On grief and Jewishness during the holiday season

I’m not going to lie – this Christmas season was hellish for me.  For one, I obviously don’t celebrate the holiday and when it’s shoved down my throat everywhere, I get irritated. Anyone who says there’s a “war on Christmas” and that people don’t say “Merry Christmas”  anymore has never been a Jew in December. I used to respond with, “Thanks, I don’t celebrate it,” but now I just smile, nod, and walk away. It’s not my holiday, it’s not something I believe in, but I know people are just trying to be kind and spread holiday cheer so I move on. It’s not a battle I feel like fighting. 

But mostly, this season was horrendous because I used to celebrate Christmas and so many of my childhood memories are wrapped up in the holiday. Now, when I think about those memories, I think of my father and my younger brother and the spike of pain that stabs me through the heart is almost unbearable. At every turn, I’m reminded of loss this time of year. It makes for dark times during a dark period on the calendar (at least in the Pacific Northwest!) Continue reading

Yom Kippur reflections – and check out our Judaica shop!

Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) is a long day.

Like, really, really long.

Services start at 10am and they end around 6pm (this is for our shul (synagogue), many others will have different schedules), with small breaks in between. Those who are able should also fast from sundown the night before until the fast is “broken” after Havdalah (the service that ends “holy time” celebrated at the end of Shabbat and holidays) at the “end” of Yom Kippur. This means that a person is sitting through hours of services while thirsty and hungry. (Full disclosure: I was unable to fast this year because my blood sugar is very wonky right now, and I’ve had far too many issues/episodes lately. So, I ate lightly and small to regulate my blood sugar.)

Yom Kippur is also beautiful. It is edifying to come together as a community, pray with other Jews the same prayers being said throughout the Jewish world. The sanctuary is packed to the gills, familiar and new faces both plentiful. We start at the beginning of the Machzor (our prayer book used for High Holy Days) and at the end of the day, we will have reached the end, some 600+ pages later.

Our Machzor, or prayer book, Mishkan HaNefesh (used by synagogues affiliated with Reform Judaism.)

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An update for the (Jewish) new year

I’ve been really terrible about blogging lately. To be honest, I’m not sure anyone cares about anything I have to say, so I wonder why I continue to maintain this blog. Granted, I’ve had it for ten years, and I always hope my life will suddenly become insanely interesting and I’ll have no choice but to chronicle my life on here.

But, alas…right now, I’m quite boring. And I keep the blog alive because… well… because.

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Anti-Semitism comes home

Up until about three weeks ago, we had a Star of David prominently displayed on the front of our house by our front door. (A picture of it is in this post.)  I’m Jewish, my husband is in the process of converting to Judaism  – I’m proud of our Jewish home. But three weeks ago, something very disturbing happened and it was a reminder that I’m in a very different place from where I once was.

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Just what I needed

The mezuzah on the door post and Magen David hanging by our front door.

For the last couple of months, two ladies who are Jehovah’s Witnesses have been stopping by our house every third week or so. They are very aware of my status as a Jew because the posts by my front door make it clear where I land on matters of the spirit.

While I am firmly rooted in my “religion” (I put that word in quotes because Judaism is so much more to me than just a religious practice), I also believe in being kind.

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Elul and the passing of time

It’s common knowledge that as we get older, we become more aware of time. It seems to pass more quickly than in our youth, with the months and years marching past so fast that we feel dizzy.

When my father died, I initially counted his absence in days. It was important to do so because for the first 30 days, I wore a torn ribbon over my heart as an outward sign of my inward grief.  Once those 30 days passed, I still counted in days, ensuring that I recited the Mourner’s Kaddish each evening before saying the Sh’ma. As time passed, I began marking the loss of him in weeks.  Every Friday, I’d say to myself, “It’s been X weeks since Dad died.”

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A very personal Shabbat Nachamu

Friday night, I sat around a beautifully prepared Shabbos table with five other women. My dear friend Elizabeth had invited us all, and then spent massive amounts of time making sure everything was perfect. And it was. The food was fantastic – I’m still drooling over the hummus and mushrooms she served – and the company was… well… it’s almost hard for me to put into words how I felt, and still feel, about the women around that table. Continue reading