Saturday, June 17, 2017

23rd of Sivan

This was a very special Shabbat because yesterday on the Jewish calendar was the 23rd of Sivan, and SS's dad's yarhzeit.  His 23rd one, in fact (a neighbor told Shalom Shachne that the date was a significant one since the 23rd of Sivan is when, according to the Purim story, Esther and Mordechai sent out the letters telling the Jews they could defend themselves against Achashveros' unbreakable decree against them).

Shalom Shachne made a siyyum yesterday on Megillah.  Here is what he said, and may it all have been for an ilui neshama for Irwin, Yitzchak ben Shalom Shachne, who we miss very much:
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Today is the 23rd yahrzeit for my father, יזחק בן שלום שכנא (Yitzchak ben Shalom Shachne), and last week was the first yahrzeit for my aunt, his only sibling, שמחה שרה בת שלום שכנא (Simcha Sarah bat Shalom Shachne).   

First off, I want to thank Mr. Shlomo Meyer for encouraging me to start learning a daf a day, giving me the suggestion to start with מסכת מגילה.  And of course I want to thank my family for all their love and encouragement, and giving me time for learning.

My father passed away suddenly, at the not very old age of 63.  He was playing tennis, which he loved to do, and had a fatal heart attack.  He had always told us that if he could choose how to die, this would be one of the ways he would choose.  My father never seemed particularly afraid of death and was a bit irreverent about it.  His nickname was “Goldie”, and he once told my step-mother that he wanted the epitaph on his tomb stone to say “Here lies Goldie growing moldy”.  Needless to say, we didn’t write that.

When the Rabbi was giving the eulogy for my father, he said that my father reminded him of כלב בן יפונה.  My father was never afraid to speak out, even against a whole group of people.  The board of directors of the synagogue were trying to remove the Rabbi from his position, and my father was one of the few voices speaking up for the Rabbi.  This trait frequently got him into trouble with college administrations, in his early career as a physics professor.   He learned to temper this in his later life as a businessman, where he learned the value of getting along.  But he was always a courageous and idealistic person.

Although he was not a very religious man, he put on Tefillin every day.  He started after my bar mitzvah.  I believe he started because I asked him, why should I put on Tefillin, when he doesn’t.  So he started doing it every day from that time for the rest of his life.   When he passed away, I made a resolution that I would put on Tefillin every day also, and also to say Kaddish for him 3 times a day for the whole year.   This was one of the major forces which made me into a בעל תשובה.

Now for the siyum.  In addition to covering the הלכות of purim and קריאת מגילה, the mesechet covers many laws of קריאת התורה and how we split the parshiot during the year.  A quick הלכה that I learned which surprised me was brought in the mishha on דף ח’: א:  

אין בין ספרים לתפילין ומזוזות אלא שספרים נכתבים בכל לשון ותפילין ומזוזות אינן נכתבין אלא אשורית. רבן שמעון בן גמליאל אומר אף בספרים לא התירו שיכתבו אלא יוונית

The הלכה goes according to Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel, who says that a Sefer Torah can be written in Greek.  The reason for this given by the Gemara, is the ברכה given by נח to יפת,

יפת אלהים ליפת וישכן באהלי שם

And in fact, Rambam brings this down as halakhah in הלכות תפילין ומזוזה:


והתירו בספרים לכתבן אף ביווני בלבד. וכבר נשתקע יווני מן העולם ונשתבש ואבד לפיכך אין כותבין היום שלשתן אלא אשורי.


Friday, June 9, 2017

A Credit to Her Profession and Her Country

The other day in ulpan, our teacher told us about an amazing story that I'd like to share with you.  This nurse is truly a credit both to the profession of nursing and to the State of Israel.  Kol HaKavod, Ula Ostrowski-Zak, and may the injured mother and baby make full recoveries.

Baby of seriously injured Palestinian mother nursed by Jewish nurse
A couple from Hebron was involved in a car accident, the mother was seriously injured and the father killed; pediatric nurse Ula Ostrowski-Zak at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital volunteers to tend to their nine-month-old.
During an entire shift in the pediatric emergency room at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem, nurse Ula Ostrowski-Zak nursed a nine-month-old Palestinian baby from Hebron whose mother was seriously injured and his father killed in a car accident.

"His aunts were surprised that a Jew agreed to breastfeed him, but I told them that every mother would do it," she said.

On Friday, Yaman's parents collided head-on with an armored bus on Route 60. The father was killed on the spot and the mother, who was not wearing a seatbelt, sustained a serious head injury.


Nurse Ostrowski-Zak with baby Yaman
Nurse Ostrowski-Zak with baby Yaman

The baby, who was lightly injured, was taken to the emergency room, but there was no one to feed him and he refused to eat from a bottle. For seven hours, until Ostrowski-Zak arrived, he didn't eat a thing and cried incessantly. His aunts were helpless.

