The freedoms within (ask me about what I mean)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Maintaining the Journey

Having a one month break in Israel has so far proved to be really really amazing.

First I went to Budapest and Prague for nine days with two of my friends from the program. We had such an amazing time exploring and meeting new people. My favorite part of the whole trip though was for sure to be surrounded by people speaking Hungarian. I know this is odd-but it's really because I grew up listening to my dad speak Hungarian to his mother and sisters and picked up on some of it myself-so it was really funny/amazing to be surrounded by it! I also felt such a deep feeling of connection praying in the Chabad/Hungarian synagogue knowing that many many years before that were my ancestors praying the exact same prayers. It sparked me to probe my family history. Prague was great too. We visited a bunch of touristy sights, met a bunch of people, and flat out had a great time. The most memorable part there was certainly visiting Terezin, a ghetto from WWII. Walking through the streets and seeing the memorials just sent chills down my spine. They had a huge art gallery of a bunch of pictures painted and drawn from people that passed through or lived in the ghetto and it was really touching. My travels to other countries have only just begun...

Passover started once we returned and I spent it with my Israeli family. For the seder I was with my aunt and one of her daughters husband's family (whom since I have met treated me like part of their family as well). It was different having one seder, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. Chol Hamoed (the days in the middle of passover) were amazing too. The two girls I went to Europe with, Elisheva and Atara, and I camped out by the dead sea for two days! The first day we soaked up the salt of the dead sea and swam along the shore to find a good mud hole where we could dig up the mud and put it all over our bodies. That night was also really fun since we met a bunch of Israeli's our age. We were just endlessly talked about everything. The next day we spent at Ein Gedi-natural springs in the south. Where we hiked through some springs, up some mountain, to some more natural springs (to bump into our Israeli friends), to hike rock to rock through a river, to another spring. It was really really fun and great to be doing it on our own without a group telling us where to go and what not to do. We slept (or didn't sleep) another night in the tent and headed back to our families to end the holiday.

I spent the last days with my whole entire Israeli family for shabbat and then parts of it for the Yom Tov. Despite me not being to comprehend their Hebrew since they speak it so fast-it was just nice to see everyone happy together. Many families are dysfunctional and hate each other, but here I saw everyone sincerely enjoying each others presence. 

I read a book over the holiday called 'Human by Choice-a kabbalistic path to self help' by Rabbi Eliyahu Yaakov that highlighted your independence, direction, implementation, amplification, and interdependence. I plan on reading it again since it had so much to it, but as for now two things stuck out to me most. First, "It is only when a person forgets about his source, essence, and purpose that he redefines the meaning of the word growth to mean promotion at the office." Unfortunately, a lot of people are under this societal spell where work > family relationships. It scares me knowing that so many people loose sight of who they are. The letters of the hebrew words for forget and darkness (shochech and choshech) can be rearranged into each other. As Rabbi Eliyahu states it 'to forget one's who, what, and why in life is to be living in spiritual darkness.

And lastly, another thing from his book 'It is taught in Kabbalah, no two moments of existence are alike. Each moment has it's own particular purpose, and each of us has our own particular purpose to fulfill in each moment'. He states this in his discussion of the journey back to Judaism. He says 'even if you mess up ten minutes into the journey your record is not 0-1, it is rather 10 minutes worth of moments-1.' (This is regards to holding out for 10 minutes on whatever temptation is driving you to sin). I took this to heart knowing that I myself have messed up some times here in Israel. My mind is in a constant pull and tug of temptation and reasoning proving to be one of the hardest journeys I have ever taken. But versus what life was like before this year in Israel, my record has to be somewhat good.

So many things are constantly suprising and inspiring me here in Israel and I'm sad to know I have only 6 weeks left of the school year (about a month to my 20th birthday too!) But happy to stay I'm staying in Israel this summer to find some more, somewhere and somehow.

