Posted by Chava Tombosky
After seventy-two days of marriage, that’s less than three months, Kim Kardashian filed for divorce. This has caused so much outrage even Kim’s own family is clamoring to gain composure from this news. “Encouraged by her mom, Kris, Kim (Kardashian) has become a fame-addicted, money-hungry monster. She has lost touch with reality.”- one insider revealed. So the question begs, is Kim a victim to a failed attempt at love or is she a money hungry reality star who can’t decipher between the dollar and sacred commitment?
Has she indeed lost touch with reality?
We have a serious problem with TV dictating to us what reality is. According to the dictionary the word reality is defined as: a thing that exists in fact, having previously only existed in one’s mind.
Here’s a fact, we have all lost touch with reality if any one of us believes that this wedding was not a sham in one-way or another. Exactly what reality has Kim lost touch with- the reality that if you make a mock wedding you can rake in 18 million bucks? The reality that marriage has now become one big circus… The reality that the only fools benefiting from Kim’s lost marriage are the dozens of vendors that managed to get their labels viewed on her TV show (aside from Kim and Kris of course)?
But Kim is not the only reality star to test the definition of reality. Even Steve Jones, reality TV star host of X-factor was caught saying “Now let’s get back to reality,” as he was about to announce who was staying on the show and who was voted off. “Let’s get back to reality” was actually a line that was said ON a reality TV show- the very show that is meant to blur the lines of reality.
Because let’s face it, these reality shows are only toting one reality, which is a falsehood state of un-reality that appears to be real, but actually is NOT. Infact reality shows have become so lifelike that they pose a threat to our own reality. They make a mockery of our everyday life and threaten our values. They spend much time convincing us that our REAL reality is not really real at all. Our reality that we experience every day is no longer sacred. You know what sort of reality I speak of, the reality of umpteen year marriages that has buried parents, celebrated birthdays, and lived with the reality of coming home to a messy house after an honest day’s work, the reality that its hard to pay all the bills without relying on American Express, the reality that we buy our clothes at Target and cut out those Cherokee tags so no one knows we’re on a budget, the reality that no one’s outside standing around with a camera hoping to snatch our picture except the bank. The reality that the only thing that should matter is living life with integrity, having loyalty to friends and family and inspiring others with values that can one day maybe possibly change the landscape of the unrealistic “reality” that is shown on Primetime television.
It took exactly 72 days for the star to run the other way, file for divorce and leave her post as wife. Sources have said she is absolutely outraged by the notion that people are convinced the marriage was a sham from the beginning and just another Kardashian empirical ploy to make top dollar on the coveted sacred commitment most people hold to a higher standard than she managed to do.
Here’s one reality: Kim Kardashian promised the world a wedding. She gave it to us. “Kim Kardashian has made about $18 million off her “fairytale” wedding, and now stands to reap additional revenue from the quickie divorce she is getting from Kris Humphries after only 72 days of marriage”, according to Fox news.
What I find puzzling is that Kim was actually offended by the statements made that her wedding was phony from the beginning. She even has Ryan Seacrest, her executive producer of the Kardashian TV series toting his own line of “poor Kim” rhetoric.
So much so, that just today Ryan was heard saying on the radio that the secret to a marriage surviving is for two people to live together first, and then get married. He was saddened, yet not totally surprised that Kim’s marriage to basketball star Kris Humphries disintegrated upon learning about each other’s house cleaning habits that apparently grated on the new wife’s nerves post marriage just because they never got to shack up first. (As we will get to see tonight on Kim and Khloe take New York). Here’s another reality check Ryan, Kim and Kris didn’t need to live with each other before marriage to make it work, they should have spent a modest portion of their $18 million income they made on their wedding alone and paid for an extra housekeeper!
As Kim was caught saying just before her wedding to “Marie Claire,” “I’m not worried about him at all. We have a lot of trust, and I don’t think either of us would do anything to break that…He’s such a good guy; he is so down-to-earth, and it’s such a reality check.”
