26 January 2009

Does Pediatric Judaism Make Us An Orphan People?

"Pharaoh said to them, 'Go, worship the Lord your G-d! Who are the ones to go?' Moses replied, 'We will all go, young and old: we will go with our sons and daughters, our flocks and herds; for we must observe the Lord's festival.'" Exodus 10: 8-9. (Bo)

Why does Moses emphasize young and old? The Etz Hayim Torah and commentary (without providing a specific citation) reads, "One commentator states, 'because no celebration is complete without children.' A second adds, 'a child without a parent is an orphan, but a nation without children is an orphan people.'"

[I will note here: whatever the import to Moses, Pharaoh does not allow the women or the children to go, only the men - although apparently all of them. He interprets "young and old" as an indication that Moses and Aaron are bent on mischief and have no intention to return after three days.]

I want to focus on the words of the commentator - even though I don't know who it is or whether these words are exact because I have heard such things before in our community. I question what it is about the presence of children that completes celebrations for us.

Please do not misunderstand, I agree with the assertion. I love children (of all ages although for some reason I find 8 year old girls rather challenging) and have worked with and celebrated with Jewish children from birth through college age. When I graduated from law school, I did not go to my graduation ceremony (which was on Shabbat morning) and instead on Sunday afternoon rented a park so that my students and their families (all from a supplemental religious school program) could celebrate with me and my friends. My favorite law school graduation gift was framed artwork with the quotation from Sanhedrin that "one who teaches another's child Torah is as one who gave birth to the child." (My second favorite was a guitar, which I sadly still cannot play.)

My question this week is: should our celebrations begin with children - or be completed with children? In other words, should our celebrations of Jewish holidays and of Judaism be focused entirely on children as are so many of the Sukkot, Chanukah, Tu B'Shevat, Purim, Shavuot and other communal celebrations and observances I have experienced, or should they be focused on adults and then intentfully designed to include children? While Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur are primarily mindful of adults, with congregations creating children's programming appropriate for children and teens, it seems to me that most other holidays in the our community are celebrated by and for kids at the indulgence of their parents. If I were a child, with the perspective I think most children have, I think Judaism must look horrible for adults. As an adult, you get to pray and fast . . . unless you are celebrating with kids.

I suspect that observation is less true in the Orthodox community, and within the Conservative movement I'm certain it depends on the congregation. However, in the world in which I am living and working, havdallah is usually made only at camp and on Shabbatonim, few if any people have Tu B'Shevat seders at home and the one at our congregation is focused very much on the attention span of the children, our Shavuot celebration centers entirely around our 10th graders to the point that few people in our community even realize Shavuot is a holiday and Confirmation is not. Purim is not an adult party, it is a carnival. Sukkot if acknowledged at all is about children making decorations.

I believe I feel this focus on children even more strongly because I don't have any children of my own. Although I am the age of many of the parents, and although I am part of the team creating the celebrations and observances for the children, I am not bringing children with me. Therefore, when I am at a Tu B'Shevat seder planned and run by someone else I am very aware that all of the things I hunger for in an observance of Tu B'Shevat are missing. I want an adult-level intellectual discussion of Jewish text and Jane Goodall's Harvest of Hope. I want to be able to pause in the seder where questions of Jewish mysticism naturally arise and question whether it is possible to find the mystical in Judaism without it feeling too 'new-agey' to those of us who usually find ourselves connected through more cerebral paths. I want to drink wine from an organic, bio-diverse vinyard at the seder, and learn about Rashi's vinyards in France. I want to do all of this with special 'nut-free' tables for the children with allergies, and coloring pages, and cups with seeds to plant, and music and a room designated for kids to play in while the adults who love and adore them (including those of us who didn't bring them) celebrate as adults.

So which comes first?

Moses says, "young and old" - placing children first. The commentator says a people without children is an orphan people - seemingly also placing the children first.

And yet . . .

What happens to children who only ever experience Jewish celebrations as children? What happens when children watch the adults in their community dress us for the Purim carnival, but never hear them discussing the details of the story with any interest, never hear Esther confronting the king compared to women in the United States fighting for the right to petition the government (literally for the right to write or sign petitions) or the right to vote? The women of the American Anti-Slavery Society quoted text from Megillat Esther when they fought for the right to fight against slavery. What happens when children see adult secular life as a time to read newspapers, go out for dinner, stay up late, but don't see an adult Jewish life that exists without children.

I think a few things happen.

I think as these Jewish children grow up and become teenagers, they decide many of the Jewish things they did as children are irrelevant to them as teens and they quit participating.

