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The Road Between

There is so much that I want from life.

Recently though, I’ve boiled down my prayers to be pretty specific:

If there is one thing I do right in this lifetime, may it be my family.

My prayers don’t end there, certainly not – but each time I turn to G-d I let Him know that that is the key aspect of my prayers. That if He’s unable to grant me anything else I ask for, He still gift me with that.

If nothing else pans out, allow me to still be capable of a loving marriage and raising my children the way I hope.

. . .

I am a spiritual person.

Rosh Hashonah is a very spiritual holiday. Even as a kid, I would look forward to the familiar tunes and prayers said only on Rosh Hashonah and Yom Kippur. That excitement has not faded and has only strengthened through a deeper understanding of what the holidays represent.

Over this Rosh Hashonah, I was deeply connected and focused.

I was rudely awakened yesterday as assignment due dates and to do lists came back into focus, and I was reminded that I am not a spiritual being, I am actually so very human.

Our days are made up of so much, our world is made up of even more, and there is no end to the opportunities and challenges that arise each day.

In the end, our joys and our pains are oh so physical, not so much spiritual.

Rosh Hashonah and Yom Kippur are nice – and more than that, they are truly truly important.

But they are the spiritual half of our journey, and in a way, the much easier part.

I didn’t forget I was human on Rosh Hashonah – I prayed for all the parts that are human in me. But somehow, on Rosh Hashonah, being human was easier.

And yesterday, as I emerged from the cocoon of prayer and spirituality, it was a startling wake-up call to what being human really is about.

Because our life is not made up of enormous life-changing events, like the ones we pray for.

Our life is not made up of graduating college, getting the dream job, getting married, or having children.

It’s made up of all the tiny things in between, the tiny things that are easy to forget about when you’ve got your eyes on the big picture.

But when you face life, those tiny things are exactly what it is.
I prayed for the big things, because they are easier to pinpoint.

Today, I pray for the small things.

As I transition back into my world, suited up with spirituality, I pray that the small things go right. That our lives are filled with the small things that count.
I pray that the big things are so great that I get to appreciate and notice the tiny things.

. . .

At the end of the day, my prayer still stands – if I do anything right in this lifetime, may it be my family.

Yet I mean that in a thousand ways, as it filters down to real life.

All the roads that lead towards it – may they be brightly lit. May all the roads we take in life be brightly lit and filled with joy.

Because it is the road we’re on that that counts. The destinations are important, but it’s the rest stops that make it better. The music we choose, the snacks we eat, the people we put in our passenger seats.

It’s those tiny things that make up life that make life worth living.

And I look forward to G-d granting me these prayers. That ahead of me, I have a life filled with sticky fingers, dirty kitchens, late night deadlines, busy work days, hugs and kisses, aching laughter, days in swimming pools, and a heart filled to capacity.

On Rosh Hashonah, we pray.

And on Yom Kippur, may it be sealed.
break

Blog Post 51/52.

