The Jewish holiday of Lag BaOmer

Today is the Jewish holiday of Lag BaOmer. If you live near Jewish communities, you might have seen bonfires, parades and hear lots of music. We are celebrating the Jahrzeit (anniversary of death) of the biblical sage Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, the author of the Zohar, the holy book of Jewish mysticism, the Kabalah. His grave is situated in the Northern Israeli town of Meron and today is the day that Jewish people from all over the world and all over Israel come and pray by his grave and celebrate his life. His life was one of happiness and he wanted the day of his remembrance to be one of happiness too. So around the world bonfires are being lit, lots of dancing and every Jewish town has a parade for the children with music.

Lag baomer  Parade in our town.

The highlight of this day is being in Meron. I will try to recreate my experience when I visited whilst I was living in Israel.

The best time to go is in the evening so you will not stand in the boiling sun for hours. So that’s when I went.  When I arrived by public transportation, I still had a hill to climb. This hill is a spectacle in itself as there are all kinds of people trying to peddle their wares, all in the name of charity of course! I declined all of them as I just wanted to get to the top. As I approached the end of the hill, I heard the strains of music playing. I’m getting nearer to the action and I was already getting emotional. The atmosphere there cannot be described but I will try. Thousands of people are dancing together to live music, all differences put aside, brother near brother, one nation. You can feel the holiness in the air. This day is also an auspicious time for childless couples to pray for a salvation by his grave. This was also one of the reasons I came as I was still childless and wanted to come pray here. I watch the spirited dancing, enthralled by the beauty and the unity.

(all kinds of Jews dancing together)

I could stare for hours at the scene, singing along with the infectious music. But I needed to get near the grave to pray. As I made my way through the throngs of people, the atmosphere gets heavier, more serious. When I entered the room where the actual grave is located, it’s like you entered a different world. People are there to pray for salvations, mostly for children but also for any other misfortune they have. People are sobbing, praying their hearts out and asking the sage to intervene on their behalf to G-d. (In our culture, it’s customary to pray for salvation by graves of our sages and beseeching the Sage to intervene as they are close to G-d)

One of the Segulos  (propitious practice) that people do is to promise to name their child after the Sage if they are blessed with a child within a year. So I was standing there, tears streaming from my eyes, praying for a long awaited child and promising to name him after the Sage, if only it will happen that year still. I was scheduled to have my first IVF in July. After I finished praying, I had a good feeling. I felt optimistic and hopeful.

I left the grave and made my way through the masses to watch some more dancing. It was already in the middle of the night but the dancing and live music goes on for 24 hours straight. The experience of being there is surreal. The time has come to go back, even though I could have stayed for another few hours. So very reluctantly I made my way back to the entrance and down the hill and onto the bus that will take me back to Jerusalem. Since then, I have gone back a few more times and it’s the same special experience. As I moved away from Israel, I now participate from afar, watching the live streams.

My feelings of ecstasy and delight and intense emotion are hard to describe when I found out that my IVF attempt in July resulted in a pregnancy. Next year’s Lag BaOmer found my husband in Meron, expressing his gratitude for our miracle. After we decided to try for child #2, I went to pray there again and by next Lag BaOmer I was 6 months pregnant with my miracle daughter. This year I prayed from home. We will be embarking on the next round of infertility treatments soon for child #3. I hope from the bottom of my heart to be able to experience another miracle by next Lag BaOmer. I definitely don’t underestimate the power of prayer. My 2 precious children are a result of that prayer (with the help of science!)

Pidjon Haben-redemption of the firstborn son.

A pidyon haben, or “redemption of the firstborn son,” is a ceremony wherein the father of a firstborn male redeems his son by giving a kohen (a priestly descendant of Aaron) five silver coins, thirty days after the baby’s birth. -chabad.org

For the exact reasons why we do this, please refer to the following link: http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/928156/jewish/What-Why.htm

It’s 30 days after the birth of my little great nephew. He was her first, born naturally so a pidyon haben could be celebrated. It’s a special ceremony as not everyone can do it. No pidjon will be held if the child has been born by cesarean, if she is a girl or if the father is a Kohen. It was a long while since we had a pidjon haben in the family so it’s a special occasion. We all come dressed in our finery and wish each other mazel tov.