I think as these Jewish children become Jewish adults who are in college, grad school, or their first job they see no reason to seek our Jewish life or Jewish celebration. After all, until you have children, you are irrelevant at many (some days I'd go as far as to say most) Jewish communal events. Not only are you constantly asked why you don't and when you will have children, you always get a place on the sidelines. Sometimes you are asked to help entertain or educate young children, but most of the time you are nearly invisible. The event is designed with a focus on the children and on the needs of the people who brought them.

I think as those Jewish adults spend more and more years of our lives coming to Jewish celebrations that have nothing to do with us . . .

Well, maybe I'm alone in this one, so I'll be specific:

I have become resentful. I was never a child in the Jewish community. I grew up an only Jewish kid on a farm in Missouri where my community looked more like Charlotte's (as in Charlotte's Web) than like the lives of the children I work with who live in an urban area and belong to a synagogue (and probably also the JCC). I got involved with a synagogue when I was 17, by my own choice, and went to a college with a small Jewish population where I spent significant time figuring out how to create Jewish life on campus. Once I graduated, well, I've moved around a lot, but I've found a niche for myself in every community in which I've lived - usually as a teacher. And yet, in each one, it is clear to me that until I am at least 20 years older than I am now, the focus will be on my peers who have children and on their children.

I know I am not the only person my age who is Jewish, single, and who does not (hopefully- yet) have children.

However at Jewish community celebrations, I am often the only person in her 30s who is Jewish, single, and doesn't have children in the room.

I have been frustrated by that reality, and yet also understood that we serve the demographic that is there.

On the other hand, are we becoming an orphan people? With so many more Jewish adults unaffiliated than affiliated, with so many teens off doing other things more interesting and relevant to them than Jewish observance, with so many Jewish adults in our 20s and 30s seeking things outside the Jewish community to find belonging and meaning in our lives . . .

Perhaps one of the best guarantors for the future of the Jewish people is providing inspiration, education, meaning, community, and more for our adults and then bringing our children along with us so that our children can see the future that is their inheritance. After all, we do not raise our Jewish children to be Jewish children . . . we raise our children to, G-d Willing, become Jewish adults.

Either way, Moses doesn't get to bring the women and children out of Egypt in these verses, and later (10:24) when Pharaoh offers to let him take the women and the children leaving only the flocks behind Moses won't leave without the flocks. We arrive at the 10th plague, and at the instruction that Moses is to speak to the whole community of Israel to explain how to prepare their homes and themselves for the night they are to leave Egypt and how to observe and celebrate this sacred occasion for all time (12:21-27).

I think it's worth noting that the instruction is for everyone - young, old, parents, children, adults who do not have children, and the adult children who have elderly parents to care for . . . the whole community.

When Moses goes to the elders and tells them what they must do, he also says, "And when your children ask, 'what do you mean by this rite?' you shall say, 'It is the passover sacrifice to the Lord, because G-d passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt when G-d smote the Egyptians, but saved our houses.'" (12:27)

Moses is speaking with the elders, not with every Jewish parent. Certainly, some would have had grown children. Some may have not had children. When Moses said, "your children" did he mean 'your own children' or did he mean 'the children of the Israelites'.

I think it was the latter.

Even though we are supposed to (according the the Haggadah's description of the 4 children - or traditionally the 4 sons) teach each child according to his or her ability and developmental level, we will be able to do that effectively only if as adults we are engaged and have an understanding of Judaism at our own level as well.

Torah cannot live in the words in the scroll, just as Torahs cannot dance without our legs.

Here is what I am asking for:

While I create opportunities for our Jewish children, youth, and teens, I would love for someone else to be creating dynamic, age-appropriate Jewish learning and celebrating opportunities for me.

15 January 2009

Red or Green?

I mean salsa . . . or chili . . . I once lived in New Mexico. You can get that question a lot there.

I haven't had any really good chili, or salsa, in awhile. Living away from the Southwest for so long, I'm not sure I could really take it anyway.

Instead, I've just been going out dancing. The thing is, there is a catch.

When I lived in New Mexico, I didn't learn salsa in lessons, I just went out dancing and tried to follow - and more or less I kept up. Where I live now, many people take lessons, and it feels more formal. It's also a lot colder outside, so I bring a change of clothing and change in the bathroom - and that feels a little on the odd side as well. Oh - and shoes - because it's hard to dance in snow boots.

