Sunday, December 18, 2005

Seven Sevens

I don’t usually spend a lot of time on blog games, as I have precious little time already to write amidst raising children and keeping the house just barely on the neat side of total chaos. But given the importance of seven in Judaism, and how my Jewish life operates a cycle of seven, this seemed like it would be fun, and still be thematically linked.

I got this from The Dabbling Mum.

Enjoy!

Seven Things to Do Yet in My Life

  1. Go to Israel

  2. Write at least one book that makes the NYT Bestseller list

  3. Be involved as my children grow up, graduate from college, get married, have children, and create their own Jewish families

  4. Earn greater recognition as a Jewish scholar/writer/thinker

  5. Write all the books that are within me

  6. Give my children the skills and resources they need to be strong, confident, healthy, whole, Jewishly knowledgeable human beings

  7. Make a difference
Seven Things I Cannot Do


  1. Betray who I am as a Jew

  2. Intentionally hurt another

  3. Stand by while others are hurt in my presence

  4. Direct sales

  5. Ski

  6. Get away with wearing French braids, dreadlocks, beads, or any other similar hair style

  7. Eat just one Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup

Seven Things I Admire In My Spouse


  1. His open-mindedness

  2. His unwavering support for me

  3. His involvement in our children’s lives

  4. His work ethic

  5. His sensitivity

  6. His honesty

  7. That look in his eyes when he…
Seven Things I Say Most Often


  1. Hey!

  2. Um…

  3. Please?

  4. Thanks!

  5. Cool!

  6. Wait a sec…

  7. That depends…
Seven Books (or series) I Love


  1. Tanakh (Torah, Prophets, Writings)

  2. Talmud

  3. Alex Delaware series (Jonathan Kellerman)

  4. Stephanie Plum series (Janet Evanovich)

  5. Illusions (Richard Bach)

  6. Good in Bed (Jennifer Weiner)

  7. Rabbi David Winter series (Rabbi Joseph Telushkin)
Seven Movies I Would Watch Over and Over Again


  1. American Dreamer

  2. Independence Day

  3. Fiddler on the Roof

  4. The Jazz Singer

  5. Yentl

  6. Yellow Submarine

  7. Grease
Seven Songs I Can’t Get Enough Of


  1. Making it Up as I Go Along (Marie Wilson)

  2. Breathe [2am] (Anna Nalick)

  3. Best Years of Our Lives (Baha Men)

  4. Hachel Rash (David Broza)

  5. Joshua’s Band (Noah Budin)

  6. Hayiti (Shlomo Artzi)

  7. Milky Way (Kitaro)

Seven People I Want to Join In, Too


  1. Catherine Wade

  2. ChickWrit

  3. Eliza

  4. Ella Susan

  5. Kai

  6. Karen

  7. Mir

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Happy... Merry... what is your holiday, anyway?

Disclaimer: They say you should never talk about religion or politics in “polite” company. I’m going to talk about both. What follows is my own opinion and my own feelings on the topic. I respect that others have differing opinions and expect that said people will respect my right to my opinions, too. I am not interested in debating this topic or hashing out whose opinion is more correct. BTDT. Flames toward anyone (including me) and anti-Jewish rhetoric will not be tolerated on this site.


Now, on to the topic at hand…


Is it just me, or has the whole “Holiday” versus “Christmas” thing gotten out of hand?


Not long ago, tempers ignited over whether the decorated tree at the Minnesota Governor’s Mansion should be called a Christmas tree or a Holiday tree. It was all over the news. Officially, it is a “Holiday Tree.”


To me, when I see an evergreen tree, all decked out in lights and various baubles, it is, unequivocally, a Christmas tree. I am not offended by it being called a Christmas tree. There is no way anyone is going to confuse a Christmas tree and my Chanukah menorah, so why not call it a Christmas tree?


Enter my friend Jeanice.


