a mischievious holiday

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This evening we’re going to light the first candle of Chanukah. That in itself has usually been reason enough for a blog post in the past… maybe just a picture of one candle, representing the first day. But this day started strangely. I turned on the radio, and the first thing I heard was that Rabbi Steinman had a heart attack and that a missile had been fired from Gaza at Ashkelon, our famous city. The same place where Samson used to take Delilah to spend a night at the local motel. I was thinking about that, when Nechama came into the room. She complained that her water was stagnant. Said she just couldn’t bear to drink it. Would I please get up immediately and change the water in her bowl. I got up with an apology and a sigh, washed her bowl, and poured her some fresh cool water, accompanied her to her dining corner, and then sat next to her as she ate breakfast. I don’t start my day with eating.

I remembered that the old rabbi had a heart attack about a month ago… but I hadn’t checked up on how he was doing in the last couple of weeks. There had just been too much news. It was distracting. Last week, for instance, there had been rumors flying around the middle east that Trump was about to announce moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. And then, on the same day that the US president was scheduled to make an ‘important announcement’, the Israeli army imploded a tunnel which had been discovered deep in Israeli territory and coming from the Gaza strip. These tunnels are designed to kidnap Jewish people in order to negotiate the release of terrorists from jail, or alternatively to kill as many Jews as they can with the intention to depress or scare us. They see how pampered and soft we are and think that if they could really scare us, we’d leave for Europe or places unknown. It doesn’t matter. What’s important to them is that they get rid of us so that they can build a modern Arab state instead of Israel; something on the order of Syria, Iraq, or Iran.

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potatoes and onions are important
in making potato pancakes

Then that night Pres Trump spoke, not only revealing that he was going to move the embassy, but also saying that the capital of Israel was Jerusalem. Now this wasn’t really news, ‘cause everyone knows… but a lot of people pretend that it’s not true, so it was about as shocking as saying that Santa doesn’t really live on the North Pole. The announcement didn’t really lead to dancing in the streets of Tel Aviv, but a lot of young folks stayed up till late that night for the amusement of following Arab tweets promising to raise hell in the holy land. As the Pals explained, they were so incensed by what Trump had said… that Jerusalem was the capital of Israel… that they were going to show him. They would turn life into hell here in Israel, and that would make Trump wish he was never born. “This is war!” said the head of the local Islamic Jihad. And then Hamas promised a brand new intifada. The PLO which has recently repaired their relations with the Hamas terrorists, took time out from burning pictures of Pres Trump in front of the news cameras to declare that the coming three days would be ‘days of rage’. Out of respect for the individuality of man, they left it open. They didn’t dictate exactly how their youth should express their rage. What we know from past experience is that usually on days of rage some emotionally unstable or brainwashed individuals take their kitchen knives into the streets and try to stab some unsuspecting victim, or throw a stone through a car windshield as someone drives down the street. Bombs are better, but they’re harder to obtain these days. No sooner does a guy buy the ingredients than the secret service comes round for a ‘heart to heart’. Usually there are a lot more Arabs killed and wounded in such waves of violence than are Jews. But that’s okay from their point of view, because the Jews get much more upset if you kill one of them than the Arabs do. The Arabs know that if a young man gets plugged trying to kill a Jew he becomes a martyr and goes straight to heaven where he gets 70 virgins to reward him for his good deed.

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some eat the pancakes with sour cream and others with apple sauce

Meantime, back in Gaza, a meeting was called by and for the Directorate of the central committee for democratic revolutionary Islamic Steering. The posted agenda was, “What to do?” This was the shortest agenda published by the Pals in 20 years, though the last tunnel to be discovered by the army under our territory was only 3 weeks ago. Things seemed to be getting serious. All the serious leaders crawled out of their subterranean bunkers for the meeting, in contrast with the Israeli leadership which has to be called back from the Bahamas, New York, Boston, Paris and Catalonia when there’s an important vote in parliament. But unfortunately, a rift developed during the meeting of the Hamas leadership. Exactly half of the self elected delegates insisted that it was of paramount importance to take vengeance on Trump for his saying that Jerusalem was the capital of Israel, while the other half believed that the most pressing obligation of the resistance was taking retribution for the destruction of the tunnel. In the ensuing debate, two paramilitary officers were clubbed with dull weapons, one lost his short term memory after being struck at the base of the skull with a huge stapler made for book binding and provided by the UN committee for international culture, and one member of the steerage committee became an invalid, suffering from a broken knee and an uneven crack in his skull disappearing under his army surplus green and brown camouflage cap. Achmad Sayonara, chief military officer, and acting mayor of Gaza, chose two men, one from each side, as a delegation to a spiritual leader in Gaza, to find a solution to the dilemma.