That isn't even the most challenging part, though . . . the most challenging part is after many, many years of having absolutely no issue whatsoever with crossing a room and asking a guy to dance - I just don't want to have to right now. So while I stand near a tall table thinking about dancing, watching other people dance, I'm not dancing so much.

No salsa of any kind.

Because no one is coming to ask me to dance.

And I'm realizing, no one ever did. I always asked first. I always put myself out there, knowing rejecting was possible, and being okay with that.

I've been thinking about it all day (because I went out dancing last night, but did not actually dance) . . .

Another friend of mine has pointed out this is not a likely way to meet Jewish men anyway.

13 January 2009

What's in a Name?

Here I am, being anonymous for the first time in my life and all I can think about is names.

Maybe it's partly because of all of these pregnant/birthing friends.
One baby was born 11 days ago. He has a Hebrew name and an English name. Another was born Sunday, she is Grace Katherine (she's Catholic). And we are still waiting on 3 more. Yes, I have a lot of pregnant friends. If pregnancy were a contagious condition I'd be much more likely to have a baby myself one of these days!

I was given only English names as a baby, but both first and middle were named for grandfathers' Hebrew names. Then in college I was given Ariel. I 'named' my grandmother Naomi Ruth, and just last fall after Simchat Torah I helped my mother choose her Hebrew name, Na'amah. My grandfather is Ya'acov. G-d willing I have children someday, I would like for them to have one name, and have it be a Hebrew name. Of course, if I adopt, I might have a child with a birth name and a Hebrew name - if that is the case (and I hope so, I have always wanted to adopt) I have often wondered what the Torah says about birth names and adoptive names. Turns out - this is the week for an answer.

Verse 15: The king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives. The name of one of them was Shifrah, and the name of the other was Puah.

I read today that Yocheved – Shifrah – shin fey resh – means to make beautiful – when a new baby would be born, she would clean it up and make it beautiful. Miriam – Puah – would make sounds to the newborn to make it happy. It says G-d gave them names based on the chesed each did. My question is (and I have not been able to find an answer) Did only the Torah (G-d) call them Shifra and Puah, or did also Pharaoh, or did only the women? Or the babies? Who called these women this? I don't have any answers. If anyone can find anything, I would love to learn it.

Later . . .

Verse 1: A man of the house of Levi went and married the daughter of Levi.
Verse 2: The woman conceived and bore a son. She saw that he was [exceptionally] good, and she kept him hidden for three months.

About this section I learned something new today. That seeing that he was "good" actually meant that she (the unnamed Yocheved) named him "Tov" (or Toviah or Tevye). According to some sources, Moshe actually had a name given to him by his birth parents as well as by (also unnamed) Batya - Pharaoh's daughter.

Verse 10: When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh's daughter, and he became her son. She named him Moshe, for she said, "I drew him from the water."

We are told this is evidence of how much G-d loved Batya because we call Moshe by the name Batya gave him and how it expressed his character. His whole life – he himself drew other people out of trouble.

Batya has always been one of my favorite people. I love that she defied her father. I love that she was a rebel with a cause. I love that she reached her arm out and did the impossible. I love that she could have been comfortable in the palace and had her maids bring her water, and instead she went down to the water where there was death and horror just in case maybe there was someone there she could save. I love this woman. I love her as a person and I love her as a mother.

I love that she raised her son in a palace and managed to also teach him all of the values he would need to be among our people living in the desert. I love that she paid wages to a slave. I love that she spoke with respect to Miriam. I think she is fantastic.

Prior to today, I never questioned her naming Moshe.

But then I came across that verse - and OF COURSE Yocheved thought her baby was good. Every mother who wants to have a child sees her baby and thinks he or she is good, right? Why would she need to tell us that? Why would the Torah need to tell us that? What was really going on over there?

Rashi, Ramban, and assorted others jumped right into the discussion and cleared things up . . .
she named him they said - Tov, Toviah . . . or, like the milkman, Tevye.

I have never thought of naming one of my children "Moses" or "Moshe" - it always seemed like a lot of pressure to me.

I have, however, thought of naming a girl Batya - even with the pressure, what a great name!

Tevye sounds like an old man to me (now, why would I have that image I wonder!) . . . but Toviah I like, and perhaps someday I will have an opportunity to raise a child to whom I did not give birth. Some other woman will have conceived, carried, and delivered him. And she will have named him, and it might be the name he is known by - and knows himself by. Perhaps for him, a Hebrew name like Toviah would be most appropriate. The name that means no matter what he is called by the rest of the world, in my house, as my child, I will always see in him what is good.

