The Passover Sabbath

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I mentioned in my previous post, that a dear friend of mine, David, died last week… and because of that, I just didn’t have the right mood to write what I’d planned to write about, which was on the subject of the foods we eat on Passover. This holiday, which began on Monday evening is probably the most connected to food. And we eat from a completely different menu than all the rest of the days of the year. I had intended to tell you a bit about the Passover diet. But as I mentioned, I wasn’t really in the mood. What I didn’t mention, was that I had had a lot of bad news even before the death of my friend. It was a difficult time for me, on a very personal level. And that is what lead me to the subject of today’s post… not the whole list of things that had gotten me down. But about the holiday, in relation to one’s mood.

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goblets, washed and ready for the Passover banquet

I don’t have to tell you how often it happens, that when it rains, it pours. And how that’s true of the blues. You have something go wrong in your life, and then you’re not in the right mood to take the next little break down that comes along… and one thing leads to another, and we can fall into such a mean case of the blues, that all of life seems more misery than worth while. I’ve had periods like that in my life, and I’m sure you know what I’m talking about… It’s a good time to be creative, if the creative spirit burns within. But sometimes, you just don’t want to do anything…

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One of the advantages of our religion, is that there are these holy days, spread around the year… There’s the Sabbath that comes every week, and is considered the second most holy day we have. Only the day of atonement is more important than the Sabbath. And on the Sabbath we forget about our day to day concerns, and behave in a way that disconnects us from many of the goals and aspirations we have in life. Even if you’re a painter, you don’t paint on the Sabbath… even if you’re a poet and you’ve just had an inspiration, you don’t jot down a reminder on the Sabbath. But on the other hand, if you’re mourning the death of someone closest to you in the world, you get up on the Sabbath, and do your best to get into the Sabbath mood. Time out.

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And what’s true for the Sabbath is true for the holidays of the year. On Passover, there’s no mourning, and there’s no sorrow… no matter how bad things are. And aside from the traditional holidays, there are also traditional days of mourning, and fast days… and then, whatever is on your agenda, once again… time out. You stop doing what you were doing, and you cry your heart out, or fast, or do some very serious soul searching.

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And as you practice this tradition, year after year, you learn… whether you want to or not, that the capacity for joy, and the ability for soul searching, and the deepest sorrows… are all things that one can choose… that we can emphasize or direct ourselves in life. We learn to have a slightly different perspective. We learn to appreciate that we’re not the center of the world, and that life goes on, no matter what we’re feeling at a particular moment in time. And even an old man like myself can sometimes get so down in the blues, he forgets that overall perspective… and then, how good it is, all of a sudden, to be reminded by tradition and the discipline of religion, that there are rules that just won’t make exceptions for me personally.

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there’s a bottle of wine in that white bag

And so, during this holiday, I’ve been forced to have a really good time… even if I wasn’t in the mood. I listened to one of my young grandsons, playing a mean piano in the middle of the night, and got together with friends… different people, all of whom have their own sorrows and joys, and shared with them the holiday spirit, catching up, and celebrating. There were a lot of pictures. Some of which never met the camera… because we don’t photograph on the first or the last day of the holiday… But even so, there were more pictures than I could possibly post today… In fact, I’m sorely tempted to post a whole series of my friend Janne combing her cat, Charlie’s fur. I really enjoyed watching that, the night before last… Maybe I’ll post the series one of these days.

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My grandson David, pounding the piano at night

And now, as we are about to move into the Sabbath of the holiday, when we’ll enjoy both Sabbath and the Passover holiday together, I feel almost completely cleaned of the sorrow that I was wrapped up in before the holiday. You caught that, didn’t you. I said, ‘almost’. And almost isn’t really good enough. But I’ve still got a lot of improvement to do. It’s not just that I’m not perfect… sometimes I’m insufferable. But I keep trying. Who knows, maybe this Sabbath I’ll take still another step towards enlightenment. And meantime, let me send my best wishes to all my friends, whether you’re celebrating the same holiday that I am, or another, let’s let the holiday spirit lift us out of our own little worlds, and let us rejoice.

