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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in ehwhy's LiveJournal:

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Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013
12:23 am
Remembering Rachel

I can't even begin to describe the events of such a horrible day.  I can only say that I am incredibly grateful to everyone who has been supportive over the past 2 days.  When we made Aliyah, I think it would be generous to say that we knew 2 dozen people.  There were more than 200 people at the funeral. For those who were not there, here is a copy of the Eulogy I gave

Warning: May cause crying.

          I was 17, she was 15.  Rachel called me to let me know what I needed to bring for an NCSY program in New York.  The conversation lasted many hours and she didn’t get to the rest of the phone calls that night.  We went on to become friends and a year later we started dating.  Two years later we were engaged and seven months later we were married.  That was fifteen years ago.

he first time, that we spent a night a part was when Rachel was hospitalized with Channah.  The first time we were completely apart was when she went to her Abba’s funeral last year. Our almost fifteen years of marriage with all its highs and lows were spent together.

If there was a Middah that defined Rachel, it was chessed.  She always put others needs first. She was always on the lookout, for opportunities to help others. Our home was always open for Shabbat guests. No matter how stressful the week was, we were happy to give.

In Israel it is normal for  people to run to find out if travelers have room to bring back stuff.  Rachel ran to see how to make the person’s trip easier. 

Back in Toronto, when we leased our first car, we were both students and had no idea how we would make car payments.  We made a deal with G-d that we would use the car for any Mitzvah sent our way, in exchange for help with the payments.  We never had a problem making a payment.  When we finally bought a car here in Israel, we adopted the same principle.  Rachel would often get off the phone to tell me “By The Way, you are picking up so and so from the airport, do you mind?” A friend recently went through a difficult time, of course we drove them around so they would not need to rely on public transportation.

Before we got married, Rachel wanted Aliyah on the table and I didn’t.  In the end I convinced her to put it on the ’10 year plan’.  As our 10th Anniversary approached,  we decided to come.  It was the best decision we ever made.  We fell into a wonderful community, made Amazing friends and I cannot completely express my thanks to her for pushing me to come.The love of her life was Channah.  She was a miracle baby that had grown up to become a daughter that is constantly making us proud.  Rachel’s face would always glow at the opportunity to share a story about Channah. Here in Israel we were able to offer Channah opportunities that we could never have provided in Toronto.  Rachel was always so proud of what Channah knows and how well she integrated here. 

Channah has many of Rachel’s middot, especially sensitivity to others.  When people tell us how great she is, it often refers to chinuch decisions Rachel initiated.  Last night Channah sat down with a new machberet “Zihcaron Sheli” She then wrote a list of questions that were bothering her.  When Channah and I were not always getting along, Rachel had her write a note and leave it under her pillow.  Rachel could then address the issue and write back to Channah.  That communication skill is going to be with Channah for the rest of her life.  She is going to use it to help get through the pain of not having you around anymore.

We were told that we would not have any other children besides Channah.  When Rachel got pregnant with Gabi, it was such a joy for both of us.  It was a very hard pregnancy.  No matter how hard the pregnancy got she always had a smile on her face.  She understood how precious a life was. When that was taken away from her it shattered her world.  Although the last 2 years have been  a struggle, she was doing  a great job getting back on her feet.  The last two weeks was a major breakthrough. She was happy.  She finally had an opportunity to be herself.  I am incredibly grateful that I had this time with the Rachel who didn’t have to carry the baggage of life’s tragedies with her.

Rachel had so much raw creative talent and she used it. She excelled at whatever she set her heart to.  It could be making Jewelery in her studio, writing, playing piano, scrapbooking or even teaching Channah a new Art’s and Craft project.

For Rachel music paralleled life. In every situation different songs would carry her through. She would surround herself with music to comfort her in the difficult times and to celebrate the good times.

One song has recently been very important to Rachel. I feel like it is her message to us that is left behind. I wanted to share one part of the song, The Wish by The Rascal Flatts:

My wish, for you, is that this life becomes all that you want it to,
Your dreams stay big, and your worries stay small,
You never need to carry more than you can hold,
And while you're out there getting where you're getting to,
I hope you know somebody loves you, and wants the same things too,
Yeah, this, is my wish.

Rachel – You were with me for more than half my life.  No matter how hard life got we were always in it together.  When things were good, we appreciated what we had and took joy in it together.  The last two weeks of spending quality happy time together was a precious gift I will always be grateful for. Often I would be the source of machloket when I didn’t need to be.  I always loved you and tried my best to be a good husband and father.  I hope that you understand that now.  You can now hold, play and look after Gabi.  Please give her a hug from me.

You were an amazing person.  Your memory will forever live as an inspiration for others. 

I love you and miss you so much.

Sunday, September 2nd, 2012
11:34 pm
Burying a Friendship I Once Thought I had

When Gabi died the entire world was turned upside down.  It has been more than a year and a half later and we are still picking up the broken pieces.  We have many incrediable people who have been there with us, to help us hold life together when there was nothing to hold on to. We had others who saw the perfect oppurtunity to walk out of our lives forever.  

There is one particular friendship that I have been having trouble letting go of.  I just can't seem to move on.  It brings up feeling I don't want to have, when I am in near proximity to them.  Early in the summer, our therapist suggested that I write a letter to help deal wtih my feelings.  However, both the Therapist and Rachel wisely put a veto on ever sending the letter.  I have found myself editing and rewritting the letter over and over again. I keep looking for the perfect words to capture my feelings as this will be the final closure.  

I was once told about a Gemara where a person asks his father about friendship. The father says he has 1/2 a friend.  The father then instructs the son to go to the person's house and ask for his help in disposing a dead body.  The 1/2  friend helpped out his friend's son. The son asked why only half a friend.  The father answered that he had said that he shouldn't be doing this but he would do it anyways. 

In the last few weeks, I have come to realize the a person's friends can tell you a lot about a person.  I have some really incrediable friends, (although Rachel deserve's credit for most of them).  Pirket Avot teaches the importance of having a friend even if you need to go out and buy one. 

With this in mind, I think I am as ready as I am ever going to be do kick this deadbeat friendship to the curb.  Here goes:


Once upon a time your friendship was important to me. We enjoyed spending time together.  When times were tough we would help each other out.  One of the more difficult acts of chessed we have done since making Aliyah, should have been your responsibility. When it got tougher than we could handle the fact it was easier for us than for you was our only motivation for continuing.

When Gabi died I knew it put you in an awkward situation.  Mixing sadness and joy is difficult but is something life demands of us. At first, you understood and decided to be supportive. When you did it worked. There were times when I ran into your wife during the few times I would leave home.  I could not tell you how much the listening ear of real face to face human contact can have in helping to cope with such an overwhelming tragedy.  I would go home feeling slightly better.  You later told me she would run home in tears because she could see the pain in my eyes.  Do you really think that you could feel more pain from our loss than we did?  If I had known that then I would not have been surprise with what came next.            