"They asked me if I could help them find someone who would breastfeed the baby," said Ostrowski-Zak. "As a nursing mother, I didn't hesitate and suggested that I do it myself."

Thus, between caring for one child and another, the nurse fed the baby. "I fed him five times," she said. "His aunts embraced me and thanked me. They were really surprised and told me that no Jewish women would agree to nurse a Palestinian baby they did not know."

Toward the end of the shift, the question arose who would breastfeed the baby when Ula went home. The nurse posted to the Facebook group of nursing mothers titled La Leche League, and was amazed by the reactions.

"Within two hours I received more than a thousand likes and responses from women who volunteered to help, women who were willing to travel even from Haifa to breastfeed him. In between, I continued to try to expose the child to the bottle but without success," she said.

The baby's mother is still in serious condition. The baby is expected to be discharged from the hospital and will be staying at his grandparents' home in Hebron, where his aunt will continue to breastfeed him.

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4971345,00.html

Friday, June 2, 2017

Chana's Back!

She flew in the day before Shavuot and, oh, it's good to have her back.

She did an amazing job packing up her dorm room (her two roommates left before her and it's always hard being the last one out the door) and we send our huge thanks to Cousins Jen and Shmulie who drove in to pick up the things she was leaving in NY.  Despite this, she still shlepped home an insane amount of stuff, including a bunch of things we shipped her from Amazon.  It was truly comical to see how much she stuffed into her checked bag (oops, overweight charge), carry-on (good thing they didn't weigh that, too) and her "personal item" (which, truly, was more of a second carry-on).

Penina and Ilana had the next day off school for erev Shavuos, and it's a good thing, since the three of them stayed up together far past my bed time.  It's a whole new world having these "big kids" around!

Welcome home, Chana!  Hope you have a really wonderful summer here!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Just What I Needed

As you can probably imagine, it being late spring in the Middle East, the inside of our car, little Jazzy, has been getting quite warm when she sits parked.  It's worst while I go to ulpan, as there is no shade in the parking lot, so Jazzy roasts in the sun for 4.5 hours while I slave away at grammar inside.

So, sensibly, I've been looking for a sun shade.  And while I understand that it is totally normal here *not* to have a car, I still found it surprising how hard it's been to find a sun shade.  I actually made it to "very large supermarket" the other day.  I know they have them at the back of the store, but, "very large supermarket" is also known for it's "very long lines", so I ran to get the few items I could only get there and went to wait in line (I have yet to see an Express lane here).  "Besides", I thought, "how hard can it be to find a sun shade?  This can't be the *only* place".  Or was it?!

Yesterday, I had to fill a prescription and decided to do it during the morning break from ulpan  (or "recess" as Ilana once called it :)).  "Why not do it on the way home?", you might ask. Ah, that's because of afternoon siesta time--our HMO is closed from 1-4 every day (that has taken some getting used to....Although it's slightly off-set by the fact that it's open until 7 pm).  As I was zooming into the mercaz hoping the line wouldn't be too long and I wouldn't be too late getting back to ulpan, I discovered that the police officers waiting outside their cruiser at the entrance to the mercaz were motioning me to pull over.  I was SO sure that my driving had been impeccably legal that I almost wasn't even worried, but, really, I think it's impossible to *not* be stressed when pulled over by the police.  The officer unsmilingly asked for my license and car registration and after taking them back to his police car for a few moments, returned with....a bag of "police bling", including a bunch of stickers and key chains.

And a sun shade :)

"I thought there was a problem!" I told him (in Hebrew).  He gave a little smile and sent me on my way (which made me think of the end of our new favorite music video [with thanks to Annabelle for sending it to us]):



Wishing everyone a wonderful Shavuot and a big mazal tov to our dear friend Tsipora from Boston who just got engaged.  Wishing you and Daniel a lifetime of happiness, Po!



Friday, May 26, 2017

Big Week for Israel

Small week for our family, but big week for Israel!

Trump became the first sitting US president to visit the Kotel.  I heard jokes such as:
"Trump put a note in the Kotel.  He was asking Gd if He needed help with anything"

and

"Trump paused and looked up at the top of the Wall as he approached it.  He was seeing whether he should call in his architect about moving the whole thing to the border with Mexico"

Mrs. Trump won rave reviews for who she *didn't* hold hands with (her husband) and who she *did* (First Lady Nechama Rivlin, whose other hand held her portable oxygen).

But the really big news around here was the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem and that Israel came into control of the Old City during the 1967 Six Day War.   Amazing to me, who has only known the Kotel to have the huge, beautiful plaza before it, to think of a time so near in history when houses were built right up the Wall....that for the 19 years from when Israel was established until 1967, Jews were FORBIDDEN from entering the Old City at all..... that the closest people could come was to go to the Armon HaNetziv neighborhood and rent a pair of binoculars to *see* to the Old City.  We are so, so fortunate....