The baby is slumbering peacefully, looking regal in an all-white outfit. He is placed on a silver tray to show our love for this mitzvah (commandment) and will be bedecked with jewelry. Everyone eagerly gives a piece.

pidjon blur

He is being carried to the men’s side and the ceremony begins. The exchange between the father and the kohen follows. The father “redeems” his firstborn son by exchanging the equivalent of 5 silver coins with the Kohen, a blessing is recited and the baby is brought back to his mother.

We all sit down to a festive meal. It’s customary to include meat and wine. I’m enjoying a moment of relaxation in the midst of the hectic Passover preparations.

My son was asked to play on his keyboard and the background music adds a lot to the event. I’m grateful to have been a part of this most beautiful tradition of ours.

The Hasidic way of dating and marriage (in honor of Valentine)

As it’s Valentine’s day today, I thought I’d reshare this popular post about my engagement 🙂
Happy Valentine’s day!

Orthodoxsunflower

As Valentine’s day approaches, I was thinking it’s a good time to tell you how my shidduch (a date or match, often leading to marriage. The matching up of a man and a woman for purposes of marriage) went. In the non Jewish world, ours is what you would call an arranged marriage. I dislike that word though because in my mind, that equals a “forced” marriage. And mine, like most others in my community was anything but. At any time you have the option of saying no.

As a girl turns 18, it gives matchmakers a green light to start calling the parents. I belong to a certain Hasidic sect so the suggestions were all going to be eligible young men from the same sect. So, as I turned 18, the phones started ringing with suggestions. If a suggestion sounded promising, my parents went ahead and made many inquiries…

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(food struggle) Irritable bowel syndrome

If you have read my previous entries, you know that I’m in the middle of a treatment called PSE. I’m taking drops every day to unfreeze my emotions. I’m still taking them but besides crying a lot, I don’t feel much of a difference in my blocked head. I’ll have patience, though.

Last time I went to my doctor, I told her about my many cramps and bloated stomach. She diagnosed me with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). Finally a name for all my misery!

The first thing I did was research IBS online. Time and again a diet came up as the only solution for relief. It’s called FoDMap diet. The foods are divided into high and low fodmaps. For the first 6-8 weeks, you eliminate all high fodmaps foods. After that, you slowly reintroduce them and see how your body reacts to them.

It’s not easy as one of the things not allowed are onions and garlic. I use onions for everything!! Some fruits aren’t allowed like apple, some vegetables like cauliflower and most gluten. I have been trying to eat gluten free until now and although I wasn’t very successful, it will be easy to get back into it.

Today, I woke up with an upset stomach so I’ll take it easy today but tomorrow it starts in full force!

Keep checking the blog for an update in a week or so.

What did you always want to read about

My writing has been stuck for a while. I have enough ideas, that’s not the problem. But I struggle to find an angle with every subject. I want to tell my stories but I think stories alone are not interesting. I have to learn to find something people can relate to.  Something that makes people say: “Me too!”. That’s the hardest part of writing. To find the lesson, the universal truth or at least something bigger than “I”.

I hear writing a lot improves writing. I really should be posting more on my blog. But I’m stuck here as well. I don’t know what to write about on here. Any suggestions as to what you’d like to read more of? I think I covered most of our holidays by now. I can’t be too personal as this blog is public and as much as I’d like to think that I’m anonymous, I’m sure it doesn’t take much to figure me out.

So I’d like to hear from you guys what you’d like to get out of this blog.

Thanks in advance!

Rebecca x

Blogging about different aspects of my life as an ultra orthodox chassidic Jewish woman and mother.