Featured Photo by rawpixel  via Unsplash

To The One Who Made Me

Dear G-d,

In six days, I’ll be standing in synagogue, standing before You, a tiny speck before an all-encompassing, all-knowing creator. Before the big day, I’d like to write to you, so that I can explain where I’m coming from this year.
You and I, we have quite the relationship. I’d like to say it’s mostly reliable. I turn to You on a constant basis, and You respond. I may not hear Your words per-se, but You respond in other ways.
When I’m in a rush, and the lights work in my favor, I know that’s You.
When I wake up in the morning, energized and inspired, excited about my day, I know that’s You.
When the food I’m cooking comes out tasting exactly the way I was hoping, I know that’s You.
When I find things right before I lose them, I know that’s You.
When the concept I’ve been struggling with for a while suddenly clicks, I know that’s you.
When the little things and the big things seem to fall into place, I know that’s You.
Yet.
When life darkens, and things feel trapped, that is still You.
When the pain is greater than the joy, that is still You.
When things fall on the ground, when anxiety is rampant, when lives are taken, when the world seems to be falling apart at the seams, that is still You.
And it’s on those days that hurt the most that I am forced to recognize that the same You that brings goodness and joy to our world also brings pain and misery and mourning.
As a simple human being, I struggle to wrap my head around this, G-d, but the truth is I don’t want to understand.
I just want You to start choosing goodness.
Is there a cup that must be filled with tears to turn the tide? G-d, I am confident that it is overflowing.
You created me, You give me each thought, each step, each new day.
Sometimes I wonder, when You breathed life into me on that very first day, what were your hopes and dreams for me?
What did you hope I would do with the gifts you’ve handed me? What did you hope I’d say with the words you gave me?
And am I doing it, G-d? Am I following the path You painstakingly created for me?
Some days it feels like I’m walking my own path, all alone, so determined to do things differently. You made me this way, didn’t You?
What did You dream for me?
There are times in life, G-d, I just wish You would speak.
I’ll be in synagogue in six days, and G-d, I have so many prayers.
I have countless dreams and wishes for this world, for my future, for the people I love.
I’ll be bringing them all to You, every last one.
I am no saint, nowhere close, and I fail on a pretty consistent basis.
But I am Yours, aren’t I?
G-d, You’ve designed a glorious world. It is filled with natural sights that blow my mind on a daily basis, it is filled with billions of people who do their best every day with what You’ve given them. You’ve given us so much, yet you’ve also taken more than You need, and G-d, I pray that You see us worthy of so much more goodness.
We’re all just doing our best, G-d.
And as the Shofar blows next week, and our prayers are lifted to your doorstep, do Your best.
Do Your best to say yes. Give us our dreams. Give us our wishes. Answer our prayers in the way that we seek for them to be answered.
Please.
Allow the things I only dare dream about become a part of my reality.
Allow the work of my blood, sweat and tears to develop into something more real and more beautiful than I could have hoped.
In six days, I’ll be in synagogue, standing before You, my heart open, my words sincere. My whole self, with my past behind me, and my future that only You know – it’ll all be there.
G-d, You created me. Now You have to deal with me. And being that You created me, You should know better than anyone what that means.

I don’t give up all too quickly.

Sincerely,

Etti

Blog Post: 50/52!

Featured Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Can I Just Be Honest?

As the High Holidays sneak closer, this time of year is one of introspection. A closer look, an uncovering of what I’ve safely kept hidden all year – the more difficult parts of life, and myself, that I’d rather not confront on a regular basis.

Every year, for the month before Rosh Hashonah begins, it is customary to listen to the shofar blow, a spiritual version of an alarm clock, a wake-up call to take stock of what counts. This year, we received a very real and cruel wake-up call.  When my cousin passed away, long before the world could afford to lose her, it was a harsh reminder that life is fragile and how easy it is to lose focus.
I’m a very passionate person. At times, I’ve even been told I’m too passionate.
But I have so many dreams, so many hopes for the future, so many ways we can be doing better as a nation, as educators, as people.
There are so many ways I can be doing better as me.
I know that I am not the best version of myself yet. I know there is so much more digging, so much more discovery to do – but do we ever really become our best selves? Is there ever a time that we can put down our tools, put our hands up and say “done”?
This Elul, this month leading up to Rosh Hashonah, has been one filled with lots of thinking, lots of looking within and facing some hard truths.
Why have I been putting certain things off?
Why do I hold back from doing certain things?
Why do I hold back from saying things that are difficult to say?
Why do I consistently and constantly allow for the things that don’t matter to get in the way of things that really do?
One thing my cousin Hindi was really good at was honesty.
How many times will I lie to myself before I realize that we only benefit from honesty, no matter how hard it seems at the time?
As much as I love to say that I love vulnerability, and sharing my deepest thoughts, I suffer too from the normal human condition of being terrified to open the door at times.
Because when we open doors, the world is allowed to judge what is within, and allowing people to judge our most inner selves is scary stuff.
But. Honesty. Ugh, honesty.
There is this moment in time, always, right before I say something I’m scared to say. It’s this moment in my mind in which I must make a decision – silence, or share?
Every time I choose the latter it’s like an adrenaline rush, as soon as I commit to being honest, to sharing what hurts, or what may be scary to say.
And want to know the truth?
I’ve never regretted it.
That fact alone should be enough to motivate me the next time, but each time it’s a fresh new battle.
Vulnerability and honesty are not easy. But they are the only things that keep us human.
If we can’t relate to each other, if we don’t know each others weaknesses as much as we know each other’s strengths, how can we connect on the level necessary for human connection?
Sometimes my honesty and openness makes others uncomfortable, and I apologize deeply if you have ever been on the receiving end of this.
But for as long as I live, I hope to never lose the ability to be vulnerable, and I pray that this is a year that each time I choose to open up, I lose a little bit of the fear that comes with it.
For we are all only human.
Life is fragile and comes with no guarantees.
Why should we hide? Why should we fear being real, when that is what we are all craving anyway?
We live in a world of edited realities – let’s not let that determine who we are.
I’ve had so many beautiful, raw, vulnerable conversations with people since the start of this blogging-for-a-year stint, and that has taught me that when you open a door, others will walk through it.
I hope to always be able to keep this door open, and I invite you all to open your own.
I’m not promising that it won’t scare the heck out of you.
It will.
But that’s the point.
This post is a kind of a mess, and I’m not sure if it all flows, but it’s what’s on my mind today, and this is me.
Here’s to a year of truth and honesty, and being unashamedly myself.
Here is to a year of not being afraid.
Blog Post: 49/52

