Monday, July 27, 2009

Miraculous Flow: My Breastfeeding Journey

I don't remember ever asking myself if I would bottle feed or breastfeed my children. I suppose I just always knew or assumed that it would be the latter. But I could have never imagined what I would learn from the experience, and learning to breastfeed is only a tiny portion.

Since my daughter, now eight and a half months old, was delivered by C-section, I missed out on the pains and experiences associated with labor and delivery. Therefore, breastfeeding was my first major lesson in self-sacrifice as a new mother (other than what I had already learned from my not-so-easy pregnancy of course!) It is often said that the first six weeks are the hardest. Well, I say if you get through the first six days, pat yourself on the back because you are doing good! It is no mystery that breastfeeding hurts in the beginning (and in my case, still does some of the time). I was so grateful for participating with my husband in a Bradley method class ("husband coached childbirth") before the birth because we spent a lot of time just learning to relax our bodies in order to minimize pain, and I have to say, I definitely utilized those methods when learning to breastfeed! Otherwise, I would have been screaming, and that would have made the situation worse... and traumatized the poor, tiny baby who is also struggling to learn this new skill. Continuing on despite the pain is something a mother can do only through self-sacrifice. Breastfeeding is the best option for the baby (as even formula producers will tell you), and that is what has driven me to strive on. Even in those early days and weeks when I wanted so bad to give up and give her formula and maybe get her to sleep a little longer... oh, the temptation... I knew deep in my heart that I would have regrets if I stopped nursing and I just needed to continue until it got easier... and it did.

In addition, there are experiences and teachings that I could have received from no other place than my own body. Isn't is miraculous that women's bodies produce milk for babies? And it doesn't end there, women produce milk for their young, specifically engineered (by a loving Creator) to nourish that baby at this time who has these needs, and no matter how hard we try, no man-made formula will ever match this. I am by no means putting down loving mothers who choose to feed formula to their babies, and I am well aware that there are circumstances that hinder or make breastfeeding impossible. I am simply telling of my unique experience on this journey. Breast milk is miraculous, as we learned in our childbirth class, and it has pointed me further towards a miraculous G-d.

Thinking about this topic reminded me of something I believe I heard in a college Hebrew course. One of G-d's names in the Scriptures is El Shaddai (commonly translated as G-d Almighty). Strong's Concordance has this to say: "The title Shadday really indicates the fullness and riches of G-d's grace, and would remind the Hebrew reader that from G-d comes every good and perfect gift-- that He is never weary of pouring forth His mercies on His people, and that He is more than ready to give than they are to receive. (2) Bountiful expresses the sense most exactly. (3) El sets forth the might of G-d and the title Shadday points to the inexhaustible stores of His bounty." If you look just nine words earlier in Strong's, there's the word shad, which is defined as "the breast of a woman or animal." The teacher used this similarity and relationship of these Hebrew words to say that G-d is our nourishment, just as a nursing mother nourishes her child. El Shaddai is not only powerful and mighty, but El Shaddai is a G-d who nourishes and provides. I find that beautiful, and even more so now as a nursing mother myself.

Isn't it amazing how certain aspects of G-d's word come to life when you yourself experience them? For example, in Psalm 131:2-3, it says "Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; Like a weaned child against his mother, My soul is like a weaned child within me." Although I've read an article that suggests this should say "suckling child" instead of "weaned child,"(you can read it: It inspired me to write this) either of which would have the same effect on me because in order for a child to be weaned, he had to be nursed before this point because there were no bottles then, and the bond that is formed between mother and child due to their breastfeeding relationship is lasting. If you have never experienced that intimacy and closeness with your child, as they make noises and faces that no one else sees or hears, then this verse won't strike you as hard, but as having experienced it, I have never seen Elisheva's sweet little face (and soul) more contented, composed and more quieted than when she is nursing at my breast. Therefore, this verse now has greater meaning to me than it ever did before.