In a few short hours, the delegation returned with happy news from the Imam. It was possible, they learned, to mount an attack on the Zionist entity that would be dedicated both to vengeance on Trump and retaliation for the destruction of the tunnel. In no time at all, three rockets carrying heavy loads of TNT invented by Alfred Nobel, the very same person who later established the Nobel Prize, awarded for achievements in culture and science, but most revered for its recognition of peace making. Obama got that award. So did Yasser Arafat. Did I say three rockets? Yes, all three heading towards Israel. Sadly, two of these rockets fell on the Pal side of the fence. But one made it all the way to Ashkelon, where it was intercepted by an ‘iron dome’ missile which effectively neutralized it.

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my daughter Rivka preparing jelly rolls
they’re as important as pancakes in celebrating the holiday

At the same time that all this was going on, the doctors in Bnei Brak were giving their all to saving the greatest rabbi of the generation, Rabbi Aharon Yehudah Leib Steinman, recognized by our whole country as the finest of living rabbis. As the president of our country said about him, “his intellectual brilliance was only exceeded by his great modesty”. He was 104 years old; a genius, and a great teacher. When  there arose an issue or a question that no other sage could answer, they would go to him to hear his answer. He was known as a strict teacher, but his modesty was legend. I heard a student of his tell the story of how he was bawled out by the rabbi once, when he demonstrated sloppiness in his studies. The student, properly chastised, returned to the study hall and devoted himself to learning. But a few days later he was called back to the rabbi, who apologized to him for the way he had upbraided him earlier. “I let my emotions influence my judgment”, he said, “I’ve been thinking about it, and I truly regret it if I offended you”. Though he suffered a serious heart attack the time before, his doctors who were also his students, couldn’t bear to see him die, and did their best to revive him. And somehow managed to keep him alive for a month. And even last night, when he had another heart attack, they revived him. And it was only after the second heart attack this morning, that he finally died. One of the reporters asked the doctor, what is the point of trying to revive a man, 104 years old, after he has had two heart attacks and is so weak he can barely speak? The doctor said, I can’t explain it. We loved him so much, and just couldn’t bear to see him go. He was buried today.

His position was not an elected office, nor was it a national appointment. We have a chief rabbi of the country. No this is something else. He is chosen by the wisest rabbis, and the heads of the rabbinical seminaries. There is no pomp or ceremony around him. He lived in a very simple apartment. People who visited him reported that he lived as a poor man, though he could have had anything he wanted.

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this is how the jelly rolls are served

The rabbi asked in his will that his followers not follow him to his burial. Don’t print announcements in the newspapers, he wrote. People have better things to do than make a spectacle of my death. This made no difference, though. There were crowds at his funeral. He said, “please don’t call me a ‘righteous man’ after I’m gone. I don’t want to be ridiculed for it in the world of truth”. Of course, very few listened to his wishes. We will not be sad this evening. We’ll celebrate the holiday We have days of mourning which bring us tears, and celebrations that fill us with joy. That’s the way our religion reminds us that there are ups and downs… even when the intensity of day to day life could mislead us.

for more on the holiday, see:
https://thehumanpicture.wordpress.com/2013/11/29/the-golden-path/

 

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64 responses to “a mischievious holiday

  1. Blessings on your Chanukah, Shimon; through all of the daily and lifelong up’s and down’s, it’s good to have faith and love hold the center together! Gentle peace.

  2. What is a brand new intifada, or is that a spelling problem? Way back at the beginning of this note I felt once again, my pathetic sub-intellect of Judasim. How many rabbis are in Israel? How many schools are there for that purpose? I am sorry for your loss, and I feel that sincerely.
    It pains me to read of the insane political crazy there. I barely can understand ours much less yours. Tha Pal is unpure, sick, abstract, and insane. I’ve experienced it here in VIrginia and I sure feel for others to have such a terrible experience. That food is certainly something to celebrate!

    • Thank you Bob for showing me my typing error. It is always a problem catching my own mistakes. I don’t really know how many rabbis there are here, but they’re in ample supply. This is because many study for the rabbinate without any desire to make a profession of it. It is considered a mark of learning, and there is even more status given to those who learn just for the spirit of the learning than there is for the social service. I agree with you that the multi cultural or ethnic society is much more attractive on paper than it is when dealing with it in real life. We keep looking towards the past to figure out how to deal with present problems, but doing that ignores the great changes that we’ve seen, especially since the beginning of globalization. Many thanks for your comment.