Featured Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

When Everything Broke

While I was uttering the words of Psalms, heartfelt prayers in my heart and on my lips far away from home on a sunny morning in France, the one thought I knew deep in my mind was “G-d wouldn’t.”
I knew, so solidly, that everything would be okay. That Hindi would come back from this. That soon our family would be discussing the huge miracle that occurred.
I knew it.
And then in one sickening moment, everything broke.
I didn’t believe the words I was reading. For hours afterward I waited for someone to say it was a mistake. That it wasn’t true. That everything wasn’t destroyed.
I consistently and constantly use words to express myself, but this time there weren’t any. Like being socked in the stomach, I couldn’t breathe, let alone write or speak. Only silence felt suitable in the wake of such an immense tragedy.
And so, I was silent.
For the first time all year, I missed writing a weekly blog post.
Every other time, I couldn’t justify breaking my commitment, I couldn’t allow myself to let a week go by without forcing myself to write something.
But when G-d kicks you in the gut, nothing matters anymore.
There were no words. I didn’t want to create words. I didn’t want to be a part of this tragedy, I didn’t want to raise my voice, I didn’t want to hear my words echo in such a cruel world.
And as I sit here, writing with tears in my eyes, wearing a dress and heels I’m trying on for a friends wedding I’ll be at next week, reality makes less sense to me than it ever has.
G-d took a mother from her children. A wife from her husband. A daughter, a sister, an aunt from her family, a teacher from her students.
Someone whom I’ve always, always admired.
In a world of false realities, Hindi was real.
She didn’t know how to work social media, she was all about honesty and truth.
The meals I shared with her and her family at her parent’s house I always remember so fondly, even before this horrible tragedy. She was quick to include me in conversation, ask me honest questions and listen, oh so well.
In a world of distraction, Hindi was here.
In a world of easy ways out, Hindi worked so hard to achieve her dreams.
Her babies are now left to grow up without her – how? They are surrounded by so much support and love, but nothing on earth can replace a mother.
As I take my next steps in life, I wish I could have spoken to her sooner about how to do it all. How to have the family and the career, how to maneuver the education system, how to bring positive change to the world, how to raise children to be open-minded and intuitive. But I missed my chance. I missed my chance to tell her how much I’ve admired her. I missed my chance to ask all my questions.
A part of me is broken, and always will be.
These things don’t go away. There will always be hard-hitting reminders about this new ugly reality we live in.
And for a long time, there will be so many moments that it feels like there is no air to breathe.
G-d knows what He did. Somewhere deep inside me, I believe His tears are mixed with ours. As I cry into my pillow, furious with Him, I desperately pray that He knows enough is enough.
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Watching the Pot

I’m a firm believer in G-d, but I often struggle with Him.