Jeanice celebrates Solstice, and in keeping with the history of the holiday, she has a tree. A Solstice tree. This I had not heard of before, so I asked her for more information. This is what she had to say:


True Solstice trees are not cut down but left outside and "decorated" with food for the animals so that they could feast as well during the Solstice celebration. People always had a grand feast, so the animals should, too. The idea of light on the tree started as candles on the trees so they, too, could celebrate the rebirth of the sun. During the dark times, before the Solstice, pine bows were brought inside to help connect with nature since people spent most of their time inside due to the darkness. Holly berries were still on the bushes and the only sign of color in nature, hence the red, green and white colors.


Okay, so now there are possible grounds to call it a Holiday tree. I’m still leaning toward checking out the tree before naming it. If it’s cut down, decorated with glass bulbs and candy canes, chances are pretty good it’s a Christmas tree. If it has candles (or maybe lights for safety reasons), food, and especially if it’s still rooted, it’s very possibly a Solstice tree.


Although either way, there is no chance whatsoever that it’s a Chanukah tree.


But the details of the governor’s tree (which is rooted and decorated only with white lights, thus creating possible religious confusion) are not nearly as important as the intent behind the naming conventions.


State officials claim that by calling it a Holiday tree, they are attempting to be inclusive. They explain that the governor cannot endorse any particular religion over another, and to call it a Christmas tree may give the implication that the state is endorsing Christianity to the exclusion of other religions.


Opponents, the most vocal of whom are devout – often fundamentalist – Christians, say that the state is abandoning G-d. They claim a sort of “majority rules” approach, that since the majority of Minnesotans (or the country, for that matter) are Christian, everyone else can go to… well, wherever this type of Christian thinks the rest of us go… and the state or country should adopt Christian terms. Further, they seem to think that their covenant with G-d is the only divine covenant out there, so their view is the only one that counts.


As an aside, when I first started blogging, I posted an allegory I wrote on my view of what’s sometimes called dual or multiple covenant theology, or in Christianity it’s also sometimes referred to as the Theology of Recognition, and if you’d like, you can read it here.


So what do I think of all this?


I thought you’d never ask!


I think the intent is well-placed. I think the application is misguided.


I appreciate that state officials want to be inclusive, and I reject the “majority rules” approach. “Majority rules” is antithetical to mutual respect and tolerance, and if we are ever to have the sort of peace on Earth that most Christians claim to want, mutual respect and tolerance of all faiths is a must.


That said, I think that calling the governor’s tree a Holiday Tree cheats everyone. It demeans everyone’s holiday.


It demeans Christmas by diluting it with other holiday(s) that involve decorated trees.


It demeans Solstice by creating the impression that there’s nothing different between a Christmas tree and a Solstice tree, when in fact there are enormous differences.


And it demeans every other religion, including my own, by implying that every winter holiday somehow involves a decorated tree.


So now, this begs the question: if the governor’s tree should be called a Christmas tree, and even a religious Jew agrees with that, then what the heck is so wrong with wishing customers “Merry Christmas!” when they walk into a store?


It’s different. It’s very different.


If we decide to ignore Minnesota law and call the governor’s tree a Christmas tree, the fact remains that it’s not in my face. I don’t have to drive by it every day. It’s not in my living room. And I don’t personally feel that a Christmas tree in the governor’s yard is endorsing Christianity over any other religion.


But if I walk into Target to buy a box of diapers and a clerk wishes me a “Merry Christmas!” it is now in my face. I can do one of the following:


  1. Smile and say thank you, thus perpetuating the mistaken belief that everyone wants to be wished a merry Christmas

  2. Wish the clerk a Happy Chanukah in return, whether it is currently Chanukah or not (some may want to wish the clerk a Good Yule), regardless of what the clerk personally celebrates

  3. Say nothing and be considered rude

  4. Politely explain that I don’t celebrate Christmas, but I appreciate the sentiment and I wish the clerk a happy whatever-the-clerk-celebrates
There’s no good answer.


I mean, would you say “happy birthday!” to someone when it was your birthday but not theirs? Of course not.


Would you say “happy anniversary!” to a single friend (with no dating anniversary to celebrate)? Of course not.


Would you tell someone who was not sick to “get well soon”?


So, why would anyone want to wish a Jew, or anyone else who does not celebrate Christmas, a “merry Christmas”?


