Tag Archives: Jewish

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.

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

G-d knows what’s best for us.

I just reread my last blog entry. I remember that night. The heartfelt prayers by the holy candles, wishing for clarity and a solution.

I’m so glad to be able to tell you that our prayers have been answered. My son was accepted into a great yeshivah overseas. It looks like it was created just for him. He is one of 8 boys. This school was created for those boys who do not fit into our mainstream yeshivas where the program is rigorous. The learning is much less, they get plenty of individual warmth and attention, there is a psychologist on staff and they have a lot of fun and outings too. They dorm there too. So far, it’s been going really well! He sounds so happy when we speak to him. That makes our hearts happy.

Sometimes, when a bad thing happens; we question why. It’s hard to see the good in those moments. But I always got strength of something I once heard. Life is like a tapestry. The back of a tapestry looks terrible. Lots of tangled strings and knots and it is just one big mess. That’s what we humans see down here below. But when you look at it from the other side, there is a beautiful picture. G-d sees that picture. Our life unfolds as it should, with a beautiful tapestry but we don’t always see the big picture. We need to trust that everything that happens is for our good. I hope I don’t sound preachy because I’m actually talking to myself here.

I can now say that as hard as that whole situation was, it was ultimately for his own good. Had he stayed in his old school, who knows how things would have turned out? I would not have found that incredible school. He is only there for a short while but I can already hear him sound less stressed, more relaxed and overall happy. I kept telling myself that whole story WILL have a silver lining because G-d ultimately does what’s best for us and it’s not always the easy way. But we have all grown from this, my husband and me as a couple and my son and my husband too. As a family, this has really brought us together.

And that is the blessing in disguise.

Thank you all for the support and for reading what I have to say!

Rebecca

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!

 

My complicated thoughts on the election

(disclaimer: some of it is religious in nature)

This is a tough time to be American. I’m sure glad I don’t live there right now. Passions are running high, everyone has an opinion. Some are grieving, some are ecstatic. My facebook feed is a mix actually. I have friends on both sides as I friend people based on things we have in common like autism, writing and blogging. Their political leaning held no interest for me.

My thoughts on the election outcome are very complicated. I have refrained from openly discussing my views on Facebook as I don’t want to hurt or offend anyone and I use facebook as a place to make contacts with other writers or support other parents with high functioning autistic children. Politics is also not my thing and I have never cared much and especially not in the country I live in (Europe). I voted because I had to and only made sure not to vote for those openly saying that Muslims don’t belong here because we all know they’ll include Jews as well in the end and I hate racism. Also, us Europeans are much less passionate than our American brethren. So one part is cultural.

Then it becomes complicated. If you know me, you know I grew up and still belong to one of the strictest sects of Hasidism. I grew up very sheltered and insular.  I’m not supposed to be online, much less so on FB. I am anonymous and still hope that no one in my real life knows it’s me. I use FB as a tool to get my writing out there and make some connections and also originally started an account to open up a support group and page for parents of HFA children as my son is autistic and there wasn’t enough support for our challenges. I don’t use FB for the social aspect although, after a few years, the connections deepened and some real friendships were made. I started caring for some people, cared about their opinions. I read lots of political posts and started to open my mind to things it hadn’t been before. I didn’t know (and still don’t understand much) what feminism is, what white privilege meant and all these terms thrown around.

I’m also a very non-confrontational and mellow person. I don’t have strong opinions and lots of time don’t care one way or another. I have issues with organizing my thoughts to express what I really mean so I mostly prefer to stay quiet and go about my business.

Being a non-American I didn’t really have any strong feelings for any candidate. I don’t even understand all the politics there and what it all means. So I was never pro or anti-Clinton. I knew Trump from TV as I watched The apprentice years ago. I thought it was funny that he ran for president but that was all.

