Posted by Chava Tombosky
Tova is my 25 year-old-sister. She looks a lot like Kim Kardashian. I am 11 years older than her and she frequently enjoys reminding me how much older I am than her on a regular basis. She works for a very cool Hotel in Beverly Hills and regularly brags about the many celebrities and stars she sees every day. I live in the suburbs and I see no one interesting at all, except for Jennie the Barista and Helen the check out girl at Trader Joe’s. She enjoys reminding me of my dull existance as well. She has one of the most amazing Mariah Carrie voices you will ever hear, and can be seen on the stage in Karaoke bars across the city. She is funnier than Lucille Ball and we are hoping one day she buys a red wig, dotes a polka dot dress and marries someone cute and equally funny , maybe with a latin accent (but Jewish) who will feed her burgers and fries on a regular basis. (Mainly for my own self-esteem.)
Here’s what Tova had to say about our Biggest Loser Competition:
1. How much weight did you need to lose?
-“I needed to lose 10 pounds”
2. What have you done to change your habits over the past few weeks?
-“I’ve stopped eating donuts and burgers.”
3. Who in the family do you really want to beat?
-“I really wanna beat chava—duuuh.”
4. What do you plan on doing with the $400?
-“Unfortunately, I need to spend the money on paying off some of my back taxes, cause I don’t think they have Karaoke in Jail.”
5. Are you proud with your progress?
-“Honestly, I’m a little worried. I could have done better. Work stress, and shin splints prevented me from really reaching my goal. Also no one told me that softball is not an exercise!! In addition, I’m a bit delusional and tend to think I’m a lot skinnier than I am which stunts my motivation, especially when red velvet cupcakes are involved.”
6. Do you plan on spending any of your $400 on Chava?
-“What part of- I don’t want to duet with Big Bertha in prison didn’t you understand? No, as much as I love her, she’s not getting squat.”
7. Will you continue eating better and exercising even after the deadline?
-“As much as I want to make love to red velvet cupcakes on a regular basis, I plan on sticking to my diet. I will continue to eat well and exercise. Mostly because I have “enjoyed” sweating and depriving myself of sugar so much. ”
8. Most importantly, what do you plan on eating the second this wager is over?
-“Unlike the rest of my siblings who I imagine will be eating for the county, I plan on sticking to my diet and not indulging in the sugar, fried or oily foods during Shavuos. I also wouldn’t mind starting another wager for 8 more weeks. I really want to avoid doing time.”
9. Would you consider doing another 8 week Biggest Loser competition, and if so, how much mula are you willing to put in the pot next time?
-“I think I just answered that question… and I’d put in 100 buxx that I can pay in installments if I lose.”
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.. . .
June 1, 2011 | 6:47 pm
Posted by Chava Tombosky
I come from a pretty big family. I am the eldest of seven kids. There are four girls and three boys. My brother and I are the only ones married. Everyone else was born in the ninety’s. They are the typical millenial children with electronic devices attached to their belly buttons at birth from the womb. This keeps me young, this keeps me sane. This also keeps me extremely competitive.
Do you know what it’s like to show up at a nail salon with two sisters in their late teens while the nail tech offers you a chair and two more for your daughters? No?
Ya, it feels just about as good as wandering in to Baby R Us with a pregnant girl friend and getting the old’ “So When are you due?” question posed to you, the skinny girl. The one NOT pregnant. Fine you get it.
It’s not because I look old that I’ve gotten this remark, it’s because my sisters look so freakin hot and young. The pregnant remark, well that’s not cause I’m pregnant. That’s cause I’m fat. And I have a permanent glow. It’s just how I roll. (That, and I like sparkly bronzer. Yes my glow’s a fake shine, so I’m a charlatan, so sue me. )
This past Passover my entire family gathered at my abode for a Passover extravaganza week. My brother, his wife, their five kids, my five unmarried siblings, my own three children and husband as well as a few other individuals who claimed to be related (I’m not naming names DL.) We pitched a tent in the backyard and planted a few extra outhouses in the back. It was like trailer trash meets the KOA.
After spending an entire week consuming hundreds of pounds of meat and potatoes, chicken, liver, turkey, and beets, we were bloated. We were full. We were fat.