Here’s a reality check, the fact that Kim is offended that people think she is opportunistic over people imagining that she is one massive failure as a wife is hugely pathetic. For some reason failing at a marriage when she is thirty-one, after having ALREADY failed at one marriage at a young age, speaks even larger to her character than duping us into believing her marriage was a sham. I don’t know what I find more offensive, the fact that Kim made money off her marriage/divorce and is upset by her fans not believing the marriage was real, or by the fact that this marriage may have actually been real!
It takes longer than seventy-two days to fall in love. Making a commitment shouldn’t become an executive decision.
Here’s a list of other reality checks:
1. There is no REALITY on reality TV.
2. Marriage is the biggest reality, which is why Kim failed at it. She has totally immersed herself in the value that television has insisted we believe in, which is, “life is one big show, and the rest can be viewed on commercials.”
3. Love takes commitment, practice, and hard work.
4. Love should never be toyed with, except if you are a soap opera star and getting paid to have fourteen husbands.
5. Love should never be used to make money, unless you happen to be lucky enough to marry rich because you love the person and there is no pre-nup.
6. Love is meant to be realistic. That means you may fight, you may argue, you might even ignore each other at times, but you always make up and grow as a result of those experiences and if you can’t grow because of it, its time to re-evaluate, hire a marriage counselor, and get a date night going.
7. Marriage is not meant to be a ploy to land on the Red carpet.
8. If we want to watch a reality show, we should take the time to watch our own lives unfold. (especially because there are no commercials)
9. Reality is doing laundry TOGETHER. Reality is surviving loss TOGETHER. Reality is raising a family TOGETHER. Reality is eating Turkey and apple pie TOGETHER. Reality is fighting TOGETHER. Reality is making love TOGETHER, throwing out old food that should have been eaten but is now rotting in the second refrigerator TOGETHER, fighting over who gets to drive the nicer car and who has to drive the crap car that screams junkyard TOGETHER. Reality is deciding how to spend that $18 million cash prize you plan on winning one day from 7-11 but never will TOGETHER.
10. And lastly, Love is what happens when that reality takes place.
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. . .
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November 11, 2011 | 7:58 am
Posted by Chava Tombosky
Why does it seem that everything good for you these days keeps getting smaller? Cars are becoming more compact with inventions like the Smart car and electric roadsters that can barely hold four grocery bags from Trader Joe’s. Why are vehicles that can only capably hold one driver with a small wallet- smarter? Engines are no longer robust, it’s all about quiet and barely there. Even strollers are sleeker, skinnier and lack girth. Eight Tracks were traded in for Record players, which in turn have been traded in for CD players and CD players are two years away from extinction; replaced by MP3 files that don’t even have physical properties that a seeing eye dog can find. Heavy books bound with slices of paper are now teeny files downloaded on Kindles and I-pads. Big Macs are turning into small yogurt parfaits and size eight is no longer in vogue anymore. Cellulite is getting zapped, baggy skin is getting chopped, and dog breeders are creating hybrids the size of rabbits that fit in your purse.
Back in the eighties, when I was a kid, when unnecessary extra clothing like sparkly gloves and leg warmers were worn, sticky big teased hair was flaunted, and the two for one deal was first introduced, it seemed that everything good for you was getting bigger, not smaller. We were an all consuming society, relegated to “bigger is better” ideals as depicted by the famous Wendy’s commercial where an old lady with a large nose stared at a tiny burger in a gargantuan bun and yelled “Where’s the beef?”
Now it’s about smaller phones that hook on to our ears. Even the name indicates its size. Blue Tooth. Any phone the size of a cavity is questionable. Yet we have continued to slim down, reduce, decrease and economize.
I am all about less being more. But there is one thing we have also managed to cut down on, which has caused a psychological catastrophe. We have managed to cut down on what we are grateful for. We have stopped asking what brings meaning and joy in our lives. We have stopped wondering how to fill this big world we have made so much room for with gratitude and a sense of purpose.
WE have drunk the Kool-Aid yet have failed to internalize the punch.