I cannot say how long I will nurse my children. I will try my best to allow them to wean themselves at the appropriate time. In Bible times, it is understood that children nursed until they were two or even three years old. The Midrash says that Sarah weaned Isaac at two, Moses was probably with his mother ('nurse') for at least two years, and Samuel must have also been a toddler when weaned, which is why he was able to be left at the Tabernacle with Eli the priest. I have seen a two year old nurse at a La Leche League meeting ( and his mother had experienced some ridicule and comments from strangers even on him being 'too old' to be nursing. Breastfeeding is demanding, even for a stay-at-home mom, (hence, the need for support groups) and breastfeeding moms need encouragement, not ridicule. I am certainly grateful for the encouragement and support that I have received and plan to pass that on to others. So if you know a lactating woman, encourage her today. If you are a lactating woman, I hope you were encouraged by my words. Breastfeeding is healthy, natural, Biblical, and it is one of the many aspects of a woman's body that G-d has created to teach us about Himself and reflect His image... to teach us that He is our Nourisher, our miraculous Provider.

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!
See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.

Isaiah 49:15-16

Thursday, July 23, 2009

do not awaken love until...

"I warn you, daughters of Jerusalem, not to awaken or stir up love until it wants to arise!"

Song of Solomon 8:4

True love waits. I know it's an overused cliche, but it really is a true statement. In order to understand why, we must look at the sanctity of sexuality. If sexuality is one of the strongest forces within a human being that is made in G-d's image, what does G-d have to say about it? What is sexuality anyway and how should we view it as G-d fearing individuals?

In looking for a holistic (rather than biological) understanding of sexuality, I found this quote in one of my favorite books, Toward a Meaningful Life by Simon Jacobson (it's based on the teachings of Rebbe Schneerson, so although I may not agree with everything in there, I have found great wisdom in this book). Jacobson says, "Sexuality is an internal, G-dly energy, a meeting of body and soul, that is nourished by true intimacy, by modesty and subtlety. It can only flourish in a healthy manner in the context of the sacred institution of marriage. Sexuality itself possesses both a body and a soul, a physical and spiritual dimension. Its body is the union of human bodies, accompanied by the deepest physical pleasures. Its soul is the union with G-dliness, accompanied by the deepest spiritual pleasures. When sexuality's spiritual nature is removed or ignored, it can become an irrational obsession that consumes an individual. Sexuality is among the most potent forces in life. It can either lift us to the great heights of self-sacrifice and commitment or lower us into the depths of self-interest and demoralization. Sexuality is never neutral." (p.67)

If sexuality is removed from its proper context (between a husband and wife), it becomes a mere biological function that can never truly be satisfying. For a woman especially, her body and her emotions and her mind and her spirituality are all intimately connected, and if any one of those is experiencing difficulty in some way, the others will most likely be affected. Sex is never just a physical act for a woman, it has to be much more, because she was created for relationship. Some may try to fill a void by being sexually active outside of marriage, but it is a losing battle. In a book called The Thrill of the Chaste by Dawn Eden (don't take this as a recommendation to read it, the quote just resonated with me), the author writes that in today's society, couples "become physically intimate to see if they want to be in a relationship... the underlying concept is the old Freudian conceit that people have sexual "needs", and that these needs can exist either on their own or as the prelude to a relationship, but that it is unnatural to prioritize other types of intimacy ahead of them. Although I myself have these "needs"-- or, rather, desires-- I never really wanted to place them before emotional intimacy. I don't think it's natural for women to operate that way unless they have serious problems with emotional intimacy-- and even then, I don't think it makes them happy." (p.114) I agree. It's not natural for a woman to operate that way, nor should it be. Need I also say, it's not biblical...

Sexuality, especially that of a woman, can also be a powerful weapon, either for good or for evil. Delilah is said to have been a woman who used her sexuality to bring down the strongest man in the Scriptures, Samson. On the other hand, a woman's other needs are oftentimes stronger than her physical desires, so she may find it easier than a man to initiate (and also reinforce) the "boundaries" necessary for a relationship to remain pure and godly before marriage.