The night that Passover ended, after we unfoiled our kitchen, put away our Passover food processor and loaded up on Pizza from the local eatery, we decided to weigh ourselves. Because that is what fat people do who loathe their bodies. They weigh themselves in front of all their family members hoping to spark a revolution.
The family had gained a ridiculous amount of weight. What with the year being our “avel year”, the week being Passover, and the fact that we have some serious fat genes past down from our dad, we had to come clean with the fact that we were fat. We were “avel fat.” What is Avel fat? Avel fat is what happens when you mourn. It’s like the body can’t help but crave cookies, doughnuts and enough Jeff’s burgers and hotdogs to start a new food chain with a big letter “J” that serves food with Mclarge figures. We had gained a total of 140 pounds between the 7 of us. That’s like another two siblings. We basically gained another family.
After some jiggling and giggling, we all put fifty bucks in a pot and we started our own Biggest Loser competition. Whoever loses the most body percentage weight by June 6th, which also happens to be right before the holiday of Shavuos where Jews gather around pounds of cheesecake and scarf down blintzes and other high cheesey caloric delicacies we will weigh in with a winner. The winner will take home a whopping $400.
So the countdown begins. We have one week left until this wager is over. And I plan on documenting everyone’s progress for the next week. I of course am the most competitive and living off breath mints and chewing gum for the past month.
Until tomorrow…..tune in with some personal updates written by some of my family members who I of course plan on beating. I plan on beating hard.
May 25, 2011 | 3:36 pm
Posted by Chava Tombosky
I’ve done it. It’s true. I am full of shame and unrelenting disappointment in myself. But after ten years of being TV free, I have finally caved. The cable guy wore me down. Being in social conversations where I felt like the odd man out wore me down. Not getting the chance to see public humiliating statements made on live TV by seemingly heroic folks wore me down. Feeling guilty for not having enough empathy for tornado victims because I couldn’t see their pain in live coverage wore me down. More importantly, not being able to sleep because my father died suddenly wore me down. That’s right, I’m going there. I’m playing that card too. Because that’s what people who live with shame for bad behavior do, we throw out the “My father dropped dead card” every now and then in order to make the judge-full feel guilty.
I’m not going to lie, since I’m in full confession mode, Dancing with the stars and American Idol wore me down too. Mainly it was about helping to curb my anxiety, and getting to watch the news. And commercials, I really like commercials, especially the ones that affirm my motherhood skills because I’ve chosen a healthy brand of paper towels that pick up everything in one full swoop therefore protecting my family against salmonella. I am a great mom because I buy Brawny, finally some validation.
The first day I got the television hooked up, it took me forty hours to figure out how to turn it on. Mostly because it came with this over complicated remote control that had way more buttons than the old ones. Back in the day it was relegated to on/off, channel up/ channel down, volume loud /volume low. Now there’s a whole plethora of options like Tivo record, multi channel view, menu. Speaking of menu, I got excited with that one. I was hoping by pressing menu, a real menu with food options attached to the television ready to take my order for home delivery was behind that little button. It wasn’t.
After I figured out how to turn it on, I decided to flip through some channels, you know, just as a test run. Six hours later, as my eyes swelled with deep biting pain and my sofa collapsed from my bottom intruding in on the cushion for an un-G-dly amount of time, I finally dragged my overtired body to bed. It was four a.m. I woke up Robbie. Because that’s what good wives do to their husbands in the middle of the night when we can’t sleep. We wake up our husbands to report that there are over 900 channels waiting to be seized and watched in the living room downstairs behind a locked cabinet that shamefully awaits my return.
The truth is I hate having a television in our home. I feel like my very holy sanctuary has been intruded by the outside world filled with fighting housewives who have no shame and don’t mind talking about one another behind each other’s backs and overcomplicated recipes and fancy cake shows, thereby proving once again my less than competent skills in the kitchen.
The first day after my night marathon with this box of shame, I came home from my morning run and walked into my quiet house that reminds me how my kids are getting older and how little time I have left being a full time mom, and I realized that, that, that- I have TV! “Don’t do it!” I said to myself. Just walk away. Have a little self-discipline. You have writing to get done. You have projects to work on. Don’t do-
And then I did it. I turned it on. I flipped through the channels for the next six hours. Ya, I folded laundry throughout my day, and convinced myself “I was productive.” Robbie came home after working really hard that day. “How was your day Chava, what’d you do?” I gave him one look like a deer caught in headlights. He nodded his head and then followed it with, “Oh no you didn’t.”
