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.
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