#blogExodus 2: Bless

#blogExodus 5775 topicsA couple weekends ago, I was doing rather a lot of the opposite of blessing. My husband’s squadron had decided that it was sending a gaggle of instructors and students out of town in an effort to find better flying weather. The issue is that the decision was made on Friday that the trip would begin on Monday, which meant that there was no time during the workweek for my husband and his colleagues to make the necessary lodging and other logistical arrangements.

Our weekend was interrupted over and over again by the buzzing of my husband’s cell phone as everyone tried to bring the plans together by text message. Each new message took me further along the path from “mildly annoyed” to “irked” to “cursing the OPSO, the squadron, and the Navy with remarkable relish and far-ranging creativity.” By Sunday night, I was irritated with my husband for having the gall not to join me in my excoriation of his superiors and minute, trenchant analysis of their shortcomings both personal and professional.

“You know,” I finally grated at him, “sometimes I just want to hear that you think the situation sucks, too.”

He continued folding laundry for a few beats before speaking. “I’m not thrilled about how this is playing out, either, but there is a limit to how much I can let myself think that it sucks and still be able to do my job.”

In that moment, understanding broke through my annoyance, and I was ashamed. What I had been telling myself was companionable commiseration over a crappy set of circumstances was being received as a shove off balance. I had, in turn, misinterpreted my husband’s need to maintain an even keel as a frustrating lack of acknowledgement of my efforts to vent “with” him, never mind that he never expressed a desire to vent in the first place.

Now I have an understanding that I didn’t have before, thus proving that there is still more to learn even after almost a decade of having a significant other on active duty in the Navy. Next time we run into one of these not-uncommon military inconveniences, I’ll know better, and that insight will feel like a blessing.

Baruch atah, Adonai, chonein hadaat. Blessed are You, Adonai, who graces us with knowledge.


#blogExodus, the brainchild of Rabbi Phyllis Sommer, invites participants to chronicle the weeks leading up to Passover through blog posts, photos, and other social media expressions.

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#blogExodus 1: Begin

#blogExodus 5775 topicsJewish days begin at sundown, and this evening is rather special in that we welcome not only Shabbat, as we do each Friday evening as the sun sinks below the horizon, but also the Jewish month of Nisan.

The vernal equinox and the first day of of Nisan happen to kiss this year. Thanks to this fitting quirk of the juxtaposition of our secular solar and religious lunisolar calendars, the first day of spring marks just two weeks until Chag haAviv, which means “the spring holiday” in Hebrew. It has a lot of names, this holiday, the spring holiday, but in English we call it Passover.

Today marks the conjunction of a profusion of beginnings. New season. New month. New year, on top of it all (there are four new years on the Jewish calendar). We brim with beginnings; we love them so much that we strew them like flower petals throughout our days. For a Jew, a calendrical fresh start is never far out of reach.

Naturally, I would like to get season, month, and year off on the right foot, and simple wishes seem most appropriate to me. Chodesh tov! A good month to you. Shabbat shalom! A peaceful Sabbath to us all.


#blogExodus, the brainchild of Rabbi Phyllis Sommer, invites participants to chronicle the weeks leading up to Passover through blog posts, photos, and other social media expressions.

#BlogExodus 6: Clean

#BlogExodus promptsYesterday, when I was supposed to be ruminating on the topic of “Clean” as it relates to the rapidly approaching holiday of Passover, I was out playing instead. We braved the morning fog to get to the movie theater in time for an early showing of “The LEGO Movie,” which was just as awesome* as my brother and various other family members had told us it was. Still singing to ourselves the movie’s notable song, we moseyed on over to Mellow Mushroom for a chametz-ariffic lunch.

It felt great to get out of the house for fun rather than errands. As much as I love the holidays, it takes a lot of work to get ready for them. For Pesach, much of this work is centered around thoroughly cleaning the house to remove all traces of leaven. Having the chance to step away for a few hours from the reminders of work yet to be done accomplished a lot in the way of cleaning up my attitude for this week’s home stretch.

* If you’ve seen it, you get it.


#BlogExodus, the brainchild of Rabbi Phyllis Sommer, invites participants to chronicle the weeks leading up to Passover through blog posts, photos, and other social media expressions.

#BlogExodus 5: Prepare

#BlogExodus promptsTwo #blogExodus posts in one day? Well, not really — this one is for the 5th of Nisan, which begins, like all Jewish days, at sundown. I wanted to make sure the day’s post went live before the setting of the sun ushered in Shabbat and I shut down my computer for the next twenty-five-ish hours.

Here’s a glimpse at one aspect of Pesach preparation at my house: the time-honored ritual Perusal of the Cookbooks. I’m a food geek who reads cookbooks cover-to-cover for fun, so dreaming up a menu that makes the festival’s peculiar dietary requirements sing is one of the most enjoyable parts of the holiday prep for me.

Passover Cookbooks

This isn’t even all of them.


#BlogExodus, the brainchild of Rabbi Phyllis Sommer, invites participants to chronicle the weeks leading up to Passover through blog posts, photos, and other social media expressions.

