Posted by Chava Tombosky
Tonight marks a critical moment in history when the world has taken witness to the preservation of one life for the exchange of mass murderers. We have seen desperate parents fight for their child and the majority of a nation show support to save ONE life despite grave dangers to their own. It is this critical moment on the fifth night of Sukkot that we learn the very fundamental lesson Judaism is based on, that the preservation of life and hope must alter our future for positive change despite the dangers we may face.
Sukkot is the time of year we harness many blessings. We pray for rain and dance with our beloved ancient Torah and we live through deep joy despite any pain or difficulties we may face. This Divine energy is so powerful it awakens the past souls from the Garden of Eden to join us each night in our Sukkah and share in the joy we have the ability to tap into down here in this false temporary world. Tonight is the night Joseph our forefather comes to join in on our energy of the moment. Joseph, a man known for being incarcerated for thirteen years just as unjustly as Gilad Shalit has been, joins us on the very night Gilad is set to be released from prison.
Joseph was a man who had been betrayed by his own family. And after being sold by his brothers out of jealousy to an Egyptian Viceroy, was later on falsely accused of attempted rape by the Viceroy’s wife and incarcerated. He spent every day in a dungeon with no hope for any future. Yet every day he knew he had a mission to fulfill, which is why he responded one lonely day in the dark Egyptian prison to a fellow inmate with famous words that forever altered his future:
It was a dark dreary morning when Joseph faced yet another dispirited day when he noticed two other prisoners facing the same wretched fate, to which Joseph turned to these despondent prisoners and said:
“Why are your faces sad today?”
Really? Why are you guys sad? This is what Joseph worried his mind with? I can think of a few reasons why they were sad. Yet Joseph still took the time to speak with the butler and baker. He got out of his own comfort zone and opened his heart to another in a place that lacked all mercy, benevolence and humanity. In the wretched dungeon where criminals sat for real crimes, Joseph took no pity on his own fate and looked outside of himself to comfort another human being. It was this concern that opened the gates to a more meaningful conversation with the butler and the baker that eventually saved Joseph’s life and released him from prison, taking him to the highest ranks of Civic duty for the largest nation at that time. Because of Joseph’s commitment to preserve hope despite his own unmerited lot, he managed to impress his fellow inmates with interpretations of their dreams that calmed their souls and gave them peace of mind. When Pharaoh himself stirred with unresolved dreams years later, it was these inmates who were on the other end of Joseph’s kindness that recommended Joseph be placed in the King’s quarters to interpret his dreams impressing the King and finally releasing Joseph from unjust incarceration.
The story of Joseph promised us that no matter how desperate the circumstances, it is up to us to care for each person with dignity. It is up to us to light each person with love and humanity. If one soul can create an entire new destiny of change, surely thousands can do even more. It is up to us to see the role we play as human beings in preserving life. It is up to us to savor the hope that we all can have a new dream of peace. For if we are going to be conduits to true blessings as this holiday beholds in it, we must be deserving by honoring it with a preservation of spirit and vitality. As Joseph promised and as Gilad is exemplifying, change begins with a dream, a preservation of hope and a willingness to honor life- even in the darkest moments….one life at a time.
Welcome home Gilad.
11.18.13 at 9:03 am | To be afraid, means that you are unwilling to see. . .
9.13.13 at 2:01 pm | “I'm sorry if I offend anyone - I am in no way. . .
9.1.13 at 9:31 am | To be afraid, means that you are unwilling to see. . .
9.1.13 at 9:31 am | To be afraid, means that you are unwilling to see. . .
9.1.13 at 9:29 am | To be afraid, means that you are unwilling to see. . .
7.15.13 at 9:33 pm | I’ve been spending a lot of time numb from it.. . .
5.27.10 at 4:20 pm | "Forgiveness liberates the soul. It removes fear.. . . (28)
11.18.13 at 9:03 am | To be afraid, means that you are unwilling to see. . . (7)
4.11.13 at 9:59 pm | (4)
October 11, 2011 | 10:46 pm
Posted by Chava Tombosky
Every day we communicate with remote aloofness that creates virtual connections. We tweet, we facebook, we text, I.M, BBM, M&M- woops wrong M. We have figured out how to be inspired through virtual distance. We listen to talk radio, we observe other’s lives on television, and we are affected daily while sitting quietly as other people live their lives. If you don’t believe me, spend one evening with Extreme Makeover- Home Edition, and you’ll understand what I mean. Freaking inspiring show! Every time I watch it I cry like a baby, it also makes me want to buy a hammer. But with all these forms of communication, are we really creating connections, or are we putting words out there in the world without any real reaction at all? As a friend’s friend posted on her facebook page yesterday, “If you tweet in the woods but no one’s there to hear it, does it really make a sound?” The question is are we really making any difference at all? In this new age of technology are we truly building relationships or has the art of communicating to stimulate connection become extinct, destroyed and perverted by a click of a button?