06 January 2009

Waiting for a Call

A friend of mine is, Gd Willing, any minute going to call and ask me to come and stay with her son (who just turned two) so she and her husband can go to the hospital. I'm ready. I have a car seat in my car. I have my phone charged up. I'm waiting.

I could be waiting awhile. She's not actually due until January 16th, but no one (doctors included) thinks it'll be that long. Well, except for me. People are busy making guesses about dates and gender and all sorts of things. I've been told I'm not much fun. I don't like playing games where babies are concerned. I just want everyone to make it back home healthy. It's not that I don't care if it's a boy or a girl, it's that I really don't care. I've had a few friends now have really difficult deliveries and I don't care when, or what . . . just everyone safe and healthy.

While I am waiting, I am going to keep studying Torah. It's my favorite thing to do on my day off . . . and again the disclaimer, this is no article . . .just musings, thinkings, and learning. I'd love to know what other people see, learn, and what questions are raised. . .

Through my eyes, the most apparent meaning of most of the Torah comes through as a parenting lesson. I have been wanting children since I was sixteen (at least, that's when I actively started thinking about it), so my worldview is very much shaped by my focus on children - and although I've been a teacher (yes, I've seen Sanhedrin 19b), and a foster parent, a nanny, a god parent, and am the guardian of a few of my friends children I still am not actually a parent. I know better than most that it's different.

I have decided to spend a little more time writing about vayechi. My study partner and I spent another two hours with the text this morning. (have I explained that she is Orthodox and we study on the phone?) This morning, thankfully, I am not distracted.

So, in Verse 29 we read, The days of Yisrael's death drew near, and he called for his son Yoseif, and said to him, "If I have found favor in your eyes, please, place your hand under my thigh; that you will deal kindly and truthfully with me. Please, do not bury me in Egypt. Verse 30: [But rather] let me lie with my fathers. Carry me out of Egypt, and bury me in their grave." He [Yoseif said], "I will do as you say." Verse 31: He [Yaakov] said, "Swear to me," and he swore to him. Yisrael prostrated himself at the head of the bed.

My question here is, why didn’t Jacob just ask Joseph – why make him take an oath?

Here is some of what I found: Rabbi Noson Weiz wrote in The Body and the Self

"The commentators explain that Jacob made this request to Joseph because he was the only one among his children who had the power necessary to carry it out. He foresaw that the Egyptians would resist allowing him to be buried elsewhere, and it would need the offices of a very powerful person like Joseph to ensure compliance with Jacob's desire to be buried in Israel in the Cave of the Machpelah. This is also the reason Jacob made Joseph take an oath to comply with his wish. It is not that he didn't trust him. He wanted to provide Joseph with a powerful argument with which to confront Pharaoh. He could sincerely tell Pharaoh that he was bound by his sacred oath to carry out Jacob's final request. In the face of the oath Pharaoh could not withhold permission. Indeed we find that Pharaoh specifically refers to the oath:
And Pharaoh said, "Go up and bury your father as he made you swear to do." (Genesis 50:6)"


It is a simple enough question, and I did not have to dig very far for an answer that satisfied me. Still, it got me thinking. I work with teens. How often (often!) have I suggested to them that if they don't want to go to a party where parents aren't present, or where there will be drinking or drugs or something else going on they don't want to be part of, but they feel they cannot say that to their friends - even if they don't have time to consult with their parents before giving an answer they can justifiably respond that their parents do not allow them to go. They can say they have promised their parents that they will not go to a party of that desciption. One student told me her parents would encourage her to go to a party with drinking (in high school) because they believe it is an important part of social development, but she still did not want to go. I told her instead of saying her parents wouldn't let her go, she could say that I would find out and she would be in "so much trouble" with me. These other kids from her public school have no idea who I am or why she cares what I think, but if she needed my "parental" back up she had it.

There is a big difference, of course, because Jacob did actually make Joseph make an oath. I am not wondering what the rules are about truthfullness in the above situation for my teens (who are my students) or for the children we parent. If teens need "back up" and don't have it in the moment, is it wrong or right for them to say that their parents said something they may not have actually said? (such as, you may not go to a party where there is alcohol and drugs.)

Pharaoh is persuaded not by Joseph "knowing" it is what Jacob wanted, but by the fact that Joseph took an actual oath.