#BlogExodus 4: Free

The Egyptians ruthlessly imposed upon the Israelites the various labors that they made them perform. Ruthlessly they made life bitter for them with harsh labor at mortar and bricks and with all sorts of tasks in the field (Exodus, 1:13-14).

#BlogExodus promptsAs a free person, one of the great joys in my life is the ability to create. Whenever I knit or write or make wire kippot, I partake of my freedom to craft things for reasons of my own. Although even free people must sometimes labor for the goals of others, my creative drive is not sapped utterly by molding brick after brick for any Pharaoh, ancient or modern.

I think I’ll set aside some time this afternoon to work on my Rainbow Dash-worthy afghan before Shabbat. When I have completed all one hundred squares with my own hands, I’ll enjoy the fruit of my freedom to make something for no reason other than the fact that it makes me smile.

 

Hue Shift Afghan in progress

The colors are crazy-bright, but they delight my inner six-year-old.


#BlogExodus, the brainchild of Rabbi Phyllis Sommer, invites participants to chronicle the weeks leading up to Passover through blog posts, photos, and other social media expressions.

#BlogExodus 3: Enslave

#BlogExodus promptsI am having trouble with this prompt. Although the holiday of Passover requires us to see ourselves as having personally been freed from slavery in Egypt, I am loath to use “enslaved” to describe any aspect of my life in the United States, a country where I enjoy personal, political, and religious freedom largely unprecedented in history. In a world where actual human trafficking and slavery still poison the lives of real people, anything I could say about enslavement in my own life feels like hyperbole to the point of absurdity.

With that in mind, it’s a good thing I have teachers who can help me to see that the concept of metaphorical or spiritual enslavement can provide a useful lens through which to view parts of our lives that have become tangled. Rabbi Rachel Barenblat’s post on today’s #blogExodus prompt acknowledges her own difficulty with using such a strong word as “enslaved” (“And usually it’s not a term I would use,” she writes) to describe a potentially unhealthy relationship with the Internet, email, and our myriad digital distractions. When they control us, we are — metaphorically — enslaved.

Reading Rabbi Barenblat’s take has helped me get past my initial strong hesitation about how today’s prompt could possibly apply to my own life. I can see where the way I think about my relationships with some things in my life have me entangled, or feeling other than free.

Take my husband’s daily flight schedule, for instance. It is a fact of military aviation life that we do not find out what Sampson is doing on a given day until about five o’clock the evening before. Depending on how the “sked” is written, we might find out this evening that he has a brief just twelve hours later at 5:00 AM, or we might see that they switched him to nights and he won’t be home until 10:00 PM. It is what it is, and mostly we roll with the uncertainty, despite the difficulty it presents for making dinner plans with anyone in advance.

Lately, however, I have noticed myself getting a little too caught up in it, allowing my own mood to be dictated by whether my husband has what I see as a favorable schedule. That ought to be a signal to me to loosen my grip, take a deep breath, and disentangle my emotional state from this thing over which I have no control. If I can shift my focus away from my frustration at the constant flexibility required of us, I think I’ll find that I feel less like a slave to the exigencies of squadron scheduling.


#BlogExodus, the brainchild of Rabbi Phyllis Sommer, invites participants to chronicle the weeks leading up to Passover through blog posts, photos, and other social media expressions.

#BlogExodus 2: Tell

#BlogExodus prompts“All right, let’s go around the table,” our rabbi said, sweeping his gaze over the people crowded around the long, tall table at the back of the bar’s patio. “Tell us your name and, let’s see… your favorite Passover dish.”

Sampson and I arrived late for the pre-study schmoozing yesterday evening, but we were just in time to dive into the monthly “Torah on Tap” discussion. We know almost everyone’s names without being told, and the regulars know ours by now. As the imaginary introduction baton passed from person to person, we learned that matzoh ball soup is a near-universal Passover favorite, that Sephardic versus Ashkenazi charoset is a topic of some debate, and that people who claim to love fiery, fresh-grated horseradish are acclaimed as stupendous tough guys and gals.

With the key issues (i.e., best Pesach food) settled amongst ourselves, we were free to begin our loud and lively conversation on the month’s topic: “Plagues, Torture, and Collective Punishment.” We read selections from Torah and Talmud, rabbis both modern and ancient, Israeli Supreme Court rulings and psalms. The intensity of our discussion was balanced by our comfort with one another as we sipped our stouts or our sodas.

I like to think that anyone who saw us there, a group of Jews freely and publicly displaying our passion for our text, our tradition, and our deep commitment to ethics, would have been able to tell that something vital and vibrant was at work. All of us there were busy people, many having come straight from a long day at work (which, in Sampson’s case, involved two draining flights with brand-new students), and yet it mattered to us all enough that we made the effort to come together with our community to study big issues through a Jewish lens. That tells me something about my people and my Judaism.


#BlogExodus, the brainchild of Rabbi Phyllis Sommer, invites participants to chronicle the weeks leading up to Passover through blog posts, photos, and other social media expressions.