At some point you decided the best way to deal with your own joy was to cut us out of your life while still being involved in ours.  You would seek out advice on the best way to handle some very delicate situations.  You would then completely ignore our advice and take your own course of action, usually the exact opposite of what was suggested. There were times you even bragged about finding a “better” solution. In so doing you caused extra pain and heartache then if you had just listened. You were supposed to be a caring friend. The truth was you only cared about yourself and making sure you didn’t have to feel any of our sadness.  You ended up solving problems that were not there and created unnecessary new ones. I could see through your game and yet I kept coming back for more, over and over again. If only I explained it one more time I thought I could make things right. Whenever I was hurt, I would come to you to work it out.  You would never come to me, never apologize, never try to be a sympathetic friend. You finally decided to take the coward route and put the friendship on a break, until we recovered from our sadness. Again, you put the ball in our court on when to start to work things out.  Your “not my problem” approach said more about you than many years of friendship. 

Despite all of that, I have been waiting and hoping for an opportunity to start again. I just needed the very smallest gesture to open the door: A Rosh Hashanah card, Birthday Card, condolences when my Father in Law  died, a book for the library dedicated in Gabi’s memory, a letter, an e-mail, removing the Facebook block..  Something!!  Anything, would have worked. I have finally come to accept I have been waiting for something to come from a place that does not exist.

I have learned first hand, what it truly means to care for another person.  I can never repay the people who were there to provide support when there was nothing left to hold on to.  There were mistakes and hurt feelings along the way.  A pure heart, caring, understanding and hard work can eventually lead to forgiveness.

Over the last year and a half my real friends have stepped up to the plate and taught me what it means to be a real friend. There were mistakes along the way and some of them were quite painful. Friends can forgive but sometimes it takes hard work to pave over the damage.  I can’t believe how many times, I thought that it was a matter of time before you would want to work things out too.

I have not forgiven you for the harm that you have caused my family, even at the cost of being guilty of hating a fellow Jew. I don’t know if I ever will.  We stood behind you and every member of your family, even when it was not deserved.  You betrayed me at a time that it hurt the most.  Instead of making things right, you just walked away as if nothing happened.  If I do ever manage to forgive you it will for my sake and not yours. I don’t think you will ever attempt to seek forgiveness, never mind actually earning it.

I left the opportunity for us to be friends again on the table for far too long.  The fact is I don’t want to be your friend and you don’t deserve my friendship.  It would give me great comfort if I knew our paths were never to cross again.   I know that is not realistic. Tomorrow will be the first time since Gabi died that I will attend a Brit for a friend’s son.  I have been against the ‘honour’ of Kvatering for almost 10 years.  It is a segulah with no Makor, that more often than not embarrasses and shames the ‘honouree’ more than any help it could allegedly create.  My friend called me asked me in a very kind, compassionate, caring, understanding thoughtful and considerate way.  It was done with such derech eretz that the memories of the last time I was absolutely humiliated by the Baal Simcha faded away and it took me a few minutes to say no. 

That being said we have enough friends in common that our paths are more likely to cross again. If and when they do please do not interpret any exchange pleasantries or mentioning old times as a sign of friendship. It is simply a matter of common courtesy and avoiding the embarrassment of having to expose you for who you really are. I don’t want to be your friend again and I never will.

I am not writing this letter for you. This is my way of putting closure on a friendship that I thought was genuine. It is my opportunity to find closure that your throw away approach to friends did not provide. You are no longer relevant in my life. It is time for me to follow your lead and accept it.

Thursday, April 5th, 2012
2:17 am
Trying to Put a Positive Focus on Pesach
Part of the seder has been eating at me for weeks.  We take a moment to pause and acknowledge the loss of our enemy, while basically skimming over the murder of our babies by that very same enemy.  Taking a moment for a tinge of sadness for the death of soldiers trained to kill in an army trying to destroy us. Yet no 2nd thought for the loss of our own.  Fortunately, I had another more optimistic thought, that has been the approach I have been taking towards Pesach.

Of all the groups that produce videos for the different Chagim, Ein Prat Fountainheads tend to be my favourite.  There was a line from their video last year that really struck a chord with me "I'm going home. Tell the world I'm going home"  A lot of focus is on where we were coming from but how about where we are going, being home, being with family, being united with the Jewish Nation.  I think it fits in nicely with the narrative on a number of levels.

God chooses BBQ as the food of choice for this occasion.  Is there any food (some might suggest Turkey) that is universally accepted as celebrating being with family?

Whenever Bnei Yisrael run into challenges in the desert they complain to Moshe and suggest life was better in Egypt.  Even though they left Egypt, they never stopped considering it home.  Therefore they were not ready to enter the land of Israel.  The only exceptions were Calev and Yehoshua who proved that they considered Israel home and even inherited the very land that proved where there heart lies.

When the women brought the mirrors to be donated to the Mishkan, Moshe initially rejected them until his decision was overturned by God.  Miriam also gets into trouble because she is concerned Moshe is not spending enough time with his wife (and family).  Moshe desired to go to Israel for it's spiritual qualities.  But a home is much more than that leaving him unqualified to lead the journey.

In every generation we are obligated to look at ourselves as if we came out of Egypt.  This is a very difficult idea, since we don't really relate to slavery or other aspects of the story anymore.  We do understand what it is like to focus on what is happening in Israel.  We do understand what it is like to miss our family and the importance of having a good home to be a part of. 

Israel is the home of the Jewish people.  A home is a place where you can always turn back to share your greatest joys and sorrow.  It is a place where you can be comfortable, that people are willing to accept you despite your faults.  It is a place where you can be you.

It never seizes to amaze me how connected Channah is to her homeland.  Thousands of years of history and the present merge into one her life, whether it be tripping over ancient ruins or historical places being completely real to her.  She understands with every fibre of her being, what it means to be here and quite frankly can't understand how others don't see it.

The loss of Gabi has been a huge struggle.  It is not that long ago, where I went through a period where I was afraid I was going to lose my family as well. Things were really scary for a while.  Rachel has since rebalanced her meds and our relationship has returned to the solid foundation that it was built on.  This year I am focusing on the exiting Egypt as beginning of the journey home and being grateful to be part of the link that made it to the end, while keeping my family by my side.
Tuesday, February 28th, 2012
2:41 pm
The Day the World Ended
For the first 2.5 years after we made Aliyah our lives just seemed to fall into place.  Our Rabbi never comforts bad news with "It's for the best."  We just simply don't know what is in store for us and it might not turn out better.  For us we had our challenges and worries but everything just seemed to work itself out perfectly.  After coming back from Toronto, Rachel getting pregnant was a tremendous gift and just another step of life falling into place.  It was a difficult pregnancy with Rachel having multiple appointments at the Kuppah every week, even before she was put on bed rest.  As difficult as it was, she never complained and always handled each difficult day with a smile.

When we hit the "safe zone" (gestationally farther along then Channah was). Rachel and I celebrated and bought a stroller. A few days later, a year ago today, our lives were shattered forever. We were in the ambulance sirens blaring on the way to the hospital.  I still didn't even realize what that meant.  I began mentally preparing for either another hospital stay or possible a preemie born that day.  It was beyond anything I could have believed that such a precious miracle gift would be taken away just like that.  A knot in her umbilical cord ended her life.  A "freak accident", that will forever cast doubts in the what could have been done to save her life.  Aside from the "could be" there will always been the "should have been", where I did not react to my little girl's life being in danger fast enough.  Even if it is true that she couldn't have been saved, I didn't do enough to try.