A great article has been written on the subject of pre-marital sex and what the Bible has to say. It was written by messianic scholar, Tim Hegg, and it can be found here:
I remember reading this article with my fiance who is now my husband.

In summary, the most important aspect of a godly relationship is communication, before and after marriage. Communicate with G-d concerning your desires (after all, He created them, and He knows that you have them!), and communicate with your partner. Even a force as powerful as sexuality cannot withstand the united force of G-d, a godly man, and his ezer (strong helper) by his side (that would be you)...

"If you are close when you should be distant, you will be distant when you should be close."

-Rebbe Schneerson

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

My Hat...

Anyone who sees me often knows that I usually wear a hat when I am away from home. This is my attempt to explain why...

If someone happens to ask me about it, then my short and sweet response is that it reminds me to submit to G-d and to my husband. But there's really more to it than that. In pondering the question of headcoverings, I've found it necessary to compile sources because there are so many different perspectives out there.

If you are familiar with First Fruits of Zion, they recently published an extensive article on this very issue in their Spring 2009 Messiah Journal. Written by an excellent author, D. Thomas Lancaster, he also compiled many views in his piece. I cannot possibly summarize it here (it's really long!), but he basically comes to the conclusion that it is an accepted tradition (and was in the first century) for married women to cover their hair, but it is certainly not a commandment from G-d. However, there are many instances where the tradition is supported and not discouraged in the Scriptures.

I found two traditional websites that give meaningful explanations as to why married Jewish women cover their hair. The first is Just scroll down a little until the paragraph begins. The second is an article that you can find at: and it is what I found to be a beautiful response from a rabbi's wife to a woman who has a desire to cover her hair. The rebbetzin goes into the Jewish concept of modesty and it is very interesting. I know I was touched by it...

It seems that this is a halachic issue that each woman (and man) has to come to a personal conclusion about. My conclusion is that I will wear a hat most of the time when outside my home. It helps me remember that I am always under G-d's covering and that He is with me; it reminds me that my most desirable beauty comes from within; it reminds me that I am not my own, but I have been bought with a price... it reminds me that I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Monday, July 20, 2009

don't be an exception...

"Does not all nature around me praise G-d? If I were silent, I should be an exception to the universe. Does not the thunder praise Him as it rolls like drums in the march of the G-d of armies? Do not the mountains praise Him when the woods upon their summits wave in adoration? Does not the lightning write His name in letters of fire? Has not the whole earth a voice? And shall I, can I, silent be?" C.H. Spurgeon

I love this quote! It's a very powerful reminder of G-d's creation being a physical manifestation of His beauty and His power. Every time you hear thunder (I hear some now) or see lightning, remember to praise Him. His creativity is boundless and its beauty is beyond all words... and to think that He created it all for our sake, to give us no excuse to not believe in Him and not know Him. With a G-d like this, how could you not want to know Him? And with these constant reminders in nature, how could we not praise Him? Don't let yourself become an exception to the universe today.

Praise Him...

Friday, July 17, 2009

Silent Shabbat

Remember to pray for our beloved Rabbi Ben and the group of young people he is leading through Israel on this trip. May it rock their world and their understanding of Scripture, and may they never recover...

Shabbat Shalom.

Monday, July 13, 2009


The next two posts go together. Read the intro ("Public Speaking") first and then "The Mystery of Modesty"


the mystery of modesty

Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments,
but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness.

1 Timothy 2:9-10

There are many aspects of modesty. Here I will write mainly about modestly in the form of dress, but modesty could also refer to the way one feels about herself, how she talks, how she carries herself, and how she thinks. It seems oftentimes that dressing discreetly is perhaps the easiest practice of modesty, so this is where I will begin.

As seen in the verse above and others, women are advised to dress in modest clothing. Discovering the importance of modesty for me has been a journey, a journey that has kept me forever mindful of G-d's design for beauty and also of the fallenness of mankind. Modesty meant something different for Adam and Eve before they sinned than it means for us today in 2009. Eve owned no clothes, but was modest in her thinking, in her actions, in her love for G-d and Adam. So modesty must go beyond our clothing, but it needs to start somewhere...