The truth is, we’re not going to have any sort of Christmas, merry or otherwise. Because it isn’t our holiday.


Whereas, if the clerk wishes me a “Happy Holidays,” I can accept that graciously and return the wish.


But some will argue it’s not about the recipient of the wish; it’s about the person making the wish. It’s part of their celebration of Christmas that they wish everyone around them – Christian or not, religious or not, a “merry Christmas.”


Doesn’t that fall under the rule of “your right to swing your fist ends at my nose”?


Celebrate Christmas all you want. But please, leave me out of that wish. Let me wish you a merry Christmas (which I will, if I feel my own beliefs are respected), but don’t wish one for me.


Okay, so this leads to one last segment in this topic, one that easily falls into the “in your face” category: religious Christmas cards.


I’ve debated this topic for several years now, and like those religious Christians who send out annual cards, I feel very strongly on this topic.


I won’t rehash the debate. It was long. Years ago, amidst a very fundamentalist Christian audience, it got ugly. Those who feel strongly are not likely to change their minds.


So here’s the bottom line. Some who send out religious cards feel like they’re sending a little piece of themselves to their friends and family. It really is a beautiful image. And it doesn’t matter what the recipient believes or celebrates, because it’s all about the sender sending something of herself out into the world.


I understand that. Truly, I do. I write books. I send little pieces of myself out into the world, too.


Others who send out cards think it’s about the recipient, not the sender. They reserve religious cards for their religious Christian friends, and send generic cards (or Chanukah or Solstice cards) to the appropriate recipients.


Here’s where I stand, and it’s pretty simple. I appreciate friends thinking of me. I really do. I’m touched when friends think enough of me to sign a card, especially if it’s personalized, address an envelope, affix a stamp, and send it to me.


At the exact same time, I am simply not comfortable with a card depicting a nativity scene, or a star over Bethlehem, or even a Christmas (not Holiday, not Solstice) tree buried in presents, displayed in my home.


I’m a religious Jew. I’m not interested in viewing the nativity every time I walk through the house.


So once again, I have a choice. I can:


  1. Display the card in the interests of friendship (though some would argue said friend might not be respecting my religious beliefs by sending said card) and feel uncomfortable in my own home

  2. Not display the card and not tell said friend about it (and hope she doesn’t come to visit)

  3. Send a quick telepathic “thanks!” for the sentiment of friendship and recycle the card

  4. Tell the friend that receiving religious Christmas cards makes me uncomfortable and run the risk that said friend will be offended that I have rejected that piece of her she sent to me
Again, not really any good answer.


Add to this the fact that there’s a Jewish perspective with which many – perhaps most – Christians are unfamiliar: it is almost impossible for a Jew to receive a religious Christmas card from a friend or family member without wondering, even a little bit, about the sender’s agenda. For many religious Jews, receiving a religious Christmas card often smacks of religious trimphalism. It carries with it a subtle message that we can be friends every other day of the year, but now it’s time to be reminded that Christians are “saved” and Jews are not (unless you subscribe to dual/multiple covenant theology).


It’s important to remember, when pondering the religious Christmas card to a Jew question, that Christianity and Judaism are mutually exclusive. You cannot be both within one person. (Don’t even get me started on “Jews for Jesus”… anyone who claims to believe in Jesus as a messiah is a Christian. Period.)


For a Christian to receive a Chanukah card, it is not contradictory to that Christian’s beliefs. Not exactly in line with them either, but not in direct opposition to them. There is nothing about Chanukah that denies Jesus.


But for a Jew to receive a religious Christmas card, it IS contradictory to that Jew’s beliefs. The birth of Jesus and the place of Jesus within Christianity is in direct opposition to religious Judaism, which acknowledges Jesus as a Jew, as a rabbi, as a storyteller and teacher – one among many in the first century of the Common Era – but NOT as Moshiach – as a messiah.


So where do we stand? Are we generic and inclusive, or specific and awkward?


I really believe that the politically correct pundits are looking for a blanket inclusivity to apply to everything religious. Just replace “Christmas” with “Holiday” and everyone will be happy, right?


