Friday, June 22, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday

--- 1 ---
This week some American Christian friends are visiting Israel, and we got to hang out a bit. Since their tour completely skips over Tzfat, we ended up taking them there. Tzfat (Safed) is one of the four holy cities of Judaism, home of Jewish mysticism, artists, and quite a bit of Jewish orthodoxy. 
--- 2 ---
One of the great things about Tzfat, for me, is that Tzfat was the city that gave us Lecha Dodi. See point 7 for it. Lecha Dodi is a song that we sing to welcome the Shabbat in. There are a million and one tunes for it, every chazzan (cantor) seems to have their own version. I have several well known ones that I love, including both versions by Aharon Razel, and this one by Six13.
--- 3 ---
Lecha Dodi, the lighting of the Shabbat candles, they all do the same: they usher in the Shabbat, that holy day that we were blessed with each week. Our candles--the Shabbat candles and the Havdalah candles--separate the divine from the mundane: and that is why G-d gave us the Shabbat, so we will have that one day each week set aside to experience the divine. 
--- 4 ---
Shabbat, while we don't strictly observe every ascpect of it, is full of the comfort of rituals and traditions for us. Blessing the challah and the wine, the family dinner, the special prayers... They just lift me up. 

--- 5 ---
While crocheting is not a Shabbat activity (far from it, really), I can't wait to finish the kipot I have been working on for the last week. I'Ll get the last piece I need to make them the way I want to, and then tomorrow morning we can wear them to synagogue. 
--- 6 ---
While in Tzfat I ran into an old rabbi I've known for a long time. We talked about what had happened since we last saw each other, and I told him that life forced me to drop out of rabbinical school--and I don't think I'll ever return. He was sad, and told me he wished I continued. That was rather odd, to be honest. 
--- 7 ---
Shabbat Shalom!
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Friday, June 15, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday

--- 1 ---
I am reading and contemplating the Psalms this month. This Shabbat I might or might not attend my congergation's Shabbat for the Psalms event. This is a let's pray through all the Psalms activity we hold twice a year. 
--- 2 ---
This afternoon we are heading down to Jerusalem. We are going to see my rather religious brother for a little while. We won't be able to stay the night, but we will be able to make a quick stop at the West Wall. Some special prayers for some special people will be offered. Please pray for them as well.
--- 3 ---
The Shabbat is slmost here. It will be lovely to light the candles and say the blessings with my brother's family. We haven't seen them for a few months, and it will  be lovely to see them again... especially at Shabbat time. 
--- 4 ---
Ynet reports that 1 out of 3 religious (national religious and haredi) girls surf sex websites. Yet another sign that the leaders of the religious community have no idea how to address issues of sexuality. Ignoring the topic and leaving the Song of Songs as the only source for information is not a good way to handle sexuality. 
--- 5 ---
Dear American tourists,
Please do not confuse your vacation to Israel with a mission trip. We are quite fine with our own religion, and it's very disrespectful to proselytize at Jewish religious sites. Or Muslim ones, for that matter.
--- 6 ---
Do you have any thoughts on religious head covering? I'm doing a project on it. Any religion. Please leave a comment with what you'd like to share, and wether or not I can contact you with further questions. Thanks!
--- 7 ---
Shabbat Shalom!
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

There's a season for everything

Chanukah was long ago. Pesach, Lag B'Omer and Shavuot all passed. I didn't acknowledge them here or on my main blog. This just wasn't the season (or rather half year) for me to focus on actually writing... And so I didn't. I think I'm going to stick to doing something liek 7 Quick Takes... or something. So I'll be updating here more. 

Friday, December 23, 2011

I was sure one of the many people videoing this would upload it to YouTube. I actually edited it down to a considerably shorter length, as I doubt most of yopu would care for over a minute of the chit chat between Mr. Skaat and his audience.

Monday, February 14, 2011

I Believe with Perfect Faith

"Ani ma'amin b'emunah shleimah beviat haMashiach, v'af al pi sheyitmameiha, im kol zeh achakeh lo b'chol yom sheyavo."

"I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Messiah, and though he may tarry, nevertheless I await his coming every day."

Shlomo katz - ani ma'amin - אני מאמין
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Sunday, February 13, 2011

The 613 Mitzvot

The 613 mitzvot as compiled by Maimonides.

   1. To know there is a God Ex.  20:2
   2. Not to even think that there are other gods besides Him   Standard->Ex.  20:3  Yemenite->Ex.  20:2
   3. To know that He is One Deut.  6:4
   4. To love Him Deut.  6:5
   5. To fear Him Deut.  10:20
   6. To sanctify His Name Lev.  22:32
   7. Not to profane His Name Lev.  22:32
   8. Not to destroy objects associated with His Name Deut.  12:4
   9. To listen to the prophet speaking in His Name Deut.  18:15
  10. Not to try the LORD unduly Deut.  6:16

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

An Invitation

With Rosh Hashanah around the corner we are about to embark on a new journey of reading through the Torah in 5771. Would you like to join in a virtual study of the weekly portion? 

