How do I mourn for a place I’ve never been, a structure I never saw, in a time I never lived? Those are the thoughts that have been on my mind the last three weeks. What does it mean to mourn the destruction of the temples? I am only at the beginning of my Torah journey and my understanding, but I’ve had a few thoughts about it.
Without a temple we are scattered. We can find community within our individual temples and synagogues. We can worship together with others. But when I thought of the destruction of the temples, I thought of the destruction of unity among all those with a soul for Torah. Where do we go to be unified? And we see that we are not. Not in thought, not in action, not in heart. I mourn for the inability for all of us to be together, in physical proximity, in the land that is ours.
There are mitzvot we can no longer do because they require the Temple and it is not there. It feels like praying without a minyan. Incomplete. G-d hears the prayers that I pray when alone. And He sees the mitzvahs we are able to do, and honors them. But just like the prayers we can’t pray without a minyan, so it feels when we are not able to do what G-d has commanded we do when there is nowhere to perform those acts.
The mourning of the three weeks is not just about mourning the temples. There are other things that happened against the Jewish people historically during these three weeks, and in the nine days of the month of Av. And there continues to be plenty to mourn for today. Look around you and I’m sure it wouldn’t take long to find something to mourn for. Recently as I listened to a teenager speak, I was reminded of all there is to mourn for. Generations that have come so far from their intended target. The lives we live so hollow and dishonoring to who we were created to be. We have strayed so far from holiness and have lowered our standards to nothingness. We are quick to hurt each other, and slow to love. Indeed, there is much to mourn for today.
The Sages taught, “Any generation in which the Temple is not built, it is as if it had been destroyed in their times” (Yerushalmi, Yoma 1a). And therefore, I mourn the destruction of the temple. I mourn that it hasn’t been rebuilt. And the words in the Amidah ring ever so strongly in my heart.
“May it be your will, Adonai our G-d, and the G-d of our forefathers, that the Holy Temple be rebuilt, speedily in our days. Grant us our share in Your Torah, and may we serve You there with reverence, as in days of old and in former years. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to Adonai, as in days of old and in former years.”
For those reading this blog who are interested in a further explanation of Tisha B’Av, the three weeks, the nine days, and the history and significance of this time, you can find information here
I remember saying that the word for the year 2014 would be freedom. Little did I know in how many different ways that would ring true.
I meant financial freedom and freedom from a job. Not that I would have necessarily built my business big enough to be out of debt and able to quit my job, but that would be the focus for this year, to work towards that end. It still is, only now I have my husband to double that effort with.
But then came April, and another meaning to the word. It was my first year celebrating Pesach (Passover). I’ve started learning and observing various jewish practices. Pesach was the first holiday I experienced. It is a remembrance and celebration that the curse of the first born child being killed among all those in Egypt was not carried out to first borns in Jewish households. It is also a celebration of the Jewish people being led out of captivity from Egypt. I thought again of freedom.
And finally a much bigger meaning that this word has come to mean this year is in regards to all that I am learning about Jewish law and practice. Growing up I always saw all the laws of the Torah as being restrictive, “old-school”, irrelevant and enslaving. It is easy to see that when one looks towards them as individual rules rather than a collective whole. But as I have begun to understand them in context and with the idea that they’re not designed for restriction but for freedom. The freedom to draw near to my Creator and to be closer to holiness.
I had heard of a study done about children playing on a playground with a fence and then playing again after it was removed. I went searching for a source and found several articles that referenced the study, but none that clarified the source. The study concluded that when the fence was in place, the children would play freely, knowing exactly where the boundary was, and feeling safe within the boundary. When it was removed, they would stay closer to the building or their teacher and not venture as far.
Having no fence held them back from experiencing a feeling of freedom.
For a long time I threw around the word “legalism” and scoffed at people enslaved by some old code and tradition they didn’t have to follow anymore. But who was I to say what people had to and didn’t have to follow any more? Who are any of us to edit out parts of the book many of us claim to be holy and inspired? What I have found in Orthodoxy is more freedom than I ever had trying to do things my own way. I know the bounds I can live within for health, for a blessed marriage, for safety and favor. And for holiness. It isn’t legalism. It is life. It is my freedom.