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in the company of two fine women, Noga and Janne

Forgive me for my lack of blog activity, and know that I will soon be back, and commenting and answering your beautiful comments too. And oh yes, I just have to show you at leas tone shot of Janne combing Charlie.

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75 responses to “The Passover Sabbath

  1. Oh Charlie, you look just like my friend Curly cat!!!
    Please do post on Charlie being groomed, they both look like they are enjoying the process. I feel like jumping in and taking a turn….lovely!

    “It’s not just that I’m not perfect… sometimes I’m insufferable”…..This made me smile, I think we can all be insufferable at times, a part of being human, I know I can be!!!

    Oh Shimon, I hope the “almost” fades soon and you feel better. I know exactly how wearing bad news and sadness can be. I’ve had patches in my life like that too and sometimes it is hard to pick yourself up back up. I’m glad you have your faith and your holidays to help you through these times.. xxxxx

    • You know, after the first time I watched Janne brushing Charlie… this was a couple of years ago… I was so impressed, that I immediately went out and bought a brush just like hers to be able to brush Nechama. I couldn’t wait to do it. I thought she’s be so happy. But wouldn’t you know it, Nechama is one of those contrary cats, and she was more interested in checking out the brush (and playing with it) than she was in just lying back and enjoying herself. In fact, I had the feeling that she was suspicious that I was doing this for some sort of health reason, or that it showed a lack of confidence in her ability to clean herself. In any case, every time I pulled the brush out, she would lose patience right away. She was against it! So I’ve had to learn to accept her as she is. You’re right though about the pain and sadness, and what it does to us. But I’m on the road to recovery. Thank you so much for your comment, Dina. I appreciate it.

      • I’m laughing out loud here!!! That’s cats for you. It’s odd with the grooming brush, some of the cats in the rescue absolutely love it and others loathe it. The ones who loathe it tend to be the long haired cats that need grooming and it always ends in tears…..for the groomer!!!xxxxx

  2. Dear Shimon,
    Such wise words! May good wine, family, homemade music, old friends and ancient traditions lift your spirits. Best wishes to you and your circle for a happy and healing Passover.

    • Thank you Naomi. It was all very joyous and beautiful. I ate more on this holiday than I usually eat in a month… maybe two… But now it’s back to real life, and there are thoughts that sneak in, when no one’s looking. Still, I have lots to do, so I imagine I’ll get back into the swing of things.

  3. You can feel forgiven by me for slacking on the blog. Lord knows I am a serious procrastinator! You also know of my love of learning and your value to me in that regard. Programmed or conditioned mourning is a concept that never crossed my mind. It feels illogical to me as feelings are free flowing from one moment to the next. Now I wonder if Buddhists do that. They use programmed lucid dreaming but I don’t know of a relation to mourning. Best wishes for your holidays and ill await your improvement.

    • Well, I’m back to the real world again, Bob. I don’t think I encountered that attitude towards mourning in Zen Buddhism, which I did study. In fact, it seems to be the first thing the reformed Jews threw away when they went about improving the religion. But it seems that Napoleon himself, was very impressed about the way Jews mourned incidents that were over a thousand years in the past. Thank you for your good wishes. It was a good holiday.

  4. Reblogged this on The Chapel and commented:
    Shimon has become a blogging friend…this is the amazing thing about the global connections we can now make through the internet. We are blessed to have been able to find one another because we have so much to learn from one another. Shimon’s writing and photograph, both, will reach into your hearts. As I contemplate writing about last night’s Holy Thursday celebrations, I find it helpful to read an authentic experience of the Passover feast as it continues to be celebrated in Jerusalem.

    • Yes, I agree with you, Painter Lady, it is amazing, the connections we are able to make through the internet… and the ease with which we can move between worlds. I hope your readers enjoyed the post. And I am sure that you had a deep and religious experience on Easter Sunday. Best wishes!

  5. You are truly a wordsmith, I love learning of your traditions. I am so sorry for your loss but even in death life still goes on and it is good.

    • Thank you very much, Linda. Yes, life goes on… but I feel a little lonely these days. Still, now I’m getting back to the old routine, doing my work, and taking care of business. That’s when you know that life is really going on.