Modesty and mystery go hand in hand. There is a beautiful section on women's mystery in the book, Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge. A woman longs to be beautiful, but not with just any beauty... a beauty that needs to be unveiled by a man. As the authors write, "One of the deepest ways a woman bears the image of G-d is in her mystery. By "mystery" we don't mean "forever beyond your knowing," but "something to be explored."" One of the most powerful ways a woman can foster her mystery is in the way she dresses. Once something is seen with the eyes, it is no longer a mystery. Men are intrigued by mystery, because as I wrote about earlier in "Hide-n-Seek," they were made to pursue a woman as one pursues G-d, who is indeed mysterious Himself. As Captivating goes on to mention, there is a sense of dignity in mystery as well. A mysterious woman must also carry herself with dignity, just as G-d is never without dignity. Dressing provocatively is no way to gain dignity.

If we women simply focus on ourselves, our mystery, our dignity, what the Scriptures say about modesty, perhaps we miss the big picture. What really opened my eyes was grappling to understand how men feel about this issue, and from what I've read and studied, godly men desire women to dress modestly, despite the fact that they struggle with looking at and lusting after scantily clad women because they are stimulated by what they see, as women are more stimulated by what they feel and hear. (If you have not read them already, read Every Woman's Battle, and then read Every Man's Battle so you see both sides of the coin). Men have to take responsibility for what they choose to look at, and we women need to understand that we are responsible for what we choose to wear. A woman's modesty can help train a man's eyes to understand what true beauty looks like in G-d's sight.

I found this beautiful quote from an orthodox rabbi's wife: "The Almighty, in His great Wisdom, has provided us with the laws of Tzniut, variously translated as modesty, privacy. Better yet, Tzniut is the de-emphasis of the outer self that enables the essential self to emerge. Practically speaking, this means that our behavior in speech, dress, and in the way we carry ourselves should convey the message to ourselves primarily and to others secondarily that I need to be attractive and not attracting. Attracting undue attention to my physical self proclaims that the totality of my person inheres in the physical presentation, that what you see is what you get. In contrast, when I am private and modest in my demeanor and to the extent I expose only that which is appropriate, my statement is that my body, important as it is, is no more than a vehicle for my essence. I am making the statement that it is indeed my character, my personality, my attributes which are the expression of the image of God in which I am created."

The way we dress also attracts the kind of man that we will end up marrying. My husband tells me often that he is attracted to my modesty. There is a place for modesty within marriage as well as outside of it. I found a very interesting article on modesty and mystery:( It states: "In general, mystery attracts. Something is kept secret and guarded because it is deemed too unique for common knowledge or benefit; it is reserved for the benefit of the select and privileged. The secrecy both conveys the intrinsic worth of what is being hidden and challenges and beckons the outsider to prove himself worthy of being privy to it. This is why a concealing manner and modest dress is so attractive and arousing. This is also why people can dupe others into thinking something is worthwhile simply by surrounding it with an artificial aura of secrecy. The reverse also applies: if something possesses intrinsic worth, treating it with respect and awe generates a sensitivity to this aspect of it." In other words, is your body worth something to you? If so, cover it with dignity until that worthwhile mate comes along with whom you can share it with. And even then, don't lose your mystery...

Dressing appropriately can be as simple as standing in front of the mirror and asking yourself (and G-d) if what you have on is going to invite a man to lust after you. As I shared with the class at PBA, this is what I mean by modesty: Dressing in a such a way that allows inner beauty to shine through, presenting yourself to the world in a respectable way, covering up those parts of your body that fuel sexual stimulation or lust, leaving something to the imagination by the way you dress. And this is not what I mean by modesty: wearing cheap, ugly, or plain clothing,
dressing like your grandmother, a total disregard for make-up or other beauty enhancers,
a lack of style, taste, or fashion sense when choosing clothes to wear. In today's society, I have found it difficult to find clothes (especially shirts) that I would consider modest, but I improvise by wearing layers or even by wearing some shirts backwards. Because of its importance to me, I find ways to put it into practice in my life. And I encourage you to do the same.