Last week our community was hit by a series of teenage suicides that struck through our homes like a lightning rod. Within ten days three different isolated and unrelated incidents tore through our community begging us all to ask the question, “How could this have happened?” Where did we all go wrong? For when an event like this hits a community, we are all responsible to ask ourselves what we can do to better engage in having this never happen again.
We are all part of a collective consciousness affecting one another, inspiring each other, and deeply connected. When events like this tear through our unassuming neighborhoods, it is up to us as a collective group to re-evaluate our principles and derive some adjustment and metamorphosis in our thinking. In this turn of economic upheaval, it seems our children are paying the biggest price for our lack of contentment and inability to translate our own challenges into a higher purpose.
I am privileged to teach teens every week and in my last class I gave them several short minutes to quickly write down a list of ten things they were grateful for. Across the board the students managed to scrape no more than three grateful items on the page. I then asked them to write down ten events or experiences that brings meaning in to their lives. Again, the majority of the group scrambled, and floundered their way through the exercise.
It became clear that these were conversations my students have not had the chance to confront. How many times do we ask our kids what they are grateful for? How many times do we tell our own children what WE are grateful for? We are living every day as minimalists, we are not confronting the big questions or taking time to stop and relish in connection, life enthusiasm, or deep rooted meaning that fills our lives.
When asked what happens when we don’t have this narrative down in moments that despair and life challenge takes over, the students agreed that it is possible for despondency, sadness, and one student stopped the class, looked deeply into my eyes and said, even suicide is possible.
Maybe we are not exercising enough connection anymore. Maybe we are isolating in front of our skinny televisions and fading our troubles in front of our slick tiny Apple screens. I am just as guilty of not connecting on a deeper level with my own children in times of distress. If it weren’t for Friday nights or Saturdays, our week would never have a chance to experience elevation. Every Friday night we carve out that time to express to each other what we are grateful for. We light candles and set the mood for a delicious dinner, with the table set with our best china and we go around the dining room EVERY Friday and ask, “What was your highlight this week?” This conversation almost always leads to sharing our gratitude and experiences that lead to higher purpose in our lives.
Maybe it is time we have these conversations with our children, with each other, with our selves more often. Maybe it is time we start filling our homes up with connection that is not just plugged into an electronic device. We owe it to our children to shut down the noise and identify with one another on a deeper level. We owe it to them to replace time with stuff. Maybe that can be the blessing in having less stuff because of the economic turn; we finally have nothing to bribe our children with except for our time and our conversations. We have become true minimalists after all.
Maybe it is time to reexamine what is really important and fill our hearts and minds up with the real meat of the matter. It’s time we start asking ourselves- “Where’s the beef?”
October 18, 2011 | 1:30 am
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.
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”.
September 26, 2011 | 11:25 am
Posted by Chava Tombosky
When I think of my life before my daughter Yehudis it is a very different place as when I think of my life after Yehudis. I can still remember that moment she was born with all of her aunts and uncles and grandparents listening in on the telephone line while I was in labor. The joy that everyone felt upon her birth was truly special. Yehudis is named for our dear aunt Judy who was with out a doubt the happiest woman Robbie and I had ever come to know. Judy was always filled with great positive energy. She welcomed every person she met with tremendous joy. Eventhough she suffered most of the time with tremendous physical pain, she still managed to greet every person she came in contact with smiling with a joke or a hug.
Funny enough, Aunt Judy was also known for her very eclectic hippo collection. I like to think that she liked them because although they were rotund in shape and seemingly dangerous they alway have a plastered smile on their face.
When Yehudis was born she blinked at us with these sweet eyes like she was taking in the whole world with her. She was a natural smiler and has been smiling with so much grace, humility and positive energy every since. A few days after she was born, without my mother knowing about Aunt Judy’s hippo collection, Yehudis received her very first present while I was still in the hospital from her grandmother. It was a pink Hippo. It wasn’t hard to figure out who Yehudis would be named after.
Yehudis is an avid painter. Her favorite past time is mixing colors and shades. We are lucky to have such a creative young woman in the family. I thought about what I could get Yehudis that would truly exemplify how I feel about her.