  6. I’ll be thinking of you as you continue to celebrate Pesach, and my hope is that this most special holiday and Shabbat, your family and friends will be the anchor to help you let go of sadness and move to joy. I don’t have to tell you that it’s the beginning of spring and renewal. My warmest wishes for lightness.

    • How good of you to wish me lightness, Rachel. I’ll go for that. And it was a beautiful Pesach, and there are signs of spring… though we’re still getting rain, and it gets quite cold at night. Hope that you too, had a beautiful Pesach.

  7. I appreciated this post.
    And, yes, I’m another reader who’d enjoy your cat-grooming photos.

    • Good to see you again, Ann. I think I will post the series of the cat grooming. As I mentioned to Dina, I tried to offer the same pleasure to my cat, Nechama, but she would have none of it. What can you do, each of us with a different taste, and that goes for cats too.

  8. Hopefully, come next passover, you will be freer of sorrow and be abloe to cellebrate with a lighter heart.

    • I am sure that by next year at this time, I will be in very different shape. That’s one of the unique characteristics of living a traditional life. Each year, we go back to the same place in a way, but we’re actually moving forward all the time. It’s a bit like a spiral, I suppose.

  9. Wonderful photographs… and I loved this lovely cat. My Best wishes for you and for your family. Love, nia

    • Thank you so much for your good wishes, Nia. It was a good holiday, and now I’m back, trying to catch up with a lot of things that have piled up. My best wishes to you too. Hoping to enjoy the spring that is just starting.

  10. A really lovely post Shimon. Taking time out from self one day a week and at other times of the year seems like such a good thing to aspire to although very difficult at times I’m sure.
    I think in the western world now there is far too much emphasis on the self, introspection is encouraged and people are becoming self-obsessed and selfish. Everywhere you go you see people behaving with very little regard to others and it’s a worry.
    When I was going through a very difficult time some years ago I started volunteering at a local hospital. It was the best thing I could have done. I stopped thinking about me and started thinking about others and I pulled through.
    My very best wishes to you and your family Shimon

    • What you say, Chillbrook, emphasizes something I’ve been thinking for quite some time now. Too much focus on self. And a lot of unrealistic dreams for the future. Over the holiday, I had the opportunity to read a very interesting article on parenting. It was in Hebrew, so I can’t share it on the blog, but one of the points that struck me, was that the writer said that because so many parents have chosen to be friends to their children, their children are missing any sort of hierarchy in their lives, and this leads to a lack of respect for others, and difficulties in studies. I have given the article to my daughter, and look forward to hearing her opinion on it.

  11. Reading your post, I realize how very much I have removed myself from my roots … nonetheless, they are my roots … just returned from a trip to Europe … saw my mumme and some good friends as well … for the first time ever, my mumme opened up about up her past during WW2 … Now I know why she lived the way she lived and why she did what she did, when I was growing up … now it’s up to me to tell my children … I suspect, I will not have the strength to do so for a very long time, Shimon … my mumme is 83 years old … I will take my children to her next year … So confused at this time about “things” … I still love your blog so much, Shimon … blessed be … Always, cat.

    • Very glad that you had such an opportunity with your mumme. As you probably know, a lot of people don’t like to talk about what happened in Europe in those days, and now that many of that generation are getting really old, and passing on, much is going to be lost. It is always very good to hear from you, Cat. You are always welcome.

  12. i know exactly what you mean about the blues and having bad news pour upon you. enjoy the happiness and allow others to lift you up when you need it most.

    • Yes Rich, sometimes we don’t want to burden others with our sadness, and so keep it inside… It was good to join in the joy of younger people, and I think I came back with a better attitude. I do feel better. But I’ve just gotten back. Thanks a lot. Looking forward to watching the changes in your blog.