Given all of the pressure our teens live with and how often they are faced with choices about which their parent(s) have never weighed in - this parsha seems instructional. Maybe Jacob knew Pharaoh would likely put up a fight if Joseph's commitment was anything less than an oath, so he planned ahead for a time when he would not be there to help Joseph. Perhaps as parent(s) (or guardians, god parents, foster parents, etc) we should do the same. Joseph didn't have to just have a vague knowledge of what his father wanted him to do, Jacob told him straight out.

Jacob had personal experience with unclear direction as well - after all, he watched his brother Esau try to please his parents over and over never really knowing what they wanted from him while for Jacob it was always made clear.

Of course, I am also an adult child - as was Joseph - and whiel I know what my mother wants Gd Forbid, I don't know if it's in writing. I am reminded, I should check on that.

The other place I was struck was another reference I've never noticed before about Asnath.

Ch. 48 Verse 1: After these events, someone said to Yoseif, "Behold your father is ill." He took his two sons with him, Menasheh and Ephraim.

My question is: who is the 'vayomer' referring to? – who said it? Rashi tells us there are those to say that Ephraim was often in Jacob’s presence, so when Jacob took ill, Ephraim went to Egypt to tell Joseph. He was with his grandfather learning Torah all the time, and therefore he noticed as his granfather became ill. We are also told the grammar is indicative of deeper meaning. If something is news you never knew before – it would be “and he spoke” - vayagid -instead of vayomer – "and he said". Why? Because apparently vayagid is the form used when we are startled by something or learning it for the first time. If Jacob was well the whole time and suddenly took ill – then we’d expect vayagid.

But I seem to recall somewhere the Talmud tells us Jacob was the first one in the world to become sick before he died and before then there was no weakness before death. Whoever this messenger was had been by Jacob all the time and saw him becoming ill because he says vayomer, and not vayagid.

About why Ephraim was the one who knew Joacob, Rabbi Shraga Simmons writes: "The commentaries explain that the order is based on how these two brothers spent the majority of their time. Ephraim spent his days learning Torah with his grandfather, Jacob. Menashe, meanwhile, served as executive assistant to his father Joseph, the prime minister of Egypt."

My question: Still, why was it covered up from our learning it?
Could it be hidden because later we’ll find out that Ephraim’s descendents are Jerobaum and also Joshua and Jerobaum is bad news?

Verse 2: It was told to Yaakov, saying, "Behold, your son, Yoseif, has come to you." Yisrael gathered his strength and sat up in bed.

My question again: Who told? Rashi says once again, the speaker is Ephraim. (although there are opinions that disagree because then Ephraim should have said, "my father" and not "Yoseif).

Even more perplexing is Jacob's question:

Verse 8: Yisrael saw Yoseif's sons, and he said, "Who are these?"
Verse 9: Yoseif said to his father, "These are my sons, whom El-him has given me in this [place]." He [Yaakov] said, "Please take them to me, and I will bless them."

My question: How is it that Yacov doesn’t recognize the grandchildren?

Rashi explains it was not a matter of him not recognizing them. Yacob was already familiar with Yoseif’s sons. By asking, he couldn’t have been asking who they actually were. What he was asking was from what marriage these children came. According to something my study partner mentioned last week (I don't remember the citation) Joseph also took out the klaf from Yakov that had been given to Asnath to prove that she was of the house of Jacob. According to Rashi, after coming to Egyot, Jacob had not met the mother of these children. When he said, these are the children Hashem gave me “in this place” – it was so Jacob would know who these children are and who their mother is. The commentary continues to explain that Joseph showed Jacob the document by which he married his wife. Jacob sees the future and knows that eventually Jerobaum is going to come from this child – and Jacob asks, is this because of a problem with this marriage? Yoseif says no. And then – as soon as Joseph answers his father, right away, Jacob says bring them to me and I will bless them.

My question: How is it that Jacob's concerns are all alleviated by this brief exchange?

Verse 10: Yisrael's eyes were heavy with age, and he could not see. He [Yoseif] brought them near to him, and he kissed them and hugged them. Verse 11: Yisrael said to Yoseif, "I have never thought to see your face, and behold El-him has even allowed me to see your offspring."

It seems according to toe Chofetz Chaim, this hugging and kissing had a complete connection – and it was a specific type of hugging and kissing. In Hebrew – it is TO them, toward them, and not just kissed them.