Here is a song that recently inspired me:
Baz Lurhmann - 'Everybody's free to wear sunscreen'

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The story of Speech

It was my first Friday night at UCF's chabad house for Shabbat dinner. I was nervous, but was used to the orthodox scene since that how I was raised. I quickly walked in and immediately was greeted by the Rabbi.

'Hello! I'm Jennifer!' I said confidently.

'Hey Jennifer! Have you ever been to chabad before?' he replied.

'I mean I havn't been to chabad but I did grow up religious, so I'm used to this' I shot back.

'So what happened?' he innocently asked.

I felt my confidence within me rapidly dwindle. That tear jerking, overly asked, annoying question. 'It's a long story...' I replied and quickly walked away since I sincerely felt my eyes begin to well up. 'Keep your cool and snap out of it!' I was repeating to myself in my head. I hated these emotions that would come up when I thought about my lost faith of Judaism. I hated them so much that they are what made me decide to go to UCF over Israel for my first year of college in the first place.

A couple months later, being a chabad then going out after Friday night regular, Passover rolled around. I stayed at UCF for the holiday and attended both seders. The seders looked like this: the rabbi and his wife giving everything they have to try and inspire over 200 college kids with the seder service. Many of them though weren't really feeling the atmosphere so were constantly on their blackberries and/or continuously stating how they dreaded the long wait to the meal. And as the meal rolled around, many ate and got their keys and left. I stayed, along with the other few that wanted to finish the seder and and we ended the nights with a pesach fabrengun and some good talks.

Passover ended, and it wasn't long till I was going out once again to satisfy my party cravings. One night, I over drank a bit and entered into the 'Nichnas Yayin Yotzeh Sod' mode (enter wine and secrets leave). I left the bar, my roommate wasn't home, and found myself uncontrollably crying. I was trying to look at myself but I couldn't. I had become disgusted at who I was becoming and knew the emptiness I felt was 100% my Judaism. I luckily still had Rabbi Bryks, my rabbi from NCSY's number and vowed to call him the next day to see if I had any more options.

So I called him, the next day and of course after I asked him if there was any way I could go to Israel the upcoming fall and spring he told me that of course there was. He asked me why, and I began to explain what I was feeling and then he told me something that would be coined within me forever. I remember the d'var Torah (about Pesach) consisted with something that coincided with the phrase 'the freedoms within'. I have stuck with this ever since then and was recently reminded by our Av Bayis, Ari Yablok what this really means.

The coined phrase freedom of speech is overused and abused in many ways. Speech is something that is crazy powerful. It has the power to kill and has the power to, I hate to be cliche but, move mountains. Pesach is all about freedom of speech. Literally if you dissect the word Peh and Sach: Peh means mouth and Sach meaning conversation. When the Jews were in Egypt they were slaves. Not only slaves to build the pyramids but also slaves to not being able to be who they are as Jews-not being able to speak. When they got across the split sea and the waves crashed down on the Egyptians what was the first thing they did? They sang Az Yashir! Coincidentally, singing being the highest form of expression.

Holding on to what is real
When I heard this message I knew I had to put all my thoughts into action. Judaism was constantly swimming around in my thoughts but I refused to talk about it-I knew it was real but I knew coming back would be the hardest transformation ever. You may trick yourself into thinking 'OH since I think all of these things, then I'm ok, I'll save the actual changing for later'-But know that the only way you're ever going to change yourself is if you put those thoughts into actions. Let them exit your mind and delve into the world of reality.

Somewhere in Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) it says that you have to speak your true feelings and be who you are-but it goes on to alert you that once you begin doing this, initially you are going to feel very lost and alone. It makes sense since you put up a front of who you think you are and then you just want to change? Of course people are going to look down and judge-but it really is ok if you feel and know that it's right.

Regardless if the sea actually split or not (I personally believe it but many don't and I can understand why since it is a crazy concept), this message had to be delivered one way or another. Better then G-d just writing down 'Speak up', he gave us this amazing experience or story, whatever you choose, to constantly remind yourself to be who you are-no matter how hard it is...Chag Sameach <3