Posted by Chava Tombosky
This Sunday morning is the first day I will venture into taking my youngest son who is seven to little league. This requires commitment of time. This requires lots of carpooling on Sundays. This requires two hundred and twenty five dollars. What’s really unique about this league is that it is an all -Jewish league. Kids from all over Los Angeles and the valley who are Shabbos observant and don’t play on Saturdays can join this renegade Sunday league. ‘Course, my sister in law tells me that if this is a gathering of Jewish kids, it also means there will be a gathering of Jewish mothers. Jewish mothers competitively fashioning their latest purchases. Great now I gotta buy new clothes for this event as well.
But I am willing to go the distance in order to give my kid fresh air, exercise, and a good healthy sense of competition. Plus he batted a hundred in the batting cages at his friend’s birthday party, which means he could possibly be the next Babe Ruth. (A Jewish mother can only wish).
It is this day that I am reminded of an incident that took place when I was ten and I had joined a local softball team, and my little brother had joined little league way before any Jewish league was available.
It was a hot March day when us two Jewish kids ventured to the local public school to join our respected teams. I was on field three. My little brother was across from me on field two.
Let me digress by saying, although my brother and I were not Shabbos observant fully at that time, we were well on our way. The big debate at home was should my brother wear his Tzitzis and Kippah to the game or not. He wore them to our Jewish private day school every day. He did wear them on Shabbat. Technically speaking we were playing on Shabbat, so maybe he would have to wear the Jew gear to practice as well. After much debate, he decided to keep it consistent. But he also decided he’d tuck in the strings of his Tzitzis garment into his pants and he’d being wearing a baseball cap so his Kippah shouldn’t really be an issue incase the coach had a problem with these garments not being part of the uniform. Who am I kidding, we were the only Jewish kids on the team and we just didn’t want to be found out as different.
That day my game ended early and I decided to sit in the bleachers and wait for him to finish giving me a birds- eye view of his game. The batter was up. Bases were loaded. My brother was next to the plate. The pitcher gave it his all and little Jake took a full swing hitting the ball right down the middle. His little legs ran as fast they could towards first base but he wasn’t fast enough and the pitcher tagged him with so much force his body flew into the dirt lifting his shirt and revealing his Tzitzis as his hat traveled through the air showing off his Kippah in all it’s glory. (I hope you’re picturing this scene in slow motion as I am.)
And then it came. The snickering, the belittling and the taunting- “Jew boy, Jew boy, why don’t you take your strings and beenie cause you are OUT!”
Back in the dug out he was taunted and asked whether he had horns underneath his Jew cap. It was a hard day. My brother cried the whole way home. He was upset he lost for the team, but more upset that he was teased for who he was. I think it was the first time we had really felt violated as kids for being Jewish.
Later that night we had a family meeting to discuss “the incident”. The question came up, should we go back to playing baseball? After much deliberation, it was decided we would go back and try to find the main teasers and beat the bloody hell out of them. Ok that I made up. But we did practice a list of “come-backs”. Come-backs like,
“You don’t like it, bite me, Ya I got a beenie it hides the horns that can ram you if you don’t hit the ball home, I’m Jewish- deal with it, Don’t hate me cause I’m Jewish, I got a dad who’s a doctor, I know I’m Jewish- you don’t have to remind me about it- it’s engrained in my psyche like a an itch that refuses to be scratched, trust me it’s harder on me than it is you, and of course the best one- if you keep this up I’ll have to call my mother, trust me, you don’t want to meet my mother.”
The next Saturday my parents escorted us to the game. My mother sat in the bleechers like a raging pit-bull. My dad sat there saying things like “Honey, calm down, we’re not in the ghetto, we live in suburbia with track housing where people drive Volvos and station wagons. No one wants to hurt our son.” And my brother with all his bravery circumvented any more hostility by going up to the two kids teasing him the Saturday before by saying-
“This is my Kippah, I wear it because it reminds me God is with me. These strings I wear remind me that I have a code of Laws written in my bible that I try to follow every day.
The kids looked in horror with out much to say as he continued his Rabbi’s sermon.