The past year has been a nightmare.  Rachel had a nervous breakdown, on top of a number of serious regular medical issues. To top things off she also lost her father to brain cancer.  The strain it has placed on our relationship has been at time almost unbearable. We have lost a lot many friends, some that have been around for decades.  Yesterday, Channah came home from school crying.  There are still songs that she can't listen to because they remind her of Gabi. She started crying and some of her friends couldn't understand why.  They said that it is not the first time it happened.Although the friends she counted on last year and the Ethiopian kids did understand.   She responded that they don't know what it is like to be an only child and how much she was looking forward to having a sister.   

We have had people who believe Gabi's life wasn't worth anything and that we are taking too long to get over it.  What these people don't realize is that Gabi was gestationally older, bigger, had a high APGAR score than when Channah was born (with the exception of not breathing and no heart beat).  If there had been a way for her to be born before the knot tightened she would have had a better start to life than Channah.  We all know how wonderful Channah turned out.

On the plus side, it has been incredible the people who have stepped up and been there for us this year.  Their support has been incredibly meaningful and a few people can take credit for literally saving Rachel's life. The kindness we received from true friends and real baalei chesed can never be repaid. 

A person's name is supposed to capture the essence of who they are:

Gabriella - came from my Mother's parents last name Gabriellow.  My grandmother had her husband and child wiped out in the holocoust.  My grandfather was the cook in the Russian Army that liberated her concentration camp.  He took care of her and brought her back to health.  My Mom was born in a DP camp before they eventually made their was to Canada. 

My Grandmother's friends ran to report her when the Nazi's came to their village.  She too had to learn the lesson of who her real friends are.  The flip side is she was able to rebuild her life after such a terrible tragedy.  She kept a picture of her son on her wall and quietly carried his memory with her.  I hope that we can move forward in life but Gabi will always be an important member even if she was also denied the opportunity of growing up.

Galit - translates as waves.  She was named after Rachel's Grandfather who love sailing and was never afraid to cause waves to make the world a better place.  In WWII he was an engineer with the Royal Canadian Air Force.  He was dishonourably discharged after refusing a superiors orders to approve a plane for flight. The plane never returned from it's flight.

Gabi has made waves without even being born.  A tremendous amount of mitzvot, chesed, learning have all been done because of her.  She was well loved and will always be remembered by those who cared.  We are in the process of adding a kids library in our shul, so that her memory can inspire other children to learn and grow. It is unbelievable the amount of people who have decided that they want to be a part of this project.

A few weeks ago we visited Kever Rochel.  Rochel Emeinu is given a hard time by many meforishim, for her efforts to try to have children.  "Give me children or give me death."  Yet, she was the one who was willing to allow her sister to be a rival wife with the man she loved.  She was the one who was buried by the side of the road, after being denied the chance of raising the son she had just given birth to.  However it is her kever that the Jews stopped at on the way to Galut.  It was her merit that brought the promise that her children will return.  It is my family that is living that promise.  

As we were not with a tour, I took the time to daven Mincha.  I asked her to, just as she went to plead before God on behalf of the Jewish people to take my Gabi with her and plead to Hashem.  We had to sacrifice our Gabi, please give us the strength to rebuild our family, both in size and emotional and spiritual strength.

We hope that the nightmare year is now over.  Tomorrow begins a new page, where we can carry forward Gabi's family and rebuild our lives and be successful similar to what we had before losing Gabi.  I just hope God is willing to go along with this plan.
Tuesday, February 7th, 2012
10:34 pm
Bringing Stereotypes to Life
There are many stereotypes about Israelis.  Most of the time, I just assume that they are exagerations or misinformation about the local culture.  It is truly amazing when you see the stereotype come to life.  I am currently playing for one of the Toronto teams the ice hockey tournament in Metulah this week.  The following conversation took place this morning between Ziv the only true born and bread Israeli and the rest of our team.

Ziv:  Do you like Hummus?  Have you been the the Hummusia?
Teammates: You mean all they have is Hummus?
Ziv: No. They also have chicken shnitzel.

Current Mood: amused
Monday, January 2nd, 2012
2:32 am
The Beit Shemesh Fault Line
6 days a week, I wake up in the morning and walk my daughter to school. There are only crossing gaurds on one side of the street, so she needs me to help her cross the other street before she is under the care of the crossing guards (who happen to be Grade 6 students). When the school day ends, I meet her at the park near the crossing guards. In a little more than a year, she will be 9 years old and able to do this walk all by herself.

About a 10 minute drive on the other side of town. Orot, a similar religous girls school opened moved into their new building at the beginning of the school year. Their experience is completely different. It is located near the border between the Chearedi Neighbourhood RBS B and the edges of 3 Datei Leumi communities. A group of men calling themselves the Sikirm (bearing the same name as the group who's zealousness to force the Jewish to fight the Roman's lead to the destruction of the second Beith HaMikdash) come out to intimidate the girls (Grade 1 - 6). Name calling, spitting and occasionally throwing rocks and bricks are all par for the course. Parents (and at certain points members of the community) have been escorting the children through the group of thugs to protect their safety. Last week a news crew filmed a scared 8 year old girl, as her mother tried to walk her to school. The image has inspired the country to take action.

The State does have a history of mistreating religious Jews. The Charedi community reaction to the backlash has been t0 fall back to being victims of Charedi bashing and everyone being against them. Most cannot even imagine that this is a direct backlash to their long tradition of using violence and political power to force their life style on others. When I was in Yeshiva, I was a block away from where they protested to have Bar Illan street closed on Shabbat. I saw wrongs on both sides. One night when a police car was hit with a rock, an arrest was made. They spent the night calling the soldiers Nazis, which in their world is a term for anyone who doesn't agree with them. The Nazi imagery that they used Saturday night should not have been a surprise to anybody.

In order to solve the problem at Orot, it is important to look at the real root of the problem. Most importantly this is a turf war. The Sikirm want the school for themselves and to expand the borders of their community and sphere of influence.

Moshe Abutbul was elected under the mantra of a Mayor for everyone. His actions have been anything but as he tries to cater to the Charedi community. In RBS A, the Mikvaot was split between those who wanted a "Mehdarin" experience and those who wanted to have the same standards applied by Jewish communities around the world. He tried to hand them over to the Charedi community and was only stopped by the backlash from the Datei Leumi community and leadership. He has been working to close the only secular school in RBS A, while telling parents he was trying to keep it open. Eventually the Minister of Education stepped in to declare that he will use his powers to guarantee the school stays open. The year my daughter entered Grade 1, school registration was delayed, waiting for the final decision of the school to be made.

When the Sikirm protested the opening of Orot in their new building, the Mayor tried to solve the problem by not allowing the school to open. Once again the Minister of Education threatened to step in, to make sure it opened. The Mayor falsely claimed that he was just trying to listen to the advice from the police.

In order to make peace it will be necessary to remove the political power wielded by the trouble makers in the Charedi community. This can be done both from a policy of not tolerating violence and limiting the dispoportional political power.

- Police should not be afraid to arrest those who are causing violence.
- There has to be a way to enforce a restraining order preventing, such ugly protests so close to the school.
- Following the lead of other democracies and raising the minimum threshold to obtain seats in the Knesset from 2% to 5%. This will allow knock out some of the extremist parties and cause the smaller parties to carry political weight more proportionate to their size.
- Eliminate vote sharing agreements and party mergers during election campaigns. These agreements allow parties with little support to leverage their votes and advertising allotments to in exchange for political favours.