He has given us various ways to begin to feel the joy He feels.
He gave us artistic talents so that we can feel the joy of creating something beautiful, something awe-inspiring with our own hands.
He gave us words so that we can weave them together into stories, build universes, and create characters with extensive personalities.
He gave our bodies the miraculous ability to create and birth humans, allowing us to feel an unbreakable and impossible joy in their achievements and pain.
He gave us the ability to teach, inspire and care for others. He gave us the power to be the pavers of our own paths, to make choices every day, to build a life made up of so many various different activities and people.
He gave us the ability to believe that we are the masters of our own destiny.
He went so far as to take Himself out of the picture, to allow us to think that we are the ones creating the lives we have, forgetting that we are but characters in a storybook, a paintbrush in an artists hand, a body at the mercy of its mind.
To me, the reason He did all of this, despite the pain it must bring Him, is so that we can relate to Him. So that we could begin to imagine the magnitude of what He has done.
One who has never felt the joy of creating something all their own could not possibly understand how it aches to let it go, to allow others to criticize, adapt, and misunderstand their work.
G-d watches us do this each day, take His perfect handiwork and destroy it.
I constantly walk the tightrope of knowing that I’m not in charge, yet believing that I am. I constantly struggle to let go, to fall backward and allow life to happen to me, for the dangers of that seem to outweigh the benefits.
I watch the pot, achingly waiting for it to boil. I daydream and write my future story so clearly, I often worry I’ve ruined it for myself. I so desperately want to be the author of my own life, yet I am deeply aware that that would make for a terrifying reality.
I often wonder – what does G-d want from me?
Do I plant the seeds or do I stay away from the garden?
Do I raise the flame, or walk away from the kitchen?
Do I write in pen, or do I drop the pencil?
How do I find the balance between grabbing life by the horns, yet allowing life to follow its natural unfolding?
I take great joy in creating something new – a poem, a meal, a story.
I know that my abilities in creation are limited, much more limited than His.
Yet when I look at my life, and my heart aches to make life happen on my own, without waiting, without holding back, without watching the calendar turn pages, I turn to G-d and beg Him to allow me to hold the pencil.
Allow me to feel as if I am writing my story.
Allow Your plan and my dreams to collide, to leak into my life.
G-d, allow my dreams to come true.
For when they do, I’ll know without a doubt that I am only a character in Your story, only a sketch under Your pencil. I’ll know because only You know the intricacies of my brain, my soul, my heart. You handcraft my dreams just as You handcraft my reality.
You’ve given me the ability to create – now allow me the joy of taking life into my own hands and watching my dreams blossom from the seeds I plant, the water I boil, the life I live.
Blog Post: 47/52

Featured Photo by Kowit Phothisan on Unsplash

A Poem for Today

Tomorrow is when
the flowers bloom
The grass grows
The project ends
And the diet begins.

Tomorrow is when
things come easy
Dreams come true
Tasks get done
And life makes sense.

Tomorrow is when
I’ll write the poem
Start the book
Call the friend
And chase my dreams.

And one day
I’ll make tomorrow
Into today
And I’ll stop saying
Tomorrow.

And I’ll start
With writing this poem
On a day
In which there are no more tomorrows
To push today upon.

Blog post: 46/52

Featured photo via Unsplash.

When the World Burned

She turned around.