Here are my study notes:

According to the Kli Yakar – Jacob knew about what was going to happen in the future, and therefore we wonder how he was able to whole heartedly give the blessing. He just wanted to make sure the bad stuff in the future wouldn’t happen because of the marriage. Once he ascertained that, he said, “bring them onto me” and he said you could learn from me – from my self – why? Because my father Isaac was blessed for my sake. Bring them here upon me – you can learn from me – that HaShem didn’t withhold blessings from Isaac for Jacob’s sake – even though Esau would also be coming from Isaac. Let them be just like me – the same way that Hashem blessed Isaac for generations to come – for Jacob, even though Esau would come, in the very same way, we’re going to work with the present time, and I am giving a blessing for the time that is now – because right now they are all righteous, and I’m not going to have any feelings about the future. And he blessed them that day, according to how they spiritually were that day. Achshav tzadikim - NOW they are righteous.

Again, I have my students in mind. It is hard sometimes to remember that I should encounter them each as they are when they are with me. They have made mistakes and wrong choices in the past, and they certainly will again in the future, but my focus it seems should be on who they are and how they are achshav . . . in this moment. (It's not our task to complete the work . . . kind of . . . maybe . . . ) At the same time, if I see one headed down a really troublesome path, it seems unlikely that I'm supposed to just let them go down it. If Jacob's concern was Jereboam, well, he wasn't even born yet (not for a long time) . . .and a lot could happen between this moment with Ephraim and that moment with the split in the kingdom.

And, of course, all of this brings me back to my central question:

Where is my b'shert and where are my children?
Who are mine to bless, and who will (Gd Willing when I'm well past 120) bury me . . . who will take care of my bones, and who will say kaddish for me?

I heard this week about a shiva at which there were many people, many children and grandchildren, but the only person who could read the Hebrew (and no one bothered to read the transliteration) of the kaddish was the person leading. There were more than 10 Jews in the room, they had a minyan, but the man leading (who was not a relative) was the only one saying the kaddish. Just hearing about this situation made me sad.

My heart aches for Israel right now - and, truly, always. And yet I don't know how I feel about the relationship between the Diaspora and Israel, and I don't know what I think about my responsibility to live there. I don't feel compelled to ask that my bones be brought there. But I have Jewish bones, and a Jewish soul, and both want Jewish children . . .

and none of that is an answer . . .

it's really all part of a very, very big question . . .

05 January 2009

Blessings for Grandchildren

As I begin to write, I am completely distracted. I was going to write more about the text, but I don't have the patience right now - even though I've been sitting here studying Torah.

I can't seem not to note that I am sitting in a coffee shop a few tables away from two young women. These women are gossiping (it's not talking, it's gossiping) about weddings and engagements and expectations. One is recently married, and she - all knowing - is talking about expectations of rings and how to make sure he gets the right one, how to find the right dress and how to talk the dressmaker into a year of payments if necessary so you can get married in the dress of your dreams (and how anything more than $2,600 is just simply too much money for a young couple who also wants parents to contribute to a down payment for a house) . . . the other woman just started dating someone right before the New Year, but she just knows he is the one . . . it has been going on and on . . .

These women are easily a decade younger than I am.

I have been trying all week to look around my life and see what I do have. In Under the Tuscan Sun the protagonist realizes that she has everything she asked for: home, family, sunlight . . . and then an adorable American writer shows up - just for her. I won't even pretent I'm driven by higher motives. What I want, what I've always wanted, are home, family, and sunlight (the book and movie both hit a nerve . . . not sure if it was the same nerve exactly, but nerves were hit) . . . I live in a place with far too little sunlight - which is probably the easiest thing to do something about. I've tried for 9 years to make a home for myself here . . .with some success . . .
as for family, I have a lot of other people's children (I work with teens) . . .
So anyway, all week I've been trying to think about what I do have, but everywhere I go - like those words that once you learn them you hear them everywhere - all I seem to see and hear are women 10 years younger than I am talking about weddings and pregnancies.

I think that also might have something to do with the other things in my life - for example my FOUR pregnant friends (and all of their very happy parents).

On Shabbat we read about Joseph getting his family settled in Goshen with himself, Asnath, and their two children. This week we read about Jacob blessing his sons and grandsons.

I also value children and grandchildren. I would like to have both.
Last fall I took a 100 hour class to become certified in training faith-based comprehensive sex educators. During one of the classes we spent about 20 minutes reflecting silently - journaling - on what our focus is (personally) when we think about our primary relationship. Everyone else in the class was either partnered or married, and I was the only person who is Jewish. When I started my journal, I found myself writing as a grandmother - thinking about sitting with my husband and watching our grandchildren sleep on our livingroom floor. I couldn't keep writing what felt so much like a work of fiction and not of hope. After 10 minutes I had to stop and go for a walk.

Lately, when I read the Torah I feel like it is full of unreasonable expectations.