Remorse kicked in. I was caught with my hand red handed. And so began the walk of shame that has bestowed me for the past ten days. Although I have refused to turn on the TV again during the day hours since that first frightful incident, I have watched several hours each night and have gotten caught up on enough shows to be able to hold shallow conversations.
Oh there has been that moment here and there that has justified this new decision, like getting to watch Bebe Netanyahu address congress live and finally getting the tornado scoop and the Middle East latest. It has lessened my own personal tension and allowed me to zone out when my mind starts racing with fear, regret, and frustration. However, I still walk in shame and feel like this was probably a very bad mistake. A very seriously bad mist-
Wait what time is it?
I gotta wrap this up; we’ll talk about my issues with shame next week…..
The last Oprah’s on in thirty minutes.
(I know I said I wouldn’t watch TV during the day, but this is different. It’s research. Being a writer, I can play that card as well.)
May 19, 2011 | 5:47 pm
Posted by Chava Tombosky
Obviously this has been a very hot topic and many people have been weighing in their opinions on the matter. I’ve had a lot of different comments posted, some very insightful, others clouded by emotion, and some just plain scary postal. One of my dear friends who is a proponent and speaker for NVC, a form of enlightened communication also known as “non violent communication” weighed in her thoughts and I just had to post them here on my blog. Brenda Harari has her PHD and is a natural born educator, speaker, and writer. She is very outspoken and has spent much of her life dedicated to being a proponent for individualized teaching. I really appreciate her point of view and often go to her for advice as she is one of the most level headed people I know and respect. She also gets the best pedicures and has great looking toes. Here’s what Brenda had to say:
“Yes, so many people are asking these same questions. I’ve had very strong feelings and a great deal of sadness around this issue, that I haven’t yet verbalized or processed. So, if you don’t mind, I’d like to do it here, and having you as an audience helps. (little did she know she’d have a wider audience than just me)
So, when I saw the jubilation and celebration that night, I felt sick to my stomach. I felt like we were back in the dark ages, stoning the accused and deriving sick voyeuristic pleasure from the same horrendous violence that we condemned. I don’t know if I could put my finger on precisely what it is that makes me feel so sick about it, but there are (at least) 2 issues, and I’m not sure how these relate to torah, but I’m sure you can tell me….
First, the bottom line is, like it or not, we are all connected in humanity. Some of us choose in life to represent evil and some of us choose a higher path, but Bin Laden, like so many others before him and behind him, represents painful, pitiful elements of humanity our humanity. Who the hell are we to derive pleasure from extracting justice? Are we G-d?? Are any of us devoid of blame, to the extent that we should be dispensing and reveling in serving justice???? Puh-lease!!! I for one, am not.
Am I glad he’s dead? YES! Unequivocally. And given the chance, I would have been more than willing to pull the trigger, but to revel and celebrate it? It seems ludicrous to me. Misguided and shameful. What we should be doing, is mourning the cycle of violence, death, and destruction and honoring the people who died at his hands - not by celebrating his death, but by taking a real and authentic stand against evil- and wrong-doing to create some shred of meaning out of the senseless deaths of so many. But it did not look to me like those people clamoring in the streets were “standing up against evil”, they were, it seemed to me, joining in a mass-mentality of mindless revelry, that didn’t at all reflect the somber reality of the thing they were “celebrating”. Real action against evil takes place first inside of each of our hearts. It’s a quiet reflective practice - a moment of silence would have been much more appropriate than clamoring in the streets, if you ask me. From that reflection, emerges action. As I understand it, action takes place first in our hearts, then in our minds, and it grows from there - to the ways we educate our children, the ways we live our daily lives, and the contribution we make to the world. Action is something we each choose every day, throughout the day, in the small choices we make - how we respond to an angry driver, how we respond to a despondent teenager, or to an obnoxious boss. What we witnessed after the death of Bin Laden wasn’t action it was reaction, a misguided attempt to draw meaning out of something that was basically meaningless. Whether Bin Laden died 10 days ago or lived actually has very little to do with the future potential for world peace. What does create the possibility for peace lies in each of our hearts. I was so saddened when I saw the reaction that I did, as it was evidence to me (and I suppose to G-d, right?) that we are just as enslaved now as we were in Egypt. The cycle of misguided violence continues.