A rainbow is a significant sign in our Jewish faith. Before the flood this phenomenon was not in existence. Only after the flood did G-d give Moisture the ability to rise from the earth to form clouds and raindrops, which caught the light of the sun. These newly refined droplets were finally strong enough to help channel the rays of sunlight to reveal colors. The pre-Flood world lacked the rainbow. But After the Flood, G-d imbued the world with a new potential—the potential to create, to take what it receives from above and develop it, extend it, and expand upon it. Much like the way my life has changed because of Yehudis’s little soul that came into my world, all new colors came into focus. New potential was created.
Therefore I can’t think of a better gift than the one you are about to see….
I love you my little rainbow:)
*to download Chava’s songs go to Amazon.com or Itunes!
September 5, 2011 | 10:52 pm
Posted by Chava Tombosky
This week I launched my very first song on my father’s birthday, August 31st. I thought it was an apropos date to share my music, which I have dedicated to his memory, and what better day to launch it than on a happy day, a day that represents birth and new beginnings. It also happened to be the second day of Elul, and Rosh Chodesh, the beginning of the new month of possibilities, opportunities, and self-reflection, and the month that carries us into the high holy days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
I have been singing for as long as I can remember, but to truly understand my relationship with music we will have to go back to the beginning. I can still remember my very first performance. I was in first grade. That year for our Passover recital my class had a model Seder on stage. I remember a lot of foil, stale matzo and sweet grape juice that had been used as props. By the time the real Passover came around, my palette was depleted of any desire to participate after several hundred takes of “ma nishtanah” were enforced on me. Although I was concerned that the stage lights would burn a hole in the foil and glare in my eyes causing me to squint in front of the entire parent body, I still loved the idea of singing with Morah Music in front of my parents. Morah Music was a young woman in her early thirty’s and one of the most beautiful women I had ever laid eyes on. She smiled like a refined queen. Even her legs, which rippled of purple varicose veins, markings of her body carrying eleven children in her small frame were beautiful. She wore a well- coiffed chocolate brown wig that highlighted her high cheekbones and framed her face perfectly. She was a petite woman with a strong constitution. I had never met anyone before who looked as ravishing as she did with so many children!
Morah Music became my icon, and a person I would look up to for many years to come. Upon her suggestion, I was chosen to sing a portion of the Ma Nishtana, the famous Passover song meaning “Why is this night different from all other nights” solo. Although I had been in several dance and piano recitals, I had still never sang in front of a crowd by myself before. For some reason, none of the other children were asked to sing solo. I was of course over the moon, thinking my chance at stardom had finally landed me the most important role and I was going to take it very seriously. I tried to hide my overwhelming excitement, and make it seem like it was the most natural event in the world. Even though Valerie the jealous Russian glared at me every day during reading time and threatened to have her sixth grade sister beat me up during recess, I just figured that was the high price one paid for fame. I was willing to take it on. Most importantly, I didn’t want to let Morah Music down. And seeing her smile as I belted out my line was worth every minute as I sat frozen in my first grade tiny chair thinking about Valerie’s sister mauling me on the blacktop.
Four short years later, at ten years old I was sure I caught a serious illness that required a call into disease control ordering masked nurses to sterilize my room with plastic. I had a serious case of Chicken Pox. Serious- because it happened to me. I only had four sores on my whole body, but the one that landed on my belly kept me up all night and caused so much anguish, my poor parents spent a week catering to my beck and call. It hurt more than an infected planter’s wart with puss. I thought this would be the worst disease that ever landed in my wake. I never showered, and kept my nightgown on for six days straight. I was feverish with a high temperature of ninety-nine degrees and was sure my days were numbered. I cried all day and begged my mother to get me a specialist. I screamed, writhing in pain, and was delirious.
