Friday, February 28, 2014

It Happened at Midnight

The candle is lit to mark 'The Day We Wished Never Happened'. It has been 3 years since Gabi our miracle baby was taken from us before she had a chance to take her first breath. As I wrote 3 years ago 'She taught us that even the impossible can come true, for both good and bad.' I never knew how bad life would get. Even today I am still learning how bad the darkest most grim days were. Sometimes I have flashbacks or memories that leave me paralyzed to face the world. Somehow I have been able to move forward and clean up the pieces. 

Halacha didn't recognize Gabi's life or death. As such any mourning or remembering is purely on a voluntary basis. She died on the 24th of Adar 1. This is the first year her Hebrew Yahrziet falls out before Purim. A quirk in the calendar and Halacha towards remembering made keeping the Gregorian date more logical.  

As I lit the candle a little while ago I was overcome with the symbolism of that decision. Normally a Yahrziet candle would be lit as the sun was setting. Instead I stayed up and waited until midnight. How fitting for the daughter who never generated any memories of her own to be remembered at midnight. Midnight, the time where the world is dark and people are sleeping. For most her memory is like a dream. For many like a dream that is forgotten when you wake up in the morning. 

In the darkness of the night a small candle can shine even brighter. This week I have had an outpouring from people who were touched by my little girl. Those who took the time to reach out really touched me, encouraged me and gave me new strength. New books are being added to the library in her memory. 

When candle lighting time comes in for Shabbat, Channah will get to light her candle next to the one remembering her little sister.  For the first time on the Anniversary, Gabi will have her Eema to look after her in the next world while Channah has a Mom to look after her here.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Tshuva with a Mehadrin Fridge

When we made Aliyah in 2008 we wanted to invest in ourselves to make our new life better. We put a lot of our very limited financial resources into making sure Rachel's studio went from home made student equipment to professional grade equipment fit for a serious business.

Our biggest mistake was our decision to draw the line at the fridge. Not only did we buy the one that was absolutely the cheapest but it wasn't even frost free. We didn't even know that it was possible to buy a fridge that wasn't frost free.

Today I finally did tshuva for our mistake as we replaced our super tiny, energy inefficient fridge with a large, hybrid, energy efficient MEHADRIN fridge.We are looking forward to enjoying our new fridge for many years.



Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Year Has Passed

Everyone knew today would be a hard day. Peri made sure that I would take today to myself as a time for reflection, contemplation and reliving my nightmares.

I took Channah to therapy this morning. After I dropped her off at school, I went to the cemetery. Each trip to the cemetery is a different experience. Aside from the reason I am there, I watch the different people that are there. I take note at the changes I have noticed since my last visit. It is humbling watching the cemetery grow.

Today I took note of the surroundings. The Superbus depot, the apartment buildings, a ringing school bell,  the beautiful view of the surrounding mountains that are in full green this time of year. The bench which can be used as a landmark to find Rachel's spot blew over. She has some new neighbours and some new grave stones are being made.

I spent a good chunk of today just listening to music and even took a much needed nap. I have appreciated the people who have been able to reach out and let me know that they are also feeling the pain of today. There is a reason I included the word 'friend' on her gravestone. That is exactly who she was for so many people, even if they never met in real life.

In the last little while I have started looking at Rachel's death from a different angle. Perhaps Gabi's death had nothing to do with Rachel's. Maybe her time to pass had already been determined. In some bizarre way our loss of Gabi and Rachel's battle with depression were to provide me with the tools to raise Channah after Rachel was gone. At the very end of her life this became clear. If I look further back there are hints to it much earlier.

As I stood staring at Rachel's grave a thought occurred to me. The life of Rochel Emeinu has in many ways been someone my life could relate to with my life with Rachel. From her battle with infertility, her deeply ingrained midot of chessed, to the words Shavu Banim that are sung to new olim. Today I saw her in a different light.

She died giving birth to Benyamin. Her death was so sudden that she was buried on the side of the road. Why couldn't she live longer to help raise her son? Why couldn't she live long enough to be buried in the family burial plot in Hevron? A standard answer is that she needed to be at the side of the road in Beit Lechem, where the Jews passed her on their way to exile. That thought brought comfort to the people facing the fear of exile. It was her pleading to God that was accepted with the promise that her children would return to their land. I see a big hole in that explanation. The other Avot had a chance to plead for salvation. It was an act of kindness to her sister that brought about the acceptance of Rochel's request and not her location. Why did she have to die at that moment.

Rochel's mission in life was to do her part to bring about the 12 sons Yaakov needed to complete the Jewish nation. Her sister Leah delivered 6 children without much difficulty. Rochel brought a servant into her marriage that was already split with her sister just to get two. When her nephew brought home fertility medication she sought it for herself. Rochel tells Yaakov "Give me children or I am dead."  The birth of Benyamin was the completion of her lifelong mission. Once that was complete her time was up.

