Around The World In 80 Minus 75 Days

My sister, mother and I on our trip down.
My sister, mother and I on our trip down.

I am writing this on the plane back from a three day trip to the Holy Land. I would normally not feel like a post like one should be published for a homeschool blog, however, I think it is just as relevant as a homeschool post as it is a therapeutic one. I am hoping that by posting this, there will be those who read this and get some relief that even when life dishes out challenges, that those are just part of living and it is okay when your homeschooling world does not seem to be happening very well, or even at all.

After at least 19 hours we made it!

Two months ago we started our journey across the continent to a new place and a new home. Spending the first 4 weeks in a hotel was definitely a challenge, not only for homeschooling, but in general. Baruch Hashem we found an apartment and that really did help. It really means something to be living in your own place and to arrive in our new city Erev Sukkos, the holiday where we come out of our comfortable homes and spend it outside in temporary dwellings, really did mean something this year. Since our belongings are still in storage, in a different state (and not the one where we came from even!) we had to purchase many new things – most of which we already have but have no access to at the moment. To me, that was the hardest part. However, we managed and made it all work. There are bedrooms with beds for everyone, a nice kitchen, our school work, a second vehicle that we are now needing and even a few extras (just a few, not many!) It took about 2 weeks in the apartment to start to feel like things were settling down. I was getting overwhelmed with all the extra things that needed to be done because of the move and not being able to get into a schedule with our learning. Things were looking up and I had big plans.

Hashem has His plans as well, and no matter how it looks, if we look really hard we see that everything is for the good. The day before we were to go to family for Thanksgiving, something which we try to do every year, my sister sent me a text saying that Saba (grandfather) passed away.

Me, my mother, sister, brother and cousins in Tel Aviv
Me, my mother, sister, brother and cousins in Tel Aviv

It was not a surprise, he had been sick for a while, and 5 weeks before when my father went to visit him, he decided that he was going to stay down there until the end. There had been a few close calls over the last few weeks and so it had been more of playing the waiting game. My father had talked to me before a few times to try to get me to come to the levaya (funeral), whenever that would happen, but I kept telling him that unfortunately I don’t think I would be able to come. We are in a new place, it has been just a few weeks, and we do not really know anyone yet, and I cannot leave my boys by themselves. Their father now works an hour from home and cannot just take time off for he has not been able to work long enough to do it. My father kept insisting though, and even though I wanted to say yes, I could not see myself doing it. The big stumbling block was that my grandfather wanted to be buried next to my grandmother in Israel – hard to take an afternoon flight one day and come back the next afternoon (which was something we could have finagled).

But, as I said, if we look hard, Hashem’s plans are always good. Just after his 94th birthday, Hashem could not wait for him any longer and took him back. I remember talking to him for his 90th birthday. He never dreamed he would live until 90. It was almost unheard of in his time.

Fruits are huge in Israel - hard to tell but these were at least 1.5 times larger than we get in the US.
Fruits are huge in Israel – hard to tell but these were at least 1.5 times larger than we get in the US.

There were so many good things about his last 5 weeks. My father was able to go visit him. Saba was still living at home, though he did have care by this time. My father was able to be with him the remainder of his life so he was not alone. There was no family close by. And, almost as important was the fact that they were able to control the pain so he was comfortable. We could not have asked for anything more.

As soon as I got the message from my sister, I sent a message to my husband. When he got back to his desk he asked if I wanted to go (to the levaya). It took me a few seconds for of course I wanted to go, but we begrudgingly agreed before that unfortunately it was not going to be possible. As I sat there I realized that he was asking a very serious question – of all the days that could be chosen, to leave the day before Thanksgiving was one of the only days that I would be able to go (the week at the end of December would be the other time.) He was planning on taking Wednesday off anyways (he actually worked enough to have one day off,) and his boss let him take Monday and make up the hours. I felt guilty about wanting to go and leaving the rest of the family “fend for themselves” and almost declined the offer since the news had not really set in with me yet, but we know that to do a mitzvah for someone who has passed away is one of the greatest mitzvahs there is for not only is this the last mitzvah you can do for the deceased, you are doing it for the mitzvah and not to get anything in return. You can’t. A deceased person cannot repay you back in any way. “Yes.”

We made it. (My sister's photo, my phone died. Will post the one with me in it when she sends it to me!)
We made it. (My sister’s photo, my phone died. Will post the one with me in it when she sends it to me!)