I managed to milk this illness with great pride, and got my parents to wait on me hand and foot while I scarfed down Haagen Dazs bars as my mother slathered my entire body with Calamine lotion. The fact that my little brother caught it from me and didn’t have a clean non-pox’d spot on his entire shape, never really fazed me. I missed my friends in fifth grade. I missed Morah Music, and I missed the fact that I could finally tell mean Valerie that she was infected with a serious disease, and I was the one who gave it to her. One day while I was in between my channel seven soap opera series, after Erica Kane left her sixth husband, and Palmer divorced his seventh wife, I heard wretched screaming coming from downstairs. I turned down the T.V. and could hear my mother’s screams that had frightened me to my core. Her screams turned to tears and her tears began to ascend to my quarters. My mother had her hands out as if she was in a trance as she entered my room. As tears took a ride down her delicate cheeks, I shivered a fear within me that I hadn’t even recognized from my younger years. These were tears that were agonizing and told me a story of jolting heartbreak and distress that would rock my very existence. These were very different tears, and I was about to absorb an uncharted and alien pain and sorrow that would teach me the very fragility of life. As feeble as I felt from having Chicken Pox, I was no longer feeling sick, I felt my body take on an odd strength as I was about to be thrust into the reality of news that filled me with many questions that I would spend my lifetime looking to answer. That day the news my mother brought me was that Morah Music, at the age of thirty- six, had suddenly died from a heart attack, leaving eleven children, of which the youngest were a pair of eleven month old twins. Her last gift on earth was spent with thirty beautiful children who had sang to the tune of her keyboard during their First Grade recital- the very recital I had been in only four years prior.
Six weeks after eleven small children buried their mother, the high school put on a musical play that was meant to be a tribute to Morah Music. I remember sitting in class one day, when a lovely twelfth grade girl entered our class and made this announcement:
“Many of you know, we are creating a Musical Play in honor of Morah Music. Our choir needs more singers. Normally we don’t ask fifth graders to participate, but this year, we are making an exception. Ava Shallman, would you please come with me, we need your voice?”
At that point, I was still known to the world as Ava Shallman. I know what you’re thinking, that is such a cooler name than Chava Tombosky. Shallman is my maiden name. Ava is my BFF name- Before Frum. Frum is another word for religious. Although I think Frum has become a whole other genre of Jews that have way more issues than I think I even have. But that’s another essay.
The shock on my face was quite evident. I have no idea what made this twelfth grader choose me out of my whole class to participate. The high school choir seemed more than robust, and yet they had chosen me to be in the choir that year. I was the shortest girl in the entire cast, and they decided, so I wouldn’t look out of place, to put me dead center in the middle of the choral group- ya that didn’t look funny. I practiced my songs after school diligently. I sang every day and took my role very seriously, forever being reminded, that my singing would help elevate the soul of our dear Morah Music. I was determined to honor her through my voice.
The big day arrived and I was pulled out of class to rehearse in the rented out theater. I took my place on the stage during rehearsal and realized the magnitude of this event that I had become apart of. The red velvet drapes suspended behind our choral group, and the pain of singing to the tune of a foreign musician’s piano began to hit me harder than I had realized. Rehearsal ended, and the room began to fill with hundreds of women. I peeked through the curtains and scanned the auditorium. There she was, one of Morah Music’s daughters sitting in the front row. She was nine years old and was supported by Morah Music’s niece, a beautiful dark haired girl with white satin skin like Morah Music had. I stared at their beautiful dark eyes, and thought to myself, who am I? I am not worthy to experience these orphans’ pain. I am not a person who understands what it means to lose a mother at such a young age. And yet I was chosen to sing a tribute to Morah Music. I stared deeply into their bulging brown eyes, who only six weeks before, had only discerned joy and delight, but who had quickly become accustomed to desolation and sorrow. The vacancy in their eyes said so much. In many ways, this was the community’s tragedy, but it felt as though it was too soon to be acknowledging someone else’s pain for whom, it had still not become tangible or real yet. This was not my narrative to sing about, this was their narrative, this was their pain, and they deserved their privacy to bear their wounds without an audience seated behind them. I was not the right person who was chosen to stand in the middle of a towering junior high and high school student body while chanting “Tangled up in memories, the years gone by.” Yet here I was. I had been chosen. The room could barely get through the song, and I stared at Morah Music’s daughter and her little niece as their eyes mushroomed with emotion. I promised I would one day apologize for using my voice to make sense of this senseless pain that I could never truly grasp. Because, who was I?