Between the depression and migraines Rachel's life had become a living hell that I would not wish upon anyone. She worked really hard to manage as best as she could to provide the best for Channah and I; at the same time helping hundreds if not thousands of people deal with the pain she suffered in her life. She gave herself a tremendous two week push to accomplish as much as she could until the onset of one last migraine. She died peacefully in her bed, with me by her side, her last words "Thank You, Jason".

I don't know why that moment was the point where her life could be considered complete. I do know what tools she left behind to help Channah and I. I also have a taste of the impact she has had on the world and how many people are hurting today because of her loss. Even if I don't fully understand, I have to at least try to take some comfort from that.  

Monday, December 30, 2013

God's Practicle Joke

Since Rachel's Yahrziet last Shabbat my mind has been drifting all over the place. I have become very much aware of the dates of where they fall out on the Gregorian calendar. As I think back to this time last year, I realize that Rachel was still alive for those events.

A bunch of memories seem to come up over and over again from December 31st of last year:

- The disconnect from the world as I sat on my couch. At that moment, no decisions needed to be made as I waited to find out what time we were going to court and people were all over my apartment doing different things to help out.

- A friend telling me it was time to eat so he was going to make me a sandwich. Again the disconnect of not being able to make a bracha.

- Watching friends post both openly and discreetly about Rachel's passing that day.

- As midnight approached sitting with a friend, preparing the Mishnayot signup and watching big chunks of it fill within minutes.

Last week, we read Parsha Vaeira where the first 7 of the 10 plagues were cast upon Egypt; the last being the plague of hail. The Egyptian people received a warning that the hail was coming. Those who 'fear God' were to bring their animals inside and protect themselves. The rest chose not to pay attention and face the consequences. Pharaoh watched his empire crumble before his eyes and agreed to let the Jews go. As the ice melted and the hydro workers finish restoring power he saw that not all was lost. The flax and barley crops have been destroyed but the wheat and spelt survived. Despite all of the destruction, there would still be food to eat in Egypt. In Pharaoh's eyes, God had failed to destroy Egypt.

When I realized that this week is Parshat Bo, I was realized that it matched up perfectly for where I am going to be emotionally this week.

Without wasting any time God instructs Moshe to tell Pharaoh it is time for the next plague. He uses the term התעללתי which Rashi explains as making a mockery of Egypt. It could also be read as a prank or practical joke. So what is the joke? Just as Pharaoh thinks that his crops have been saved, in come the locusts to finish the job. He is no better off then if the hail had destroyed the wheat and spelt.

When I was in Yeshiva on December 31st we got the shiur with the Gemara that if someone was born on December 25th the Bris would be on January 1st. Those are the only dates on the secular calendar that the celebrations begin at night, proving their religious nature. I can't remember if a curfew was imposed that night but a handful of us watched two videos supplied by the Yeshiva for after night seder. One was the BBC version of ’The Disputation' and a 6 Day War Documentary.

That night made an impression on me and for years Rachel and I pulled hairs on how to handle New Year's (aka Sylvester). In the end we would not celebrate but if our friends happen to be getting together or there was an Arrogant Worms concert in Bradford we would go. In the beginning, I would even leave the room shortly before midnight in order to not be directly partaking in celebrations.

I planned my life and God played the practical jokes. When Rachel and I got married we agreed we would never celebrate Valentine's Day. However we would always mark Tu B'Av. I picked up her family’s custom of giving the mother flowers on the child's birthday. When Rachel's water broke at 27 weeks, Channah blocked the hole with her head for another 5.5 weeks until finally going into fetal distress and being born on February 14th.

Last year, I spent December 31st preparing for a funeral/shiva and struggling to survive as a single parent. I think it is safe to say that although Rachel's Yahrziet is the 18th of Tevet, I think it is safe to assume I will never want to participate in a New Year's Eve celebration no matter how I feel hashkafically.

When this idea first came to me, I looked at it as a slap in the face. However, Rachel and I had discussions about death where we agreed that to some degree you get to choose the moment when you die. If we put that together with the mesorah that Tzaddikim get some kind of warning that their end is near, perhaps it was not such a far fetched idea. Maybe, just maybe Rachel would choose that moment in order to make sure I would never have that conflict again.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The First Auf Roof

This morning was the beginning of the official wedding celebrations. My Auf Roof is the only event that will be taking place in Israel. (We are hoping to have something when we get home).  It was really important to share my joy with the community that has meant so much to me in the past 5+ years.

Friday night the excitement was already starting to build. When I got to shul in the morning, people just coming up to wish me mazel tov. I noticed one person who walked up from a neighbourhood that I consider to be too far to go on Shabbat. If I did I would choose to do the downhill walk there and get a ride home after Shabbat. If I had to choose someone to daven today it would have been them. Apparently the Gabai thought the same thing and gave him Shacharit. For Kedushah he used the tune when you are passing around the cup during Sheva brachot. It was amazing.