There is a portion of the torah assigned for each week of the Jewish year that we, a group of Jews and Christians interested in Judaism, will be reading through and discussing online. Various commentaries and related resources will be linked as well. It might be done on this blog, or a different blog, or in a forum. 

This might actually be a kid friendly study as my three eldest want to participate on some level. 

Please let us know in a comment if you are interested.

Hevel, Noam (Kevin) and the kids: Chai (Craig), Yoel (Patrik), Noa (Sara)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Seeking peace

Many things have been happening in and around me. Politics. Economy. Adoption. Being - temporarily - a single parent. Lots of ups and lots of downs. Lots of doubts about everything I believed about this country. There has been much inner turmoil, there has been much hatred. There's a lot of insecurity and big decisions to make. 

There's a lot of longing in me: longing for the desert, longing for the sea, longing for peace. Strangely enough, the sea I'd so like to visit is not the Mediterranean or the Red Sea. It's my sea, the Celtic Sea, with its cool, salty winds. More than ever before I feel myself deeply rooted in the land of the Emerald Isle - such a contrast to the deserts of Israel, where I also feel at home. 

There is comfort in the words. There is comfort in the sounds. There is comfort in the abundance of the sea and in the lack of the desert. (to be continued)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Father and Son Torah Time

Today it's only my eldest and I. The rest of the family and our guests went to Jerusalem, leaving the two of us home alone.

My son and I had breakfast together, played with our (fluff) friends together and then we read the weekly portion together, with a cup of coffee (mine real, his Maci kávé) in hand, studying Torah, father and son together. Talking about the passages as we read them, letting him find the relevant part of the commentary, he is guiding both of us through the learning process.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Shabbat at last!

I truly love the Shabbat, even if I don't keep a proper Orthodox Shabbat. There are two great mitzvot with Shabbat, to sanctify it and enjoy it. I am definitely enjoying my Shabbats! I am enjoying the rainbow of children around me this Shabbat as children of my family gather for a morning prayer. I enjoy as we discover Torah together, as we cook, smile, laugh together.

This Shabbat has been the first truly peaceful and content ones for me. After years of struggling with two desires I believed to be impossible, I found the way to fulfill both dreams concurrently.

I found a rabbinical program that won't require me to move, that i can do at my own pace, that Kevin can join me in, and while it is not accepted as valid by Orthodox and Conservative courts, it will be accepted by other. Not that pretty much any program that I would be accepted by would be recognised by the State of Israel, so no difference between this program and any Reform program.

The good thing I can do this part time as I work and save money for the adoptions in the future.

These are the things I rejoice in this Shabbat. Life is good, because HaShem is in charge. Because... Ein Od Milvado.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tisha B'Av

Tisha B'Av begins tonight at sunset, and with it the fast starts as well. And with the start of the fast the discussions of what to eat to break the fast some 25 hours later also begin.

I have to be honest, this drives me up the wall and keeps me away from shul tonight and tomorrow. How on earth can someone already be dramatically "staaaaaaaaaaaarving" a mere hour after sunset? Or is it just my years in Mormonism with the strict monthly fasts when during 24 (or more commonly 22-23 hours) the only nourishment one got was a bite of breand and a sip of water during the Sacrament that conditioned me to cherish the fast days without much thought of food and drink?

In fact, Yom Kippur and Tisha B'Av are among my favourite days of the year. With all the heaviness of these days I still feel like I have more time and opportunity to reflect on G-d than on other holidays. When we put away the sources of everyday pleausure and comfort, there is only HaShem. Ein od milvado.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Shabbat is Coming!

This video has everything to get ready for Shabbat! Lecha Dodi version 3 (Aharon Razel has recorded two other versions on Redemption Time and Connected To You), mikvah, challah, joy and fiddler on the roof. :-) Enjoy!

Shabbat Shalom!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

32°C, sunshine and gentle breeze

The world is good today.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Thoughts by the sea - The Beginning of the Journey

About a month ago I was sitting on the beach, watching the sea, as the waves crashed on the seashore. It wasn't the usual beach in Tel Aviv: it was the beach where I spent many a summer afternoon as a small child. I was home in Ireland.

The air was cool--much cooler than I have gotten used to in the summer during the last 10 years--and it smelled like the sea: salt, water and sand. It was windy and I enjoyed the feeling of the salty wind against my face.

I felt like I was home.