An incredibly popular photo these days is a "then and now" photo of the "3 Soldiers" standing at the Wall.  I found a great article that interviews them and the photographer
http://www.sixdaywar.co.uk/news_articles-three-soldiers.htm


Sunday, May 14, 2017

Happy La'D B'Omer

What's that you say--you never heard of celebrating "La'D" B'Omer, only "La'G" B'Omer, on the 33rd day of counting the Omer going from Pesach to Shavuot?  Well, this year brought an interesting twist.  Since La'G started right when Shabbat ended this week, the Rabbanut in Israel pushed off the celebrations until the next day, La'D, so that there would be no Shabbat violations with people preparing their bonfires during Shabbat.  But then there was a sizable religious contingent who felt that this was not necessary, since their followers would not violate Shabbat in their preparations and starting later at night would suffice (I read that the big bonfires in Meron were not lit until 2 a.m.).  10 Jews, 11 opinions, again--Penina's school had off one day and Ilana's school the other!

In the part of town that's mostly Traditional/Modern Orthodox, my friend who lives there told me it was totally quiet Saturday night, with everyone waiting until Sunday night.  In the *very* religious neighborhood next to it, bonfires were lit only on Saturday night.  Here, in our lovely "mixed" neighborhood, we got a two day Yontif with fires both nights ;).  I'm glad that tonight we'll be able to sleep with the windows open again!

La'D Sameach!!!!


Penina's photo of one of the many medurot across from our house

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Run, Run, Run!

We have another entry in the "New Experiences" category!

When Batsheva was visiting for Purim, I started jogging with her.  She's a pretty accomplished runner and she was a terrific person to get started with--she knew exactly what I should do to get started (she got me doing interval training with 5 or 10 minutes of running and then 30 seconds or 1 minute of walking.  Using this method was great, as it meant I did not keel over due to lack of oxygen.  Big thanks to our friend Lev who made an interval timer app that was quite a help).  It was also so neat to have *her* be the teacher and the one giving encouragement and praise.  I see we are entering a whole new level of family life.

So I was (somewhat) ready when one of the local libraries announced their yearly road race, which is their major fundraiser (like most libraries here, it's private.  But that's another blog post).   Signing up online was a total hoot.  The site announced that it was "powered by Google translate".  We'll use the word "power" loosely here, because it first told me that my age category was "Old" (in another 12 years I'll be in the "Veteran" category, which sounds much more pleasant) and then sternly admonished that "no one is allowed to use another person's chest during the race" :)

Ilana and I signed up together.  She was AMAZING and ran the 2K race in only 17 minutes, with really minimal training (we were trying to figure out if she ran with me three times or was it four, but, whatever it was, it was not much).
at the end.  whew!

I signed up for the 5K, which was the only longer option (not that I could have done more yet, anyway.  I had only run 5k once, last week, when I was starting to panic about being ready for the race).  It was really amazing to participate.  I had the idea that there would be about 50 people running on the sidewalks.  When we picked up our race packets, I found out that 900 people were signed up, major streets would be closed and there would be water stations along the way--so professional!  It was so cool to be running in this crowd of people where men were wearing yarmulkes, women were wearing skirts and had their hair covered, and some of the guards who were posted at the intersections were learning religious texts (it's like double guarding since they help cover the spiritual aspect while they stand there with their guns!)

The race started at 7:15 p.m. and the beauty of running at sunset through this area was indescribable.  We went on a street that seemed like the edge of the city--just a drop-off down the side and the mountains so close and so beautiful.  Amazing.  (The downside of being "nestled among the Judean Hills", though, is that it's always "uphill, both ways" around here).

I spent the first bit of the race just being overwhelmed with gratitude that I was there and able to do it.  Being so thankful that I had gotten past my endless series of spinal fusions when I was a teenager and my knee surgery when Ilana was young (which was following a sports injury and had me worried I would never be able to do anything physical again).....And using niece Cloe's mantra (from when she was three) of "I'm strong, I'm healthy, I can do this, I can do this" ;)

As someone who spent many years screaming until I was hoarse while cheering runners on at the Boston Marathon, it was really sweet to get my own tiny taste of receiving that support, including a few people who knew me by name and a group of girls who screamed, "Go, Penina's Mom" which I loved.  The BEST part was, not surprisingly, the end.  While we had been watching the 2k runners come back, Penina had admonished me to chill out in my cheering and clapping--I was being WAY not cool.  It was the sweetest thing to run over the finish line and have her and Ilana screaming at the top of their lungs.

We're hoping that next year, all three of us will run the 5k together ;)