When I was young, I was obsessed with the Baby-Sitter’s Club books series by Ann M. Martin. It was about a group of teenage girls who started a Babysitting business. They held meetings, took minutes, had a treasurer, and really ran it like a business. I got inspired and decided to start my own. We had one meeting and nothing ever happened. That seems to be the story of my life in many ways. I have had great ideas a lot in my life. But not much has happened with most of them. However that one business idea (though admittedly stolen from a book) was not my own business idea through the years. Even to this day I continue to think up business ideas and ways I can (legally and ethically) make money without having to report to a boss or be away from home and from my husband for 40 hours a week. My heart has always been pulled towards Entrepreneurship.
When I was in college, there was a minor you could obtain, Social Entrepreneurship. It taught you to start and run a non-profit. At that point, even though I was not in that program, I started to dream of non-profits that I could start. In one of my classes we were tasked with designing a youth ministry, from the mission statement, doctrinal beliefs, budget, schedules, etc. I dreamed up the concept of a coffeehouse/youth center for inner city youth to come and hang out, help run, study, do homework, etc. It was pretty detailed and I really wanted to make it a reality. I had the idea to start visiting nontraditional youth groups/centers to observe and study them to help contribute to my future place. Perhaps it can still be a vision for the future.
I am a fan of entrepreneurship. Although I’ve always been told I’m a great employee and I have many wonderful references from former jobs, I have never quite felt like I “fit” in the job world. I’ve always had the desire to do things on my own terms. It’s not that I don’t want to work or am lazy, it’s that if I’m putting my effort into something, I want it to be my own. It is also something my husband shares, and it is something we both wish to impart on our future children. In addition to the full time jobs each of us have, we also own a business together. It is one of many we’d like to be a part of. It is a Direct Sales/Network Marketing business. It is what we plan to use to fund our future dreams of business ownership. He is into photography and film. I want to write and potentially start a publishing business. We both want to be home with our kids and watch them grow.
In the 21st century, quite a few things have changed and the sky is the limit for business ownership. You can still do that traditional brick and mortar business, or you can get creative, find your niche, and create a business. Find a great business idea, see if it fits a need, if there’s already someone doing it successfully and decide if you want to try and do it better, or if you’re filling a need that hasn’t successfully been filled. Do you have experience in office/secretarial/data entry type work? Join a virtual assistant website and start to build your portfolio. Then branch out into your own company. There’s network marketing and direct sales (also known as MLM and crazy pyramid scheme things… a reputation not so wrongfully earned but also not completely accurate). Get crafty and set up an etsy site. Take a skill you have and market yourself to help others with that.
If you enjoy working, there’s nothing wrong with that. If you don’t have the entrepreneurial bug, there’s nothing wrong with you. We can’t all be business owners. If we did, the restaurants we eat at would be run entirely by the owners with no employees, hospitals would have no staff, and the world would be crazy. My jobs have taught me amazing skills, and I’ve had the opportunity to meet people, to serve people, and to grow as a person. Every thing I have learned I will put into practice in my own businesses. I am thankful for the jobs I’ve had, and the lessons I learned.
But if you do have the entrepreneurial bug, scratch the itch. Don’t let it sit and stir within you without doing something about it. Even if you’re afraid. Especially if you’re afraid.
I know I got way behind on this project. I refuse to let this be another one of those things I said I was going to do and then let drift off into forgotten ideas of nothingness world. Yeah, I don’t know what that is either. But you get the idea. I will get caught up.
Oftentimes in my life when I learn a lesson, I sort of become obnoxious about it, like I suddenly have all the answers in the world and you HAVE to listen to me and HAVE to do as I say because it is the ONLY way. I’m learning ways of transferring my lessons to willing eyes and ears without presenting it as the only way. Hopefully lessons I learn will help others along the way not make as many mistakes, or see things differently. Take it for what you will.
I have been married for two months, so of course I’m an expert on the subject.
Where’s the sarcasm font?