It's not about wearing ankle-length skirts or long-sleeve shirts... it's about the way you present yourself to the world, to your brothers and sisters in the faith, and to your G-d who has given us His infallible word as a guide.

public speaking: an intro to my next entry

It was my senior year at college. I took Public Speaking (at the last possible time because I was dreading it!) with a class of one young man and about 24 young women. I have to admit I was terrified at first because for one, I did not want to speak in front of a room full of people, and secondly, the fact that it was mostly women somehow made it worse! It was a turning point for me spiritually, however. I was a full-time student, working part-time at a Judaica store, and planning my wedding. Looking ahead to what type of ministry I would be involved in as a married woman and looking forward to having children of my own, it was a very exciting time. Still, to reach the goal of obtaining my BA in Biblical Studies, I had to survive this public speaking course. Let me just say that public speaking is not my forte, and that is probably an understatement!

We were told from the beginning that we would be responsible for 4 speeches (and that we would critique each other along the way). I remember pondering what my speeches would be about. I knew I would talk about my ministry trips to Israel, about my love of writing, etc. But as I made my plans, I understood that I should cater to my audience so as to make the greatest impact, and for months before this, I knew that G-d had laid women's ministry on my heart. Growing up as a tomboy (which I made sure to remind G-d of this as well), I found it challenging to relate to women, to connect with them, to be one of them. So as I was on my personal journey to womanhood, here I was in a class full of women younger than myself on their own journeys. And as I told G-d what I was going to speak about, He told me that I was going to speak about something very near and dear to my heart (and His): modesty. After giving my excuses as to why I couldn't possibly speak about that, we compromised (smile) and my final speech in that class was indeed on modesty. I fought the fear and the nerves in order to tell these young ladies something they needed to hear, and from what the professor (also female) commented on my paper, a topic that was often neglected at PBA. (If you've been there, you know what she means...) I definitely have no regrets about giving that speech. Neither will I have regrets about writing my next entry on modesty. We'll consider this an introduction since it has become so long! :) Excuse me while I gather my notes and my thoughts...

Friday, July 10, 2009

slow down

My microwave stopped working last night and I am planning to buy a new one today, because as I told my husband, I can't function without a microwave. If it can't be heated or cooked in a microwave, I'm not eating it during the day when I'm home with Elli. It would take too long otherwise, and 8 month old babies have no patience whatsoever (I've learned this through experience)!

We live in a 'microwave' society, don't we? If it requires waiting, if it takes too long, if it calls for more than ten minutes of our day, it must not be worth it. If it interrupts our schedule, if it takes our attention away from what we're doing, if it postpones anything at all... it must be an inconvenience. As women, we are programmed for multi-tasking out of necessity. There's never just one thing we are doing or thinking about at a time, always several.

As I pulled up to a store at 9:00 this morning that didn't open until 10:00 with a sleepy baby in the car seat, and then drove home to find that my mother had left a message telling me that the store didn't open until 10:00 and that she would go with me to help, I realized something: Wow, I need to slow down...

Thank G-d that He gives us a day each week to slow down (to stop): Shabbat. And with it fast approaching now, let us remember to slow down and rest and enjoy the gift that He has given us in it. All of the work we have to do will still be there after the Shabbat. It can wait. The microwave will still be there in the store after the baby's nap. It can wait. Some of the greatest things in life are those that we must wait for. We can wait...

Shabbat Shalom.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

do you drip?

I suppose it's significant that I'm writing this on my husband's birthday. He will appreciate it.

"A constant dripping on a day of steady rain and a contentious woman are alike; He who would restrain her restrains the wind, and grasps oil with his right hand." Proverbs 27:15-16

What a passage! It likens a nagging wife to a constant dripping (or imagine the annoying drip of a leaking faucet), and makes it sound impossible to restrain her. I would like to say that I do not see myself in this passage, but I'd be lying.

