Monday, October 05, 2009

When you reach rock-bottom, laugh or start a facebook group

When you reach rock-bottom, what do you do?

1. Turn to G-d
2. Speak to a Rabbi
3. Cry to your best friend
4. Drink a bottle of brandy
5. Buy a bar of the most expensive chocolate in the world

OK, tried all of that and only reached +0.009% on the happiness scale.

How about writing a blog? Mmm, wrote one version and deleted it.

What am I left with?

The best therapies in the world - laughter and facebook. What about combining both of them?

So here it is, a funny facebook group:
"Jewish Women Like to Laugh"

Ladies, join my group and make me laugh. I need it.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Is the Torah a thinking universe?

Anonymous Questions: I pose my queries to the universe. Peace upon you.
Answers: by Rabbi Moshe Yossef BA (Hons), Jerusalem 97492

Question: Do you believe that the "UNI' has it's own conscious energy? Science has yet to understand this.
Answer: According to Hassidism, as espoused by the holy Ba'al Shem Tov, every entity in the universe, indeed all matter, including inanimate matter, possesses inherent spiritual energy, without which it would cease to exist. This school of thought is a branch of Jewish mysticism.

Question:I don't know what theTorah sez about a thinking universe. Do you have an opinion?
Answer: According to Midrashic sources of the Torah every entity in the universe, including inanimate matter, has a type of spirit associated with, and representing it. Whilst I accept everything the Torah states unquestioningly, I have not yet delved in any depth in the spheres of mysticism. This being the case, I can only attempt to answer questions of this type on a basic level.

Question: Most people don't consider the skin as an organ?
Answer: I suppose that would depend on your definition of what constitutes an organ. In relation to the issues discussed above, it would appear to be true to say that the skin possesses its own intrinsic spiritual energy. As long as it is part of a whole, living body, I think probably it would share the same spirit as that of the whole body. In our faith, a living man has three distinct types of spirit.

May the source of all creation guide and direct you to your full potential.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Ten essential items a Jewish Mummy needs for survival

As voted on by a top team of select experts in Jerusalem
(OK - just 10 intelligent Mummies)

#1 Floorcloth (Smatut in Hebrew)
You need this on hand 24/7 for those very occasional spills and floods. Like the time I took a Shabbat nap, and woke up to see water entering my room.

#2 A Packet of Bamba (For the rest of the world Potato Chips)
This bag contains all the nutrition and vitamins your child needs for the next hour. When they say "I want' at least ten times, you can give in and give them a non-sugary healthy snack without feeling guilty of causing hyper-activity.

# 3 A Pacifier/Dummy (Motzez in Hebrew)
A must for every fashion conscious Mummy's handberg. In Israel while you are standing at the checkout with a wailing child everyone screams at you "Where is your pacifier?". Perhaps they mean you need to put it in your own mouth to prevent you from screaming about the store's prices?

#4 Toilet Paper
I don't think I need to spell it out. Toilet paper has many uses, apart from what it was manufactured for. There are always accidents - major and minor - that require a little dabbing. Like a dripping ice-cream all over your favorite white outfit ....

#5 An Ice Pop (Igloo in Hebrew)
This is a serious first-aid instrument for cut mouths, bruises, bumps on the head and tantrums. Child can even enjoy it on route to be stitched-up. No medicine kit should be without it.

#6 Chocolate
A treat hidden away for Mummy on those infrequent "bad days". Like finally getting "little ones" to bed and discovering "big ones" have wrecked your computer. If you really don't like chocolate, you can always donate it to "best friend".

#7 Sachet of Coffee - not decaffeinated
Similar to #6, but can be used in the morning to get going after a hard night.

#8 Tin of Tuna
Some days, an interesting but low-price meal is impossible to dream up. No Jewish kitchen should be without a tin of tuna. It can be turned into quiche, rissoles, spaghetti sauce, and a lot more I am sure. But it is most enjoyable when eaten straight out of the tin.

#9 Toy Giraffe
On so many car and bus trips everyone gets sooh boored. A toy giraffe is a great distraction. There can be endless discussions on whether a giraffe is a kosher animal or not. If it is, then where on the neck can you slaughter (shecht) it?

#10 Two Chewy Candies (Toffim in Hebrew)
Apart from using them as candies, they can be used in many other interesting ways. They are malleable like plasticine and can look great moulded into the shape of pets. They are sticky so can be an alternative to conventional stickers on walls. They also look great as hair decorations, and are imposible to remove from hair or clothes. More?