There is so much information being shared, still so many complain that connection has been disrupted. Yet we continue to put ourselves out there in the world every day through these means of technology with the hope that our words will serve as purpose, that business partnerships will be made, that friendships will be built, that love connections will be formed, and that our lives will be recognized.
In this month of Tishrei where we celebrate Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and finally Sukkot we are surrounded by prayers and words and speak in song and we rely on these ancient phrases to connect us to our Creator. We rely on our voices to be carried to the heavens to create change and impact our lives for the rest of the new year to come. We blow the shofar with its primitive sounds and hope the sounds pierce our hearts. We make amends to G-d and say the proverbial “I’m sorry” adage, hoping that alters our relationship and our future. Why is it so crazy to believe that our voices down here can create vibrations, which resound an echo of connection sort of like a virtual tweet Up there?
We have finally used technology to duplicate our connections with people as we have always communicated with our Higher Creator. We have been tweeting and creating status lines and speaking in short hand into the woods since the beginning of time. We have been blowing noise into the folds of the universe since the first Ram walked past Abraham on that fateful dewy morning when the animal got stuck in the thicket bush. We have been speaking all along, and hoping that these ancient poems, phrases and songs create, friendship, love, and affection from above. We have always hoped and believed that those “tweets” that sometimes feel unnoticed have been recognized by our Creator.
Words are a powerful medium for affecting the universe. We use them every day. We chant words, sing words, rhyme words, write words, read words, and now tweet and facebook words. We continually use this medium of communication to form connections. But they are only the beginning.
Like a tide that has started by a push of wind from the flapping of a pelican into the infant tempest sea that builds into an adult wave, we are not here to tweet without building that sentence into a conversation that morphs into action. Words are the engine, but how we react to those words, how we create because of those conversations, how we respond because of those phrases, that is the ultimate test and where the truth of our abilities lies.
My father had a great saying while I was a kid. He used to say “Just show up.” We’ve spent the past few holidays talking, sharing, listening to speeches, tweeting “Happy New Year”, but now it is Sukkot. Now it is time to “Just Show up”. Now we gather in temporary outdoor structures and we engage together. Now we gather the citron fruit, the frond of a date palm, the leaves of a myrtle and the branches of a willow, and hold them in our hands united as one. These four kinds, which represent diversity in human kind are bound together creating our action after the conversation. As for my facebook friend’s friend, who I have never met, who I only know by words through cyber space who had said: “if you tweet in the woods but no one’s there to hear it, does it really make a sound,” to him I say Yes we do hear the sound, but if we do not reach out to someone, share and just show up by reacting to that sound to build our connections further, than maybe that is when the sound dies along with our own actions that never had the courage to pick up the vibrations and learn to carry it through.
Maybe the point to all these short hand connections is to eventually elaborate them into vulnerable intimate dialogue. If we just show up to eat a meatball under bamboo mats surrounded by Home Depot tarp- then maybe finally the connection can finally begin. Cause if we can’t walk into our relationships vulnerable to the elements, wearing our muddy boots that include all of our good bad and ugly, than really, what becomes the point to any of it?
Have an awesome Sukkot. And to all those gardeners who have to work around our temporary outdoor structures that look like cabanas, we salute you.
October 3, 2011 | 12:09 am
Posted by Chava Tombosky
I’m not gonna lie… I have wasted Forty billion hours watching Disney channel, which has drilled headaches through my brain, falsely taught my children lessons that all adults are stupid and had me witness an awful amount of over acting because my kid had surgery and we seized all activity for ten days. And so I was starving for some real stories to wrap my head around. I couldn’t read because I needed to keep my kid company while he watched TV and the noise of the tube distracted my novel reading. I couldn’t write because when you don’t leave the house for many days in a row, nothing really new happens, so material is scarce. Aside from spending hours surfing the net, using the blender more times than I’d like to remember pressing pulse, and folding laundry that sometimes smelled of throw up despite the extra dispensary of Tide, there was less excitement to report on other than watching a tomato grow. That was until my brother called to share a pretty great story with me. If there’s one thing I enjoy, it’s a great juicy tale. No I do not think Disney channel has figured out a way to capture this ability, hence the ever growing headache seething from my temples. Alex Russo breaking up with her wearwolf boyfriend on Wizards of Waverly Place is NOT epic storytelling.