After much quick thinking, phone calls and texts between my sister and father, we finally got it all figured out. My father had a feeling a few days before and had mother and one brother already on a plane in hopes of still being able to get there in time. Unfortunately they were a few hours too late. We found tickets for all of us to meet in Dallas and fly to Israel. The flight was fairly uneventful, faily, not totally, but it all worked out in the end, and at the anticipated time, we landed in Tel Aviv and were greeted by my aunt, uncle and cousin. We arrived on Thursday evening and the levaya was on Sunday morning. In Judaism, usually the person is buried within 24 hours, and inside Israel, by sunset on the same day. However, the Los Angeles chevra kadisha had an unfortunate incident one time and now has a policy of only sending bodies on direct flights to Israel. The next direct flight from Los Angeles arrived in Tel Aviv 2 hours before Shabbos – not enough time for a Friday levaya.

We packed as much as we could in the three days (one being Shabbos) that I had in the Holy Land. We spent time with all the cousins, visited Tel Aviv and of course Jerusalem and the Kotel. Last time I was there was 18 years ago, and for my parents, even longer – almost thirty years ago for my grandmother’s levaya. It was a trip mixed with joy and happiness and some sadness. We countered the later with the thought that Saba waited almost thirty years to see his dearly missed wife again and he was now going to fulfill that wish.

It was a mixed emotion trip for all. We all shared stories and realized that none of us really knew Saba. Yes, he talked, we all knew about some of

Going into the Jewish Quarter.
Going into the Jewish Quarter.

his life as a child, his life in the Russian army during WWII, and that he was able to speak 7 different languages. But there was much that we did not know. Over the last few years some of us were able to learn a little bit more about this amazing person and there is so much we will never know. Being with family and being able to share our various stories was so good, and so was having alone time.

As much as I know that Hashem’s plans are always good, I just hope that now that His plans are to let me get back to our learning for a bit before dishing out some more excitement.  After all, the boys (and I) do need to learn something this year! This is life, and it is something that I want my boys to understand as well. Things do not always go as planned, and sometimes often times do not go as planned, but we have to be able to adjust ourselves and know that when things go upside down, Hashem has already given us the tools to be able to get through it.

The Sefer Torah (middle one) Saba has commissioned. He watched the party via Skype, just 5 days before his passing.
The Sefer Torah (middle one) Saba has commissioned. He watched the party via Skype, just 5 days before his passing.

It was strange coming by myself, without any children nor my husband, even though I was with lots of family the entire time. I took the opportunity to soak as much up of the Holy Land as I could (thanks to the jet lag that did not let me sleep and made me exhausted by the time I had to take the trip home!) Even though I really enjoyed being there, and was so thankful to have the opportunity to do something I did not think I would be able to do, I miss my family and hopefully it won’t take me 18 years to go back, and we can all go, but for a happier occasion. My computer clock says it is 6:22 pm back home. I am hoping that means that we already flew 9 hours

My father, after 28 years he was finally able to return to visit his mother's resting place, who is now kept company by his father.
My father, after 28 years he was finally able to return to visit his mother’s resting place, who is now kept company by his father.

from London and I have only 2 hours to go.  It’s been a long flight, I had to check in my carry on that had my books for it was too heavy and it’s been a challenge to keep myself busy for the last 9 hours.

I am going to finish my supper and then I think I will try to go to sleep for the last little bit. This was not goodbye Saba, we will see each other again. Until then, keep Savta company for us.

Life Goes On For He’s Fully 5!

20140801_182059These last several weeks have been hard to do the things that I need to do.  I wake up, do our breakfast routine and then the computer gets opened. Facebook news read with all the news from the morning hours in Israel. Muqata’s Facebook page gets scanned for those unfortunate brave souls that are no longer physically with us along with any other links. I do my morning routine with the boys and try not to look until around lunch time and then the news article reading starts again. And again in the afternoon and evening. It is like an addiction. And then it hits me. Looking at the what my friends and family are doing in Israel I see one thing in common (besides all the comments about the mamads (bomb shelters,) They are still going to museums, still going to the beach, still going out for dinner, etc. Still. Yes, there multiple sirens in the day that do interrupt things, however they do not let it stop their living. They work, they play, they learn, they live.

