Monday, April 17, 2017

That Time I Did Hagbah at Minyan

Dear WilliamtheTrainer,

Since I don’t speak Spanish and as an immigrant from Ecuador, you probably don’t speak much in the way of “Jewish worship,” I’ll do my best to explain this thing that happened on Saturday morning that you helped make possible.

In the middle of Jewish worship services on the Sabbath and festivals -- and on Mondays and Thursdays in more traditional congregations – Jews read from a Torah scroll, which contains the Five Books of Moses – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The text is handwritten in Hebrew by a specially trained scribe on animal skin parchment and considering its contents, the scroll is treated with the utmost respect.

After the Torah reading has been completed, it’s customary for one person to come forward to “do hagbah,” which entails lifting the open scroll overhead so the congregation can see the text that was just read. This custom derives from a verse in the Book of Nehemiah that says: “And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people.”

So, back to last Saturday…

We were all standing around the lectern where the Torah had just been read and my friend Roz had finished her first-ever aliyah (reciting the blessings before and after the Torah reading itself), which she’d done in honor of her husband’s 93rd birthday, coming up in a few days. Then, the rabbi invited me to help with hagbah, an honor usually reserved for a strong man because some scrolls are extremely heavy – and the last thing anyone wants is for a Torah scroll to fall or be dropped.

Thinking about those Hoist weight machines, the free weights, the rowing machine, the treadmill, the crunches, the running, the jumping, and all the other hard work I’ve been doing with your help throughout the last six weeks, I hoped I was up for the challenge. With guidance from the rabbi, I took hold of the bottom handles of the scroll, bent my knees to get some leverage, and to my incredible delight, lifted it and turned so everyone could see the text, although it wasn’t open very wide at all (and the rabbi was “spotting me” to ensure nothing bad would happen).

Returning the Torah to the lectern, I helped tie the two parts of the scroll together, replace its velvet cover, silver breastplate, and  yad (literally “hand”), the pointer that the Torah reader uses to keep his or her place while reading. Once it was safely on the shelf where it would remain for nearly the rest of the service, I returned to my seat in the pews, but not before the rabbi said that the expression on my face during hagbah was “worth the price of admission.”

Indeed, it was an incredibly exhilarating and powerful moment-- not only for the chance to give honor to the Torah in a way I never had done before, but also as a reminder that hard work, commitment, and pushing yourself in new and different directions often have unexpected, wonderful rewards.

Thanks for the reminder…see you in the gym!

~ JanetheWriter

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

#BlogExodus: Join


Back in January, I started working with my fellow FORCE group leader to plan a spring fundraising event for the organization that means so much to us because it was there when we needed information and support in dealing with our hereditary cancer mutations.

Although we volunteer, giving generously and caringly of our own time and knowledge to those following in our footsteps – planning and facilitating group meetings and providing one-on-one support to members – it still takes money to run a non-profit organization. There are brochures and business cards to print, conference calls to connect volunteers, salaries to pay, an annual conference to organize, and so much more that goes into making sure no one travels the hereditary cancer journey alone.

With that in mind, I invite you (or your friends and family in New York City) to join us for a terrific evening to support FORCE and its work on behalf of the hereditary cancer community:

Monday, May 1, 2017 
6-8 p.m.
SideBAR
118 East 15th Street and Irving Place
New York City

$65 per person includes appetizers, two drinks, and your chance to be chosen as the evening's model for a make-up or guy brow demo, done by celebrity make-up artist and brow expert Ramy Gafni. 

The best-selling author of How to Fake Real Beauty: Tricks of the Trade to Master Your Makeup, Ramy will inspire you with his personal story, professional experiences, “minimum make-up, maximum impact” application techniques, and the guy brow, his trademarked eyebrow sculpting for men.

There also will be chance drawings for fabulous prizes, including samples of Ramy's cosmetics, lots of great books, a professional massage, an acupuncture session, two tickets to Broadway's Phantom of the Opera, including a signed Playbill, and guided backstage tour....and more!

We look forward to seeing you (or your NYC friends and family) on May 1! 

Sunday, April 2, 2017

#BlogExodus: Read

Sadly, in 2016, I read only six books. What's more, it seems that I purchase books at a faster rate than I read them.

The new year is off to a slightly better start -- I've finished two books and am getting into a third. But, I've also already purchased or been gifted these three books:
If only there was more time to read...

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima, this post is one in a series marking the days of the Jewish month of Nisan leading up to Passover, which begins at sundown on Monday, April 10, corresponding to 15 Nisan. If you want to play along, check out this year's #BlogExodus and #ExodusGram prompts

Friday, March 31, 2017

#BlogExodus: Rise

Does this Lego matzah get a rise out of you?


Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima, this post is one in a series marking the days of the Jewish month of Nisan leading up to Passover, which begins at sundown on Monday, April 10, corresponding to 15 Nisan. If you want to play along, check out this year's #BlogExodus and #ExodusGram prompts

Thursday, March 30, 2017

#BlogExodus: Cleanse

There's lots of Passover prepping to be done: vacuuming between the couch cushions, shaking the crumbs out of the toaster oven, getting fresh dish towels for the kitchen, and of course finishing off the chametz.

These days, though, the cleansing I'm enjoying most involves shaking away the "sedentaries" (I know that's not a real word!) with crunches, treadmill time, the rowing machine, and weigh lifting, among other gym activities. Together, they're clearing my mind, cleaning up my body, and giving me a feeling of both freedom and control.

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima, this post is one in a series marking the days of the Jewish month of Nisan leading up to Passover, which begins at sundown on Monday, April 10, corresponding to 15 Nisan. If you want to play along, check out this year's #BlogExodus and #ExodusGram prompts

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

#BlogExodus: Exalt

In addition to a celebration of the Exodus from Egypt, Passover is roughly the halfway point between one High Holiday season and the next. This timing makes it a good place to check-in for a quick spiritual accounting. To paraphrase an expression from my father (who has one for every occasion!), Passover is a good time to be sure we're not "in love with the upright pronoun" and only exalt those things that truly deserve exalting.

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima, this post is one in a series marking the days of the Jewish month of Nisan leading up to Passover, which begins at sundown on Monday, April 10, corresponding to 15 Nisan. If you want to play along, check out this year's #BlogExodus and #ExodusGram prompts

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

#BlogExodus: Launch

Yikes! It's #BlogExodus again...already?! 

I suppose it's fitting that this year, 1 Nisan falls on the same day, March 28, that since 2010 has marked (and will ever more mark) for me the launch of the Pesach season. 

Here's how I described today's anniversary on Facebook:
Seven years ago today, I went out to the 'burbs to finish the cooking for "the Passover that wasn't." What happened during the seven weeks that followed fills me with memories bitter and sweet.
In response to an inquiry from Harriet, a friend whom I only met afterward, I wrote this: "My mom went into the hospital on the day of the first seder and into hospice on Shavuot." To which Harriet replied, "That must have been unbearable. Every year must be difficult. Some sorrows we never get over, we just learn to live with them."

It is true. I know I will not get over this sorrow, but I have learned to live with it...and to find the silver linings within it. 

Inspired by Ima on (and off) the Bima, this post is one in a series marking the days of the Jewish month of Nisan leading up to Passover, which begins at sundown on Monday, April 10, corresponding to 15 Nisan. If you want to play along, check out this year's #BlogExodus and #ExodusGram prompts