Sunday, August 21, 2005

I REALLY Do Thank G-d for My Blessings

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Growing up, I didn't light Shabbos candles unless my parents were on holiday and I was the only female in the house. But all the years I was used to watching my mother light the Shabbos candles and make the bracha silently. I don't recall her lingering over the candles.

When I was in my twenties and staying over for Shabbos at single girlfriends' who were living on their own, I'd watch them light the candles, make the bracha and linger, eyes closed, hands covering them. Once I politely asked what sort of thoughts were running through my girlfriend's head, ie. why she hesitated so long. She explained that she was thinking her private thoughts, among them that G-d should help her find an appropriate husband. I lit the candles at that friend's place, but did not linger over the candles. I figured that when the time was right, I'd have my appropriate match. [ rereading this, I noticed the unintentional pun: candles/match]

And when that appropriate match did arrive, and I did marry, and I did light two candles every week and every Yom Tov in my own home, I did linger there, eyes closed, hands covering them. In the first couple of years, I thanked G-d for my husband; then we added a candlestick and I added my son's name to that list; then we added a candlestick and I added my daughter's name to that list; then we added a candlestick and I added my other son's name to that list. Then I added every family member -- parents, siblings, in-laws, nieces and nephews -- to that mental list of thanks, and the names of friends or family members that needed their own brachot.

This ritual is my personal way of saying a bracha [over Shabbos/Yom Tov candles] while at the same time thanking G-d for the brachot he has granted me. My children have not yet questioned why I linger at the candlesticks for a few moments longer...but if they do, I'll know what to answer...

...because SHOW & TELL is as much a part of my life as it is to a preschooler. And as it has been said, "Everything I ever needed to know I learned in kindergarten."

Emotionally Saturated

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If I were a sponge that you were to squeeze just about now, tears would be falling endlessly from that sponge.

It has been a tough and trying weekend.

Friday's weather that I blogged about started that deluge; the very close friend that I mentioned in my last post who popped in during the storm to use our telephone, lost his mother within a couple hours after he came here. When he stopped here, he'd been trying to make his way to his mother's to give her a painkiller because she was suffering the pain of end stages of cancer -- it was coming fast and strong.

He did eventually make it to his mother with his wife and son, and about 1/2 hour before Shabbos came in she took her last heavy breath. He'd sang "Shalom Aleichem" for her and "Aishet Chayil" and kissed her Gut Shabbos, and within minutes she was gone. Everybody has their own memorable version of Shabbos Nachamu; unfortunately, this was my friend's version.

We had my friend's son over Shabbos and much of the day today, until after the funeral. This little 4 1/2 year old boy had been told by his mother that his "Savta was now with Hashem" but we didn't know just how much he understood of that. And when the little boy said, "My savta and sabah live beside your savta," my youngest piped up: "NO, YOUR SAVTA'S DEAD!!" There was a long pause as my husband and I turned to each other, wondering what to say, but the little boy said it for us: "She's with Hashem now." And when my little one asked, "Why?" the boy said, "'Cause she's dead!"

I'm physically, mentally and emotionally sapped after a weekend of dealing with the ins and outs of curbing discussions around a curious child who'd lost his grandmother but didn't quite "get" what that meant; after dealing with all the mitzvot my family could do to help our friends prepare for shiva; after contacting back and forth other friends and acquaintances re. funeral preparations, shiva preparations, childcare preparations.

Today we tried to hit two birds with one stone: we wanted to fulfill the mitzva of "Bikur Cholim" (visiting the sick) and visited a sister-in-law's father, but he wasn't in his hospital room at the time and we couldn't find him on the premises of the nursing home/hospital. And then an hour later we went to a cemetery for a graveside service, and then to a shiva house.

Really, who should I be to complain? I thank G-d for my blessings, and will try to help my friend and his family as much as I and my family can. It is lovely to do mitzvot, but yes, they can and often do take their toll on people...

May we all share in simchas!

"...Cold Black Waters, Keep on Rollin'..."

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On Friday afternoon I thought Judgement Day had arrived. The heavens opened, and the rain fell...and fell...and fell.... Pounding the roof, pounding the pavement, slapping against the windows.

I thanked G-d that I was already home because it would have been hellish to be out of doors in that weather.

Hailstones fell from the sky, landing on our balcony, on our deck, pinging heavily against the front door and windows. The lights flickered several times...went out along with all power systems...came on a few seconds later. After readjusting the clock and resetting my stove and oven (I hadn't yet cooked for Shabbat), a few moments later the power went off again.

My children were rather distressed; they'd heard me only a short while earlier listen to the news and repeat after the announcer, "Tornado warning in effect for the Greater Toronto area..." My little one panicked and said, "Are we going to be picked up and land somewhere else?" Oldest son comforted him by piping up, "This isn't THE WIZARD OF OZ." The problem was that at Universal Studios in June, my kids had been at a "reality" display of the Spielberg film "Twister" and thus knew what could happen. I appeased them and said it wasn't supposed to be in our immediate area and not to worry. But it didn't help that I was telling them this with the lights out, with the pounding rain and hailstones, and with the storm sewer in front of our house backed up halfway up our driveway and halfway up the street.

We watched as cars tried to maneuver the neighborhood streets and couldn't because the waters were rushing and knee-deep. A friend stopped at our house; he'd been out and couldn't get through many of the streets, his cell phone wasn't getting reception and he needed to use our land line.

Yes, eventually the waters receded, the sun weakly poked its head through the clouds and the storm was gone. (but it left many basements with water damage and some severe flooding)
My husband opened the front door and brightly announced: "Yup...just saw a dove fly by with an olive branch in its mouth." I interjected: "And there was no ark at the curbside...?"