No. I don’t agree. Blanket solutions rarely work.


What I believe we need to do is take a step back and ask ourselves what our intentions are.


How can we celebrate our own holidays with meaning and personal fulfillment without our “fist” connecting with someone else’s “nose”? How can we respect and honor each others’ holidays without demeaning, diluting, or betraying our own? How can we take others’ beliefs and feelings into consideration as we enter into a time that is supposed to be known for its joy and light?


What can YOU do this month to bring joy and light into the world, while acknowledging, honoring, and respecting (but not necessarily celebrating) religious beliefs and holidays that are not your own?

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Breakthrough!

Wow, what a day! And it's not even over yet.

So far today, I've created an 11-page book contract (and my Legalese appears to be in good shape), started learning the Torah portion I'm layning (chanting) in two weeks, finished some minor projects that have been on my to-do list for a week, finished my notes and preparations for the writing class I'm teaching tonight and next week, and made a major breakthrough in AS IN DAYS OF OLD.

With the breakthrough, I'm out of my stuck-ness and feeling VERY motivated to get back into the creative side of writing and not so much the business end of it.

Yay!

I also requested and received information from my friend Jeanice on the origin of Christmas (or is it Holiday?) trees, and that entry IS coming. Honest!

Meanwhile, I'm getting excited about tonight's class and looking forward to meeting readers and talking about writing while sipping hot cocoa in front of a crackling fire in the beautiful Fireside Lounge.

Join us if you can!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

All I want for Chanukah...

I can use your help!

Although Destined to Choose is often classified as Jewish fiction, it is written for both Jewish and non-Jewish readers. Response to the book from both the Jewish and Christian communities has been quite positive, but due to circumstances surrounding its release – some of which were beyond my control – a lot of people still don’t know about it.

YOU can help to change that!

Whether you’ve read it or not, here are some things you can do to help. I would greatly appreciate any of these things (most of which are FREE):

  • Borrow or buy a copy and read it
  • Give it as a gift for Chanukah/Christmas/Solstice/birthday/etc.
  • If you’ve read it, write a (preferably favorable!) review on Amazon.com or BarnesAndNoble.com
  • Recommend it to your friends, coworkers, blog readers, book clubs and others
  • Ask your local bookstores to carry it, if they don’t already
  • Ask your local library to carry it, if they don’t already
  • Ask the professional and/or lay leaders in your faith community to consider using it and/or recommending it as an engaging way to learn about contemporary American Judaism
Please visit my web site at sheyna.galyan.com for lots more information!

Thank you so much for your support!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Remember when...?

I got this from Patti on Writes for Chocolate and it sounded like a lot of fun:

Please post a comment with a COMPLETELY MADE UP AND FICTIONAL MEMORY OF YOU AND ME. It can be anything you want -- good or bad -- BUT IT HAS TO BE FAKE. When you’re finished, post this paragraph on your blog and be surprised (or mortified) about what people DON’T ACTUALLY remember about you.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Law and (dis) Order

Okay, 21 minutes into Law & Order tonight, and we as the audience are to understand that 1) [some] Jews stiff their creditors and claim no work was done; 2) a NY Jew can be identified by listening to him speak for less than a minute; 3) Jews will risk life and limb, running through traffic, to gather torn pages from a chumash; 4) Jews are highly emotional and threaten to “raise hell” if immediate action isn’t taken against a possible anti-Semitic action, and 5) to many Jews, money is more important than religion or even human life.

PUH-LEEZE!

I think – or at least I hope – we’re smarter than that. Aren’t we?

Add to that the fact that the show is randomly interchanging the words “Torah,” “chumash,” (a bound, machine press copy of the Torah, not a Torah scroll itself), and “prayer book” (a prayer book, in Hebrew, would be a siddur, not a Torah or a chumash).

My big problem with assertions 1-5 is that they’re stereotypical to the point of being offensive, especially the way they were presented in the show.

So far, the Jewish community portrayed in the show is either on the defensive (with multiple references to the Shoah [Holocaust]), or on the offensive (does desecration of a holy text pardon murder)?