The most interesting things to me about men and women are their differences. Anyone who claims we are not different is essentially denying G-d's design (and His image) in us. He created us with different characteristics and tendencies to compliment one another. I read a quote, I believe by the Baal Shem Tov, who said that a husband and wife are like two flames that can either come together to make a single brighter flame or they can consume each other...

We women seem to be born to contend with one another and with our husbands. It's something we all struggle with. In fact, in cursing Eve, G-d told her that her desire would be for her husband and he would rule over her (Genesis 3:16). Many take this to mean that she would desire to rule him, but G-d did not intend it that way. Women are created with a great strength to do, to create, to speak out... but that strength has to be kept under control. It seems that the single most effective hindrance (or destroyer) of a relationship for a woman is often her mouth and what comes out of it... and for a man, his silence...

On the other side of the coin, a woman has the gift of healing with her words. Women are said to be the more 'verbal' sex, although some (like me) are often too quiet when it is sometimes necessary for them to speak. But even I (ask my husband) have my moments of babbling (or nagging) when I need to talk. In Proverbs 31, we read that a woman of valor does her husband good and not harm all the days of her life. That would include the words she speaks to him. And in verse 26, "she opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue." Oh, how I wish that I could say that every time I opened my mouth, I spoke wisdom and kindness!

Let us be mindful today of our words. Are they healing or hurtful? Are they for good or for harm? Are they full of loving instruction or like a leaky faucet? Whether you struggle with nagging, or gossip, or slander, or silence... let us pray to be master of our mouths today... better yet, let us pray that the Master would be master of our mouths today.

awakening the dawn

One aspect of having a baby in the house is never really needing an alarm clock. Today she woke me at 5:30am to be fed, but she went back to sleep (and I chose not to). So here I am, awakening the dawn with the sound of this keyboard...

I love mornings. I always have, but in the exhaustion of not having a really good night's sleep in almost 8 months, I don't usually get up before Elisheva so there's not much time to savor what a beautiful time of day this is. Especially being awake before the sun, when the world still seems asleep and at rest. It seems like this is the closest we get to seeing the world at rest, at least for now. It's a beautiful time to praise HaShem for His creation and for all He has done for us.

Awake, my glory! Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn. I will give thanks to You, O L-rd, among the peoples; I will sing praises to You among the nations. For Your lovingkindness is great to the heavens And Your truth to the clouds. Be exalted above the heavens, O G-d; Let Your glory be above all the earth. Psalm 57:8-11

The first thing we do when we awake should be to praise G-d for giving us life for another day, as it says in the siddur: "I gratefully thank You, O Living and Eternal King, for awakening my soul within me with compassion; abundant is Your faithfulness..."

May we awaken the dawn with our praise of Him today. Apparently, I have awakened more than that: Elisheva is crying...

Monday, July 6, 2009

growing in love...

In cleaning out the drawers in Elli's room yesterday (getting my stuff out so I can put her clothes in), I found all of my wedding memorabilia that has not made it into a scrapbook yet after two years... pictures, invitations, reply cards, greeting cards, etc. It reminded me of how much fun my husband and I had preparing for our wedding day, and also of the feelings we had at that time.
We "courted" as opposed to "dated" because our intention from the beginning was to get married. We saved sex for marriage and our lips never touched until our wedding day, which was definitely worth every temptation we could have ever faced. We were both working college students with little free time, but we made time for each other...often very late at night! As I think about those months and years before marriage, it always makes me feel younger (now 28 with a baby, I feel old!)

Fresh love is an amazing thing. The emotional and physical feelings that it conjures up, the joy, the excitement... but I have to say that I'm looking forward to our love maturing and growing. When I looked at him on that day back in March 2007, he was my groom. Two years later, he is so much more. He is my partner, my closest friend, my strength, my stability, and the father of my daughter. I love him more as I know him longer. That's how love works. Biblically, intimacy is referred to as 'knowledge' (i.e. Adam 'knew his wife' and she conceived...) because in order to love, you must know who you love. The classic, Fiddler on the Roof, was on television yesterday. One of my favorite scenes is when Tevye asks Golde if she loves him and they break into the song, "Do you love me?."