  3. Hanukkah Sameakh Shimonz and keep strong in eretz Israel.

  4. All good wishes to you and yours, Shimon. What else can one hope for, and wish on others but peace. Oh yes, and the merciful wisdom of the good rabbi.

    • Yes, peace is one of the greatest gifts, Tish, and I’ve noticed that people can take it for granted very quickly. But for those who have to deal with aggression, peace is prized greatly. Sometimes, even for a relatively small time, it’s like heaven on earth. Thanks for the comment.

  5. All this crazy wars and battles, one side pretending, the other destructing… and many killed, many suffering the loss of the beloved. There aren’t good ones or bad ones. There is only madness since the memory of men can go back for thousands of thousands of years. I wish there wasn’t any border nor frontiers, no religions or politics, no different skin’s color… but only simple humans helping each other without pretending.
    But the evil, the greed and the quest for power destroy each goodwill or possibility to finally live in peace and harmony.
    I’m sorry. I know I shouldn’t since this only is making my soul in pain and m heart bleed. Finally, I’m only a silent spectator.
    Have a moment of happiness with your beloved, dear Shimon

    • Thanks very much for your holiday wishes, Claudine. Yes, history as we have learned it, shows man to be a ferocious animal, often driven to mad behavior. In my youth I was convinced that all of this was changing, and that the gifts of civilization would bring about a much happier world. I still have that hope. It does seem like there were times when we could see improvement. But I have to admit that as the years ago by, I’ve become less optimistic. We have to hope that the education of our young will improve the face of the planet.

  6. I confess I’ve always found it baffling that Jerusalem wasn’t acknowledged as the capital of Israel. It’s like saying London is the capital of England, and Washington DC is the capital of the USA. Pretending it isn’t doesn’t change that it is. The silliness of politics never ceases to amaze me.

    Funerals are not for the dead but for those left behind. It sounds like your celebration was appropriate, especially in the eyes of the dear departed rabbi who understood the value of people. It looked delicious. Chanukah sameach.

    • I don’t really understand it any better than you do, Judy. But a good part of the hypocrisy is connected to wealth and power. Even the democracies are often willing to support lies and damage to their own countries, if it gives them influence and economic advantages. In the UN there is an automatic majority for the Moslem countries, and for them the very existence of a Jewish state raises questions about their belief system. As for what you say about funerals, I agree with you completely. The ceremony is only for the living, who are reminded of what awaits them and tremble. But let us face life with good cheer. It can be so wonderful too. Happy holidays.

  7. Happy Chanukah to you, Shimon.

  8. Chag Sameach, Happy Chanukah to you Shimon! Your daughter’s sufganyiot look delicious! A sad day with Rav Shteinman’s passing- a Gadol Ha Dor, I saw the photos of the streets packed with people for what looked like miles.

    • And my best wishes to you and your family too, Lisa. May it be a chag sameach, with glad tidings for all people around the world, And yes, the passing of a wise man is a loss for us, but the fact that he lived over a hundred years, in good health and good spirits makes it much easier for me to accept his going as all human beings must. Thank you for your comment.

  9. Yes, I thought of you today with the start of your wonderful festival. Blessings to you … and thanks for the news update.

  10. Happy Chanukah Shimon to you and your family….Enjoy the wonderful food and reminiscing about your Rabbi who clearly brought great wisdom during his lifetime. Please make sure that Nechama receives a special treat. Peace and love. Janet.

    • You don’t have to worry about Nechama these days. She is enjoying many of the delicacies that come with the holiday, including a few that most self respecting cats wouldn’t consider. It’s people and ceremony she doesn’t care for. But on the other hand, there’s a very nice black and white gentleman who’s been visiting lately. She meets him on the balcony, and I think it’s brightened her outlook. Happy days, Janet. Wishing you a great time with your friends. peace and love, yes, yes, xx

  11. Chanukah Sameach, Shimon – wishing you far more ups than downs..

    • Thank you so much, Mimi. Yes, chanukah sameach… and as for the ups and downs, I won’t ask for more ups. I just don’t want for them to happen when I’m asleep. Want to enjoy them all the way.

