Category Archives: Religion

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!)

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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.

My prayer for the 8th night of Hannukah

It’s the 8th night of Hannukah. It’s written in our holy books that on the last night, you can ask G-d for anything you need. It’s an auspicious time for prayer and prayer requests. I am sitting by the menorah, together with my husband and children.

The candles are flickering slightly and as my husband sings the Psalms I gaze deeply into the holy flames, letting my mind wander. I have lots to pray for. I think of my dear son, who has such difficulty controlling his impulses, some of them downright harmful. One of his impulses got him kicked out of yeshivah. I’m praying for him to understand the gravity of his impulse and what his future could be if he doesn’t learn how to control it. I’m asking G-d to please help the psychiatrist find good meds to help him overcome his obsessions/compulsions and not to have to go through the same dance we had while trying to find the right meds for his ADD. (which we still haven’t).

Tears are starting to flow as I beseech G-d to find him the right Yeshivah which will accept him as he is and will be willing to help him as he confronts and works through his issues. My heart cannot accept that I will have to send him away from home that young but I can only hope that G-d made all this happen so that he could end up in the Yeshivah that will be best for him. I pray that G-d gives me the strength to have faith that this is all for the best and that we can see it sooner rather than later.

I hear my husband’s voice starting to shake. My heart goes out to him, too. This is very hard on him, much harder than it’s for me. A father has high hopes for his son. All he wants is to see him successful and happy. His heart breaks seeing his son at home all day. I can hear the prayer in his voice, no doubt praying the same as me.

The Chanukah candles are special, the whole holiday of Chanukah is special. We celebrate the miracle that’s happened many years ago. We can only hope that our prayers by the candles will go straight to heaven and that we may merit our own personal salvation as well.

Happy last day of Chanukah!

 

The holiday of Sukkos

Our next holiday is upon us. The high Holidays are over, we hope we are all inscribed in the book of life and that we will merit a good, sweet year.

Sukkos: a major Jewish festival held in the autumn (beginning on the 15th day of Tishri) to commemorate the sheltering of the Israelites in the wilderness. It is marked by the erection of small booths covered in natural materials. (Google)

From tonight, for a week, we partake all our meals in the sukkah, which is best described as a hut. The reason for that is written above. Another reason is that as a temporary dwelling the sukkah also represents the fact that all existence is fragile, and therefore Sukkot is a time to appreciate the shelter of our homes and our bodies. (toriavey.com)

The sukkah is decorated by the kids, here is a picture of ours!


Our sukkah is built in.  Most people erect it only for the holiday and then take it down after. The sukkah is the reason why most Jewish families are only looking to buy apartments with balconies or houses with a garden.

This holiday is a joyous one. The first 2 days are proper holidays, where no electricity is allowed and is like a regular sabbath. Then comes Chol Ha-moed which is called the intermediate days. Some things aren’t allowed, like writing but for the rest, it’s like a regular day. The days are used to go on family outings.

Another commandment that is unique to Sukkot is the taking of the Four Kinds: an etrog(citron), a lulav (palm frond), at least three hadassim (myrtle branches) and two aravot (willow branches). The Midrash tells us that the Four Kinds represent the various types and personalities that comprise the community of Israel, whose intrinsic unity we emphasize on Sukkot. (Chabad.org)

Sukkot

Then comes the next 2 holidays of Shemini atzeres and simchat torah. Simchat Torah is the holiday for the children which they eagerly await for all year. Simcha means joy and the meaning of the holiday is our great joy at finishing and restarting the annual Torah reading cycle. The highlight of the day is called the hakafos in which the men and children dance around in circles 7 times with the Torah scrolls. It’s a beautiful and emotional sight to watch. The first few years of my marriage were hard as I had to see my husband dance empty handed. Oh, how my tears flowed when after 7 years, my husband was dancing with our precious long awaited miracle in his hands! As we want our kids to feel that Torah learning is sweet, the day is characterized by the distribution of sweets and the kids eat more junk food on that day than all year!

This holiday is a beautiful one, full of joy and adults and kids alike wait for it all year round!

Chag sameach!

Happy New Year-Shana Tova!

Tonight is the Jewish New Year. Wishing all of us a Happy New Year, a year filled with love, light, health, happiness, riches and Nachas (If you follow this page, you should know what it means 😉
This year was tough on many levels. Personally, we had my little nephew diagnosed and suffer so much, I’m praying for health for him. Globally, we have had much bad news too. They year ahead is scary…The world is changing and not for the better 😦
But we have to stay optimistic. We have to keep believing that things will be good. We will continue to celebrate the good in our lives. This past year was not all bad. We celebrated the Bar Mitzvah of our one and only son, it was a beautiful affair we will long remember. There were good times too, family wise, community wise and global wise..
So here is to a Happy, healthy New year! Thanks for sticking with me and hopefully you’ll all stick around for a long time 🙂
Shana Tova!

9/11 thoughts on the heroes of the day

9/11
Like everyone else, I clearly remember where I was when it happened. I was living in Israel at the time, married but no children yet. I worked full time as a cashier in a busy supermarket. I had heard about it from my husband who called me at work. We knew a plane hit the towers but we still thought it was an accident. I came home and since we had no internet or TV, I asked my neighbor if I could come over and watch the news on her TV. While we were watching, we saw the most horrific thing which was the second plane plunging into the second tower. By now it was apparent it was a terror attack. We watched the news in morbid fascination, not believing this happened. The whole afternoon I was in a daze like everyone else. This was a world tragedy. Everyone knew at least someone who was in some way related to a victim.
And then, the heroes. The ones who lost their lives trying to save others. They are the ones we remember too, every year. I just wanted to give a little shout out to an organization belonging to us ultra-orthodox Jews. We have our own volunteer EMS service called Hatzalah which operates in the Jewish areas. Though they primarily service the Jews they will never ignore a plea for help from anyone, Jewish or not. When they heard about the disaster happening in New York, they didn’t think twice and raced to the scene, putting themselves in danger to save fellow humans.  I think they deserve this shout out especially as they didn’t *have* to go since they’re not the official first responders. But they’re all about saving lives so whether there were Jews involved or not, it was a national tragedy and they just did what anyone else in their position would have done.
Hatzalah, thanks for extending yourselves to your fellow Jews and to each and every human that needs help. On 9/11 you made the Jewish world proud. A beacon of light among many others on that otherwise bleak day.
May G-d repay you all.