Only when we take action - in our own hearts and in our own minds and in our own lives - will any of us have a chance at what I believe you call redemption and Moshiach. Don’t you think???”
Oh I think alright, couldn’t have said it better myself.
May 11, 2011 | 1:29 pm
Posted by Chava Tombosky
This past week when Osama Bin Laden was finally laid to rest, I couldn’t help but notice the many tweeter feeds that were clearly uncomfortable with celebrating his death. Contrarily, I was not feeling a tinge of guilt while celebrating myself, and wondered if this attitude I had adopted was inappropriate or befitting. What is the real attitude the world should share on the demise of Bin Laden? Should we celebrate in his death or mourn quietly? Should we revel in his demise or take the more diplomatic approach and remain stoic? The world became witness to evil plots in the last decade that have senselessly murdered many innocents. By looking into this past week’s parshah, we can understand without a shadow of a doubt just how misguided this evil mastermind was and what we are to learn from him- or not learn from him.
The Torah mentions in several places how to handle enemies of life preservers. It points out how we are not supposed to use any of the spoils captured by an enemy. It reminds us not to celebrate in our enemies demise, as we are encouraged to dip a little wine out of our cups during the Seder while we read the ten plagues each year. There are countless times in the Torah that we are encouraged not to celebrate in the death of G-d’s creations. In this week’s Torah portion there is a relevant law that seems archaic yet has timeless wisdom, which sums up what made Bin Laden’s misdeeds so incredibly evil and justifies the world’s celebration in his end.
This past Shabbat, the Torah portion, Parshas Emor, discussed the role of the Priests in the Holy Temple, which lead to the discussion of approved sacrifices that were to be brought to the alter as a gift to God. Sacrifices are an interesting topic, and many are uncomfortable with the idea of sacrificing an animal as a G-dly service. However, before temples were built as prayer meetings, the Jewish people connected to G-d by bringing sacrifices to the Alter in the Holy Temple. They brought fruits, incense, flour mixtures and of course animals. Although some might feel that today sacrificing animals borderline as barbaric, (especially vegans and those who work for PETA.) there is much to learn from the detailed commandments revolving around the slaughter of animals. For by learning how to treat animals, we learn how to live as human beings. If Judaism, the oldest religion in the world, is meant to have a high consciousness that teaches human beings how to behave with the utmost morality, than surely there is much we can learn from these ancient rituals. By learning about death, we become armed with the knowledge of how to preserve life.
Rabbi Akiva was quoted saying many centuries ago, that if he had to describe the entire meaning of the Torah on one foot, he would have said “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Under the theme of loving your neighbor as yourself, there is the ultimate lesson that is the umbrella theme, which culminates all laws and Torah thought- “Breathing and not breathing- how to live and how to die.” Separating milk and meat and the laws of Kashrus has to do with food that represents life (milk) and food that represents death (meat). Passover is a celebration of living life with freedom, yet also a recognition of death (the slave laborers murdered at the Sea by the hand of G-d). The holidays of Chanukah and Purim represent the fight for life in the shadow of death. Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah, and Shavuot mark the holidays that celebrate how to live life and honor it. The laws of family purity all point to how to preserve life through sex and intimacy. Every single commandment has this theme in one-way or another.
These two diametrically opposing contradictions, life and death, have been the basis for the world’s constant search for understanding. How do we live? Does life have meaning? How do we live knowing death exists? And how do we live knowing they both fit in this world? How do they both fit into this world? Last week was Yom Hashoah where Jews from around the world honored the many who died in World War Two. And this week, is Yom Haatzmaut, just days later we have celebrated the many who live today and who have fought to create life in a lifeless land that is now booming with vitality. This constant contradiction is at the corner stone of our existence. So which is it- are we to live or are we to learn how to die? Is life for the purpose of preserving loss or for the purpose of avoiding it and achieving life?
As it is written: When an ox or a sheep or a goat is born, it shall remain under its mother for seven days, and from the eighth day onwards, it shall be accepted as a sacrifice for a fire offering to the Lord, An ox or sheep you shall not slaughter it and its offspring in one day.”