This is MY list of 10 items. Please comment and add more.

Oh, I forgot #11 - A SENSE OF HUMOR

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Learning to swim - for the second time in my life

I was born in a small seaside town in England. We could smell the sea air from our house. My Mother used to take my sister and I to the beach everyday as toddlers. So from an early age I loved playing in water.

From paddling in the sea, I taught myself to swim at age 7. From then on you couldn't keep me away from water. Every chance that came to me, I jumped in to swim. Even the cold, icy sea water of Ireland didn't put me off. On a vacation to Rome, all I wanted to do was jump in the hotel pool. The tourist sites were of no interest to me!

Then we moved away from the sea. But that was not a deterrent for my father. He just dug up our whole back yard and put a swimming pool in its place. For a suburb of London that was rather strange behavior. Our Greek neighbors just thought we were eccentric Jews....

So for the next 20 years of my life if I ever wanted to swim, I could just jump out of my bedroom window. That's a bit of an exaggeration as my bedroom was on the first floor. You also have to take into account that London's weather is mostly cold and rainy. Anyway I did swim a lot, either at home or in an exclusive pool in a trendy gym.

Then I got married and moved to Israel. After 3 kids, and a few brief dips in the Mediterranean, I decided to take up my swimming career again. Our neighbourhood has a big pool with women-only hours. So every Friday morning I rushed to drop off my kids in school, and did 20 laps in the pool. It was fun, except for my collisions with big fat Russian ladies swimming backwards and Israelis that came in the water just to chat.

Suddenly with very little warning after child number 5, my swimming career came to an abrupt end.

I was hospitalized for 4 months with Severe Ataxic Sensory Neuropathy. In lay terms this means I was disabled as a quadraplegic, with all my senses of balance damaged. To give me encouragement, a top Neurologist in Jerusalem bluntly said to me that there was little chance of recovery.

But I didn't cry much. I still had my arms and legs; and could talk, see and eat normally. Believe me, I saw much worse in the hospital.

When I returned home in a wheelchair it took me time to adjust to being a wheelchair-mum. After a year or so, my family convinced me to try swimming again. So a few times I tried swimming with my husband in a regular pool. But for me it was a failure. I had to be held like a baby and I just flapped my hands. The water took away all my sense of balance and I was completely disoriented.

I saw people around me swimming normally, and then I really cried.

I don't know why not being able to swim upset me so much. It hurt more than not being able to walk on my own (I walk with leg casts, a walker and someone behind me). In the end I came to terms with it, and decided to accept it as part of my "new" life.

Then 3 years later, a clever doctor suggested hydrotherapy. But it was winter, I had no careworker, and a dozen other excuses not to go swimming again.

This week the weather suddenly got very hot. So I thought let's go for it, and give swimming a final try. So I took the plunge and went into the water with a professional teacher in a special pool. After slowly easing me to put my head in the water, the teacher gave me a rubber "snake" and told me to swim the stroke I wanted. I chose front crawl, my fave Olympic style of swimming.

Knowing I was in safe hands I gave it my best effort. In less than one minute I swam to the end of the pool. "How was it", she asked in Hebrew. I just burst into tears - tears of joy as it was so wonderful that I could swim again. "Another few sessions in the pool", she said, "and you'll be able to swim on your own".

You can't imagine how happy I felt - and still feel about it. What is the importance of being able to swim? Many people live a very fulfilled life without ever going swimming.

I can't answer this question. All I know now, is that it is a very important part of being "me". So I see that I should never give up trying to be "me", but be the best "me" that I can.

So I truly thank G-d for all he has given me, and hope this inspires others to keep trying to do what they really want to in life.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Is it permissable for a Woman to breastfeed in Shul?

by Rabbi Moshe Yossef BA (Hons)

It appears that the question of breastfeeding in Shul has not been discussed in the Rabbinic "Responsa", for the simple reason that it was never considered a question!

Breastfeeding in Shul is problematic for the following reasons:

1) Breastfeeding in any public place breaches the boundaries of modesty (tzniut). This would apply even in an exclusively all-female environment. It is true that with caution, it is possible to nurse a baby without uncovering one-self in a way that is at all visible. Even under these circumstances, however, the other issues which will be listed still remain problematic.