My brother’s best friend was scheduled to be married in Livermore, California, so he and eight of his buddies decided to make a road trip out of it. What happens when nine yeshiva guys head up in a sixteen passenger van towards San Francisco looking to party? They end up making a bar mitzvah.
Of course a series of accidents followed in their wake. They got there and had no where to stay, their clothes were stuffed in their suitcases and they had no where to hang their suits. I was surprised they found a place to shower. A few hours before the wedding they realized their clothes needed a good pressing. The wedding was set in this remote area where very few Jews lived and where most of the sprawling topography were lined with vineyards. With very little time to spare, the boys decided to send their suits to the one cleaners in town. Time was not on their side and of course, they had the groom in their possession. It’s funny how one small inconvenience can turn into a series of fortunate events that can literally change a person’s life in an instant.
The groom was pacing wondering how long it would take before his friends’s suits arrived. Time was passing and the delivery had still not been made as was promised. These guys began to sweat it out. Blake was their first friend to get married. They surely didn’t want to disappoint him or ruin his special day, or mess things up to the point that their friendship would no longer be allowed by the newcomer bride. Suddenly flashbacks of the movie Due Date and Hangover 1 and 2 crept up on them until a run down pick up truck drove its way through the dusty road.
A stern face fellow with a sluggish stride approached the group carrying their coveted suits. He wore tattered jeans and flip flops like he hadn’t a care in the world. The burden of life had weathered his skin and his eyes drooped as if to say that life had taken a weighty turn for the man of middle age. Upon the boys grabbing their suits in a hurry as wedding bells rang in the distance, one boy took a heart slowed down the moment and asked the faceless man if he was Jewish.
“The only Jew I know about in my family was my mother.”
“Chris, that makes you Jewish. Just wonderin, have you ever had a bar mitzvah,” asked the eager twenty year old boy who had just earned his Rabbinical degree. To which Chris exclaimed, “No….I didn’t even know I was Jewish till now.”
The boys stood in their tracks taking in the weight of the moment. They counted themselves and looked around noticing there were nine of them. Chris, the delivery man who had only delivered these items as a favor to his friend who owned the cleaners would make the group an even ten, the exact amount of men needed to create a “Minyan” for the age old tradition of anointing this middle aged man into the ritual ceremony that was his right. Ten men stood in the middle of the road as Chris wrapped himself with tefillin and reiterated the words of the Shema exclaiming that he indeed was part of a collective consciousness that declared God was one and that he was part of this greater claim to a heritage he never knew he owned.
That day that Chris became Chaim a tear welled inside his eye as he turned to the boys with a heavy heart proclaiming that his mother would have been proud to see him carry on her heritage. My brother only too familiar with the past tense phrase, an indication of mourning that Chaim grappled with, put his hand on his shoulder and said…”Your mother-”
“Oh she died four months ago. I’ve been driving this pick up truck around with her belongings for the past eight weeks. Got all her possessions. Haven’t been able to get rid of ‘em. She was everything to me, my ma.”
Chris’s mother had been sent to a Jewish orphanage after her parents died when she was a child, which explained why Chris wasn’t too knowledgeable about his faith. When the young Rabbi asked him if he had ever said kaddish for his mom, he stared back confused with a blank look of “no” etched in his expression. Six boys, one groom, a rabbi and a brand new found Jew all looked at each other realizing that a moment had been given to them with profound providence. The lack of knowledge and experience that hung over the group came to light as the young boys began to wonder how they would be able to offer the recitation of the Kaddish words by heart when no one had ever said it before. To which my brother only too familiar with the prayer as a result of losing our dad piped up and said,
“This is one prayer, I know by heart.”
For the very first time since his mother’s burial, the invocation that would have been the final ode of respect Chris now named Chaim would have the opportunity to declare for her was said with a minyan of nine fellow Jews by his side. A tear fell from the newly comforted Jew as the daunting realization crept on him of the series of events that was surely staged by The One Above. As Chris walked away and climbed into his pick up truck carrying the many material possessions that represented his mother’s life, I imagine a new calm probably engulfed him as he was finally able to say goodbye to the soul that bore him and that probably helped orchestrate a group of eight yeshiva boys to wrinkle their suits.
One bar mitzvah, a funeral and a wedding was celebrated that day in Livermore, California. And I finally had a good blog to write without the aid of channel 35 or the stupid parents from “Good Luck Charlie”.