Friday, September 7, 2012

On Opening Presents Early

When I was younger I had a bit of a problem waiting for presents.

I have a vivid memory of sitting with my grandfather in his living room and the postal carrier rang the doorbell with a package for him. My grandfather was a generous supporter of a certain Yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel and as a "thank you" to him each year, they would send him a hand selected, especially fine esrog from there. My grandfather was always so happy and proud.
"Aren't you going to open the box right now Opa?", I asked as he sat back down peacefully in his chair with a smile playing on his lips.
"In a little while", he answered.
"But how can you wait??!", I asked incredulously, knowing how special this gift was for him.
He chuckled. "When you're my age, everything can wait."
I'm not sure all these years later whether he said more, or whether it was implied or even learned later on my own, but sometimes the wait and anticipation is part of the fun.

Of course I didn't learn this lesson immediately.... Ask Avram about the year (I'm guessing about 22 years ago...) when Avram bought me a blouse that I had admired in a store but was too frugal to buy for my birthday. I not only found my gift's hiding spot prior to my birthday, but TRIED IT ON, with the skirt I had imagined it going with! (I rationalized that in case I didn't like it, I should have my "game face" prepared...)

So we can agree that I've come a long way. I no longer even LOOK for my hidden presents, let alone open them. I truly have learned that anticipation is more than half the fun.

So you can forgive me this one minor indiscretion.
I bought myself a Yom Tov present. I've admired it for a long time (and therein lies my fulfilled anticipation) and when I was out Yom Tov shopping for my family, I decided that I deserved to buy this for myself as well.
It's a beautiful, yet simple, hand made glass challah board.
Tonight we have a full table for dinner.
I couldn't help myself.
It looks so pretty........

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Sounds of Elul

I cannot begin to tell you the calm, satisfied feeling that washed over me last night, as I was elbow deep in preparing enough stuffed cabbages to hopefully last through Simchas Torah while simultaneously turning two roasts in my oven, as I listened to Avram preparing his Yom Tov davening in the other room.
Call me sexist but my first inclination was, "This is how things should be....".
Growing up, my father being the shul's Baal Tokeah, the first sounds of Elul were of course the sounds of tekias shofar. The deep tones of my father's yekkish teruos easily conjured up sounds of repentant sobs. (For those new to the blog, I will once again embed my shofar video at the end of this post.)
Shortly after I got married, the sounds changed a bit. They were the haunting melodies of the Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur davening that Avram was preparing.
(Click the link below for a nice rendition of Lewandowski's Zocharti Loch)
Of course in later years as my son took on the tradition of his grandfather, the house was once again filled with both sounds.
And through all this, my kitchen provided the olfactory evidence that Yom Tov was on its way.
Sounds and smells.
Two powerful triggers.
I like it this way.

Monday, September 3, 2012

On Mesiras Nefesh....

Some people truly confound me.
I was at a simcha last week and found myself sitting next to someone who should definitely know better. I was introduced to a woman who has strong familial ties to Washington Heights and to the Breuer's community.
Our conversation went something like this:
Her - "So where do you live?"
Me - "Washington Heights."
Her - "Wow! Washington Heights? That's so wonderful! Such MESIRAS NEFESH!!!!....."
Mesiras Nefesh?
I questioned this woman as to when the last time she had even set foot in the Heights. I've lived here all my life and frankly find it cleaner, nicer and safer than when I was growing up. Yes, the shul is quite a bit emptier, but does that constitute mesiras nefesh??
I have merely chosen to stay in a shul that I feel comfortable with, in a community that has "cradle to grave" service that is unparalleled. I have stayed close to my roots, because it works for me. I chose to raise my children in surroundings where rich and poor live side by side and I dare you to tell them apart - and where the most silent chesed abounds. I didn't leave "just because everybody else was doing it". You may have noticed but I've never been an advocate of doing something just because the masses were.
I think it was a little bit of escapee guilt talking if you ask me.
This woman really needs to contemplate what TRULY qualifies as mesiras nefesh.
Living in Washington Heights without a backyard (or living in Monsey without a pareve dishwasher), does NOT qualify!