  12. Happy Chanukah dear Shimon to you and your family…. I wish peace and peace. News are not good and when will be a good news. Peace, Bleesing and Happiness to you and your family and you your country, Thank you, Love, nia

    • I think the news was much more important when I was young. Then, we’d hear something new every once in a while, and it gave us something to think about. Nowadays we are constantly having something shouted at us… news, advertisements, entertainment. It seems to me that people yearn for quiet the way they used to be hungry to hear something new. But we can turn the noise off sometimes… Thank you so much for your good wishes, my dear Nia… and may all your dreams come true. with love, Shimon

  13. yes, a little mischievous, happy hannukah Shimon, and to all your family, friends, and readers

  14. There’s more news and background information in this than in the British newspapers, and so well written. So many of us were pleased to hear the announcement by Trump but wondered (and it is a reflection on the dire state of American politics in the Trump era that I say this) whether the timing of his announcement was more about deflecting bad press at home than for altruistic reasons.
    The three days of rage do not seem to have amounted for much, but I hesitate to say more.

    • Regarding Trump’s motivations, I think it’s really hard to judge, because he’s so different from anything we’ve known till now. Back in the days of Kennedy, I remember, they gave him 100 days grace, to see what he was about. This time there was no grace, so I suppose we’ll have to wait till the end of his term before we’ll figure it out completely. Hope you’re enjoying the winter weather, Andy.

  15. Blessings for Chanukah Shimon. Words from half way across the world cause bombs to be launched in another country…what madness is this. Healing thoughts and energy flowing to all. ❤ Blessings to Rabbi Steinman. Hugs for you Shimon. ❤

    • That’s one of the hardest things for people to learn, especially if they come from a homogeneous society… that what is absolute madness in one place may be considered a profound truth in another. There was a time when immigrants came from all over the world to find refuge and a new start in the US. They would do their best to integrate and to learn the American ethos which they admired. Today there are huge population shifts all over the world. Everyone wants to be where it’s nice and safe and rich. But they don’t necessarily want to change. They say, accept me as I am. But sometimes this means as a racist, violent, and with customs that put women and children at a disadvantage. Thank you so much for your blessings, for your good words, for your red hearts that liven the page. Hugs to you Jane!!!

  16. Excellent post, Shimon. This is the first I’ve heard about the tunnels. Seems odd that doesn’t make CNN news.

    • Oh the tunnels have been going on for a few years now. They take the money they get from contributing countries, meant to repair the damages of war, and build tunnels to the advantage in the next war. Hard to imagine that the CNN didn’t cover it at all, but one of my great frustrations is that the world at large has their own narrative which has nothing to do with the facts on the ground. Thanks for your comment, Bruce.

  17. The way you blend pictures of wonderful home-cooked food with the absurdity and tragedy of the political situation leaves me speechless. It really is a human picture that you bring to the world. Deeply human, with all the flows and beauty we embody. I wish you some measure of peace, just the same.

    • Thank you so much for your wishes of peace, bluebrightly. Peace is respected and wished for on all sides. Both the Arabs and the Jews use the word to say hello in their languages, and yet… because of a deep cultural divide, we see terrible madness. Thanks for your comment… it is always so good to see you here.

  18. There is a deeply felt epitaph winding through this post. I am sorry for your losses. Rabbi Stein certainly did have long life, one in which he appears to have retained the most treasured gift of mental clarity. I wish you L’chaim Shimon. At a distance, I see and feel that the first candle of this Chanukah is very symbolic in this regard. It is a warm glowing symbol of friendships and communities. You have a beautiful Chanukiah for a very beautiful occasion.

    The political situation is difficult to comment upon. I can observe, I do not have to live with the immediate consequences, so do I have the right to pronounce. Like many sentient Americans say, it was a vacuous gesture on Trump’s part, with which they do not agree, they do not agree in particular, to Trump’s assertion that his announcement about Jerusalem is good for America(? !) There is such an arrogance in many of his pronouncements, often defying any analysis except distorted and extreme ones. Knowing and stating what is known, can be and is interpreted by so many groups and stirred in to complex outcomes.

    Bluebrightly, sums up the situation succinctly.

    I love the way your family Chanukah preparations run alongside this post. It is such a clever construction and memorable. Might your jelly rolls be what we call doughnuts?

    • Other Americans would say that unlike Trump’s predecessors who reneged on their pre election promises, Trump actually kept his. In such situations it’s what is called a mandate.