2) Breastfeeding in Shul contravenes the laws relating to the preservation of the sanctity of a Shul. These laws are dealt with in Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim Siman 151. You will see there that, for example, even drinking is forbidden in Shul (according to the Biur Halacha, this includes even water). Of course, drinking from a cup does not exposing oneself at all.

3) Breastfeeding in Shul, even when in the most careful and modest way possible, is likely to distract others from having concentration (kavanah) in their prayers. (This issue could arguably be considered an extension of (2) above).

Furthermore, since there is no obligation for a woman to attend Shul in the first place, there are no grounds to apply leniencies in this ruling. This is all the more so since the taking of a young minor to Shul is in itself forbidden on the grounds of their disturbing others from their prayer (by way of their crying etc) - this issue is well documented in Mishna Brura as the well as in Rabbinic Responsa.

In light of the above considerations, there is no permission (heter) in relation to this issue. Be'ezrat Hashem your child will grow up healthy and strong and make his/her own way to Shul, in time to come.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Happy Passover again!

No, not a mistake or a joke. Today the 14th of Iyar is "Passover the second" or more commonly known as "Pesach Sheni".

Women, you don't have to clean your fridge again! You have another 11 months left before you need to drive yourself mad with cleaning everything in site.

Thought your tummies could have a break from Matzahs for a while? No, sorry about that. The custom is to eat a little Matzah to celebrate the day.

So what is Pesach Sheni?

There were some people who were ritually defiled at the time at which they would have brought the Paschal sacrifice (14th Nisan), and were therefore exempted from the Mitzvah. They approached Moses with a request – even though they were exempted from performing the Mitzvah. They did not want to miss out. What could they do?

Moses agreed to consult with G-d, and a new Mitzvah was declared: that of Pesach Sheni – the second Pesach.

On this day, the Paschal Lamb is sacrificed (by those so obliged), accompanied by similar conditions to that of Pesach Rishon. There is, however, no prohibition against possessing, or even eating Hametz on Pesach Sheni.

Today, when the holy Temple in Jerusalem is destroyed and we are therefore unable to offer any sacrifices, Pesach Sheni is celebrated by eating Matzah only.

So what can we learn from this? Let's ask the Rabbi - my husband! (Rabbi Moshe Yossef).

He says we should always seek to fulfill our moral obligations. Don't take the easy way out in life.

For example, we should respect and give honor to our parents. Even if it comes to the point that we can no longer care for them, and put them in a Nursing Home, our job is not over. Visit them, pay for extra care and give them back the loving they gave you.

Source for this post:

It states in the verse (Numbers 9:10-11): “…anyone who is ritually defiled, or too far to be able to reach the Temple in Jerusalem on time etc.., shall offer the Paschal sacrifice to Hashem. In the second month, on the 14th day…”. The Sages of Israel in tractate Pesochim inferred that, in fact, this Mitzvah applies to anyone who intended to offer the Paschal lamb at the appointed time, but was prevented from doing so as a result of circumstances beyond their control.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

7 Rules for Parents of Jewish Teenagers

Two Teenagers have suddenly entered my house!

Last summer, I was busy raising five kids. All of a sudden in the month of April, two teenagers suddenly entered my house. Who were they?

My own Son (13 last August) and my own Daughter (12 in March).

As a "newbie" to parenting teenagers, this is what I have learned so far:

Rule #1
Don't go shopping with your Daughter for shoes. This one is not "in fashion", this one has too many holes, this one has horrible colors, this one is too high, this one is too narrow, this one is ???

Rule #2
Be passionate about every interest your Son has. You need to keep up with him on gadgets, supercars, bicycles, guns, warriors ... and more.

Rule #3
Become an expert in acne, spots, pimples and any physical blemishes. This applies to both boys and girls.

Rule #4
Don't ask too many questions. If they are late back, they know they are in the wrong. Asking for more detail just starts an argument. Anyway, being Jewish, they will always answer you back with a question.

Rule #5
Be prepared for violent outbursts like chair throwing, glass breaking etc. In fact anything that makes a loud noise. I advise some bodily protection, maybe an invisible shield?

Rule #6
You have to like their music, and know all the names of the most popular artists. I think this applies to both pop music and Jewish music. You must even be prepared to send a Twitter to their favorite celebrity.

Rule #7
Help them with their social networking! No joke, I have opened a Twitter account for my 13-year old son and a blog for my 12-year old daughter As they can just about write English, guess who has to do all the work?