      • my family never did much to recognize special occasions. birthdays and such were not made to be very special. my brothers and sisters and i never got a great amount of attention. the result is that now, as an adult, i have a difficult time accepting attention for anything. i don’t handle compliments well, and i don’t greatly enjoy getting gifts for any reason.

        another result of that is that i have to work a little extra to make sure that my children don’t fall victim to the same fate. however much attention i give them for accomplishments, i feel it is not enough and i must do more.

        i’m glad you feel better.

        as for changes on my blog, it has mainly become just a place to put my fiction and ask readers to read and give feedback, should they choose to. and if they don’t, then that is perfectly okay. nobody can write for everybody, so i know i am limiting my audience. if you were to read the first chapter of a 20 page book, and you did not enjoy it, then i know i will not have your attention for the 19 chapters that come next. and that’s how it should be. your time is yours, and you should not read what you don’t enjoy, regardless of who writes it.

        have a great day, and thanks for helping give the push that has resulted in this new direction. also, i am going to work on the final chapter to the “rise and fall” series. it can be done, and it should be done.

        • Unfortunately, from generation to generation, we often see radical shifts, like the pendulum of an old fashioned clock, as each new generation tries to correct the mistakes of the previous one. I too have noticed that in my own life, and in those of my children, and now my grandchildren. You’re right in what you say about our offerings in our blogs. It is all a matter of taste, and different people look for different pleasures… in reading too. We can’t please them all. I wish you a lot of success in your writing. I can empathize with your commitment. But keep in mind that there are a lot of changes now, both in photography and in writing. There are newspapers that are going out of business, and more and more information and entertainment is appearing on the internet.

  13. the creative spirit burns within – soon the flame will burst out off the ashes …

  14. Children seem to have a way of drawing us out of a blue mood by their joyful way of looking at the world. If we become more like children, we too enjoy life in a more pure and simple form. Look for those little blessings all along life’s path.

    • Thank you for your kind comment, Gypsy Bev. I missed out on childhood in my own life, and only got to know it by having children of my own. But spending some time in the community, and enjoying the general celebrations has been very encouraging for me.

  15. For me, this is one of the most meaningful things you have shared since I started reading your blog, Shimon. It comes with such honesty and clear perspective, and it reminds us of some very important things. I loved photos of your visits, peeking in on other lives for a moment, and I truly like the concept of times set aside to set aside our personal situations and join in the common event being shared. That is something that has often been lost in our culture, where we tend to run non-stop seven days a week, and sometimes find it hard to step outside of that, and also to look outside ourselves when life is weighing us down. Beautiful reflections for the season, Shimon. I wish you love and peace at this time and always. You are a true treasure with the wisdom and beauty you share here.

    • I’m very glad that this post spoke to you, Josie. I agree with you that constantly going is very wearing in the long run… it makes us forget what we most appreciate about being alive. Thanks you so much for your good wishes, and your sweet comment. My best to you and the Bear always.

  16. it was good to hear from you, as always … insufferable or not, you are human, and that is a condition we’re still figuring out how to navigate … thankfully, there are distractions, and holidays, and spiritual practice, and glorious pets that simply enjoy being groomed

    • Yes, N. It’s so important to keep a good perspective, and taking time out, changing one’s point of view now and then, really does help to keep this life around us in perspective. I did try grooming my cat the way Janne does, but it didn’t work for me. All the best to you.

      • The simple (and sometimes not so simple) act of responding to comments is a step towards coming back to an adjusted perspective. You inspire me with your ability to consciously chose to remain engaged … seeing it done, in practice, is helpful to me, and also lifts my spirits in the general sense. It is my hope that your own countenance is brightening, and becoming lighter as each day passes.

        • What you say is quite true, N. There are times when it is a chore to relate to others… especially when pain is involved. But often, when we get back to things we know well, we find old strengths that were in retreat. My spirit is improving, thank you. And I do wish the same for you.

  17. Thank you for sharing another beautiful post, Shimon. You are a very generous person – I feel like I learn more about you and your faith and it prompts me to think about areas of my life I normally happy neglect.

    • Well, if you’re able to happily neglect certain parts of life, Richard, maybe you really don’t need that at this time. We all have different needs, and have to choose what works the best for us. Now and then we have to take stock, and see how things are going in the long run, of course. But not everything that is recommended to us, is really all that good.