    • Thanks so much for your comments, Menhir. Regarding the death of Rabbi Steinman, I think that most of his followers accept his death with great respect; both for the way he lived, and his last will which was very characteristic of his personality. He lived a long life, and he was a true spiritual leader, though he had an influence on the political reality in our country as well. But for those closest to him, there was a sense of loss despite the fact that he lived a long life.

      As for the political situation, I don’t know whether the average citizen is aware of how Europe is trying to influence the foreign disasters that we have to deal with, as well as the internal politics of Israel. The EU-funded Palestinian Authority reacted to Trump’s move by exhorting its subjects to riot and attack Israelis. Yassin Abu el-Qura, who stabbed a guard at the Central Bus Station here last week, and left him critically wounded is a member of a prominent family of Fatah members with close ties to the PA and its EU funded and trained security forces. At the same time of the Qura stabbing, the British government announced it was providing the PA with 20 million pounds in supplemental budgetary funding. Physical attacks on Jews have been an integral component of the anti-Trump riots in Europe, but European officials have refused to call these attacks hate crimes. As they see it, attacks against Jews in the name of hatred for Israel are totally justified. I believe that it is good for the US to tell the truth about Israel (such as the fact that Jerusalem is the capital of our country). I remember a debate here in Israel over recognizing the Armenian genocide in Turkey. I thought that we should stand by the truth, but the majority was afraid to offend the leadership of Turkey.

  19. Happy Chanukah dear Shimon. Thank you for the beautiful photos showing how you and your family enjoy and celebrate Chanukah with traditional food.
    Thank you for the story of Rabbi Steinman.

  20. Just looked at your Chunkiah post…lovely. I adore Challah, especially a really good one. I found a perfect Challah in a small bakery in a quiet side street in Edinburgh last time I visited the city.

    Your jelly rolls are definitely what we call doughnuts. Here they are made with a substantial amount of jam (conserve, known as Marmelata in Latin spoken languages) plugged into the middle of them. When sold in bakeries they are coated with sugar, (I prefer them without it). Also, the jam filling is usually introduced into the bun so that the entry does not show. When You bite into the bun and find it , the jam adds an additional sweet texture to the confection.

    Unlike in the USA you do not find do’nut shops dotted all over the place in the UK. Doughnuts are usually found in baker shops, or, often at big and busy fairgrounds, or, outdoor shows, like agricultural shows, which include fairground entertainments amongst other things. Invariably doughnuts are to be seen at the seasonal Christmas markets, in various guises.

    XX

    • Yes, I do think that they are called doughnuts in English, though I thought that doughnuts always have a hole in the middle. We had a shop that sold those American doughnuts here in Jerusalem, a few years back, and I loved them. But for some reason they went out of business. I’m surprised to hear that they have a special popularity in the UK around Christmas time. Their connection to Chanukah is because they are cooked (or baked) in oil, and oil is prominent in the memory of the Chanukah miracle. So we will eat them together this winter, Menhir. xx

  21. I’ve read your post right through twice, Shimon. I like your gently aimed satirical poke in the eye at Israel’s enemies. I would very much like to bottle it and bring it out when humanity is at its most stupid – which seems to be a lot lately.
    There’s a shop I know that sells the most luscious looking doughnuts. Your equally delicious looking doughnuts and heartfelt post have inspired me to buy a half dozen and share with my loved ones.

    • Thanks so much, Mary, for your appreciation of my humor. And how nice to know that we eat this tasty pastry together in the holiday season. Wishing you a joyous holiday in the company of loved ones. That’s the best.

  22. Goodness me! What a post! I just loved how you wrote about such serious situations with such humour! At times I laughed out loud, especially regarding the clubbing incident with the huge stapler! I’m still laughing at that! What a way with words you have, shame you haven’t written a book! The Rabbi sounds special, and lived a good life by the sounds of things. That is a grand inning. Here’s to things calming down. Happy Chanukah Shimon, to you and yours. Thank you for a brilliant read.xxx

    • I understand that this has been the year of the chicken according to the Chinese calendar, my dear Dina, and listening to the constant human noise around me, it does sound a bit as if the world is one big chicken coop. How nice it is then, to let my feet take me to the park, and to sit quietly so as not to scare the rock badgers who investigate the culture of our gardening, in a quiet harmony with the sparrows, the pigeons, and the crows… a cat or two watch the activities with a sense of restraint. When a dog takes a his walk, the badgers all disappear… but after he’s gone, the park returns to its quiet celebration of nature. For me, this has been a year in which I learned to appreciate the quiet… and to appreciate the animal presence in this world. I think of you often, giving support and aid to our animal neighbors, and find it a great consolation opposite the sound and the fury of human pursuits. Thank you so much for your comment. xxx

  23. Doughnuts, also waffles, and Dutch doughnuts (smaller) are popular at winter fairs as they are served as a hot or very warm sweet treat, when it is cold outside. Doughnuts etc are available anytime in bakeries. At fairgrounds you can watch them being made and buy them while they are warm, and in my case, ask for them to be served without a sugar coating.

