Me, Too

I was asked to publish this anonymously, and have done so, because it touched my soul and moved me.

I’ve heard a lot about the #MeToo trend.

And I want to say #MeToo, by someone high up in the Jewish community.

I also want to say that as a community, we have many wonderful things to be proud of. Gemachim. People to visit the sick. Meals for new mothers. But we also have our own serious issues, and I think one of the biggest is the way we respond to sexual harassment and abuse.

We sweep it under the rug, and make it shameful. We make it difficult to talk about. Not always. Perhaps not even often. And I know that there are amazing people in the Jewish community who are doing their utmost to tackle this problem. Let’s join them, and do our bit to eradicate this issue, because no one should have to write what I just wrote.

I would like to add that I am not publishing this in an attempt to discredit the frum community, but to highlight the ways in which we can improve. If you’re reading this now, you probably agree that we can do better, and I want to ask you to be the change.

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Saying Kaddish

Today, I read an anonymous article which brought tears to my eyes. It’s not often that letters, typed on a screen, without a name or a face behind them, can make me cry, but I was moved in a way that made me question the very essence of life. The topic is one close to my heart, for a number of reasons, and as such, I’d like to share the article, in honour of baby loss awareness week, and of all those who have lost children;

I am a mother.

Let me explain. You have never met my daughter. No one has; no one, other than me, as she left this world before she had even entered it, leaving a trail of anguish and regret behind her. She wasn’t conceived consensually- not that it matters, because, when you’ve lost a child, what else does matter?- and had she survived, our lives would have been shattered, miserable, tinged with stigma. But she was my daughter. And I am a mother.

Perhaps I never sat shiva for her.

Perhaps it was because I couldn’t.

Perhaps you shouldn’t judge me, if you wonder why I cry.

I started saying Kaddish for her when the pain hit me like a truck. Kneeling on the ground, clutching my stomach, though it was years since she had sat there, I got up and found the strength through my tears to mumble the words; “Yisgadal v’Yiskadash Shmei Rabba”… The only words which numbed the pain, as I searched for memories of her and found none.

I never stopped saying Kaddish. And when it came to Yizkor, I couldn’t bring myself to leave. “I’ll leave for Yizkor,” I told my friends. “My minhag is to not stay,” I said, thanking Him for my parents. But it started and I sat glued to my seat. And I said a prayer for my beloved daughter, telling myself this would be it. This is the end. No more saying Kaddish.

But I never stopped. It’s the least I can do for her, and if G-d has a problem with it- well, He shouldn’t have taken my little girl away.

http://neshamas.com/never-stopped-saying-kaddish-daughter/

The Candlesticks

Many people will be surprised to hear that, throughout my Jewish journey, I have never owned a pair of Shabbes candlesticks. In the beginning, I had to use an electric “candle” in place of kindling Shabbes lights, and later, I began to light candles at relatives’ houses, never really considering buying candlesticks for myself. I never needed to light at home, and candlesticks were expensive.

But today, my arms full of groceries, laden down with tins and packets and even crockery, I set my eyes upon a pair of gold candlesticks and I knew they were mine.

I always imagined that buying my first pair of Shabbes candlesticks would be a beautiful, romantic experience, not one that took place in a crowded little shop, carrying matzah balls and packets of biscuits. But as I paid for them and left, I realised that much of my Jewish journey has been this way. Unexpected. Unromantic. And all the more beautiful for it.

As time passes, I begin to realise that many of us have lost sight of the big picture- myself more than some. We get caught up in fleeting beauty and charm, the trappings of an ‘ideal life’ and forget to cherish the memories and experiences; the moments shared and the laughter spread.

When I make a shehecheyanu on the candlesticks this Rosh Hashono, I’m not going to be thinking about how they could be brighter, or shinier, or more like the candlesticks I see photos of in magazines. Instead, I’m going to think about the beautiful opportunity lying within my hands: the opportunity to spread light.

My Strive For Perfection During Rosh Hashanah

I am very happy to announce that my article on Rosh Hashono has been published by Jewess magazine, a brand new online publication for Jewish women, created by an amazing writer named Kylie Ora Lobell. Seeing my articles published always thrills me, and I am exceedingly grateful to Kylie, for her talent, as well as my friends and rabbi for their ongoing support.

I hope that you find my article inspiring. If you can, take a minute to check out the other articles on this fantastic website, and take the time to let us know what you think.

Please check out my article by following this link!