It should be noted that the Charedi fighting does not spread to the communities of Bnei Brak, Beitar Illit, Kiryat Sefar and only seem to be limited to Meah Sharim and Beit Shemesh. The Beit Shemesh Charedi community is made up of a lot of people that cannot afford to stay in Mea Sharim. Mea Sharim is such an insulated community that they just cannot handle the idea that the rest of the world is not like them. Once you think your way is the only way, anything can be justified in the name of your beliefs.

Beit Shemesh will be getting a new Police Chief this week. Hopefully, he will have the skills and if necessary force to make it safe for the Orot girls to go to school. Once that is done, the Charedi community can start worrying about repairing their reputation and getting along as peaceful neighbours. The choice is theirs.

If the Sikirim had been stopped at the beginning of the school year, there would have been no need to bring in the media. Something that should be considered before starting the next turf war. Hopefully, my friends who's daughters go to Orot can let their daughters walk to school without worry just like I can.

Current Mood: disappointed
Friday, October 21st, 2011
2:21 am
Simchat Torah -- Surrounded by Children
Journey's 4 came out shortly before Channah was born. I listened to that CD on so many of my trips back and forth from the hospital.  I felt personally connected to a bunch of the songs.  One in particular was about post war Europe, where some survivors enter a boarded up shul to celebrate Simchat Torah. They discover that the Sifrei Torah are gone but there are a pair of children hiding in the shul.

We danced round and round in circles as if the world had done no wrong
From evening until morning, filling up the shul with song
Though we had no sifrei Torah to clutch an hold up high
In their place we held those children, am yisrael chai"

Every Simchat Torah, I would think of this song as I danced with her.  Channah was my Sefer Torah.  Last year we realized that it was the last year that she would be my Sefer Torah.  She was getting too big to dance with me at shul.  Rachel and I were both comforted, knowing there was going to be a new Sefer Torah to dance with this year.

Last night at shul, I could feel a tear in my soul.  I wanted to connect to the joy and deep meaning of the day.  At the same time, I didn't have my Sefer Torah to hold and dance with. I had a hard time participating, never mind enjoying the night.  I had expressed to the Rabbi earlier in the week that I wanted Kol HaNearim. He told me that it had been taken care of. 

This morning the auction reached Kol HaNearim.  (Chatan Bereshit & Chatan Torah are assigned before the Chag).  I immediately put up my hand to bid.  Things went so fast that I am not sure how much I bid, but I had to withdraw pretty quickly.  A friend dropped out when bidding hit 1000 NIS.  Very quickly, the price hit 2000 NIS.  The Rabbi called a timeout and asked who the other bidder was.  They had a short meeting.  The other bidder was someone who is really important in our life and is one of the people we consider to be our adopted family.  The auctioneer choked up as he announced the two had formed a syndicate and had purchased the Aliyah for 4000 NIS and were giving it to me.  Suddenly, I was overcome with a feeling of peace and comfort.  I was able to fully enjoy Hakafot.

The Aliyah gave me a lot more Chizuk then I thought it would.  All the kids said the bracha with me while Channah stood behind me.  My aliyah talked about the land allocated to Dan, Naphtali and Asher.  Our home is in the Dan region and Naphtali was the name we were going to use if Channah had been a boy.  Chattan Bereshit (which came right after mine), mentioned Moshe seeing "Gilad" before he died and the Gabi reference, where Moshe died and we don't know where he is burried.  It also contains the letter that I wrote for Gabi, although leining was not taking place from that particular Sefer Torah.

I do not believe in segulahs, as they tend to be people putting their faith into made up rituals, where the outcome is not always in our hand.  However, having Kol HaNarim seemed to be the correct way to express everything that we have been through this year.  I spent the time hoping that Hashem will grant our prayers to not be quite in the same positions next year.  Next year, I will be more than happy to stand by and watch as I hold my own new and little Sefer Torah in my arms. May Hashem answer this one prayer with a yes.
Monday, October 17th, 2011
1:09 am
What an End to the Season
Today was the end of the winter softball season. Wow, what a way to end the season.  The game was at Baptist Village which is a lot further away then where we play most of our games. It was the first time, I played there.  It had a very different feel then Gezer field as the out field fences were better designed to contain the ball.  When I arrived the Sunday night pick up game was still playing.  I asked them what type of ball they were using because it was bouncing like it was one of the rubber balls you use to play baseball inside a gym when it snows.  It turns out that is was just that the field was very muddy, even though the mud was dry.

Before the game could start, we had an unusual problem.  We had a full 9 man team but the other team was one man short.  Not only that but one of our players brought a bunch of his kids including a 16 year old that we lent to their team.  The original trade was a player straight for nothing.  Then we realized that most of our main players were away and we only had one bat.  At that point we sent in another negotiator to get a bat as part of the trade.  We also gave them a LF, until his turn a bat (he batted 7th in the first) until their "9th" player arrived.

I started the game batting clean up and playing 2nd base.  The first inning we scored a bunch of runs and held them scoreless on a bunch of pop ups.  The 2nd inning they caught up, after we went 3 up 3 down.  I was able to catch an inning ending pop up, which is a play that has been a problem for me as long as I have played baseball.  First inning I had a one out ground out to advance the runner to their.  Second inning I struck out.

Third inning I grounded out again.  I also dropped a pop up.  Then the controversy started.  With the bases loaded, a ground ball was fielded and thrown home.  The ball hit the catchers glove and it landed in his feet.  The umpire called him out.  He said the catcher had the ball and dropped it after being bumped by the base runner.  They then hit a grounder to me, which I turned into an inning ending 4-3 double play.  The other teams coach who had been on 3rd base at the time went nuts. 

In the 4th we made a pitching change.  Our (ringer) catcher, came into pitch for our coach.  I was moved behind the plate.  I did not have a good game behind the plate.  On what play with runners on 1st and 2nd with two out a grounder was hit to our 3rd baseman. Umpire yelled, foul ball, so he didn't rush to make a play.  Then he said my mistake and tried to rule it a fair ball.  If it had been fair the inning would have been over.  Once again their coach went nuts arguing the call.  He wanted it to count as a single with the bases loaded.  It was eventually ruled no pitch and the batter flew out to CF ending the inning.

In the top of the fifth the score was 11-10 with me at the plate with two runners on.  I hit a clutch RBI single passed the second baseman making the score 12-10.  We scored our last run on a wild pitch bringing the score to 13-10.

In the bottom of the fifth I was still catching. Two runs had scored making the score 13-12.  Then the batter struck out with a ball low in the dirt. I don't know if it was a strike or not.  All I know is I caught the ball and tagged the runner for good measure.  The coach of the other team came out yelling at the umpire again.  The ump said either you go or I go and walked off the field.  Eventually he came back to finish off the inning.  At that point, I went back to 2nd and our catcher went behind the plate as our regular pitcher returned to the mound to go for the save.  First play was a ground ball to short which, was thrown to me for a 6-4 out.  Then the next ball was grounded directly to me, for me to get the unassisted last out.  The game was called, even though there was time left, because the umpires didn't want things to get more out of hand.

When hand shakes went around their coach shook on umpires hand but not the other.  This lead to another shouting match, with the coach being threatened with expulsion from the league and the umpire being critized by the other ump for stirring things up.