    • Yes, I suppose these are doughnuts, Menhir… though I did always identify doughnuts by the hole in the middle. The reason this food is always a part of the Chanukah celebration is that both doughnuts and potato pancakes are made with oil, and oil is the symbol of this holiday because oil was used in the lamps of the holy temple, many years ago. Sometimes it seems that there is so much attention given to symbols, that we are distracted from the message of which those symbols were to remind us. Wishing you and yours a very sweet holiday, without the white sugar… there is no need of it once we learn to savor the true tastes of all the fine food around us.

  24. Oh, thank you so much for this beautiful post. You are brilliant inside and out. So many people look up to you and care deeply. With very best wishes always forever.

    • It is just wonderful to see you here after being out of touch for some time. That is the great miracle of modern technology… that it transcends space and time. Thank you so much for your comment, Charlotte. I wish you and yours a joyous holiday and an easy winter. If I’m not mistaken, you’ve found a nice warm place for winter. Many, many thanks.

  25. Happy Hanukkah, Shimon. Sorry I waited till almost the end of the holiday (haven’t been well).
    As always, I greatly enjoyed your post.

    • Sorry to hear that you haven’t been well recently, Shimona. Wishing you a full and speedy recovery. I deliberate every year, whether or not to take the flu vaccine. Last year I had the impression that it was the vaccine itself that made me ill. But this year, so far, I seem to be surviving. Since we both live in this same beautiful city, you know that my legitimately selfish desires are meant for the both of us, as well as our many neighbors. May it be a strong and peaceful year, with a lot of light. thank you.

  26. Very touching post about Rabbi Steinman and many traditions.
    Your pictures capture the essence of the festive food very well.
    Many regards

    • Very good to see you again, prashant bhatt. There is so much going on all the time, and so much being said… I often wonder whether there is any point in adding a voice to the sound of millions. But the meeting of friends, if just for a moment, is a reminder of the unique character of each one of us. Thank you very much for your comment.

  27. Shimon, take care and enjoy Chanukah. I wish peace in the New Year.

  28. Ahh, Shimon, I’d like you to be my Rabbi Steinman, just for now – I know, the shoes are too big to fill, but what I’m getting at is that I can learn a lesson from you about navigating life’s ups and downs with some equanimity. I don’t feel that now, too many difficult family problems, along with memories of my mother’s death from cancer on Christmas, at home, as she insisted (“I want to spend Christmas at home with my family”). That was hard, and it comes back at this time. I see you detailing the most outrageous situations, happenings that should make anyone despair, and then you intersperse those with very sane, warm, photos of ordinary life going on, even being celebrated. Challah, latkes, someone cooking in the kitchen…That one can bear and/or embrace both extremes is the lesson, and you have a brilliantly subtle way of teaching it. Thank you. (And I apologize for being tardy here…stay safe, maintain your sanity if you can, and again, thank you).

    • My dear Lynn, I was moved by your comment, and especially by your mother’s desire to spend her last days with her family, and have the holiday there. I often criticize the disadvantages of our time, which I believe are the result of alienation caused by the fragmentation of family, community and the society as a whole. Though there is much emphasis these days on individual accomplishment, it seems to me that some of what is most important to a human being is the relationships he or she can enjoy in interaction with others. Both to give and to receive. We are social creatures, and we have a lot of love an inspiration to give those that are close to us. But because of schooling, work, and other influences, we tend to grow away from those who might be closest to us. What a wonderful thing it was to embrace your mother in a family environment as she breathed her last breaths… even if she was suffering. At least, that is the way I see it. As for the second issue you bring up. the ups and downs of life, as I understand it, the key to overcoming those great tests in life, is to take a few steps backwards so as to see life for what it truly is. If we were to examine a penny, that penny could block our view of all the world around us. Sometimes we want to distract ourselves from the aches of life. But it’s also easier to remember all the good in life when we’re able to take a step back, and see the wider picture. I send you my best wishes for a very good year, with health, and joy, and love. Thank you.

  29. Season’s Greetings, friend Shimon … Love, always, cat.

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