefs, my religion, my internal dialogue, my heart, my soul, are not qualified by an "if, then" statement. If I don't daven (pray) every day then HaShem will make me feel despair and loneliness. If I don't remember to make all of the right brachot (blessings) over food, then HaShem will make me feel empty and sad and unappreciated. It just doesn't work like that. It's a hard reality, but that's the reality. Yes, if you rob a bank, then you'll go to jail. If you smash into someone's car, then you'll have to pay damages and potentially go to jail. But the Torah doesn't work that way, not exactly. 

The truth is, those other gods that we turn to, those other gods that we worship and covet that send HaShem into a fury and disrupt the equilibrium that we all so desire in this totally jacked up world varies from person to person. They're not literal gods. Our gods are money, the newest phone, brand new clothes, the nicest car, the most organic and non-GMO foods we can't afford. Our gods are jealousy and vanity and anger and everything else that we let consume us on a daily basis. That's what sends HaShem into a fury, that's when He hides his face and makes us feel like we've been completely abandoned. 

At least once every few weeks, I have this conversation with Asher:

A: Mommy, how did people destroy HaShem's house when it's in the sky?
Me: Well, at one time it was in Jerusalem. That's where HaShem talked to us and we heard Him. 
A: Oh. And then they destroyed it?
Me: Yup. And now we're waiting to rebuild it. 
A: Well, I already rebuilt it. 
Me: You did?
A: Yeah, I built it, and now I can hear HaShem every day. 

I feel like, if only I had such a clear, beautiful view of the world, I'd feel less overwhelmed, less like I'm constantly being punished for not doing enough of the Jewish stuff because I'm doing so much of the being an adult stuff. It's one of the reasons, I think, that while reading Ilana Kurshan's If All the Seas Were Ink, that I started to have a physical reaction to reading about her experiences in Israel. Living in Israel, learning in Israel, living the dream I once dreamed and lived so vividly. Part of me thinks that if I were living back in Israel, all of the ways that I'm feeling empty and lacking would be filled up again. But then I remember that what I feel here is what I'll feel there, our baggage is internal and it follows us around -- it's not location specific, Chavi!

Anyway, this has been really, really long and wandering. I'm not sure what my ultimate point is, which, as a writer, makes me feel a bit like I suck at my job. But hey, I fulfilled my push to write every day! Day three down. Stay tuned for a post-Shabbat post when maybe I'll have something coherent to say about it being Shabbat Shuvah and how this entire post was perfectly on-theme!

Shabbat shalom and g'mar chatimah tovah -- may you be inscribed in the book of life!