To summarise:
Listen, talk, listen, talk, listen, talk .............

It's fun, but you need a lot of patience!

I would be grateful for any additions to my list of Rules, as I am still learning.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The adventures of a "Nebbach" - part 2

This is part 2, because I posted part 1 on my blog in December 2007.

Who is the "Nebbach"? Of course it is me. Not because I feel that I am really a Nebbach, but when "horrible" things happen to me I want to laugh about them afterwards, not cry.

So has nothing happened for over a year? Good question...

Episode 5 - winter was coming, and we were short of girls' clothes (and short of cash). So we decided to take up an offer of "amost new" 2nd hand clothes. However this involved making an evening trip into town. For me this is a big event. Getting kids in bed, getting the wheelchar in the van and being schlepped up 2 flights of stairs.

The clothes turned out to be a big disappointment, mainly baby clothes. So a bit fed up, my husband schlepped the wheelchair down the 2 flights of stairs in the dark. As we reached the bottom step, my wheechair got caught and I was tipped forward. Luckily I fell onto the small bag of clothes I was holding which cushioned the impact. But unluckily I fell into a puddle of sewage water!

I felt such a "Nebbach" that I couldn't stop crying. Thoughts of how lucky I was not to hurt myself didn't console me. Even thinking how funny this story was didn't stop the tears. Even knowing that this was probably the hand of G-d didn't help.

Now 6 months later I can laugh, and want to make others laugh at the story (not at me).

Episode 6 - a week before my Son's Bar Mitzvah last August, my foreign careworker left. The previous careworker had stolen all my expensive jewelery.

We then we had to wait another 5 months for a new foreign worker to arrive. She turned up in the middle of Chanukah. After 4 weeks she disappeared never to return.

A few days later, the agency, anxious to get their commission brought another lady. I thought it was just for an interview, but she had her bags with her. Not being in a position to be choosy - no one wants to work with a family - we hired her. Well, I don't know who is the Nebbach here, me or the worker.

The worker comes from a small village in Nepal, and up to now has had a very primitive 3rd World existence. No washing machine, no dryer, no oven, no microwave, no toaster, no hairdryer, no computer, no mobile phone, no MP3, no buses and even no supermarket. How spoilt we are today!

Apart from that, there are "cultural" differences, like eating with her hands, spitting in the street, not washing her hands after the bathroom...

She is still in our employment after 3 months, and can just about use my kitchen appliances. So who is the "Nebbach"?

The answer:
Neither her or me. Every person - Jew or non-Jew - is created in G-d's image (Be'tselem Elockim). This can be found in Genesis (Bereishit) in relation to the creation of Adam, the first human being.

Kabbalah takes this to an even higher level. Rabbi Moshe Corderovo in his book "The Palm Tree of Devorah" (Tomer Devorah) says that "one should not disparage any creature, for all of them were created with Wisdom (Chochmah). This extends to all of creation - inanimate objects, plants, animals and humans.

So, is the end of my "Nebbach" adventures?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

What's so different about being a Jewish Parent?

What's so different about being a Jewish Parent?

What's so different about being Jewish?

Here, you can tell I'm Jewish as I have to answer a question with another question! Well is there a difference in Parenting between non-Jews and Jews?

I think so, and all the world's comedians will tell you a joke about Jewish Mothers so there must be a difference.

Here is my take on the differences I have noticed over the 13 years of parenting my five kids.

1. Expectations
Yes, we all have very high expectations for our children. "My Son the Lawyer", or in my circles "My Son the Talmud Scholar." Too high in practice as we all know "As long as they are happy"....

2. Advice from friends & family
We are never deprived of advice from friends and family on how to bring up our kids. "You need to give them more attention", "You need to take them to therapy", "You need to make them help at home" and so on. Great, but whose advice do we follow? Our own usually as of course we know best.

3. Choosing a school
A very difficult decision whatever type of Jew you are. Private or State? Local or in Town? Chassidish or Litvish? Bet Yaa'cov or Torani? In Israel the list is endless. But of course, whichever school you choose, you can be sure you have to fight to get your child in. Unless you have the Jewish weapon of "Protection".

4. Circle of friends
I am sure this is a concern for any Parent, but for affiliated Jews this is a big issue. So what that the friend is Jewish, but is the family suitable?