Like Lots wife, she felt her soul leave her body, but instead of becoming salt, she felt her heart, mind and soul explode into a thousand pieces as she watched the world burn.
Her small son in her arms, all that she had left of her family, was wailing, his young face streaked with ash. Pieces of their universe fell around them like the snow Jerusalem hadn’t gotten in so long.
It was more than heart rending or tragic, it was the end.
There couldn’t possibly be a day tomorrow, a new dawn. The birds couldn’t possibly sing praise to a G-d who could allow such torturous destruction of an empire, of a nation, of a world.
She pulled her son closer as he cried the tears she couldn’t even find. His belly was empty, yet she could not provide, for she had not eaten in weeks. The fact that she had not yet collapsed with the rest of her family was a miracle she didn’t understand, nor cared to be grateful for. Life was not something she prayed for anymore.
Her mind, against her will, went back to the last Passover, a day that began in hope and prayer, but ended in massacre and mourning. Her uncle who had risked his life to come to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices and praises to his G-d had been killed that day, in the holy temple, together with her father and her oldest brother.
The starvation was next, destroying what little will the Jews still had. Her tears began to fall as she recalled the faces of her mother and sisters as they worked together to create meals out of dust for their families. One after the other, her nieces and nephews, her own children, her sisters and brothers died of starvation, their bellies empty, their hearts broken, in a world so dismal most prayed it would be them next.
And then, today.
As her surviving neighbors, her husband, as they banded together, and despite their impossible pain, made the choice to fight back, there was a roar.
The Temple was on fire.
She watched in disbelief as everyone around her rose like one body and charged towards the Temple, armed with nothing but sheer hatred towards Jerusalem’s enemies. She watched as they foolishly attempted to put out the destructive flames. She watched, numb, as her husband was engulfed by the flames, destroying everything she had left. She looked into the eyes of her son, and with  strength that came from somewhere she didn’t know she had, she lifted him from the ground and ran.
She didn’t look back as she heard the tortured screams, she didn’t look back as she felt the rivers of blood rise up to her ankles, she didn’t look back as she felt the heat of the fire on her neck.
She held her son and ran.
And then, she turned around.
And she watched everything end. She watched the impossible occur. She watched everyone she knew and ever loved go up in flames, sacrificed like animals on the altar.
She raised her eyes towards the heavens, the sky heavy with smoke and misery.
Bitter tears climbed up her throat, she ached in every way, calling out for her Ima, her Abba, her children she helplessly watched die.
Her son laid his head on her heart, holding her, afraid she would crack.
Her son who’s entire life had been this nightmare.
She knew.
She knew that if there was to be a future, a tomorrow, they would never be able to grasp how earth shattering this pain was. What it felt like to be alive when the entire world was burning.
What it meant to be the one who had to wake up tomorrow, who had to still scrounge for something to feed her son, to smile through the tears so that her son would know what love was.
She hoped.
For the first time in months, she felt the stirrings of hope deep inside her chest.
She hoped that someone would try, that they would not be forgotten, that someone would truly mourn.
She hoped that somehow, this destroyed nation would piece themselves together. That they would rebuild, yet not replace. That they would remember each and every lost soul, that they would bring themselves to a humbled place and remember.
She looked at her son, his eyes still bright with future, and she knew why she had survived.
For her son.
For the future.
For the next chapter.
As she gazed back at the flaming city, she saw one wall of the outer temple gates undeterred, unmoved by the destruction.
Like her, it watched as everything around it collapsed to the pain, yet it stood strong, unwavering.
And she knew that the same way she would provide comfort and strength for her son, that wall would forever stand for the Jewish people, as a symbol of hope, as a symbol of strength.
And as she enveloped her son in her arms, and together they cried, she saw that one day, again, the Jews would flock to Jerusalem.
Blog Post: 45/52
featured photo via Unsplash

Finding Time

Last week I wrote a blog post with my eyes half closed, forcing the words to come out, one after the other, in a way that made any sort of sense.