“Plus, if I wear it, it ensures our team to have winning power.”
Without much more then a beat, the kids squarely looked into my brother’s eyes and said- “If that is true, you better make sure you wear your Jew gear to every single game.”
And so he did.
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January 10, 2010 | 6:37 am
Posted by Chava Tombosky
My favorite thing to do is ask people “What is the secret to your marriage?” Especially those who have been married thirty plus years. Here are the top ten answers I’ve gotten over the years:
1) “We just didn’t die”- Meir Lazarus, married 75 years
2) “I pretend she is perfect, it works”
3) “I love her with all my heart. I’d die for her”
4) “We compromise. Well, I do at least” (this was said by a husband married for 35 years)
5) He says: “We communicate.” She says “No we don’t”
6) “The secret to marriage is not about happiness- It’s about commitment. That’s all I have to say about that.”
7) “Sex. That and getting a maid.”
8) “Buying my wife whatever she wants.”
9) “Eating dinner together.”
10) “Never going to bed angry.” (To which I asked- “You never go to bed angry?” and this husband married thirty five years had answered- “Oh I didn’t say that, but you should really try not to.” )
Feel free to share your own secrets to a good marriage.
January 10, 2010 | 6:01 am
Posted by Chava Tombosky
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
My parents, G-d bless them, gave me six names at birth. They gave me the obligated English name, the much anticipated middle name, the celebrated Hebrew name, and the unrelated Yiddish name. And so, my Ketubah reads: Ava Floryn Chava Tziporah Chaya Feiga Shallman which is now written in full as:
Ava Floryn Chava Tziporah Chaya Feiga Shallman- Tombosky
I am a small person, only five foot two. This is the sort of name you’d give to a tall woman with hair that reaches from a tower to the ground that would end with “The Eighth”. The sort of name that royalty would need to pass on in order to fulfill its dynasty’s obligation to keep every past relative or high ranked female alive.
Last time I checked, I was not royalty.
According to my mother, she originally wanted to name me one name- “CHAVA”. But my grandfather protested saying kids would make fun of me and call me names like “Jabba The Hut” or Chhha-va (emphasis on the Cha). Being my mother was enamored with movies, she acquiesced and named me after her favorite star- Ava Gardner.
She chose Floryn, cause she just “liked it”. And I swear in all the years I’ve been alive, I have NEVER ever met anyone with that name before- which means she made it up.
I was named Chava at the Torah. But of course, if my English name had a middle name to follow, my parents had to give me a Hebrew middle name to follow as well. And they certainly weren’t about to leave out bubby’s mother tongue language in the mix, so Chaya Feiga, which is really part Hebrew part Yiddish, accompanied.
Plus Feiga was the only name that was actually after someone- my great-great-grandmother on my father’s side. From what I hear, Feiga was four feet tall and four feet wide and had an affinity for brandy and herring- together. ( I don’t like either.)
I was in fourth grade when my teacher, Rabbi Richler, confronted me by saying, “You have a Jewish Soul, therefore you will be called for now on by your Jewish name.” As of that day I was known to the world as Chava. Oh the teasing and the constant anguish that came with those first two letters. CHHH- as if you were clearing your throat every time the name was uttered. Apparently, my grandfather was a prophet.
It would be many years before I learned to appreciate this gift my Rabbi gave me or see the value in it becoming my calling card for the rest of my life.
It is said A Hebrew name is your spiritual call sign. The very link to your past signaling your soul to awaken your essence- your Jewish essence. It is the sound of your Jewish pride being announced. It embraces your legacy which states whom you’re named for and what that person’s spirit now embedded in you represents.
Great, my name represents a fat lady with a proclivity to alcoholism and a likelihood of high blood pressure.
It would be a good twenty years before I would learn to appreciate this new title.
This year my fourth grade daughter begged me to attend a Jewish overnight camp in Running Springs known as Camp Gan Israel. She had been begging me ever since she came back from visiting her brother two years prior from visiting day. And like every good Jewish mother, I waited for the last minute to make the arrangements. Lucky for me, the director of the camp was my dear old teacher, Rabbi Richler and he was more than happy to accommodate his grand-student to the program.