Truthfully most of the time I feel completely lost, out of control, and a huge failure. And when that happens, I usually pick a fight and blame my husband for my feeling that way. He, even with his faults as no one is perfect, is pretty amazing. I oftentimes feel pretty unworthy of him. That is my own insecurity, but I lash out and present it that HE is MAKING me feel that way. Because of course, we know, that others are completely in control of our thoughts and emotions.
I have learned a lot of lessons in a short time. I will learn many more through the rest of my life as I navigate being a wife. Marriage is hard. Really hard. It’s even harder when you are determined to fight to make it great. Walking away is the easy part. We have a society that has shirked accountability and responsibility, not only in marriage but in all aspects of our lives. We like to take the easy way out. But what does it take to keep fighting, to face yourself and fix in yourself whatever it is that is making your marriage difficult? But what if it’s the other person, you ask? Well, you’re not responsible for the other person’s actions. You’re responsible for your own.
Rabbi Shalom Arush writes a book targeted towards men called The Garden of Peace. He also writes one for women called Women’s Wisdom. I have only read Women’s Wisdom because he makes it very clear that we are not to read the one targeting the opposite gender, as our purpose is not to hold his words over our spouse’s head, but to work on ourselves and what we have control over. In Women’s Wisdom he states that the responsibility for peace in the home is 100% on our shoulders. But wait… shouldn’t it be 50/50? No, it shouldn’t. His point is that if the wife believes that the responsibility of peace in the home is 100% her responsibility then she will be more likely to act selflessly. If the husband also acts in a way that he takes 100% responsibility for the peace in his home, he will seek to act selflessly as well. Two people always putting full effort into making their home happy and not blaming the other for their problems, means that they will focus instead on improving themselves, bringing a better person to the marriage each day than the day before.
That is much easier said than done. But I believe fully that it is necessary and possible. It is what I strive to do every day. And trust me I’m currently failing miserably at it. But my goal is to always be improving. My husband isn’t perfect, but if his desire is to have a peaceful home, he will focus his efforts on himself. I don’t need to focus on him. I don’t have time to be trying to improve anyone else. I have plenty of imperfection in myself to deal with.
I am participating in #tellyourstory2014. You can read about it here. I love this exercise. 2014 is the year of my breakthrough.
Not that I will have “arrived”. Just that there are things I’ve been trying to get hold of for awhile and this is the year it is going to happen. At that point, at the end of this year, those things that I have standing in my way, once removed will give way to the next things. There are things on the other side. Things for me to learn. Ways for me to grow, in things I can’t imagine, in areas I don’t even know I need to.
A recap so far.
A.. Attention, giving instead of seeking. Being others focused more than I am me focused.
B…Bravery, doing what makes me afraid.
C…Consistency , Still a daily struggle.
D..Discipline, AND finding joy in it.
A mentor did a talk on the joy of the disciplined life. It sounded much like me when he spoke of his past. Straight C student, waiting until the last minute to do homework. He changed. Now he mentors others on many subjects. He teaches people to be successful. He is a multi-millionaire. I counsel with him and have access to learn what he learned. I must take him up on that.
Too many people talk about discipline like it’s a bad thing. Boring. It leaves no room for imagination or exploration. But it does. You can schedule those times. One thing I am working on in the area of discipline is to plan meals 15 days at a time. Then I spend one day making all of the meals. It takes about an hour to shop, 3-5 hours to cook, and then I don’t have to think or plan the rest of the 15 days on what I am going to eat, or take the time to cook it. It’s a time saver. I wonder how much time we spend wasted on decisions because we are going for what we feel like in the moment. I am working on getting to the place where food is food. It’s my nourishment and my fuel.
One thing my mentor advises is to sit down each night, write a list of what you have to do the next day, and place beside it the time that you’re going to do it. It helps to consistently fit things in the same time each day if your schedule is one that mostly stays the same.
The meal plan I am succeeding at pretty well. The list making and accomplishing I am failing at pretty well.
Consistently disciplined. It is at the heart of my goals for this year.
What is your D?
