Monday, November 2, 2009

Stream of consciousness

So many thoughts rattling around in my head - where to begin?

First, it's raining again - hurray! No really, we are very happy. I did end up driving Dani and Ariella to schoool today because of the pouring rain that began to pound about 30 seconds before they were to leave for school. Luckily, Shana and Ayelet had already boarded their bus and did not get soaked. Also lucky, I did not have to get out of the car, so no one noticed that I was wearing pajamas with a skirt and rain jacket thrown on top. Ariella was very disappointed when she got home, because not a drop fell in the ten minutes it takes them to walk home. She was desperate to use her umbrella. I promised her that as soon as it started raining, she could go outside with her boots and umbrella. And that is exactly what she did - as soon as it started to rain, she went out and marched/danced up and down the path from the front of the house to the back, having a grand old time until the lightning and thunder started, at which time she came inside, we made some brachot, and everyone was happy. Sadly for us, we missed the beautiful rainbow that graced the sky briefly this afternoon, as it was not easily visible from our house.

Next on my mind, where is autumn? We literally go directly from summer to winter. Can't figure out why some people in Israel name their child "Stav." Perhaps they should try "unicorn" or "mermaid" or some other mythical creature....

My sister Adina forwarded me, along with my sisters and parents, an article from the New York Times by Jonathan Safran Foer, adapted from his upcoming book, Eating Animals. Thankfully, it is a little less self-indulgent, at least in style if not substance, than his novels. He talks about his grandmother, a Holocaust survivor, and how she loved to feed her grandchildren. His grandmother was very much like our Bubby Sara, who also never sat down at the table, because she was too busy making sure everyone else had enough to eat. Making sure others were well fed was an expression of love, and a little bit of revenge. Hearing about his grandmother made me think of mine. That much of the piece made me smile. The rest just made me mad.

At the end of the article, Foer recounts how his grandmother would tell him about her experiences running and hiding during the war, while he would eat. At the end of the war, she says, she was so starved and emaciated that she feared she would not live. A generous farmer brought her a piece of meat, but she would not eat it, because it was pork. Even to save her own life, she would not eat something that was not kosher, because "If nothing matters, there's nothing to save." I can not quite wrap my mind around the fact that Foer uses this as part of his rationale for being a vegetarian. The same guy who says he loves calamari, but won't eat it because of his elevated moral code - a code of his own making. Not to sound corny, but the Torah is my guide. Sure, there are gradations: different people keep mitzvot differently, and that's all okay as long as it is within the bounds of halacha. There is black, there is white, and, yes, there are shades of grey. You can go above and beyond, and more power to those who can do that. But there are also red lines, lines which can not be crossed, because if they are, perhaps there really is nothing to save. To stray so far from what is permissible, and to claim superiority? Just annoying. I keep the mitzvot to the best of my ability, and I trust those who came before me, the scholars, the heroes and heroines of our history. We stand on their shoulders, and we are so much smaller. Striving to come close to them makes us who we are and who we can be. It is a challenge to accept that there is much that is bigger than you in this world, and yet still love and appreciate that fact - to feel small and empowered at the same time.

I guess I can just be grateful to my grandparents, both my mother's parents, who were Holocaust survivors, and my father's parents, who grew up in America, at a time when maintaining Torah Judaism was a tremendous challenge (which is not to say it has become easier in the most essential of ways). They all made decisions to believe and observe, and that's the road I follow. It links me to them, to my history, and to my people. I often say that I can't imagine what life would be like without religious observance - but the bottom line is, I do not want to know. I know my life is richer and happier for it. It matters - our lives matter. I would not give that up, and I wouldn't change a thing. I am sad for those who don't have that feeling. Part of that richness is certainly living here, in our land, and part is what led to being here. I am truly lucky - but then, we don't believe in luck, do we?


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