Rabbi Richler invited my family to join him for a beautiful weekend. With over one hundred campers ranging from ages eight through fifteen, the place was bubbling with a diverse group of beautiful children. These campers came from as near as Los Angeles, to as far as Arizona. Students of Jewish day schools, public schools, and Sunday schools all in for an experience to share together like one body sharing one heart.
The most inspiring and uplifting experience took place on Shabbat afternoon during the Torah reading service.
Rabbi Richler called up an eager young camper who had never been formally given a Hebrew name to participate in the age-old tradition of receiving a Jewish name by the Torah. As “Madelyn” approached the Bimah timidly uttering her Jewish name shyly to the Rabbi, the entire camp sat with abated breath as she waited to hear her full name articulated for the very first time in front of an entire congregation. Grinning from ear to ear, Madelyn beamed with great pride upon hearing her new Jewish name said out loud for the very first time.
“Chasha Freida” the Rabbi announced.
I knew what she was in for.
Although I never really bonded with the Feiga part, I later came to understand what my Hebrew and my Yiddish counterpart name means.
It translates as “Living Bird”.
Maybe my name is more then a fumble of colliding accidents. Maybe my name has been the biggest hint into who I am and what my main purpose in this world suggests.
I am obsessed with how ideas are born and with how to make life filled with purpose. I am also a free agent who cannot be tied down to only one agenda, point of view or idea. In fact in high school they used to call me the “idea girl”.
Much like a bird, I need my wings to soar. And much like the very first female ever created I am a mother to many. Just ask my three children and my six siblings.
Living with a Hebrew name means you honor the commitment to cherish G-d by becoming a person with Jewish purpose, identity and dignity.
A Jewish name states you are part of a communal and universal consciousness and a covenant that depicts the cherished Hebrew letters linking you to the greats like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Sara, Rivka, Rachel, and Leah.
That Shabbat afternoon when Madelyn officially became “Chasha Fraida”, named for her maternal grandmother, she too became part of this everlasting chain. This, she innately knew with ever fiber of her being.
With great humility I finally understood this holy gift I was given at the tender age of nine to be branded with the name of the first woman in history.
“Mother of all life” is the meaning of Chava.
I have the power and gift to awaken Chava’s essence through my actions every time it is uttered just by being.
And even if others will fumble with the CHHH or mispronounce the linguistics, it is who I am. Thanks to the inspiration of Chasha Fraida so eager to participate in this age -old tradition, and only too determined to wear her name with much pride, like a badge of honor, instead of a badge of shame, was I awakened to the magic of my own Hebrew name.
January 8, 2010 | 8:42 pm
Posted by Chava Tombosky
We live in a society where first impressions are everything. We immediately size up each person we encounter. We can’t help it. It’s how we are made according to Malcolm Gladwell, the writer of “Blink”. But he says we do have the power to change our instincts.
When you meet an orthodox Jew what is the first thing that comes to mind? Come on. We’re all thinking it. The profile is so engrained in us. Even I can’t help but conjure up some image of an overbearing, judgmental, in the box, strict, dogmatic human being who smells of chicken fat. Or maybe I immediately think of a poor quiet female who never gets to go swimming or sing or speak in public, ever. Or maybe I think about some poor yutz wearing strings and a kippa who can’t make a living and spends his days “schnorring”. Either way, these are the “blink” images that can come to mind when I hear the term Orthodox Jew. Add the term “Ultra” to the phrase and you got a whole new group of negative blinks. I don’t even want to think about the “Ultra-ultra orthodox”.
Thanks to cool people like Mattisyahu I guess we’ve come along way in changing the “Orthodox” portrayal. But still, it’ll be years before anyone thinks of a cool Chassidic hip hopping rapper upon hearing the term “Orthodox”.