I’m tempted to turn the show off, but keep hoping somehow something can be salvaged.

I’m not holding my breath.

What I'm learning THIS Wednesday night

It’s after 7:00pm on Wednesday night. If I was where I wanted to be, I’d be in a beit midrash style class, learning Talmud with like-minded friends and an incredible “resource person” (read: teacher). Rob, the resource person/teacher is quite knowledgeable, has a great sense of humor, and most importantly to me, has a wonderful teaching style that involves asking question after question and leading you, the student, to his point through your own answers. It involves quick give-and-take, a single-minded intent to reach a logical conclusion, and frequently, a sharp wit.

I’d like to think that, at least when I’m healthy and well-rested, I have all three. I could be wrong.

But that’s not where I am right now. Right now, I’m home with a sore throat and no voice. The bad news is that there’s a good chance I’m coming down with something. Again. (Someone in my family has been sick nearly every day since August 8th.) The good news is that I might get some more writing done.

Or reading. E-mail, specifically.

I just recently joined another e-mail list (for procrastinators, listserv is spelled D-A-N-G-E-R), this one for SAHM/WAHMs who write. Yes, there are quite a few other masochists like me who wondered what they could do while being at home with their children and thought, Hey! I could write books!

This particular list, which is new, has turned out to be quite chatty. I like it that way, especially since another writing list I’m on is heavily moderated. For those refugees from the much-talked about Other E-mail List for Moms Who Write, this is yet ANOTHER heavily-moderated writing list. The moderator not only moderates for compliance with rules and for content, but anything that might be construed as religiously pluralistic or potentially offensive to the conservative religious (which, between the two, describes a good deal of what I might post). So, having a friendly, chatty e-mail list about writing and parenting is quite a delight.

It’s also generating about 150+ e-mail messages a day.

And, oddly enough, greater motivation and inspiration to resume blogging, to journal more, and to work on AS IN DAYS OF OLD.

All in all, a good thing!

BTW, on said new chatty e-mail list, we had an assignment to do a writing exercise about a household object. I started it, about a headboard that Husby and I used for quite a few years, then stored in our basement for a while. We finally decided to find someone else who could use it and gave it away (check
freecylce.org for a free exchange near you), only to find that the two women we gave it to had dumped it on the side of the street not two blocks from our house…in the pouring rain!

I was SO mad!

I rescued the headboard, thinking all the while about how it had been abandoned (by these two women whom I hope I never see again or I will likely say something horrible and insulting, if I can figure out what words to use), and betrayed (by me, for letting this happen to it in the first place).

After some journaling on the topic, I finally came to the realization that the headboard was ME and there were just a few issues I needed to work through. Some people consider this a sign of weakness. I, personally, feel a sense of accomplishment that I am doing my part, and then some, to keep the psychotherapists in business.

The writing exercise became something quite different and while it was written down, it will never leave the confines of my journal. Sorry. I have to draw my limits somewhere.

Meanwhile, I have just been informed by Husby that
Law & Order is showing an episode tonight having something to do with whether or not a Torah scroll is more sacred than a human life. Do we really NEED to ask this question? Again? Shouldn’t the law of pikuach nefesh (saving a human life is more important than almost anything else in Judaism) be enough?

Argh.

I might just have to comment on that episode after seeing it.

And coming next: is it a Christmas tree or a Holiday tree? Some humble opinions on where the tree came from, where it’s going, and whether we really want to be politically correct about it after all.

Monday, December 05, 2005

It's [my] year... to do what?

I just received my Hadassah membership materials in the mail today: a seven-page full-color brochure and a membership card. "It's Your Year" the brochure says on the glossy cover.

Paging through it, I find that on page 1, it says, "Hadassah has so much to offer." Pages 2 and 3 have vague descriptions of programs Hadassah offers, with a focus on Hadassah's admittedly impressive accomplishments. Each of the six programs have the words "you can..." in them somewhere, indicating that you are now provided with the opportunity to participate, though nowhere does it state how available these programs are or if there are additional costs.