I might be physically away from what is happening, but emotionally and spiritually we are close, we all are. We have our soldier, our chayal, that we daven for and learn for, along with the rest of the soldiers. But just like my friends and family in Israel, we too have to keep on living. We alter our day a little bit and we think about different things now but we continue. Life does not stand still.

I was reminded about this need to remember to live life for my little one, who is not so little anymore, turned fully 5 last week (after having both his English and then his Hebrew birthday.) It is not my constant worrying that will make a difference, it is the mitzvos that we do is what is going to really make a difference. I hope that this week will be easier for me to get motiviated and do more of the many things I need to do; organizing for next school year, getting my oldest ready for college, trying to just clean, etc. In other words, I need to remember to live.

As we are closing in on the saddest day of the year, Tisha B’Av (9th of Av), which starts tonight, I have been trying to do some self introspection (a second Rosh Hashanah maybe, or perhaps for once just a really good head start to Rosh Hashanah?) Wishing everyone an easy fast and may we all instill in ourselves baseless love for everyone so we can have the final redemption.

Yes, the 3 Weeks Have Arrived

20140717_110303Just in case anyone was wondering what time of the year it was. Each month has its own mazal, its own special properties and forces which surround it, and the 3 Weeks, which started this past Tuesday (17th of Tammuz) and ends with the climatic Tisha B’Av (9th of Av) is the time where sad things happen more often. Although this year, the 3 Weeks came several weeks early with the kidnapping and murder of the 3 boys in Israel, and continues with the continued firing of missiles into Israel. My list of names to daven (pray) for has more than doubled this past week, and I am talking about people that I personally know. Last night I had to actually write down all the names so I would not forget any of them. I know that I am slowly getting older, but  I am not that old so as to say “this is life.”

Israel had its first casualty from the missile attacks this week. Dror Chanin was volutneering and delivering food, chocolate and happiness to the IDF soldiers when he was hit and killed. A beautiful boy looked at me and comment, “I thought Hashem protected you when doing a mitzvah.” A person learns from his rabbi, learns more from his chavrusah (learning partner,) but a person learns the most from his students. I did not really have an answer for him and told him so. My boys sure keep me on my toes! However, I did bring out some of their learning in Makkos where the Gemara talks about different people who were learning Torah and their time in this world was up, however, the Malach haMais (Angel of Death) was unable to take their neshama for they were learning Torah. The malach had to create a diversion so that for a split second the person was distracted from learning and the malach could do its job.

I have a friend in Israel who was woken up at 2 am last night from a siren. Despite everything, her posting this morning helped put things into perspective:

Good morning world! It was a quiet night after the 2:15 am siren. In Israel we are celebrating – not death and destruction, but the reality that God is protecting us day and night with miraculous technology created here in Israel, as well as a stellar military. My heart is split, I cry for the victims of war in Gaza, yet I am high on the knowledge that God is showing his presence in our life as he has during every hardship… Remember wherever you are, God loves you too!! “

When I read that, it put a smile on my face. She is correct. We do not know why things happen, but everything He does is good. Even when things are tough, He is kind. Despite all the missiles that have come into Israel (I am not sure the exact number, but I believe it is nearing 2000), Baruch Hashem we have only had one casualty. Though even one casualty is one too many. We learn that every single person is special and life is to be valued.

We Jews seem to do best when under pressure. Despite everything going on, there has been a lot of unity among all Jews. I read somewhere in the past few days (sorry, I forget where,) if sinas chinum (baseless hatred) destroyed the Bais Hamikdash, then imagine what baseless love can do.

It is hard to know how one can help. Sometimes (often times?) one can feel small and insignificant, but there is something that can be done. Baseless love. I have been encouraging my boys (as well as myself,) to open their eyes and see others more. Do you see anyone who needs any helping hands, are you talking to your brother in a nicer way, and let us go say some tehillim. It is hard for them for they are still young (will I ever stop thinking of them as young?) and are still at the point in life where they think only about themselves, but I am hoping that each time they do do something it is making a difference.

Last night I asked my almost-5-year-old to bring me an orange. I got small ones, they are only about 2 inches in diameter. He came into the room and had even peeled it for me, and as he was finishing peeling he asked, “It’s a big orange Mom, can I share it with you?” I turned to look at him and the small peeled orange and for no other reason than the fact that at that moment I was able to feel for someone else and know that at that moment, to share my orange (that all of a sudden seemed so big) with him meant so much to him that I said, “Of course!”

May we all have baseless love for one another and thus merit the final redemption.