In describing the animals that were to be brought as sacrifices, the Torah clearly mentioned how it was absolutely forbidden to bring a baby calf on the exact day that his mother was to be sacrificed on the Alter and visa versa. On the eve of Mother’s Day I found this law stated very profound. The Torah spent many chapters detailing how to sacrifice an animal, which animals were permitted and how to carry out the deed of killing with great detail. How we kill animals must be done with dignity. A mother and her calf must not be killed on the same day. The relationship of family must be preserved even through death. How an animal is killed can elevate or disintegrate society. For if there is no honor towards animals, the protection for human life dwindles as well.
The Torah is a blueprint for our lives and it is here to tell us how to create a world with a high moral compass. Every commandment in the Torah clearly points to how to live, but it also points out how to honor the un-living as well and how to die. For by preserving how to die, we essentially preserve life. Do not slaughter a mother cow with his calf.
When an animal is born into the world, it remains an animal. It does not evolve. It does not search for truth or for meaning or have aha moments. An animal stays exactly the way it is when it comes into our world, as it is when it leaves it. The truth is when a human being does nothing to elevate the world for the better by celebrating life and actively pursuing the preservation of life, he becomes no better than an animal- or worse he becomes a destroyer, an exterminator, and even a callous murderer like animals naturally do by instinct.
During the course of the next few weeks we will be preparing ourselves for the giving of the Torah. Every day during these seven weeks, between Passover and Shavuot, the Jewish people count the Omer, and spend every day refining their character- another theme in Parshas Emor as well. It’s no accident we read this Parshah at this exact time period when the world witnessed the death of a person who spent more time killing others than achieving self actualization thereby reminding us the importance of working to refine our own behavior daily.
When a baby animal is born it has to live through a whole week. It cannot be brought as a sacrifice before it has remained on this earth through at least one Shabbos. Shabbos is the recognition of creation, the recognition of life. The Torah is stating something very profound in regard to this law of how to sacrifice an animal and how long to keep it alive before it could be used as a sacrifice. The Torah is revealing the essence of Judaism, which is the importance and sacredness of preserving a life for the purpose of creation. God created the world for man. He created the world for life. If we are to honor life, we must also realize that Shabbat is the moment we stand back to stare at life and the preservation of it. If we kill just to kill for no purpose other than our own pleasure or material gain, than we are no better than animals and we are not being God’s keepers to the precious life we are given.
The Torah teaches how the importance of bringing Sacrifices to the Temple remind us that our connection with G-d is there to support our quest for living. Through death we become aware of the gift of life. A baby calf shall not die with his mother. There are rules about how to preserve life. There are rules and on 9-11 those rules were not preserved. They were thrown away as if the preciousness of life was to be disregarded.
So what is the answer to how we should feel towards the demise of this mass terrorist? Bin Laden died. That is a fact. He was killed and refused to surrender thereby creating and manipulating his own death. I will not be happy that he chose death, for he is another human being, another creation who failed to live to his potential. But I will celebrate in the keepers of life winning the battle over the grim reapers who have refused to uphold the treasure we have been given for such a short sweet period of time, the treasure of life.
May Mashiach come finally and wipe out death completely, thereby bringing us into the ultimate era of peace and the constant state of life as the world was intended for.
April 10, 2011 | 8:07 pm
Posted by Chava Tombosky
The Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony marks the moment in time a Jewish child leaves his youth to enter adulthood. According to Jewish tradition the tender age of 12 for a girl and 13 for a boy, is a pivotal age when we appoint our children into taking responsibility for their own actions as they become aware of the difference between right and wrong. For the first time, our children are faced with being responsible for a mixture of moral choices they will spend the rest of their existence battling over and engaging with.
Being I am the wife of a Rabbi, I have had attended a fair share of Bar/Bat Mitzvahs. But this week I was invited to a most unlikely celebration at Universal Studios. This Bar Mitzvah was an event that stood for perseverance, survival, morality and the taking of witness to our Jewish story. This Bar Mitzvah boy was not thirteen. He was not on the verge of teenage-hood contemplating his exit of youth. He was not spending time worrying about colors, venues, or which flowers to choose from. Branko Lustig was an eighty-year-old Holocaust survival. This past Monday, Branko’s Bar Mitzvah was spent acknowledging his thirteen-year-old inner child that was forced to disregard his original Bar Mitzvah spent in Auschwitz during World War 2. He was not afforded the opportunity to be called up to the Torah with all of his peers celebrating his brand new phase of life. Instead, his childhood left in a whisper the day the Nazis marched into his small village in Croatia. This upcoming May at the “March of the living” event that will be taking place in Auschwitz, Branko will have the opportunity to march with ten thousand students as they finally celebrate his formal Bar Mitzvah in front of the barracks where he spent his original teenage years. The launching of this event took place at the Universal back lot where Phil Blazer, the president of Blazer Communications and JLTV and publisher of The National Jewish News; along with his son, Rabbi Mark Blazer honored Branko with his very own Tallit as they kicked off this momentous ceremony.