In the Bible and in previous generations, love was not something you fell into (like a hole) but something you grew into (like a garment). Falling in love is overrated, but meeting that person you want to spend the rest of your life with and growing in love with him is magnificent. Marriage is a Divine institution created by G-d to give us a picture of true unity (Read Yeshua's beautiful prayer in John 17:22 ff.) as two become one, and also to show Yeshua's relationship to His people and how He loves us. It should be a godly relationship with the purpose of honoring G-d's design for marriage and for the purpose of ministry. My husband and I have very similar callings in ministry, and that is what ultimately brought us together by G-d's sovereignty.

I loved every moment of preparing for our wedding day and I love every moment of being married for over two years now. Nevertheless, I can't help but wonder what love feels like after 30 or 40 years together. That undying love that many waters cannot quench (Song of Songs 8:7), that love that is as strong as death (8:6). It is our tradition to read Song of Songs (Song of Solomon) on each anniversary as we did on our wedding night. I can't wait to read it on our 40th anniversary... B"H

Friday, July 3, 2009

Silent Shabbat

How sweet are Your words to my taste!

Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

Psalm 119:103

Shabbat Shalom.

I don't feel like it...

Jerusalem 2005

While waiting for my daughter's storytime to begin at the library yesterday, I picked up a book and read a lot of it last night. It's called "Sacred Chaos: Spiritual Disciplines for the Life You Have" by Tricia McCary Rhodes. It's an interesting read and perhaps contains some thoughts that I really needed to hear at this time in my life.

The author talks about seeking to live our chaotic lives in G-d's presence rather than seeking to withdraw from the chaos in order to find G-d in solitude. Not saying that solitude is a bad thing, but that it is not the only way, and often not the most practical way (especially if you are a mother of small children) to seek G-d's face.

Let me tell you about the "two-minute miracle" which she mentions. She says this is "a technique physical therapists use to help patients overcome their resistance to exercise. They tell them that when they don't want to take a walk, they should say that though they don't feel like walking, they will for just two minutes. Then when they finish that, they might tell themselves the same thing again. The point is that before they know it, they're walking and enjoying it and at some point along the way find themselves eager to do the entire therapy plan." I think this technique could be very helpful to me if I apply it to things that I don't feel like doing. As a woman, there are many things I choose not to do because I don't feel like doing them. Just as the author applied this technique to prayer, so will I.

I struggle with prayer because I don't feel like praying when I actually feel like I have a chance to pray. Like when Elisheva is sleeping (which she is doing now), I could be talking to G-d or reading Scripture instead of writing this for you to read. G-d has His ways, though, because when I turned on the computer to write this because I felt He was prompting me to share it, it wouldn't bring up my desktop so I could get online. I had to wait and wait and then turn it back off and back on... but because I was thinking about prayer, you know what I did... I prayed before I turned it back on and it came up instantly. But for that couple of minutes in between, I talked to G-d about what I was feeling and what I was thinking about writing because if He is not in this, it does nothing for me or for you. I think sometimes G-d just wants to get our attention for a moment so He can remind us what's really important. Rhodes also writes about taking a moment to 'check in' with G-d throughout your day, asking Him what you should be doing or thinking or saying, etc. I would like to put that into practice, especially before I turn on the computer to write an entry on this blog...

There is a time-honored tradition and a Scriptural precedent for praying three times a day at intentional set times. Psalm 55:17 says "Evening and morning and at noon, I will complain and murmur, And He will hear my voice" (I thought there was a more positive verse regarding this, but this is what I found. Don't worry, G-d is not afraid of your complaining and if you are talking to Him, then you are praying!) Another instance is the example that Daniel set while in Babylon, praying three times a day towards Jerusalem in front of his window (Daniel 6:10). I have to admit, if I even go through an abridged version of the prayers in the siddur once a day and speak to G-d also in my own words, I'm doing good. But three times a day, I'm not there yet. I won't list excuses... let's just say that I don't feel like it...