  18. Your posts bring such an authentic touch to life. Thanks for sharing.

  19. Yes,when sad company can help us get through the bad times.No doubt all your troubles have worn you out.You are like a flat tire but I hope soon you will be pumped up again by Nature,,Exquisite pictures of the children,women and cats.The cat seems to love being combed..What a pity I have no fur as I can imagine how nice it would be to experience some grooming.
    I hope soon you will climb out of your dark valley and post more photographs

    • True, Mary, I did need a change of scenery for a while, and it has helped me already. It is great fun, meeting with people I love, and listening to good music. I don’t know about grooming… I tried to offer my cat the same sort of bliss, but she had no patience for it. I guess it’s a matter of taste. Thanks very much for your kind comment.

  20. I trust that the holiday brought you much good. I loved what you wrote:

    And as you practice this tradition, year after year, you learn… whether you want to or not, that the capacity for joy, and the ability for soul searching, and the deepest sorrows… are all things that one can choose… that we can emphasize or direct ourselves in life.

    Thank you.

    • I am so glad when you enjoy something I’ve written, because I love your blog and always look forward to reading it. Thank you so much, yearstricken.

  21. From you I learn much about the importance of roots as well as you traditions. 🙂 Thank you … and Happy Passover.

    • Glad that you enjoyed it, Frank. It is strange in a way, that these traditions were more or less the basic understanding of religious life when Christianity first started. But I suppose we can see something like the ‘generation gap’ in the forward progression of religions too.

  22. Hello Shimon, thank you for a lovely post, and I hope that you feel better soon (concerning your friend David’s death and all the other difficulties that you’ve experienced lately). It was nice to learn a little about Passover. I don’t know a lot about the Jewish religion. I liked your family photographs a lot.
    Thank you for your nice comments about my post, and my life. Both you and I are certainly on different paths as you say, but as far as I can see, they lead to the same place in the end. It was good to see you at my blog, and I hope to see you again sometime! Much love to you and your family.

    • Yes, Yaz. It was very good to step out of my usual context for a while, and get a new perspective. I feel much better now. Hope it will last. We’re having a bit of ‘stormy spring’ right now, but I hope that will pass soon, and I will be able to get back to my usual morning walks. Thank you for coming by, and for your comment.

  23. Good morning dear Shimon,
    Yes, it’s like throwing a switch…..when we are in a place of deep despair, sometimes we do need a jolt…like a traditional holiday or some other happening that brings home to us that we are not the only ones in this world who are suffering and that there is still joy to be found….however, having said that, when we are in such a place, it is draining and very real.

    I love all the photographs in this blog and yes they show life in all its richness. I send you loving hummingbirds and of course a great big hug for dear Nechame:)x

    • Thank you so much, my dear Janet. Yes, I’ve gotten back to Jerusalem feeling better. It was good to step out for a while and get a different perspective. I agree with what you say about getting a jolt, when we’re down and blue. So glad you liked the post, and it does seem as if there’s the flutter of wings around me, very lately. Must be those hummingbirds you sent me. All the best to you, my friend.

  24. A particularly beautiful, poignant and piquant post, dear Shimon. From the first time I (a non-Jew) was allowed to experience a Seder in my youth, I have admired and appreciated both the rigorous intellectual and the patiently demanding-yet-forgiving spiritual disciplines of the faith. So much work and so much consolation, so much sorrow and so much joy, all intertwined–the heart of any worthy spiritual practice, methinks. Thank you for letting us share in your life in this time, too.

    • I’m very pleased that you enjoyed the post Kathryn. And also that you had the opportunity to experience a Seder. It is one of the most beautiful ceremonies I know, though of course, there are many variations. As for spiritual practices, I think it’s very good that we have so many variations to choose from. What works for one, doesn’t always work for another. But I see it like sports in a way. One person like softball, another, running; and then there’s swimming or mountain climbing too. As long as we get a little exercise it’s all good. Thank you very much for your kind comment.

  25. Love it. I wish I had forced myself to time out more and really enjoy Easter. I had a good time, but it wasn’t entirely the same because my mind wasn’t there, focusing on what really mattered. I think it’s my only regret this season.