It’s amazing how such a normal part of small talk and getting to know someone can be so profoundly awkward and difficult. When people are talking about getting to know each other, kids is something obvious to chat about. Before I was a babyloss mama, it seemed like such a simple question. Now, I realize it’s really not that simple at all. Last night I was at a networking event and I was reminded how such a simple question that should have a Yes or No answer, isn’t all that simple afterall.
“Do you have kids?”
Well… do I have kids. I know they mean do I have LIVING kids. Am I currently raising children. I don’t, and I’m not. But I did have a son.
I saw the positive sign on the pregnancy tests. I heard his heart beating and saw him on the screen, and said that he was dancing. I heard his hiccups. I have proof. Ultrasound photos. He was there. I felt my body change. I threw up everyday for most of the 9 months. I lost bladder control and control of many other bodily functions. I can share in those awkward pregnancy stories too. I have them. I felt the butterflies. I felt the kicks, in my ribs, to my bladder. I felt his heel in my belly button. The cravings. The heartburn. I know those feelings too. I had the crazy hormone fluctuations. The excitement. The dreams. The fears. I felt my hips swell and fall out of socket. The back pain. Many uncomfortable nights of sleeping. Being wedged between pillows for support and then being stuck and not being able to roll myself out of bed. The plans. The baby showers. Picking out names. Calling pediatricians. Looking for daycare. Packing the bag to the hospital. Setting up his sleeper. Washing all the baby clothes. I felt the labor pains. Hours of labor pains and the needle in my spine to make it go away. I have proof that it happened. The scar where they took him from my body. I held him. Kissed his little nose. Saw 10 fingers and 10 toes. I have a lock of his pitch black curly hair. My milk came in. All the normal pregnancy stuff. I had a beautiful baby boy. I am a mom. I belong in the mommy world too. I can compare pregnancy stories with you. I belong.
“No, I don’t”
“Oh lucky you.”
Yeah. Lucky me.
I must say, I have always been pretty good at expecting consistency. Isn’t that the case? Isn’t it always easier to hold someone else to a high standard than it is to grow ourselves? I will admit though that my last relationship sort of wore that down a little. Okay, you said you’d call be back and a couple days later you still haven’t. The first few times were disappointing. The next few made me angry. Then finally I just stopped expecting it. “Let me call you back” became the equivalent of what “How are you” is in our daily lives. Just meaningless words. It was a way to end the conversation, not a promise of action. Recently I’ve been communicating a lot with a dear friend that I would like someday to be more. After becoming used to “I’ll call you back” meaning nothing, imagine my surprise when my phone rang and it was him! And then it happened again. And again. I had forgotten what it was like when someone follows through on his word to me.
This person is the same one who quoted to me, “Be Consistent. Expect Consistency. Respect Consistency.” His mentor quoted it to him, and I don’t know if his mentor read it somewhere or if it was a product of his own thought. But I wrote it down and I think about it often. We’ve already covered the expecting consistency part.
I struggle with being consistent. If you look back over this blog that will become evident. Promises made. Grand gestures that I couldn’t follow through with. A failed relationship in which neither one of us were consistent. Roller coaster emotions that make me think short term instead of into the future. Failing to follow through on my goals. When it comes to my promises to others I have a little easier time being consistent. But when it comes to promises I make to myself, and goals I set to change my life, there’s a lot of back and forth. And that is something I am striving this year to really change. It isn’t something that I will probably ever be perfect at. Who is? But it’s truly something I find value in. Because I know how important it is when someone follows through with me, I want to hold myself to that same standard. In being consistent to my goals, I will get further. What good is it to work out for 2 hours one day if I don’t work out again for a few weeks? What if it was just 15 minutes a day? Wouldn’t the habit of 15 minutes a day consistently over a year make a bigger difference than 2 hours every couple weeks?
Okay, so we know to expect consistency. And we know it’s best to be consistent. But what about respecting consistency? Do you acknowledge when you’re on the right track? Do you acknowledge and appreciate when someone is consistent with you? Perhaps the problem with all of this is that we don’t respect consistency. We don’t make it a priority. Our friends will understand if we can’t follow through with something. Our family loves us anyway. Is that an excuse? Does it make it okay to let people down because they understand and love us anyway? Do you respect the consistency? Or do you just expect it without offering anything in return?