5. Marriage Partners
I am already worrying about who my 4-year old will marry! For non-Jews nowadays, I hear that "Marriage" is not even the slightest worry as no one bothers with this old-fashioned institution anymore.

6. Worrying
Say no more...

I will end my list now, but I'm sure everyone will point out major omissions. Please feel free to add your comments.

For now, I love being a Jewish Parent, and look forward to being a good "Bubbie".

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

The Joys of being a Jew in Jerusalem

In the last month 3 special events have made me appreciate being a Jew and living in Jerusalem (the holiest city in the world).

First of all, my oldest daughter became Bat Mitzvah 2 weeks ago. OK, so this happens to all women, but what was so special for me. This girl, my 2nd child was born with a very serious heart defect. As a baby, she was very sick and underwent a few operations. I never thought she would develop well.

But she turned into a beautiful 12-year old girl. Very clever and talented at drawing, playing the organ and school-work. So we celebrated her becoming a woman and taking on all the Mitzvahs. Together we went to the Western Wall and prayed together (me with tears and her with all her heart). Then at home she did her first Mitzvah of taking Challah. On the day of her party she sang a beautiful song thanking G-d and her family for everything in her life.

Secondly a few days ago, an acquaintance of mine from England called me to say she had converted to become a Jew. This made me appreciate being born a Jew, and having had all the opportunities for 48 years of my life to celebrate Jewish festivals. When it comes to performing Mitzvahs and being a good Jew, I guess I haven't taken all the chances I was given. But volutarily taking Judaism on, well that is something else... I also frequently take for granted that I live in the holiest city in the world - Jerusalem.

And today, a third really special event occurred. Blessing of the Sun - Birkat Hachama - only said once every 28 years. For me it was the first time in my life I have recited this blessing. And I had the opportunity to say it in Israel, in Jerusalem, in a religious neighbourhood. What a great feeling. This is only the 3rd time ever it has been said on Erev Passover, so today was really a special day.

So now I can truly appreciate "The Joys of being a Jew in Jerusalem".

Happy Passover!
Chag Kasher Ve'Sameach

Monday, March 09, 2009

How to choose a career for yourself

I am good at giving other people advice as to what work they should do. But when it comes to myself, of course this is more difficult.

For a while I have been dissatisfied with what I am doing. I felt that I had been given this disability in order to something special with my life. My current work selling Internet ads and managing Google accounts didn't seem to be that worthwhile to mankind. As a result, I did less work and racked my brains for something new to do. Just doing exercise and keeping the house together isn't enough for me.

Anyway, work came to me, so I did it as we need the money. I even ventured to visit a client in my wheelchair. Funnily enough, I began to realize that I was getting pleasure from the work. Also I was proving that a disabled person does still have a brain!

Then came the message from above that I was waiting for - but in a very unexpected place and manner.

Last week I had to go into hospital for a minor procedure. Unfortunately we had to take a private doctor, and go to a private hospital in Petach Tikva. Rather different to the normal Israeli hospital.

So they had me all kitted out in the very appealing operating gown, cap and sox waiting to see the anesthetist. The normal questions came (in Hebrew), then the more difficult ones. What was my work? I thought this was a test question to check I had all my "faculties". As my Hebrew is poor, I just said Marketing. Not good enough for the doctor. What sort of Marketing? Hmm, try explaining this in simple Hebrew to a Russian doctor. So I said "Internet marketing like advertising on Google". (I was hoping he would at least know what Google is, and stop asking me more questions).

No, he carried on. "So you must be rich" he said. Haha. I fell for that one. "No way" I said, "You must earn more than me". Then came the killer answer. "I only earn 27 shekels an hour (approx. $6)" he said. I was dumbfounded - I pay much more than this to a house cleaner! So we carried on chatting, and the nurse joined in saying she earnt the same amount.

At the end of this conversation, I just thought what a strange country we live in.

But that's not the end of the story.

I'm in the operating room, having maneuvered myself up to the operating table by 2 doctors. My legs are hoisted up in the air, a drip is in my arm and I am waiting for a nice sleep. Then comes in another doctor and says to me "I hear you do Google work". Well, that's it. There can't be a clearer message to me from above that this is the work I should be doing.

Is there a morale to this story for anyone else? Maybe.

A career - or work as I think of it now - doesn't have to be saving the world or making millions. It should be fun, bring in a few pennies (shekels or dollars are also OK), but most importantly make you feel good about yourself.