People say to me all the time, “I don’t know how you do it, it must be so hard to be…. (This part they say in a quiet whisper, like it’s some bad word we can’t say out loud in public) …….Orthodox. All the rules and the constant mandates, you must feel so trapped. ”
The truth is the only thing that really makes me feel trapped is the word orthodox that describes my lifestyle and all the connotations that comes with it. (That and never getting to eat Volcano burgers ever again. More about that later.) I think my lifestyle is pretty normal. My less observant friends would argue that because I stop using all electronic devices every Friday evening until Saturday an hour after sundown- that is far from normal. They point out that because I only choose to eat in Kosher restaurants limiting vacation eating options and TV dinner possibilities that is seriously abnormal.
The definition of Orthodox is:
1. Conforming to what is generally or traditionally accepted as right or true.
2. Of the ordinary or usual type; normal
NORMAL? That is a real word describing Orthodox? But I thought I wasn’t normal at all, well look at that, according to the dictionary I am normal.
Conforming to a truth….. I can deal with that. I am a truth seeker. I like this.
But here’s where I get tripped out…
Here are some words that come up in the thesaurus for the word orthodox:
conventional, mainstream, traditionalist, popular, unoriginal, devout, strict.
Unoriginal- conventional- mainstream?? Ok I’ll take traditional and devout and popular. I don’t mind being popular. And I like tradition. But Strict? I’m the least strict person I know, just ask my kids. (Ok ask the younger one, cause the older one is a teenager and would obviously feel differently). But unoriginal? This must be why I HATE the word orthodox, because in my mind I try every day to look at life in the most original and unconventional sort of way.
I am or at least try to be an orthodox renegade- a revolutionist, a non-conformist. I don’t even want to say it, but dare I say the word “Maverick” and us Americans have flashbacks of Sarah Palin and the 2008 elections. If you voted red, you won’t mind this word much, but blue voters may feel like our relationship is forever altered. See, we’re having another “Blink” moment.
My husband tells everyone we have a “mixed marriage”. He’s a Rabbi and I’m a screenwriter. He’s an idealist and I’m a cynic. He’s hairy, I’m- not. He’s an orthodox orthodox and I’m an unorthodox orthodox. Although I believe he has his own renegade unorthodox nonconformist brewing in him somewhere. (I wouldn’t have married him if he was too straight laced.)
I have been blessed to straddle two different worlds for most of my life. Although I went to a Jewish Day school as a kid, we were far from orthodox Jews. By the time I had my Bat Mitzvah we had drank the Kool-aid thereby reforming ourselves to “Chassidic Jews”. (Some would call that ultra-ultra)
I always wondered why this was my journey. It seems so odd and yet it was so “normal” for me.
Over the past five years, I’ve given a class on finding your personal Mission. The key to finding your personal mission according to my dear mentor, Rabbi Simon Jacobson is to find your PPOPS.** I’ve added a fourth P, which would be spelled out as PPOPPS. It stands for:
-Pain (this one I added)
These are your basic clues to finding out what your mission is in this world.
After much soul searching, I have come to realize part of my life’s mission is to bring these two very opposing worlds, the modern, and the archaic to the forefront by figuring out a way to share with others that it is possible to live in a modern world and still be a traditionalist. It is possible to be original and still be part of an ancestral collective consciousness.
My hope for this blog is to share with the world my unorthodox approach to my orthodoxy thereby proving that Judaism can be the wings on our backs and the wind to our sails.
Our relationship with G-d is a complicated one. One minute we are grateful, the next minute we are angry, then we have severe guilt, which can lead to depression then to reconciliation, back to jubilation, only to find ourselves in major rehabilitation.
It is a windy road, but as long we are able to realize that within this journey there is room for constant questions which can lead to aha moments which can give us great insight into seeking truths about our Jewish experience then our “blink” can change.
I’m bringin’ orthodox back in the most unorthodox way. I have no agenda except to seek truth and to write about my life’s experiences as authentically as possible. Whether it is as a Rebbetzin, a wife, a mother, a screenwriter, a singer, or even just a woman, I plan on writing about my journey even if I have to utter that foul word before my “Jew” title. Say it with me…. (In a whisper) “Orthodox”.
**I will expound at greater length about this concept in my next blog. For Rabbi Jacobson’s take on this concept go to; http://www.meaningfullife.com/oped/2004/10.14.04$NoachCOLON_The_Journey_Begins.php
I highly recommend this site, which I love to teach from regularly