Living Bird. My Hebrew name means Living bird. Chava Tziporah Chaya Feiga was my God given name. I had transformed into a living bird. A free agent called upon to use her voice as a testimony to life. Living bird. I am living bird.
The truth is, I wasn’t sure if it was appropriate to share this story. I was plagued with terrible guilt for feeling as though this was a tragedy I had no right to recount. After all, I had not been directly hurt by this event, except by my association with my teacher. My life had not really changed. I had not lost a parent. I had not lost a mother. I had witnessed my friend lose her aunt, and my other friend lose her mother. I was a witness. I was a witness like a bird who flies above the earth observing it from yet a distance. An onlooker, a bystander who saw another’s devastation yet had not truly lived through the nightmare herself.
That night I sang the song with the choir. There was not a dry eye in the house. I wept with great passion, and after the show could barely compose myself backstage. I cried and I cried. I cried for the orphans who never got to see their mother come home that day from the recital. I cried for the young father who was the head of our school who lost his wife. I cried for the students who lost their teacher. I cried for my own innocence that God stole away that night, which taught me that life is a fleeting journey that does not last forever and for the guilt I felt that I had not been chosen as the orphan but only as the girl who could sing for them. And then I looked up through my tears, and I saw my own mother. Her familiar crinkle of the nose that tells me she is smiling. “Why are you crying?” she asked. She took me home and I lied awake for many hours plagued with guilt in between the warmth of my mother and my father. The two people who promised to never disappoint me and who would always make my own sadness whither away. The two people I trusted with my life. My superheroes. I closed my eyes and dreamt of the young girls sitting in the front row, and I prayed for them and wished that all pain for all children would end forever.
Although this story was a tale that I was very hesitant to relay, I realized I needed perspective before adding it to my narrative. After discussing it with my sister in law, she made me see this was a story that I had to include. She taught me that witnessing someone else’s pain, although it may not have been my own to bear was the experience that promoted my compassion, empathy, unconditional love, and yes, even my music.
Living Bird. Chava Tziporah. Living Bird.
If I have borrowed some else’s pain do I have any right to it? It is true- I had not experienced it like the family who was struck with this tragedy had experienced it. I will never truly know what their lives were like or how they coped. My own humble translation of how I witnessed this tragedy is what I am testifying, and in no way would I dare try to express their experience. I was eleven years old when I lost my teacher, the very first woman to inspire song inside my soul and my sister-in-law reminded me that it was my duty to testify her gift as an adult. By retelling this story, she assured me I would be memorializing Morah Music’s life through the written word. Morah Music’s memory would stay immortal, and I could share in passing on her light, even if only as a mere witness.
Only she could have given me permission to write this story, my beautiful sister-in-law who married my brother and birthed my beautiful niece and nephews, my sister-in-law with the chocolate brown hair and the milky snowy white skin like her aunt. My sister-in-law, Morah Music’s niece from the front row who sat next to her cousin on that fateful day many years ago whom I sang for.
My sister in law’s name actually means, “Console the Judgment”. Console harsh judgment on yourself Living Bird. For through dispending your own judgment, you will let your voice pacify the ones around you.
I hope you enjoy my song. And may our space be healed by the music that fills our souls. With that I will say I am Eternally Hopeful that all pain that permeates this world will one day be assuaged and pacified and most importantly transformed forever.
*This essay was an excerpt taken from Chava’s upcoming Memoir entitled “Falling From Eden”
**Chava’s song is now available on itunes for purchase. To hear a sample, check out her page on myspace.
July 31, 2011 | 4:11 pm
Posted by Chava Tombosky
Is it possible that we have the power to heal ourselves? A few months ago a dear friend named Sara had been diagnosed with a molar pregnancy that had turned into a persistent gestational trophoblastic disease. Most GTDs are benign (non cancerous) and they don’t invade deeply into body tissues or spread to other parts of the body. But some tumors are potentially cancerous and if left untreated, can turn malignant. The only way to treat this disease is to undergo a regimented chemo therapy course. Aside from dealing with the loss of her potential pregnancy, she now found herself facing months of chemo. What made Sara’s experience most triumphant was her willingness to share her experience in an ongoing diary she posted for her friends to participate in. We learned about her battle with chemo and her ongoing health updates kept us all informed of her physical and emotional journey. During Sara’s chemo therapy as her numbers were declining, and she had almost made it to the point where the molar cells had become eradicated, her numbers shifted and instead of decreasing they began to rise yet again. The exact words she wrote in her journal upon receiving the disheartening news that she would need to continue treatment for longer than expected were, “....I still struggle to ask for what I need and to feel deserving of the things that I want.”