Branko Lustig, the executive producer and Academy Award winner spent much of his life giving voice to the six million who died by retelling their story over and over in films like Schindler’s List, War and Remembrance, and The Winds of War, to name a few. Rather than waste away in despair and become a victim to his past, Branko rose above it and decided to become a leader, a beacon of hope, and a voice to those who were no more.
During his Bar Mitzvah speech, Branko recalled his days in Auschwitz filled with horror and terror. In Branko’s experience, his coming of age story was laced with barbarity as he spent his teenage years being forced to stare evil in the face daily. His awareness between good and evil became more clear and explicit than ever. Branko told of his stay in the camps and the many children, who tried to escape, yet were found only to meet their fate on the gallows where they were hung in front of Branko’s eyes. He recollected their last words, which were, “Remember me, and never forget to tell the world I existed.” Branko had kept his promise and when he wrapped himself inside his Tallis at the age of eighty, accepting a role of leadership he has proven to have already accepted with humility, there was not a dry eye in the house as we witnessed the obvious truth that he was wrapping every Bar Mitzvah boy that died years ago along with him inside his heart.
With my own daughter’s Bat Mitzvah quickly approaching in just five short months, I found this event especially poignant. What important messages should I be imparting over to her? I thought about the many choices she will eventually encounter and I wondered what words I could give her that would help guide her in the event her choices become confusing or mystifying. The Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebration is that opportunity that lets her know that her Higher Power is very much approachable and available in times of despair when choices are perplexing. It is this pivotal time I want to try and impart how important it is that she use her gift of faith to be her guide even through the most difficult times and it is a time we acknowledge her transition from childhood into adulthood as a new up and coming leader for our next generation.
This year when my daughter becomes Bat Mitzvah, I want her to remember her responsibility in taking every opportunity that is afforded to her as she becomes the beacon of light she already is to so many to tell the Jewish story by living as an example. As Branko demonstrated so valiantly, it is our responsibility to reveal the light of God and His availability by standing up to the world’s brutality and tragedy by “Choosing Life”, as Phil Blazer said. If we all choose life and choose to live with purpose, choose to live with dignity, and with a higher sense of consciousness, then we have fulfilled our obligation as Bar/Bat Mitzvahs. If we choose life, we choose to uplift the world to a higher intention and a commitment to righteousness as Branko has proven by the way he has lived his life for the past eighty years.
By standing at the very spot Branko witnessed death and destruction with ten thousand Jewish children standing by his side as he takes his ceremonial step as a Bar Mitzvah, it will be making the statement that we have taken the responsibility to continue the Jewish legacy from father to son, mother to daughter despite the heartbreak and betrayal that we have come to known. It means we have decided to live with a spirituality that promises to transform pain into purpose. It means we have chosen the path of strength and resilience.
When my daughter is graced with her own Bat Mitzvah this upcoming summer, I will impart the very message I received this past Monday, that her place amongst the Jewish people is important, meaningful and relevant. Because by acknowledging an eighty year old’s coming of age ceremony sixty-seven years later, it means something. It means he had chosen life. And to live every day with meaning and purpose should be the essence of every Bar/Bat Mitzvah boy or girl.
March 21, 2011 | 8:39 pm
Posted by Chava Tombosky
This year I spent my birthday in the airport. I had arrived at the gate one whole hour early. Lucky for me I married a man who has an internal clock that keeps me on time despite my reckless ability to manage my schedule. We decided to take a cab with a newfound friend and when we arrived at the airport, our friend invited us to spend the extra hour in the admiral club. The admiral club is a place that strategically places prettier chairs near tinted windows, which tricks you into believing you are not about to fly in the sky forty thousand feet above land. They also serve free coffee- and have showers incase you get sweaty during security check. I mean who doesn’t love free juice? So off to the admiral club we went.