The final outcome is we won our last game 13-12. Despite my mistakes, I made a solid contribution to the win.  
Wednesday, October 5th, 2011
1:22 am
Hagar the Uncaring Mother
Over the last many months, the coping strategy I have used has been to connect to Jewish History.  I find myself wondering what Rosh Hashana must have been like in the year 70 and other difficult challenges throughout Tanach.

I have always found the Haftorah on the first day of Rosh Hashanah to really speak to me.  The spiritual leader of the generation was completely clueless to the pain felt by a woman desperate for a child.  Not only that but later on when he is ready to sentence Shmuel to death, he thinks that such a special, wanted, prayed for, child can simply be replaced by another.  The story touches on what happened with our own Channah and is the reason, this story was the one I shared at her baby naming.

This year on the first day of Rosh HaShanah, I found myself drawn to another story that for me is one that is usually skimmed through quickly. At the request of Sarah with the stamp of approval from God, Avraham banishes Hagar and Ishmael from his home.  They have been a negative influence on the household and their continuing presence poses harm to the rest of the family.

They eventually run out of water.  Hagar tosses Ishmael under a tree and then goes and sits far away from him.  She sheds the tears of a weeping mother.  Eventually an angel appears and asks Hagar what is wrong.  She replies that she doesn't want to watch her son die.  The angel tells her not to worry.  In Ishmael's merit (not hers) he will be saved and it turns out the desperately needed water was in front of them all along.  Hagar cared more about how much it would hurt her to see her son die, than caring for her son who was dieing.

This year a number of relationships were hurt by people who felt their comfort was more important than helping us in our time of need.  In some cases, we have decided the friendship is important enough to work through it. For many others we learned the lesson of Hagar.  Friends that care more for their own comfort than our well being are not real friends.  Those fake friendships pose the danger of destroying the real ones.
Wednesday, September 28th, 2011
12:17 pm
Coming Face to Face with Rosh HaShanah
As Judgement Day approachs, I cannot help to think with great sadness of how much things have changed in the past year.  I went into Rosh HaShanah feeling confident that our lives had just seemed to fall into place.  Gone was the feeling, that we were not where we were supposed to be in life. I entered the year confident that I finally had my life in order.

-Channah was starting elementary school and loves being Israeli
-The frustration of a possible move disappeared a few days after returning to Israeli soil
-I have a great job with a great boss
-I had finally set up the learning schedule I wanted, including a chavrusah
-We were doing a tremendous Mitzvah by allowing a long term guest stay in our apartment while they tried to put their life back together again
-I had taken it upon myself to publicly defend one of my Rabbi's from a major controversy taken out of context
-We made the decision to be more proactive, so that I would make the 240 km trek more often to the closest hockey arena
-We were satisfied with our lot in life, including accepting that our family would always be the 3 of us.
-Rachel had upgraded her skills over the summer and was looking forward to applying her new skills to her jewelery
-We were living in the land promised to our ancestors so many years ago, we were literaly living in Jewish history.

That confidence carried over Less then a week later, with Yom Kippor approaching, it appeared that the prayers of a very special 6 year old girl had been answered.  All she wanted was a little sister.  Although it was a very difficult pregnancy, we met every step of the way with tremendous joy. I was confident that such a wonderful gift would come to fruition. When we hit the gestational date, where Channah was born, we celebrated and went out and bought a stroller. We were coming down the stretch home free.

Then one night Rachel's instincts told her something was wrong.  The false confidence I had built allowed me to convince Rachel to wait until doctor appointment in the morning. By then it was too late.  Even in the ambulance, full siren racing towards the hospital, I thought the worst case scenario was, we were dealing with a preemie and NICU time.  It didn't even occur to me that her life had been in danger and it was already too late.  Gabi would be born that day, just without a heart beat.  Life would never be the same.

Over the last 7 months we have seen the best and worst in people.  We have endless stories of both close friends and strangers, stepping up to help us deal with our grief.  There will be many people standing before God this year, with the merits of not only literally saving Rachel's life but saving my family from being destroyed by grief.  The flip side is the countless friendships and relationships that have been destroyed in the last number of months. People who we thought we could count on, who put their own comfort in front of our time of need.  People who decided what we needed best but didn't have a clue, how wrong they were.  People who would ask what we needed and proceed to do the opposite.  I have done my best to forget about the burnt out wreckage of those lost friendships. That doesn't mean I sometimes miss the illusion of what I thought I had.

This year, I stand in judgment not with my accomplishments but holding the shards of my broken family that I am trying to put back together.  I have less merits than last year, to plead to over turn the evil decree.  The only thing I can ask, is that "time served" is enough punishment for my family and that we will have the strength to get back on our feet. I have always tried to be the anchor to hold everything together.  Even in the last two weeks, I have found myself feeling more like a dead weight then keeping the ship away from danger.

May everyone (especially those who took the bitterness out of this year), have a sweet, healthy and happy year. 

Current Mood: sad
Friday, September 9th, 2011
12:54 am
Only Israeli Police Moment
On the way home from softball, there are often police stationed on the
on ramp from Highway 3 (goes to Modiin/Latrun) onto Hwy 1 heading
towards Jerusalem. While I have wondered what they are looking for but
whatever it was, it was not me.

Tonight, the police decided to
pull me and the car in front of me over. While, I didn't think I did
anything wrong, I started to panic just a little. I asked what was going
on and all the officer said was that I he needed my license and
insurance. My baseball uniform doesn't have pockets, so I try to keep
remember to keep my phone and wallet in the front seat. Not only had I
not done that, I couldn't figure out where I left it. Fortunately, I
was giving my team mate a ride to his bus stop. I told him to get out my
ownership papers, while I continued to panic looking for my wallet. In
the mean time he was also able to deal with the 2 girls who were trying
to tremp a ride to Jerusalem. I eventually found my wallet. The
officer added my name to the long list of people who had also had random
inspections and we were on our way.

In case you missed the only in Israel part of the story.
There were two girls, on a highway on ramp, waiting for people to stop
(either voluntarily or by the police) to give them a ride to Jerusalem.

for the softball game. It was the first game of the season. For some
reason the coach decided that, I can hit and batted me 5th, as I played
2nd base. The other teams pitcher was throwing real hard. My first at
bat, I hit the ball so it landed just outside the batter box in fair
territory. That was good enough for a single (the teams first hit of
the season). My 2nd at bat I hit a hanging liner up the middle that was
caught. I also had two put outs at 2nd base. We lost 11-0 after 5
innings on the mercy rule. Although the game was much closer than the
scoreboard made it appear.
Sunday, September 4th, 2011
11:53 pm
Seeking Out the King
The Shofar sounds, calling out the King is in the field.  Seek him out before he returns to the throne roome to carry out judgement.  How do I seek out the after the harsh decree he has sent?  What do I have to offer, that could possibly convince him to help set things right?  Perhaps if I run and hide he will choose to simply leave me alone this year.

A year ago life seamed to have worked out the ways it was always meant to be.  We were all thriving in the land that was promissed to our ancestors so many years ago.  We were satisfied with our lot in life, even though it meant accepting we would remain a small family.  From the Torah's point of view we were by definition rich.  In Toronto my bitachon had been crushed to almost non-existent from the constant financial worry.  At that point it had been restored and I no longer lived in fear of what could go wrong.  We were also performing a very difficult chesed, as a long term house guest stayed with us, as they tried to put their life back together. 

Then as Yom Kippor drew close, we found out that we had received a special gift this year.  Channah's cries for a baby sister were going to be answered.  The pregnancy was very difficult for Rachel. Yet, every step of the way she accepted it with the greatest of joy.  We were so excited. When we passed the gestational point that Channah was born, we celebrated that we were coming down the home stretch.  We went out and bought a stroller and started making preperations on how we would manage with a baby due over Pesach and my parents coming to visit.

A couple of nights later, Rachel woke up and knew something was wrong. I made one of the biggest mistakes of my entire life.   I didn't listen. How could G-d take away, such a wonderful gift after every thing we had been through?  It was impossible. I convinced her to wait until her doctor's appointment in the morning.  I even went to learn instead of going with her to the doctor.  Eventually, we went to the hospital by ambulance, where we were told it was too late.  The knot she made in her umbilical cord had ended her life.  A fluke accident, that most medical text books don't even warrant an asterik.  I don't believe she could have been saved.  I don't believe Rachel will ever forgive me for allowing that to be an open ended question.  I held my little girl in my arms, in what should have been a time of great joy, instead I held her as a grieving father with a very difficult job ahead.

I had to be the glue to hold my family together. I spent months trying to work on myself to be the person my family needa me to be. To some degree, I have been succesful in holding everyone together.  In the most important ways, I have failed.  I realized this summer, that no matter how hard I try to improve and grow, I will always be me.  I can't bring myself to fight all the battles that need to be won.  It is my fatal flaw that I fear will one day be my undoing.  The fact it has not until now,  is a testament to Rachel's willingness to put up with me.

Here I stand.  I am no longer satisfied with my lot in life, both in terms of desire to expand my family and continuing to help Rachel on the long journey to get back on her feet.  Everything we have been through this year has been a huge hit to our finances.  The fear is back and the bitachon is once again finding itself on the back burner. Rachel is rightfully angry at the king for what we have been through. Many have been quick to defend him, which always comes accross as hurtful and insulting.  I have taken the approach that he is capable of defending himself. He doesn't need my help. 

It has been a year of tears, sadness, broken friendships. The people who had meant the most, either performed the greatest kindness or caused pain by pouring salt on the deepest wounds.  Strangers, stepped up and became like family, while some we thought we could count on faded into oblivian.  It was a year, I would not wish on anyone.  Yes, the king is in the field.  What if he has another curse deguised as a gift.  Do I really want to take that chance?    
Thursday, July 7th, 2011
3:23 am
Staying Up When I Should Be Down.
I am sitting in the emergency ward at Ein Kerem Hospital.  The same hospital where we found out we had lost Gabi.  Below is what I thought was going to be a good post when I wrote it a few weeks ago.  However, with recent events I am not so sure the post was worth writing.  However, as I have already written out some of the ideas in my head, I thought they would be worth sharing in raw form.

When I was in high school, I decided that the Judaism I was learning about was true or it wasn't.  If it was true than I should practise my religion. If it wasn't, then why practise at all? What started out as keeping Shabbat until the start of hockey season, lead to walking off of a hockey team try out. Having the most wonderful family I could ever hope for, eventually living in the same land promised to our ancestors so many years ago.

As Rachel and I struggled through the pain and challenges of infertility the stories of our ancestors who helped bring me strength.  Rochel who said give me children or I am dead. She took every step of the way to reach her dreams be it from telling off her husband, to negotiating with her sister to obtain fertility medication from her sister's son, to having her servant have children in lieu of her own. Much of the pain of battling infertility was brought on by herself when she allowed her sister to marry her true love in order not to embarrass her.  Her 2nd son was the last corner stone of the Jewish nation and she died, as soon as she completed her mission in the world. 

Channah, so desperatly wanted children, she completely overturned the Jewish concept of prayer. Not once but twice she told off the Kohen Gadol for being off base in his lack of understanding of the pain of infertility.  

Rifka remained true and loyal to her husband.  United together they battled the difficulties of infertility long enough to have a single successful pregnancy.

I will never forget holding my dead little girl in my arms.  As tears poured down my eyes, the nurses provided some degree of comfort, they knew as well as I did, that Gabi was a real person.  Halacha did not.  No avaelut, burial with no funeral, no name, not even a hint of where she is burried. Just move along and get over it.  The same approach the medical profession took 20 years ago, before research proved it doesn't work. What does Judaism have to offer for a loss that it does not acknowledge.

The answers take a lot more introspection to appreciate but for me they are there.

In Judaism we never have a Simcha without taking a moment to acknowledge that there is sadness in the world.  Be it breaking a glass at a wedding, spilling wine at the Seder, remembering those who died for our country before celebrating it's creation.  It is forbidden to be sad on Jewish holidays, yet the Ashkenaz minhag is to say Yizkor. 

Dovid HaMelech had a baby that was very ill. He put a great deal of effort into doing everything he could to save the baby.  When the baby died, his servants were scared he would be angry.  He noticed the whispers and figured out what happened. He went and had a meal.  He explained that he had to accept that there was no longer anything he could do to bring the baby back.  His next son was Shlomo, who went onto his father's legacy and build the Beit HaMikdash.

Moshe Rabeinu's is buried in an unknown location.  God took care of all of the funeral arrangements.  The question was asked in Shul tonight, why do we not know the location of Har Sinai but we are well acquainted with Har HaMoria.  The answer given was that Har Sinai was all about God.  Har HaMoriah is where we build our relationship with God through our thoughts and actions.  I think it can be taken a step further.  Moshe had a relationship with God like nobody else.  He didn't need to work through Halachic problems as God could give him the the answer directly.

The night before Rachel came home from the hospital, I cried myself to self with the words ei echa, which is the root for Eicha (the megilah we read on Tish B'Av.  It works out to roughly "How could it be."  The Jews had plenty of warning that the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash was imminenent. Yet, when it happened they could hardly believe it.  The pain of the destruction was so intense, that we should still feel it today.  Our Rabbi says, a mitzvah has to have mazel and a mitzvah that is mostly forgotten is tearing kriyah when going to the Kotel (after being away for 30 days).  I now understand how the morning of Jerusalem is supposed to compare with other morning we may go through during our lives. 

For me there is an extra step.  The night Gabi died, Rachel knew something was wrong.  I choose to ignore her and tell her everything would be all right.  I was so confident everything would be fine, that I ignored the call to stop the tragedy from happening.  I failed Gabi as a a father and Rachel as a husband.  I personally don't believe Gabi, would have made it, but I failed to do my part to try to stop the tragedy.  By doing nothing, I am responsible for the outcome.  Rachel thinks the only reason I don't think she would have made it, is to alleviate the guilt of causing what happened.  She might be right, but I really don't know how to look at it anymore.   
Friday, June 17th, 2011
2:36 pm
Sefer Torah and Hidden Graves
The oppurtunity to fulfill the mitzvah of writting a Sefer Torah by actually writting a Sefer Torah is a rare opportunity.  I had done it once before, when my Yeshiva was taking the Sefer Torah from place to place to give alumni the opportunity to write a letter, even if they could not afford it.  I was so nervous, that I basically losely held the pen while the Sofer did the work. 

Shavuot night, they announced that a new Sefer Torah was being donated to the shul last night.  What immediately appealed to us, was that they allocated the last two words for all of the children and would only require a 5 NIS donation. We immediately bought one for Channah and Gabi. After much contemplation we decided to by two letters at full price. One for my FIL who is currently on the winning side of a battle with a brain tumour and one for our family. 

We got to the house where the final letters were being written and I told the Sofer that I had bought two letters.  He asked if I wanted him to do it or if I would like to do it myself.  I told him that I wanted to do it.  He showed me how to hold the pen and had me practise on a scrap piece of parchment.  I got it perfect on the first shot, so the Sofer picked out some of the harder letters to fill out.  My hand started to shake, then I couldn't get the ink to come out.  After some moving around he found me a Bet and a Reish to fill in from the world בארץ  I wrote my two letters and then the Sofer cleaned them up and finished the word.  There are commentaries who say that you can read out all of Jewish History in Parsha וזאת הבראכה and now I had my own special word.  I hadn't really been paying attention to the Pasuk and in my head was thinking how it normally refers to the Land of Israel and how appropriate that was.

I then went to Shul for Mincha and looked up the Pasuk.  In that section the word comes up 3 times. 34:5 - Moshe died, 34:6 - we don't know where Moshe is buried.  34:11 - evidence there will never be another like Moshe.  I immediately freaked out because I thought, I had written from 34:6.  My special word in the Torah was a remez (hint) about  Gabi.  Instead I have a Gzerah Shava (when on word is written in multiple places, we can learn out concepts between the different psukim).

I don't know what the lesson is, but somehow it connects,  the first ever generation of Olim (our Aliyah), Moshe's unknown grave (just like Gabi) and those unable to enter the land of Israel.
Thursday, June 16th, 2011
1:22 am
It's All Dark, At the Ball Park, That's OK IT's A........
Sometimes the stars or in this case the moon, just line up for a perfect evening.  It was the last softball game of the season (before the make up games) and I wanted to make sure Channah was able to come see a game.  So Rachel and Channah came tonight, which happened to coincide with the full lunar eclipse.  The eclipse began after the game started and by the end of the game the moon was completely gone.  An open field, with no surrounding light pollution and an excuse to stay outside, was the perfect setting for such an occasion.

We were playing against the Demona 2 team, which is a young team that reminds of the Mighty Ducks.  They have a coach that really works hard to guide them and they are constantly cheering or trying to syke out their opponents. They're aggressive, fast and love to bunt. They also have the hardest throwing pitcher in the league who did not pitch tonight.

There were a few great only in Israel moments.  The umpire started the game asking what bracha to make on the eclipse.  After call our Rabbi, I passed on the message.  One of my team mates was so excited he started the first half of the bracha, then stopped and started waiving his arms.  He was so excited to make the bracha he forgot what to say.  I was glad to help him out.

The coach wanted to try me out at First Base for the game.  I was having a horrible night, during warm ups so they moved me back to my preferred position at Second Base.  Although, I normally justify my roster spot with my glove, this time it was my hitting that contributed to a great night.

My first at bat, I put down a first pitch bunt that landed straight in front of the plate.  The 1B forgot to go to the bag, so all I had to do was run passed in to get the single.  I think some runs also scored on the play.  I eventually scored to increase the lead to 4-0.

My second at bat was the most memorable for me.  On the first pitch, I tipped off that I was squaring up to bunt.  This sent the defence into a panic, after my first successful bunt. The base runner knew, I had no intention of bunting and used the distraction to steal 2nd.  I then put down a perfect bunt down the first base line for another hit.  I eventually scored on a 2 out wild pitch.

My third at bat, I took the first pitch and the runner was caught stealing.  I then took the next pitch and lined it over third base for my third single of the night. Next batter, I was forced out at 2nd base to end the inning.

My fourth at bat, I just didn't feel I had the pitcher lined up right and struck out.

The most bizarre play of the night happened when the other team had a runner on 2nd.  The batter walked, while the base runner stole third.  The batter then took a big turn towards 2nd.  He was nailed in a run down, as we conceded the run.  For those scoring at home it was a 2-3-6 out on a walk.

As for my glove, we the first ball hit towards me was mostly knocked down by the pitcher and the runner beat out the throw.  The 2nd play was a 4-3 put out on a simple ground ball.  I played catcher for the last two uneventful innings, as we nailed down the game for the win.
Tuesday, June 14th, 2011
11:22 pm
Before NBN Helped with Pilot Trips
In this week's Parsha the Jewish people decide they need a pilot trip before entering the land of Israel.  The negative report kept that generation from entering the land.  There is a machloket among meforshim if God really approved of the trip instead of trusting him.  Rachel and I did not take a pilot trip and the move has gone well for us.

I had an very interesting conversation with a friend this evening.

Me: We are going to the cherry picking festival.  This time we are trying to go with someone who knows how to get there.
Friend: but the Mitzvah in this week's Parsha is to explore the land.
Me: I want to explore the land and bring home cherries!!
Friend: That's selfish of you.
Me: Think of what would have happened if the Meraglim brought back cherries instead of grapes.  Jewish history would have been completely different.
Friend: The wine companies would use a different logo.
Monday, June 6th, 2011
12:20 am
The Tale of Three Brothers
Once upon a time there were three brothers.  They went out into the world to achieve their goals of financial stability and family.  During their endeavors they came upon a house.  In this house they found true friendship and spent a great deal of time there.

The first brother used to complain how difficult the world was. He wanted more than anything financial success. It always seemed to be just out of his grasp.  Every oppurtunity would be turned down because it just wasn't good enough.  His complaints eventually became tiring and he was eventually no longer welcome in the house.

The second brother had reached a rough point in his life. He felt he needed to run away from his problems so he could get a fresh start.  He actually lived in the house for a lengthy period of time, while trying to land on his feet with his new life.  Eventually he felt comfortable enough with his new life and left the house.  His time in the house quickly became a distant memory unless he needed something or happened to pass it by accident.

One day, the house was given a very special gift.  It was kept in the room of hopes and dreams until it was ready to be opened.  Unfortunatley before the proper time had come there was a huge fire..  The damage was great.  The gift and the room it was stored in were completly destroyed.  The damage was everywhere including the parts of the house's foundation.  For a while it looked like the whole building might collapse.

People from all over the world came running to help stabalize the house and begin repairs.  The 3rd brother joined the group.  However he quickly discovered that it was hard work and you had to be very careful not to cause further damage.  The 3rd brother decided that the best thing to do was to wait until all of the repairs were complete.  He would then be free to return to the house without and concern for what had happened before.  What he didn't know was that the construction would take many, many years to complete.  As time went on the work force dwindled as people returned to their own lives.  The brother who choose to abandon the house during it's time of need, in order to enjoy the comforts of his own home, was not simply going to be welcomed back.

What eventually became of the three brothers?  Perhaps they discovered how lucky their lives were when the house was part of their lives, Perhaps not.  EIther way, they easily through away what many people spend their lives searching for.  A true friend willing to stand up for them, uncoditionally through thick and thin. 
Sunday, May 22nd, 2011
3:01 am
The Tefillah to Ascend with the Flames
Lag B'Omer is a huge holiday in Israel. There are bonfires all over the country, including those prepared on Shabbat. Why do we celebrate Lag B'Omer?  A common answer given, is that it is when the 'plague' that wiped out Rabbi Akiva's students stopped.  His students stopped dieing because there were none left to die.  Ok, actually there were 5 left, but that is hardly cause for celebration.  The joy of Lag BaOmer comes from the fact that Rebbi Shimon Bar Yochai was able to single handedly rebuild the Jewish people.

RSHBI, neshama had such kedusha that he was forced to isolate himself from the world.  Only after many years of preperation was he able to emerge to lead the Jewish people.  People go to his Kever to pray for children.

My family is still suffering from the pain from the loss of Gabi. My Gabi's neshama was also filled with a kedusha that could face this world.  Instead of giving us the oppurtunity, to nurture and develop it, she was taken away before we had the chance. It still amazes me the impact on the world and mitzvahs people have done because of her even though she has never taken a single breath. 

Today, I ask Hashem to grant that same thing we davened for last month standing at RSHBI's kever in Meron.  One more opurtunity, to raise a Jewish Neshama, keeping mitzvot in the land promissed so long ago. Someone who can help Channah develop and grow, with the responsibility of being an older sister and someone who can learn from a family who after man years of difficulty, finally landed with both feet on the ground before having to face our greatest tragedy.  Rebbi Shimon Bar Yochai was able to rebound from tragedy to rebuild the Jewish people.  Grant us the same oppurtunity to rebuild our family.

Thursday, May 12th, 2011
11:54 pm
We Bought a Car
From time to time over the last couple of years we have considered buying a car. Most Olim consider buying a car towards the end of their 3rd year, before their rights expire. We had been working with a razor thin budget. We kept getting told that if only we doubled our budget we could get a decent car.

With everything we have dealt with in the passed year, some family members decided to help remove the financial obstacles that were hampering our car search. So this time we were fully committed to the search with quadruple the budget. Again we ran into the response if only we could kick in another 60% we could get a decent car.

This time we had some other things going in our favour. Driving is really impractical for my commute to work. The way our street is designed, it would take longer if we decided to drive some places then to walk. No matter how much we rely on the car, we think it is safe to say it will be a low milage car.

The week started optimistically, as we thought we had found a really great deal on a yellow 2004 Getz. It was sold before we had an opportunity to look at it. Over the course of the week, we ran head first into the frustration, that buying a car in Israel can be.

- A mechanic who we have relied on during previous searches, didn't seem too interested.

- One agent would only look for the best value on one particular make and model of our choice. For 200 NIS he could help us decide what particular car that should be. While we were looking for this century, he was thinking a little older. Plus he never returned phone calls.

- The company that found the first Getz had seemed promising. Then we found out that any car that was not on their lot would require a 500 NIS deposit just for the opportunity to see it.

Out of frustration, I opened up Shemeshphone and called the local dealers. The first one offered 'Haimeshe' service but didn't speak English. Then things started to fall into place.

The place I called was a local dealer in the industrial part of town. I told him what we were looking for. He suggested that we could use financing to and get a slightly more expensive car with more bang for the buck. I gave him our floor price and waited to see what he could do with it first. He said he would contact his Jerusalem lot to see what they had. He would call me back in the afternoon.

He did exactly what he promised. He found 5 cars and only one was slightly above the budget I gave him. He would get a driver to bring one of the cars to Beit Shemesh for us to take a look free of charge. He said he would call us when it arrived and he did.

The car was in excellent condition. A few scratches (this is Israel) and the 'z' had fallen off. We took it for a test drive including going up "the hill". It performed very nicely. There is ample room for what we need.

In the end we bought a 2006 White Getz GLF. Milage is a little high, which will balance out with our low mileage driving. It has a 1.4L engine which solves some of the fuel efficiency concerns. We got it for 8,300 NIS below list price. The engine and transmission are under warranty for 6 months. On Wednesday their mechanic will come in and perform any required maintenance that is coming up. The tires are brand new. Pick up will be on Sunday, once I am able to take care of the insurance.

Tonight the Rabbi made sure to point out which bracha to say when we pick up the car. We think we got a great deal with excellent customer service, while staying local. I don't think things could have gone any smoother.
Wednesday, May 11th, 2011
10:40 am
How to Throw Away Decades of Freindship
In the game Operation you try to remove various body parts without setting off the alarm (caused by touching the sides).  The best way to garunetee you will not win is to be nervous about touching the sides.  With the tough time we are having, we had friends that we so nervous about not hurting our feelings that they ended up causing the most damage.

Due to a number of variables, their birth announcement on Facebook was harder on us than others. The next day an insensitive post really rubbed things in, which I even found difficult to handle.  Rachel blogged about the incident.  Instead of reaching out to us this couple decided the best course of action would be to block us from their wall.

So, it was left to me to contact them.  I told them, to give us the option to decide what we can an cannot handle.  They responded with apologies and asked a number of questions of where the line should be drawn including, invitations to events celebrating the birth.  I responded that we wanted to be included in their life and to know we will probably be unable to come but we would like the option to decide what we can handle. So, literally 5 minutes before late candle lighting we receive the invitation to attend the kiddush on Shabbat. While I don't believe it was intentional, it did not convey the message they really wanted us there.  A last minute invitation for Shabbat is the only reason we didn't make early Shabbat.

They sent me a message asking if they could post the baby name.  Due to computer problems, I did not see the message in time to respond quickly.  When I did, I told them of course they could. They told me not to worry about it because they found an another way of letting people know.  Did it ever occur to them, that we were also interested in hearing the baby name?  Did they even ask?  Of course not.

We have a lot more on our plate then to worry about such petty little things.  We were going to possibly end up at the same BBQ on Yom HaAatzmaut.  They feared that there presence would cause harm and asked us what to do.  The back and forth dragged out for a few days. During those few days Rachel was having a really rough time due to heavy withdrawal symptons from a change in medication. I stressed for our friends to be careful.

It all came to a head yesterday morning. The conversation fell into what had been hurtful in the past and trying to stress that as long as they try to be sensitive, it should be fine.  We were prepared to make a quick exit if necessary.  At some point they were upset, about examples of what hurt our feelings, because they had been 'objectivly' inoffensive. Some were only hurtful because of our position and some of the fact it hurt, was wrong and completly our problem for feeling that way.  How dare we feel that way.

They said they wanted to post pictures and updates on Facebook and they wanted to know what would be OK.  I told them that they should post on Facebook normally like anyone else.  Apparently that answer ended the friendship.  He got angry at me and ordered us to block their Facebook feeds. They had enough of "walking on eggshells" As they made the request  they would no longer be responsible for any hurt feelings caused by content on their Facebook page.  We had been warned.  There was some more back and forth but it really doesn't matter.

It felt like selfishness and not friendship were motivating their desire to protect our feelings.  They needed us out of their lives, so they could feel free not to care about us while they were celebrating something that should bring them tremendous joy. 

I don't take orders lightly, so after our conversation I defriended both of them on Facebook.  They responded by defriending and blocking both of us.  As far as I am concerned the friendship is over and not salvageable.  As a good friend put it, we have too much that we need to focus on to be worried about our friends feelings.  Our real friends understand that.

Since making Aliyah, I don't think there is any one family that we have gone above and beyond time and time again.  Decades of friendship. Poof. Gone.  At least they don't have to walk on eggshells anymore. Too bad it is because they are all broken.

Current Mood: disappointed
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