    • Yes, it’s very important to take a break now and then… even from the things we love to do. I too have had periods in my life when I had such a specific focus on one aspect of life (a friend of mine calls it obsession), that I missed out on some of what was happening right next to me. Wishing you a beautiful spring, and much adventure in the near future.

      • Yeah, I have done that too! I hate it when I spend too much time focusing on something that I miss other things. Thankyou very much! You too 🙂

  26. I appreciate the honesty of both the words and the photos. They touch something deep in all of us, our common humanity and our need to grow and deepen in wisdom.

  27. I so enjoy your thoughts, Shimon…and the sharing of tradition…. I see the wisdom in practicing these rituals as you have described them, forcing ourselves to look outside of ourselves, taking a break from our misery and focusing on what is bright again, on what is good…and we go on, no, not perfect yet, not completely out of the clouds, but well on our way again…and maybe completely renewed by the next Sabbath. Thank you, Shimon.

    • Always glad to share thoughts with you, Scott. Of course, there are many ways to maintain an even gait in life, and an objective perspective. When I was young, I used to go mountain climbing. And often, viewing the world around me from a peak that I had struggled to attain, I had religious feelings no less than those that come by way of ceremony and exercise. I am reminded of those wonderful days, at times, when looking at some of your photos. As you know too, there are many paths that lead to the sublime. Thank you for your comment.

      • Indeed, Shimon…there are many paths that lead to the sublime…very well said. And yes, those mountain-top experiences can be so rewarding, so rich…and consuming, even…I know those feelings you have described up there…in that natural sanctuary. And you are most welcome for the comment.

  28. Thank you for this post, Shimon. It is very timely for me. I send you very best wishes during this difficult time. My condolences to you for the loss of your dear friend, David. I’m grateful for how generously you share your faith and traditions, and your life experiences. Although I don’t always comment, I’m out here, reading and learning from you and your posts, so wonderfully written. Thank you. I enjoyed the photographs you posted here very much.

    • Thank you for your kind words, Lemony. I am glad that you enjoyed the post and the pictures. We have a very small country. And it’s a pleasure at times, to venture out and meet others from far away places, and exchange impressions and cultural traditions. It’s a pleasure getting a comment from you.

  29. Thank you Shimon for yet another glimpse of your wisdom and tradition. I wish you the very best.

    Chris

  30. In times of sadness my Grandmother would offer these words, ‘if there were no grief to hollow out our hearts, where would there be room for love’, I’m not sure where this quote came from but I hope it was of some comfort to you.

    • Ah, those are fine words from your grandmother, and I’m glad to adopt them too. Here our grandmothers used to say, there’s no fish without bones… so it is with life too. Thank you for coming by, and a pleasure to get to know you a bit. Best wishes.

  31. I feel so sorry for the loss of your dear friend, Shimon. I am sure that the many shared happy memories of the past will give you the strength to go on and every reason to smile when you think of him. 😉

    • Thank you very much, Malou. You’re right in what you say. Unfortunately, I find that my friends have been thinning out in recent years. But my way of looking at it is that we have to find the good in life, and make the most of it. When there is sadness, I don’t try to sweep it under the rug, but eventually, I do my best to get back to life, and to live it as best I can.

  32. I’m glad ‘introspection is encouraged’, as Chillbrook says, as a lot of people do not think, nor are aware, about their impact, negative especially, on others. Introspection is good…I do it at the end of every day, to go over what I did, the results of that activity, and what I could improve the next time. I view this introspection as a cleansing of the soul/mind (or soul-searching as you put it, Shimon) and I think it is a vital character-building activity for me.

    Shimon, traditions, holidays, family, friends, colleagues, all help us to get us out of ourselves, especially when we need it the most, as you know. I have no doubt you will do all the grieving you need to without becoming maudlin….we must not hold it in as that is not good for our health either! Be light. Shalom.

    • Thank you for your encouragement, janina. I do tend to hold things in. But I’ve been feeling better after the holiday, and in two days time we have another holiday… so step by step, I’m getting back on track.

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