I have felt that in many different places on various occasions, and that might be because I am home anywhere and a stranger everywhere. I have been uprooted so many times in my life that I'm not really sure what country to call home, what language call my own. Filling out the "Hometown" field on Facebook took me 25 minutes and I am still not sure if the answer is correct.

Sitting by the Celtic Sea the pleasant and oh so familiar scent of the seashore was suddenly replaced by a different smell: the freshly lit Shabbat candle, the lingering scent of challah baking and the cork of the bottle of wine used for Kiddush.

I was sure my mind was playing tricks on me. Shabbat candles, challah and wine corks in Co. Cork? But the scent lingered for me. And it was only me, who could smell the scent of Shabbat. The scent of home. The scent that for me, as a child, meant HaShem. Then another flash of scents: clovers and cinnamon: the Havdala spices and I was back to the salty watery reality.

What happened for me was the real beginning of a new spiritual journey. My own sacred moment with HaShem, who used the familiar scents of Shabbat to separate the Sacreed from the Profane as He let me understand the desire in my heart. And that desire is to learn more about HaShem and live a better life wherever I might be, connected to Him, and finally admitting: Ein od milvado.

"I am home anywhere if You are where I am." (Rich Mullins)

Seeing HaShem's hand in things we don't understand - Aharon Razel

Aharon Razel performing his song כשיבואו לפנות את ביתי Ein Od Milvado.

And he t alks about this song and what it all means to him.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Jerusalem then and now

While visiting family members in Israel for summer two years ago, I took my 8-year-old son to Jerusalem, to see the Temple Mount and the West Wall. My elder brother Chalin met us there, which brought back memories from times long gone.

I remember the excitement of my strongly Mormon and Catholic mixed faith adoptive family when visiting Israel--they got a chance to walk where Jesus walked! They made sure to visit all the Christian holy sites. I have to admit, as child the religious significance of the place escaped me. It was the cobblestones of the old streets, the mixing of cultures and languages, the pot-bellied reservist with his gun in the shade of a tree, the scent of roasting lamb, the postcard and religious salesmen at the major sites, the full-bearded Orthodox men praying and the touch of the hot rocks of the West Wall that got engraved in my subconscious.

It was spring break, shortly after my 13th birthday--the last time I was in Israel before this year. My whole adoptive family came, and they were dragging me from one place to another almost non-stop. Luckily one day, at the request of my birth family (with whom we were all staying) they left me with my brother Chalin as they headed out to Nazareth. Around ten a.m. Chalin told me to get ready, wear my best shirt and trousers, we are going somewhere. Chalin at the time was 22, a good friend of mine, recently done with his IDF service, and a fairly recently observant Chabadnik. I loved him probably most of the Cohens, and we are still close.

In the car he gave me a nice package. Wrapped in soft blue and white paper were a tallit bag, a matching tallit, tefillin and a navy blue suede kippah. "You are now thirteen," he said, "and I know you didn't have a bar mtizvah celebration, but you are actually now a Jewish adult, a bar mitzvah." It had been years since anyone dared to refer to me as Jewish--having been raised Catholic and then pretty much forced into becoming LDS with my family--but it sounded fitting. During the 60 km drive Chalin went through some of the prayers with me, honestly surprised that I still remembered what I had learnt as a young boy.

Arriving in Jerusalem he parked the car and we set out towards the West Wall, Chalin quietly explaining to me what I already knew. "After the U.N. decision, East Jerusalem became a part of Jordan, and Jews were denied access to the West Wall. A generation grew up without being able to visit the most holy of our holy sites, up until 1967, when during the Six Day War East Jerusalem was retaken by Israeli forces. That was Grandpa's last and Dad's first armed conflict when they were on duty. You know that famous picture of the three IDF soldiers at the West Wall, right?" I knew that picture and soon started to experience the awe that was reflected on their faces.

Arriving at the West Wall, Chalin and I lay the tefillin, recited the blessings, and soon I found myself facing the wall itself. I touched the side of my forehead to the wall and closed my eyes, laying my hands on the ancient rocks. The coolness of the rock, the touch of generations gone by answering to my touch suddenly brought me to the realization that no matter what I wanted to make myself believe, I belonged there. I closed my eyes and offered a prayer for peace, happiness and understanding.

Now, twelve years later, I told the story of the Temple and the Six Day War of 1967 to my son as we waited for our turn. Told him what this place meant to Jews and even some Christians. I told him about John Paul II coming here years ago, and about my first time there. Then I put on that old tallit, lay that tefilling, closed my eyes and turning sideways I touched my forehead to the ancient stone that radiated heat in the summer. I offered a prayer for peace, happiness and understanding.

At home I showed Craig a recent picture from the Jerusalem Post. You can see it below. It is the same three soldiers: first on the day of entering East Jerusalem, then 40 years later, in 2007, at the same place at the West Wall.