Parshas Ki Teitzei: I Have No Answers

I am open about finding certain parts of the Torah difficult to understand and reconcile my own viewpoint with. I accept that the Torah is divine, and overrides any other values- but this week in particular, I find that hard to come to terms with. In the past, when dealing with the laws of neyderim (vows) and gender inequality, I was frank. I stated that I thought the laws were unfair, but that all I could do was learn and ask and question until I was satisfied.

What, then, can I write about the parsha which tells us, “if this matter was true, (and) no evidence of the girl’s virginity was found, they shall take the girl out to the entrance of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall pelt her with stones, and she shall die…”? And, even more problematically, “If there is a virgin girl betrothed to a man, and man finds her in the city, and lies with her, you shall take them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall pelt them with stones, and they shall die: the girl, because she did not cry out in the city, and the man, because he violated his neighbor’s wife”.

Dear reader, I have attempted for many years to explain away the things in this week’s Parsha. I have studied, and read commentaries, and all I learnt from sifrei was that in the latter case, it is the girl’s fault, because “she could have stayed at home”. I closed the book, and I tried desperately not to close my mind and turn against Judaism, because, quite frankly, I believe I have a Jewish neshomo. But sometimes, it’s difficult not to feel repulsed when you read such things.

I think a part of being an adult is sometimes accepting that you don’t know the answer, and in this case, that’s what I am doing. All I can say is- I am stepping back from the issue because, simply, I cannot solve it. I just hope that someone else can, and that the disturbing views which we read in tomorrow’s Torah portion are not representative of frum Jewry today.

At the end of the day, G-d knows best, and I know that if He is the G-d I pray to every day, He is not one to blame rape victims.

The Shabbes Table

Yesterday, I went to an exhibition which I had visited at exactly the same time last year. The exhibition included pairs of Shabbes candles, a realistic Shabbes table, and even a Sefer Torah. As I listened to the recorded brochos and touched the candlesticks, I remembered my thoughts as I had stood before this same table last year.

“I wish this were mine.”

As a Baalas Teshuva, the thought of celebrating Shabbes with my family was unthinkable. A kind of dream which I thought would never become a reality. I was moved almost to tears as I sat at that replica table last year- and remembering this yesterday almost knocked me over.

After a family reconciliation, my other relatives began- or continued- their own Jewish journeys, and Shabbes dinner became a central function of our lives. We laughed, cried, and told stories at the Shabbes table. Sometimes, it’s stressful: I can’t face hosting guests or mediating disputes, and I forget what a blessing the Shabbes table is. It’s not always perfect, but this week, as I light the candles, I’m going to try and remember to thank G-d for this beautiful gift He gave me.

Gut Shabbes! (Matos-Massei)

Shabbes is supposed to be an oasis in time. It’s 25 hours away from the hustle and bustle of the working week, without the worries of answering your emails, going to work, or even checking social media. But as a Jewish woman, even an unmarried one, I sometimes feel that Shabbes is more work than the rest of the week. Between cleaning the house for Shabbes, cooking a big dinner, inviting and serving guests, and trying desperately to find a cold Shabbes lunch which keeps everyone happy, I sometimes feel that it’s just way too much fuss and bother.

But Shabbes is a gift. And it was only this week that I realised that the biggest mitzvah of Shabbes is to enjoy it and rejoice in it. If Shabbes is spent worrying over the state of the dinner menu or clearing up after guests, it isn’t Shabbes. And so I decided to make changes to my routine; I let someone else help with the Shabbes cooking. I found some time to speak to G-d, and ask him for a wonderful Shabbes, rather than muttering Tehillim half heartedly while cleaning the house. When a relative offered to vacuum the house, I didn’t jump up to do it, and instead I chose to dedicate that half hour to myself. And amidst a number of fallings out and relationship problems, I realised I would be grateful to turn the internet off for 25 hours.

I always feel the need to single handedly make a perfect Shabbes; as a BT in a non observant family, it feels like my responsibility to make sure the house is spotless, the food perfect, and that the guests go home impressed. But maybe it’s not up to me. Maybe it’s up to G-d. Am I an aishes chayil? Perhaps not, but that can wait until after I get married, iyH.

In London, Shabbes candles should be lit at 8:46 PM, and Shabbes ends tomorrow at 10:09 PM. When lighting your candles, please keep in mind Chaim Elozor ben Baila, Moshe ben Hadasa, Moshe ben Genya, Chashachana bas Bryna, Esther bas Malka and Shai bas Odeya. Thank you, and gut Shabbes!