We were having so much fun getting to know our new friend, that by the time we arrived at the gate, the plane had taken off. We are probably the only people in the history of the world who have managed to arrive an hour early to the airport only to miss our flight. When you miss your flight, you immediately assume that you missed the bad plane- you know the one that was sure to crash. Of course being that I am superstitious and concerned that G-d may not find me the most acceptable human being, I toyed with the idea that the plane we were now scheduled to get on four hours later would be the one scheduled to crash. Last year I spent my birthday witnessing death, so I just assumed this year I might spend it dying.
I have had a serious fear of flying ever since that one time when at the beginning of take-off as we reached 13,000 feet, the plane took a major nose dive and we fell several thousand feet, while my husband looked up at the ceiling and mockingly said “Watch out for oxygen masks!” The plane leveled off and eventually the pilot got on the speaker telling us he was sorry for the “dip” (more like a pummel) but that he was avoiding a collision with another plane that did not come up on the radar. Comforting, I know.
Meanwhile the rest of the passengers sat glaring at my husband for joking about non-existent oxygen masks. He of course claimed he just got excited about pulling on the strings on either side of those yellow cups.
Last year I was invited to a fundraiser that had featured a hypnotist. I had a few shots of tequila, the room was really dark, and before I knew what was happening my friend Nomi shoved me on the volunteer panel to be hypnotized. I had never been hypnotized before, and I was a little too tipsy to be concerned about it. Little did I know that I would be dancing a Lady Gaga number, speaking in some made up Martian language, and screaming to the hypnotist to give me back my red scarf that had been my grandma’s heirloom.
Once again, this was not funny. Well it was to everyone else, but not to me. (Okay it was a little funny to me- but honestly; I don’t remember any of it, so how funny could have been already?) At the end of the show, because of course I was the best thing that could have happened to this hypnotist, I was feeling really overwhelmed and pretty upset- mostly over the scarf. In an effort to revive me back into a good place, the hypnotist agreed to hypnotize me one more time, but this time I could choose to get over any fear that I wanted. I of course asked him to help me get over my fear of flying.
After worrying about getting on the next scheduled flight, I decided to reach into my psyche and practice my hypnotic trance. I closed my eyes and began to recollect my thoughts. I remembered the last essay I wrote about having some perspective and trying to see everything for the good, even if it meant needing a good kick in the pants at a fundraiser nightclub, a few of shots of tequila and months of hindsight. Who knows, maybe this was the best thing that could have happened, because we got four extra hours in the admiral club-, which of course meant more free juice. We even got a great friendship out of it, and spent the next four hours bonding with someone we never would have gotten to know if not for missing our flight.
I even found out that our new seats on the “non-doomed flight” were actually closer to the front, which is where I prefer to sit, because if I do go down, I’d like to be the first one with the passengers from first class to die. That way if they try pulling their “first class” status on me when we get to heaven I have leverage. Hey they paid more for their seats, yet still managed to die first- so who’s the winner now? (I also believe that being in the back is where all the bad people sit.) So when I got bumped up to the head of the plane on the second flight, I had a good feeling that this was going to be the best birthday flight EVER!
I have flown several times since my hypnotic episode, and can honestly say that I have flown like a total champ. There were no clammy hands, no sweating buckets, no running to the lavatory- I was cool as a cucumber and completely at ease. That was, until we boarded this particular flight.
Within minutes of getting settled into our seats, row 14, the Pilot came over to us and said, “In the event of an emergency I just want to confirm that you and your husband are willing to open the emergency door that you are seated next to and help everyone off the plane first. In other words you are willing to board the plane last.” (Ya I got that.)
Uh- hello, do I look capable of being calm in the event of an emergency? And speaking of emergency, now I am completely convinced that I have missed my plane for the very purpose of sitting on this plane, which is the doomed flight that God has clearly perfectly orchestrated for my husband, the Superhero to help everyone off the burning airline. NO hypnotist was gonna help me now.