I wrote it, I published it in the last couple of hours of the week, and called it a day.
I didn’t share it on my facebook like I usually did. I didn’t attach a photo. I even forgot to write what number blog post it was.
I was really close to skipping it altogether. In fact, in my mind, I was already writing this weeks post, all about how I finally missed a week.
But my heart, my soul, my words wouldn’t let me cop out.
So, I put everything aside and got it done.
It wasn’t great. I wouldn’t even say it was good.
But sometimes, life demands everything you have.
Sometimes things get so busy that hobbies, projects, and pretty much anything selfish has to take a back burner for a while.
And I came really close to breaking my blogging streak. Before camp started, I could count on one hand how many times I’d skipped my daily morning prayers in the last 3 years. Since camp started, I don’t have enough fingers to count.
Sometimes, life demands everything you have.
But I didn’t want it to take this.
I’ve been blogging weekly for 43 weeks now.
In a big way, it’s selfish. I don’t expect anyone to care if I miss a week. I don’t expect anyone to care to hear my thoughts. So it’s pretty much entirely selfish.
But then, there are those times that my writing reaches a soul, and it transforms that piece of writing for me.
And this week, someone texted me after Shabbat to tell me that they were quite alarmed when they thought I had missed a week.
And my heart sang.
Because it is moments like that that assure me that I am not yelling into the abyss.
Yes, these blog posts are selfish.
I was so close to not writing one at all last week. My brain was too full of schedules and games, to-do lists and errands to find any creative words floating around.
But then, in the quiet night, I sat and I reflected and I wrote.
And it put everything into perspective.
I didn’t push that blog post, I didn’t share it on Facebook. Almost nobody saw it.
But I did. I reflected. I wrote. It put my exhausting week into order, it reminded me of what it was all for.
With just a week and a half left to camp, I will be able to give my blog more attention soon.
But for now, I couldn’t skip a week, because for one moment, I had to be selfish.
Blog Post: 44/52

Featured Photo via Google.

Busy Days, Full Heart

My days have been a little full.

Waking up in the early hours of the morning, not finding my bed until so many hours later, the hours between filled with non-stop on-my-feet work.
At the end of each day, as my tired eyes can barely stay awake, I review the days events, and no matter how difficult the day was, I feel incredibly grateful for the feeling I have.
This summer is opening up my eyes to so many blessings I’ve been gifted with. This summer camp job that is less of a job and more of a lifestyle pushes me daily to the max – but I’m capable of doing it.
I am so lucky and privileged to lead the life I live, to be healthy enough to run around all day, to work as hard as I am.
Oftentimes our eyes are so blinded that blessings are disguised. We forget that the reason we are tired and have aching bones is a blessing in and of itself.
And as Shabbat settles down into my home, I look back at the week behind me, the full, non-stop, exhausting week, and I am filled with the sweetest joy.
With my family all around me, and good food on the table, it is so clear to me how blessed I am.
My blog post of the week will be short, perhaps it doesn’t even qualify as a blog post, but I’m writing it with sleep heavy on my eyes, and I am so grateful for every aching bone.
For it represents so much more than just an ache. The ache will fade on Shabbat, but all the joy will remain.
Shabbat shalom!
Blog Post: 43/52

The Before

A poem titled: Potential.

 

A baby, fresh in his parents arms.
Fingers and toes,
A beating heart,

A lifetime ahead.

A couple, on the brink of the rest of their life,
Breathless with joy,
A new home,
Full hearts and big plans,

A story waiting to be told.

A child, feet swinging in his chair,
A new notebook,
New pens and an open mind,

Eager to be nurtured.

A seed, buried gently by fingers,
Watered and watched,
Cared for and sun-kissed,

A flower about to bloom.

Me, as I wipe the sleep from my eyes,
Yesterday’s mistakes fresh on my mind.
I feel pockmarked with
Bad choices.

  …. 
A fresh start
Doesn’t mean the cracks
On my fragile heart have healed
But it means
I can fix them.

 …. 
A fresh start
Doesn’t mean my soul
Is ready to speak to me,
But it means
Today-

Maybe I’ll listen.

Each day I awaken
With fresh potential
Always able to turn a page,
A new chapter,

A new start.

Yesterday may be stained
With yesterday’s pain
But today is still clean
And the future lies in wait.
And lives are waiting to be changed
And stories are waiting to be told
And lessons are waiting to be learned
And growth is waiting to be grown
And time is standing still

For only a moment.

Blog Post: 42/52


Featured Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash