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Selfish Tears

Monday, 21 May 2012

iStockPhoto © Serghei Starus

It was a rite-of-passage that many families experience: sending a child away to camp for the first time.

But it’s not one that I actually expected. Or, at least, not in the typical fashion. I had always assumed that my kids would attend JewCamp. But I also assumed that I would serve as faculty for part, if not all, of their time up at camp. So the “send-off” would be far less dramatic since the kids would be leaving from faculty housing and walking over to their section of camp.

It so happens, much to my surprise and consternation, that my decision to step of the pulpit has rendered me ineligible to serve as faculty at our local URJ camp. While I can appreciate the reasoning behind the policy, it came as a complete shock. And utter disappointment. I love camp. And I love that my very grown-up career allowed me to continue to spend time at camp…long past the age that I would otherwise have been able to go to camp. It was something to which I looked forward every year, knowing that I would work hard and return home energized. And knowing that the work I did with campers would have long-reaching impacts. But yesterday was different. I was like any other parent on the camp tour. Seeing the camp as an observer. Never to be a participant. Or a facilitator.

Though they do not all look identical, there is a certain…taam that all Jewish camps share. A kind of feeling. I have been trying, unsuccessfully, to articulate what it is since we first drove through the gate yesterday. But it was familiar. And welcoming.

Like the prayer space.

Every Jewish camp I have visited, attended, staffed, or served has had an outdoor prayer space. It is, I think, part of the silver bullet that makes JewCamp so darn magical. Whether it’s known as the Outdoor Chapel, the Beit T’filah, or the Chapel on the Hill, the space is sacred. It feels inherently sacred. Nestled among trees that have stood for hundreds of years or overlooking a majestic ocean. Even when the physicality among the different spaces is nothing alike, they seem to share some common essence. It will come as no surprise that these prayer spaces have always been my favourite locations at camp. As a camper and as a rabbi.

And it was in the Chapel in the Woods that I was unable to hold them from escaping. I am sure that the camp staff is accustomed to parents crying. The tears that welled up in my eyes, though, were not for my daughter. They were not because she is growing up so quickly (which she is). Or because a four-week separation seems like a long time to be apart (depending on the day). The tears were for me. They were for me. And they were for my loss.

Well, That’s An Odd Choice

Thursday, 17 May 2012

So what happens when a child, denied a McDonald’s birthday party, grows up? In most cases, said child is resentful, adds it to her therapy list, grows up, and then foists a McDonald’s party onto one of her children.


In my case, her parents throw her an ordination party at McDonald’s. But not any McDonald’s, mind you. A fancy-shmancy one.

Courtesy: Microsoft Office

Yes, such a place does exist. In, where else, the financial district in New York. Waited-service. Jazz piano. All with McDonald’s fine fare. We pre-ordered so that no one was publicly shamed for ordering anything that might inadvertently cause problems. The memory burned into my brain is the platter of fries. Fries and fries and fries. McD’s fries. Yum.

And that is how, we believe, I became the first (only?) rabbi to hold her ordination party at a McD’s.

Sinai — Thirteen Years Later

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

It was my Sinai moment.
Thirteen years ago today.

So much has changed since then.
Deaths (people, friendships, dreams)
Births (people, friendships, dreams)

For everything there is a season, a time to every purpose under heaven
Isn’t that what Kohelet taught?

I am in no way where I thought I would be.
And yet, I know that I am right where I am meant to be.

Most days, that is.

Careful What You Tweet

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

I love to read.

That is not news. Nor is the fact that I have been known to be drawn into a story to the exclusion of whatever may be happening around me. So when I looked up from my latest conquest read to find that several hours had passed, I thought I should let the world know.

Cute, I know. Except then the unexpected happened.

Um…oh em gee dash dee. Jennifer Weiner just offered to text PC. Jennifer Weiner. Granted, we’ve had a few lovely Twitter exchanges. But Jennifer is totally SM savvy and, I am sure, has many lovely Twitter and FB exchanges with her vast fanbase. [SM = Social Media. Kippah-tip to ZaydeGiraffe who was worried that I might have fallen in with a bad crowd.]

{phone rings}

True to her word, she did text PC. He actually had no idea who she was and did wonder why some strange woman texted him with the news that things will get back to normal once his wife finished her book. I, on the other hand, have fallen even deeper in author-love.

{{author-love}} – the deep respect and affection that one has towards an author. Unlike it’s cousin, author-infatuation, author-love allows for one to read the works by the author and not love each and every one. There is no gushing, stalking, or obsessing in author-love. True author-love comes after seeing author in person and/or reading interviews and realizing that, although not perfect, the author is someone whose overall qualities are admirable.

I saw Jennifer Weiner give a reading last week at a local synagogue. [BTW, the publicity for the event was nearly non-existent.] She didn’t act as though she was doing us a favour by showing up. She answered each question thoughtfully — even though some of the questions she must have answered a bazillion times at gatherings resembling this one. She was generous with her time and her personality.

Back to the book. Did I love Then Came You? Yeah. I really did. Her characters, though not all lovable, were recognizable. Both in others I’ve known…and in myself. I wanted to keep reading so that I could find out where the story was going while wanting to hold back so that I didn’t have to leave the characters so soon.

Are you in author-love with anyone? Does it matter, when you are reading, how you feel about the author?

The Perfect Mother’s Day Gift

Monday, 14 May 2012

Courtesy: Microsoft Office

PC has learned a lot over the years. He asked me what I wanted for Mother’s Day and then got me exactly what I wanted. He called up a local spa and asked if they had anything that would “make her forget that she has a husband and kids for a little while.”

Which is how I ended up on a massage table for a ninety minute “Stress-Fix” massage.

Stress-Fix™ Massage
Clinically proven to reduce feelings of stress, the Stress-Fix™ aroma with lavender, lavadin and clary sage is incorporated throughout this body massage combining Swedish and deep tissue massage along with foot reflexology, acupressure points and a guided meditation to calm and rejuvenate you.

The masseuse looked over the health questionnaire, asked a few questions about any problem areas, and explained what I could expect for the next ninety minutes. Oddly, it reminded me a little of the intake process prior to a funeral.

Is that weird, I wondered, to be comparing this with funeral intake?

The internal dialogue continued to whirl.

Now lying face-up, a cloth moved past my face with a lovely scent wafting after it. Three more times that happened.

Such lovely scents. They all smell so nice, I thought drowsily.

“Which one did you like the best?” asked my masseuse.

The best? Is this a test? No one told me there was going to be a test. This is like going to optometrist’s office. Which is clearer? Lens one or lens two? One…or two? Lens three or lens four. Three…or four. I hate that part. I always worried about getting that wrong. What if I got this wrong too. What if chose an essential oil combination that wasn’t the one that my imbalanced chakra needed? Is there a way to fix that? Or is it too late? I need to pick one. Um…two. I think I liked two the best. Although four was really nice as well. I can only pick one, huh?

This might, by the way, explain why I was in such dire need for a massage…

Ninety minutes later, I awoke emerged very relaxed with an odd clarity that made me think I’d made the right choice. Or, at the very least, less stressed about choosing scent number two.

Around the Blogosphere: The Rebbetzin Rocks

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Frume Sarah is out and about today.
Best gift of the day came from Beernut. He did not wake me up this morning.

That’s right. I slept until I woke on my own. At…my predictable 9:30am. Apparently, that’s been my natural time since I was born. Of course, Beernut doesn’t understand how that was a gift and has spent much of the day complaining that he didn’t get to give me anything.

Poppyseed and Peach each had some lovely things that they had made. And I sat through one of Peach’s soccer games in the heat because someone in scheduling thought this would be a swell day to have soccer.

And now?? PC called up a local spa and asked if they had “a ninety-minute forget she has a husband and kids treatment.” They said they had just the thing.

In the meantime, head on over to The Rebbetzin Rocks and see what I have to say about Reform Judaism. And for those who observe, Happy Mother’s (or is it Mothers’?) Day.

Can I Just Tell You??

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Can I just tell you how much it irritates me when people who purport to be “religious” engage in unreligious or unethical behaviour??
Can I?
Please….pretty please??

Courtesy: Fotolia

So I was chatting with a woman after an excruciating exhillarating Spin class. She is a member of a local Orthodox shul. In the course of conversation, it came out that she believed that the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College was located in California. I corected her (it is in Wyncote, just north of Philadelphia) but offered that perhaps she was thinking of the Reform school or maybe the Conservative one.

Oh no!” she scoffed, “the Conservative seminary is in New York.”
“Actually, the Ziegler School, on the formerly known University of Judaism, currently known as the American Jewish University campus, is located in beautiful Bel Air.”
“Well,” she insisted, “the real one is in New York.”
“Oh dear, don’t tell the rabbis who were ordained at the Ziegler school,” I responded.
She blinked.
“It really is a legit school. I mean, Elliot Dorff is there.”
“I don’t know who that is,” she said.

She doesn’t know who Elliot Dorff is? Elliott Dorff? She doesn’t known who Elliot Freakin’ Dorff is?? He’s only one of the most brilliant Talmudic minds of his generation. Regarded with great esteem throughout the Jewish and legal communities, he is the foremost expert on ethics as well as the Chair of the Conservative Movement’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards.

She was not impressed.

This woman then proceeded to commit several acts of lashon ha-ra.

I thought about mentioning my homeboy, the Chofetz Chayim. But if she had never heard of Rabbi Dorff, I didn’t think it was too likely that she was familiar with the Chofetz Chayim.

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