Then the Gabai asked me who I wanted to give kibudim. I was incredible looking around the room seeing all the people who are so meaningful to me. I made my choices. We had to make some revisions, but it all went smoothly.

I had my aliyah. The dancing and singing were really heartfelt as what seemed like an endless supply of candy flew through the air. Then it was time to make a Bracha that I hadn't made in 23 years. I did the brachot for the Haftorah, while the Gabbai's son leined it.

The Rabbi's drasha was about how could Yaakov be scared if he had God's promise not to worry. The answer was along the lines that he realized he made decisions without a clear answer and he was afraid if he made the wrong decision it would negate God's promise. He said that I have had challenges in life that would make most people throw in the towel and give up. It didn't matter if it was because of or in-spite of my experiences I have continued to grow as a person.  I am very proud of what I have been able to accomplish. From time to time it is nice to know that others see it too.

People from various walks of my life were at the kiddush. Two people came in from Jerusalem. People who normally daven at other shuls, some close, some far and people who are just ordinary people in the kehillah. People are just so happy and it just adds to the excitement I am already feeling. 

When I walked into shul, I stopped for a moment at the library in Gabi's memory. Also the Yahzeit board had one black spot exposed. That is Rachel's spot as her plaque is currently being engraved. Of course Rochel dying in the parsha also jumped out at me. One of Rachel's good friends made it a point to tell me she knows Rachel is happy.

The scar will always be on my heart. I am really looking forward to enjoying all the events around the wedding and building my life with Peri.   

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Polling Daas Torah Style

Tonight I received my first phone call to make sure I was voting for the right candidate in the election. I was in the mood for toying but not arguing. I didn't have the creative juices flowing, so the conversation went something like this.

Caller: I am sure that you have seen the signs around the neighbourhood that one has to vote for Chen. Your Rav signed it.
Me: Yes.
Caller: How many voters are there?
Me: One (The answered seem to have thrown him)
Caller: So I can put you down for voting Chen?
Me: No.
Caller: You are going to be voting for Abutbol?
Me: No.
Caller: You know that Abutbol supports the Yeshivas and the other guys don't?
Me: That's nice.

Some back and forth where he said that Abutbol supports the Yeshivas and I basically said I am well aware of what Abutbol does.

Caller: Do you know who Chaim Kanievsky is?
Me: Yes.
Caller: He would want you to vote for Abutbol.

He basically took that track that in 120 years, if I Abutbol, Kanievsky would be there to greet me as I would have earned Olam HaBa, if not ......

He didn't ask me how I was going to vote or what my concerns might be. Anyone who thinks that election is that simple, there isn't really anything to discuss.

Right now my vote for Mayor is firmly with Eli Cohen.
My vote for City Council is strongly leaning towards Tov.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Yom Tov Wrap Up

The chagim are over. The kids are in the middle of their first full school week of the year. Here is a quick summary of the passed month.

Rosh HaShannha/Yom Kippor 

I found these days provided a lot of peace and closure for me.


Peri was here for Sukkot. It was a chance for her to meet the community she will be joining. We got to experience together what it is going to be like to be living together as a family.

As with most visitors she was blown away by the caring and warmness of the community. Of course she was also bombarded by a whole lot of people in a short period of time. Some started talking to her as if she should know who they are. Parking Lot Guy, Dairy Section Guy, Elevator Girl, Girl with the Short Husband, Girl with the Tall Husband, Hyper Guy, Guy with the Beard, Girl I only know by name, Elevator Girl's Parents, Guy Who's Dad I Know are just but a few of the people she met. 

Good friends hosted a Vort. It was wonderful to see so many incredible friends.

It was the first time sleeping in the Sukkah since Rachel was pregnant with Gabi. I missed two nights. Once due to rain and once I fell asleep getting ready for bed.

Shmini Ezert/Simchat Torah

It was the first Yom Tov meal I had at home since losing Rachel. It was just the three of us as a family.

One of Rachel's teffilot, that I would not get Kol Nearim this year came true.

It was the 10th Simchat Torah that I sung this song to myself.

Channah knows she is my Sefer Torah. When Rachel was pregnant with Gabi, Channah decided she was too old to come into the men's section. She told Peri the story and asked if Peri would give me a Sefer Torah.

Shabbat Bereshit

Friday night was my first Shabbat at home. (I have no idea who wins the pool.) Again it was a chance to be family. Lunch was with the hosts where Peri were staying. They finally had an opportunity to get to know her.

Life Returns to Normal (Sort Of)

In the next few weeks life falls back into some sort of routine, while wedding prep continues. Mid November it is off to Canada before returning to start my new life back home in Israel.