I have also been on the end of the disease of feeling “undeserving”. A small voice inside my head screaming at my psyche that I have yet to deserve happiness, wholesomeness, or contentment. It is inside all of us as we navigate the tumultuous waters of life; except for those who are the most narcissistic amongst us. But as the Lubavitcher Rebbe always said, “We can learn something from every person; even (narcissists)- we can learn from them how not to be.” Where does this lack of faith in ourselves and our well being come from and how can we finally look at it in the face, slap it, confront it, and tell it to leave for good; once and for all?
The first step in healing, whether it be emotionally, physically or spiritually is to become aware of the problems that started the dysfunction. We cannot correct ourselves or see healing in areas of our lives if we do not acknowledge where this pain stems from.
I moved about seven years ago to the West Coast with my family from the East Coast. We rented our first home for two years and subsequently moved into a second rental right afterwards never really unpacking our belongings fully. Our second rental turned out to be the perfect storm that came from the financial decline into which our country has descended. Our landlords lost their jobs and stopped paying the mortgage, the house fell into foreclosure and on the eve of my last day of sitting shiva for my father, we received a letter from the bank stating that we had sixty days to be out of our home. I climbed out of my grief and pulled myself back into yet another suffocating reality that I was forced to face and began to pack the rest of my entire house into MORE boxes. We searched for a rental, but to no avail, there were very few homes on the market in our price range large enough to host all of my brothers and sisters who regularly moved in for weekend visits. I vacillated back and forth as to whether to move out of my neighborhood all together. I was despondent and frustrated by the many ’NO’s’ life was providing me. My father had died suddenly, my home was being taken away, and I began to feel as though my life had slipped into a quiet torment. For months and months we tried to negotiate with the bank and find ways to buy our home, but to no avail a big FAT NO sat on our doorstep. Finally a friend said to me- “Chava, you know you have the power to turn this around, don’t you?” I looked at my friend like she was absolutely crazy as I gazed at her, surrounded by all of my belongings packed away with my computer opened to Westside Rentals, a regular site that stared back at me at all hours of the night.
I was determined to believe that I had no power at all. I became a victim to my circumstances. I could not see any way of changing my future. A direct plan had already been set into motion, and the only receiving end I was on, was the one that filled me with pain and heartbreak stacked with bags of packing peanuts, rolls of tape and cardboard boxes. My friend came over and sat down with me to get to the bottom of why I felt as though the script of my life would be one that ended in failure instead of triumph. It became clear to me after some soul searching, that I truly felt undeserving of any joyful outcomes. How could I possibly allow myself to prevail when so many others suffer? Is it fair that I get to have a safe haven while others still struggle? Do I really deserve anything positive at all? After all, this was G-d’s will to strike me and create havoc in my life. I should just take it and man up. Maybe it was my destiny to be at the bitter end of life’s struggles instead of the receiving end of joy, laughter, ease and delight. Sometimes when you face many difficult challenges, you just assume that is what you are meant to be given over and over again. In my case it felt as though I was staring at a bright light inside my confined narrow tunnel, but my light was attached to an oncoming train that clearly wanted me off the tracks. I was really sick of viewing my world like one big episode of “The Real House Wive’s of Beverly Hills” show (minus their income). Maybe it was more like “Jersey Shore” (minus the tan).