The most encouraging and convicting notion that we could ever consult is to look at the example we should be following: Yeshua. He prayed. He prayed often. Every time I ponder that, it blows my mind. The Son of G-d prayed, and it makes perfect sense that He needed to pray because He was fully man. Rhodes put it like this: "With a heart set on accomplishing his Father's will, he cried out for the physical strength, mental acuity, emotional balance and spiritual focus to do so." Do you need these? I know I do. Often easier said than done, but if Yeshua prayed, then we should too. If Yeshua needed anything, we need so much more. Let us allow our need to remind us to speak to the One who supplies our every need. Let us take the time to be intentional in our prayer, whether we feel like it or not. Let's thank Him, praise Him, ask Him questions, and most importantly, let us listen and obey. Mothers, let us make the chaos sacred...

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Gracious Giver

Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheynu Melech HaOlam, Notane Ha Torah... Blessed are You, L-rd our G-d, King of the Universe, Giver of the Torah. We may say this blessing often, but do we stop to think that we are thanking G-d for giving us the Torah because it is a gift... a gracious and wonderful gift.

I love verse 8 in Psalm 31,..."You have set my feet in a wide place"... because it always reminds me of my own journey in discovering the gift of Torah. The freedom that I have found in pursuing Torah is second only to the freedom I found in accepting Yeshua as my Savior. To say that Torah is simply ancient laws that were for the Israelites is completely missing the point. To say a believer is 'legalistic' in trying to observe the Torah is also an unfortunate fallacy. The Torah was given as a gift to a redeemed people. Have you been redeemed? If so, the Torah should hold great significance to you! Let us pray that the L-rd would "open our eyes so we can see great wonders in His Torah" (Psalm 119:18)...

For a couple years I loved watching the show, "Super Nanny." One piece of wisdom that I have taken away from it is that children need boundaries, in fact, they thrive on boundaries and knowing what is expected of them. A mother or father who sets boundaries for their children and gives them extensive guidance is seen as a successful parent, not as a harsh or mean individual. We should view our Heavenly Father in the same way. He has given us boundaries and instructions in His Torah because he is a successful Parent, and the Creator of all. He was not seeking to be mean to the children of Israel. He gave them Torah because He loved them, and He loves us.

Aside from being our Father, G-d is also the Divine Judge. My Rabbi has a story that illustrates His mercy in judgement perfectly. Say you parked unknowingly in a handicapped parking spot and received a ticket for your violation. Wanting to tell the judge that you did not mean to do this, you take a trip to the courthouse to speak to him. While you are waiting your turn, you hear excuse upon excuse as to why all of these other people violated the particular laws that they did. So when he finally calls you to speak, you simply say, "I'm here for mercy." Amazingly, the judge tells you not to worry about the ticket, that you are absolved. Does this action make this judge a bad one because he chose mercy over the letter of the law? I would say no. If this judge can show mercy, think how much more mercy our G-d can show to His children! Understanding that we cannot possibly observe every commandment of the Torah, G-d grants us His grace. Even orthodox Judaism comprehends this, for it is written in the siddur (prayer book) in the morning blessings, "may Your mercy suppress Your anger from upon us and may Your mercy overwhelm Your attributes. May You overstep with us the line of Your law and deal with us- O, HaShem Our G-d- with the attribute of kindness and the attribute of mercy." G-d's mercy does not make Him a bad Judge, just a merciful One. Abraham Lincoln is quoted as saying, "I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice."

So G-d, our loving Father and righteous Judge, has given us the gift of Torah to show us how to live and what is expected of us. His instructions have always been for one reason: for us to draw near to Him in love. When a father gives his children instructions, it's not so that he can love them because they follow them, he already loves them...he wants them to be able to show their love to him by drawing near through obedience. His instructions also show his children who he is because they are matters very close to his heart. As his children hide his words in their hearts, they are showing their father that they love him. G-d desires the same. Let us hide His words in our hearts and draw near to Him through obedience to His loving instructions, Torah.