He then opened his mouth. What I hated the most about him were all the stuff I read about sexual assault. As a rape and molestation survivor that was very hurtful. I kept reading my friends accounts of how he treats and feels about disabled people. It wouldn’t affect me personally because I don’t live there but it affects all my fellow autism parents. He started to disgust me.

I started wondering who I would vote for IF I would be American. It became quite complicated. The way I see it, the last 8 years were not very good for Israeli relations with the US and this, as an ultra-Orthodox Jew, matters to me. The political correctness sometimes got to me too. Why not call  an attack that was clearly terrorism-related a “terrorist attack”? (in Israel). There were lots more some moments like that, that had my head in my hands in despair. So I probably wouldn’t have voted for someone who would continue in the same vein.

Now it becomes sensitive. (I’m trying the best I can to phrase all this right but I’m human) I’m a peace loving person and I would like nothing more than to have everyone live their lives according to the way they think is right. I have my beliefs which are rooted in the Torah and live according to them. I would never impose them onto others as that’s not what G-d wants. A non-Jew doesn’t need to keep our laws or believe what we believe in. G-d asks of the nations to be decent people and live morally correct lives. I’m not G-ds police and I don’t think He intended for anyone to be.

Most of you know that our Torah is against the gay lifestyle, is anti-abortion and so on. Here is where it gets tricky. I have some dear friends on FB who have gay children or are gay themselves. I love them and respect them and don’t judge them or the way they live. Who am I to say “your lifestyle is immoral/wrong/whatever”. *I* need to be ok in G-d’s eyes and HE has not asked me to change others or make them see the light. I would never do that. So we mostly don’t discuss that issue and I say live and let live. Yes, it might be hurtful to them that in my heart I can’t agree with that lifestyle bc my Torah says no (and I love my Torah and my G-d) but I hope they can respect me anyway. I don’t agree with those who are vocal and try to change others because I believe that’s not what G-d wants. (for those asking what I would do if my son would become gay, I have truly no idea but one thing I know, I will continue to love him)

What this long-winded post was meant to say is that although I empathize so much with my Clinton supporter friends, I actually identify with *some* (not all) of Trump’s views. I hate the way he talks about his views, I hate the way he treats women and minimizes sexual assault. But some of his views align with mine BECAUSE I’m a Hasidic Jew.

But our Torah also says to love all people. I don’t have much interaction in real life with non-Jews as we live very insular. (I mean close interaction). I am friendly and cordial to everyone I meet, even some Muslims who look at me as if they want to kill me (yes, there are some like that), I smile to each and every person and have had some great conversations with people who asked interesting questions and wanted to learn more about my faith. I don’t hate black people (why should I) and I don’t hate Muslims either or any person. I only hate those that hate me for no reason other than that I’m a Jew.

This is the reason I didn’t clearly say who I support on FB. Because it’s not clear cut. I like Hillary because she is more normal than Donald Trump and the world would probably stay more stable. I don’t like Trump because the way he spoke, the fear he sowed and the real disgusting people who are now being more open with their racist comments and actions because of him. But then, I do support some of his views.

As I didn’t have a clear-cut answer as to who I support, I didn’t chime in on my friend’s posts. I only tried to empathize with their feelings because they are all valid. They have legitimate concerns. I hear them on their fears for their children,  fear for their human rights and so on. On the other side, I don’t TOTALLY disagree with the Trump supporters (not the thugs, the rational, normal people) either. And since I’m no American, I didn’t think my voice mattered much to begin with.

But here, on my personal space, I wanted to do a little explaining. Not sure I did a good job because I’m truly bad at getting my point across and organize my thoughts on paper.

I’m glad I didn’t have to make that difficult choice. As a believing Jew, I know that if G-d got him elected, this is the way it must be. There is no other logical explanation other that that it’s G-d’s will. We believe in the coming of the Messiah (Moshiach) and our holy books predict turbulent times before the redemption. A lot that has been predicted has come to pass. I can only pray for our future, the future of our children. The rest I leave up to my G-d.

 

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!