Despite the flight being smooth, and the fact that I was sitting on the wing of the plane giving me the choicest air flight equilibrium, meaning the least amount of turbulence- I still couldn’t calm down at all. I became mildly panicky- okay I was sweating, and began to fantasize about that freakin shower in the admiral club. I couldn’t get comfortable. All I kept thinking about was how hard it might be to open that exit door. I couldn’t stop staring at the aluminum handle as the condensation from outside started dripping all over my lap. I could feel the cold wind coming in through the cracks and believed that going down was pretty much inevitable. My body shook in a cold sweat as the tiny air holes from that fan above my seat blazed passed my face and through my bones the same time cold clouds squeezed their way through the emergency exit door. I was probably hallucinating with fever. They didn’t even give me a blanket. I am going to save everyone when we go down- and I can’t even get a pillow- or working headphones? And where’s my kosher meal? I know airlines stopped serving them, but they can’t get one lousy bagel for the emergency crew?
I was sitting in important prime real estate, told I would have to be on call in the event of a crash, and feeling very vulnerable, when the pilot got on the PA threatening several more lavatory runs. No hypnotist could possibly prepare me for what I was about to hear. “Brace yourselves, there will be ALOT of turbulence, please stay in your seats. Do NOT get up!” The pilot did not make it sound calm and cool and collective and rational. He sounded panicked. Do you know what it’s like flying with a pilot who is more paranoid than Charlie Sheen? The seat belt sign kept beeping and beeping reminding me of that other “B” word we can’t say out loud on flights anymore. (Bomb) Oh stop- don’t say it! I settled into my seat like a wild animal settles into hunger and tried my best not to utter the “B” word just in retribution- but then I remembered my Lady Gaga abilities and Poker faced it.
Finally after bracing myself for the worst crash in the history of all plane rides, the turbulence ended up being no more rocky than the “It’s a Small World” boat ride. After twelve hours of traveling, we had finally landed safely. I went home and took two showers, and remembered that on this birthday I learned the greatest lesson of all- next time if I ever miss a plane because I want free juice, I’d better be prepared to pack myself a hypnotist, put on a Lady Gaga costume and learn how to work the emergency exit handle. More importantly, I have promised to spend this year not imagining myself as some tragic magnet that God strategically places in the event of emergencies- but rather the girl that gets bumped to another flight that gives her more legroom with a better view. Still, I wouldn’t mind a blanket in the event of an emerging unexpected circumstance.
March 11, 2011 | 5:51 pm
Posted by Chava Tombosky
“I think it’s time. The end is here,” unexpectedly replied my aunt Sunday afternoon one year ago. That day I had gone to visit my uncle and aunt hoping to bring joy to their home. My uncle had been ill for nine months and fighting for his life. It never dawned on me in my wildest dreams, that I would be holding my cousin’s hand as she said her last goodbye to her father on that very same March day. My aunt held her strength as my beautiful cousins, three girls, valiantly and respectfully witnessed their father take his last breath.
March 7th, 2010 was the day that marked Uncle Doug’s passing. March 7th is a hard day for me to forget, for it is my birthday. What does it mean when you witness death on the day of your birth? At the time, I wondered how this event would become relevant to my existance. More importantly, I wondered why I had been chosen to experience this loss on the very same day that I was celebrating my birthday. Sometimes those answers only come to us after time has been on our side and we can reflect back to moments in our lives that has changed us deeply and yet inspired us at the same time.
I can still remember my sweet aunt’s force of calm that she imbued within all of us on that sacred day. There was no screaming, no pouring of melodramatic emotions, just a poignant stillness of acceptance that my cousins and my aunt embraced with grace, dignity and courageous strength. They cried with poise and honored his passing with humble reverance. It was only four months before my own father’s passing, and as I reflect back to that moment my uncle’s soul departed from this earth, I am prompted to recognize the rolemodels that I had the privilege of observing on that sunny March 7th day that modeled the same strength I would need to preserve.
After spending much time with this, I have come to see that day as one of the greatest gifts of personal transformation. That day I was forced to see life with delicate ever evolving awe. My aunt and cousins prepared me for my own loss that I would inevitably be facing only four short months later. Having my uncle’s yartzheit on my birthday will forever link me to them in a very intimate way as we will forever share the celebration of life and the paradoxic humbling observance of loss. In honor of my birthday, the day that recognizes my own unique contribution to the world, I’d like to share it by recognizing my uncle’s contribution that clearly was the beautiful legacy he left behind- four beautiful women who in their own unique way have paved the path in helping me embrace my own loss, which I am forever grateful for.
**This year’s essay is written in memory of my uncle Doug Marks, father, husband and artist and the many lost in today’s tragic Japan earthquake.