I had to change this thought process. The thought of directly changing this momentum can very often engender the tide to shift. But when you are riding the tide, you rarely imagine there is any other direction than the one you are riding on. I had to stop being a tragic magnet and make myself aware that I was just as entitled to a positive outcome. I had to desire and want to receive the blessing if I was going to be given the blessing. That night I slept with a stir in my soul as I thought about why I deserved the blessing of having a stable home. I deserved this, and yet even as I said it in my own head, I struggled to believe it. I knew my children deserved it, my husband deserved it, my family members who come to celebrate holidays and Shabbat deserved it. But did I deserve it? Obviously this is not as serious as cancer or having one’s health threatened. Probably another reason why I felt so undeserving. In my mind I was staring at G-d’s flow chart and imagining my own needs on the bottom of the totem pole in comparison to others who suffer greater challenges. I just couldn’t muster any merit in why I earned this blessing when so many others live with less. Of course it is like comparing apples and oranges. One event had nothing to do with the other events I was equating my own outcome with. To put my own needs on the same flow chart, on any flow chart, and compare them like life was some sort of tournament was completely ridiculous! Obviously I have my own script of life and everyone else has their own journey, and to compare for the sake of making sure mine is less so someone else’s can be more is really absurd.
I woke up the next morning, looked in the mirror and said to my husband out loud- “I DESERVE THIS HOUSE.” I cringed while I said it, but after I said it a couple more times, I started to like the sound of it. “I want this house.” My husband responded- “Are you sure you want this house?” “Yes,” I said. “I am sure.”
I know this sounds crazy, but within five hours a phone call came from the bank and the lender told us to be at their office that afternoon to sign the papers. This was the same bank that had refused to heed any of our offers for eighteen months. The same bank that when we finally got them to allow us to put in an offer for this house, turned us down nine times! The same bank that turned down our loan six times. It took eighteen months, 9 offers, 6 loan agreements and lots of paper work, probably enough paper work to kill fourteen forests, and yet it was that exact morning when I stared in the mirror with a positive attitude towards my destiny, rather than with doom and gloom, when we got the good news that we were now homeowners. I can’t explain it other than I changed my own fate because I made the decision to do so. After seven long years, I had finally unpacked my last box. I did call Goodwill and managed to unload a lot of things I learned to live without over the course of those seven years. Man was it nice to finally come home. (And this is another lesson I have learned. As long as you have one pot a few paper plates and a good knife, you can really survive without all the stuff.)
Indeed my dear friend Sara, inflicted with potential cancer cells growing in her womb, who had been struggling to see her own positive outcome needed to come to the same place of feeling deserving of triumph over her health. As she wrote in her post:
“Last week, I stepped into a new space though, realizing that there were other gurus from which to learn and my insight was that it was time for me to change my mindset and to boldly ask the Universe for exactly what I wanted. The word “guru” itself is used to describe a teacher which leads us “from darkness to light” and that’s exactly what happened to me. The very act of typing about my preparedness for health started a cosmic ball rolling. I declared to Tim (her husband) my willingness to accept renewed health and completeness and, as I laid my head on the pillow that night, I offered my sickness back to G-D, confident that I was safe to release this condition which was no longer serving me. And, as the hours and days passed, I felt a shift within me, like I was being filled up with new energy. Things which had seemed pointless (everything from grocery shopping to taking showers) suddenly had new meaning as I surmised that I had a long and healthy life ahead.”
As of yesterday, Sara had finally been given a clean bill of health. Her numbers had improved and she is finally in remission. If she had never kept a journal or faced those rising numbers, she probably would have never even been aware of her other disease – the disease of feeling “undeserving.” Only when she was forced to look at her life through new glasses- the ones that stared at those rising numbers, did she become aware of how she was affecting her outcome.
Maybe that is the reason we struggle at all. Maybe we struggle for the purpose of getting over the struggle. That in itself is the most Divine expression we have. To be tormented by life, that’s the easy part. But when we can stare at the torment, change the direction of the tide and regroup, that is the real miracle of life. We really have more power than we give ourselves credit for. As in the words of Saturday Night Live’s Stuart Smalley, let us all say “I’m Good Enough, I’m Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like Me!” (Unless you’re a narcissist, then you should really avoid this exercise at all costs.)