What prompted me to write this was what I found on pages 3, 4, 5, and 6 (page 7 is blank): plenty of detailed opportunities to upgrade my membership (remember that I JUST joined), purchase a membership for someone else, and buy merchandise like pins and pendants.

So, what are they saying? "It's my year" to give them my money?

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Illness Yields Good Results

It was 6 degrees Fahrenheit out this evening, but I haven't left the house in two days. Feeling a little under the weather, I spent Shabbat curled up with a blanket and a good book, and Sunday I worked.

Worked on AS IN DAYS OF OLD? You ask, slightly hopeful.

Alas, no. Not actual writing. But I did give myself a boost of motivation and energy by launching my new web site:

www.sheyna.galyan.com

I still need to finish one page (the one for writers, of course) but otherwise, I'm pleased with it.

Go check it out. Go on. Really. I'll wait.

>>humming to self...<<

So, what did you think?

Not bad for someone who hasn't written HTML code in a couple of years, right?

And okay, I'll get to work on that book thing right away. Especially since I don't have anything more to procrastinate with.

Yet.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Schlepping Through a Winter Wonderland

I wrote this a few years ago; figured this was a good time to share it. :-)


Sung to the tune of "Walking in a Winter Wonderland"

Copyright (c) 2001 by Sheyna D. Galyan


Outside the doors, bells are ringing

Fill the kettle, these folks are singing,

I repeat to them all,

I gave at the mall,

Schlepping through a winter wonderland.


Gone away is the parking,

Here to stay are people narc-ing,

They’re loud and they’re rude,

Treat everyone with a ‘tude,

Schlepping through a winter wonderland.


In the street you can get your car towed,

And ignore the snow emergency;

You’ll have to go downtown to get your car back,

And pay them an outrageous parking fee.


Later on, we’ll conspire

To give away what we’ve acquired,

But reality sinks in,

We’ll face the debt that we’re in,

Schlepping through a winter wonderland.


In the front yard, we can build a snowman,

And pretend there’s feeling in our toes,

Our Minnesota winter is a cold one,

The temperature is ten degrees below.


When it snows, there’s work to be done,

Shovel fast, while we still have sun,

But compared to summer’s heat,

I’d still rather be,

Schlepping through a winter wonderland.


(spoken) Why am I wearing five layers?

Schlepping through a winter wonderland.


(spoken) Don’t slip on the ice!

Schlepping through a winter wonderland.

Monday, November 21, 2005

The Taco Bell Bigot

On Veteran’s Day, my husband (who had the day off work), my children, and I had lunch at a Taco Bell in the Highland Park neighborhood in St. Paul. Taco Bell is one of the very few fast-food establishments at which I’ll eat because I can eat vegetarian there.

(No, Taco Bell is not a kosher restaurant.
Yes, some Jews who keep kosher will not eat there or any other non-kosher restaurant, no matter what vegetarian items they offer.
No, I don’t want to get into a debate about whose kashrut is “more right.”)


So, I’m eating my bean burrito when a middle-aged woman with a lot of makeup and gaudy jewelry and her shirt tag sticking up in back sits down at the table next to us. She keeps eyeing my family, and finally asks, “Excuse me. I hope you don’t mind if I ask, but are you Jewish?”

This is not an uncommon question, especially when kippot are in evidence. (I was wearing my usual black crocheted one with a few iridescent beads sewn on; my husband was wearing a black leather one; and my four-year-old son, who had dressed all in green because he felt like it, was wearing a bright green one to match his outfit.)

I nod to her, swallowing the last of the burrito in my mouth. “Yes, we are.”

“So, do the men wear the black caps and boys wear green ones?”

I have to wonder about the question. I get a lot of questions about women wearing kippot, but never before has anyone assumed that one’s age determined the color one wore. “No,” I say with a slight chuckle, “my son is just wearing green because it matches his outfit today. People can wear whatever color or design they want.”

“Oh,” she says. “There’s a synagogue near where I live. On Fairview?”

I nod again. “There’s an Orthodox synagogue on Fairview.”

“And they wear the black hats and long black coats?” She sounds vaguely excited, like here’s someone who can finally help her sort out what she’s been seeing.

“Yes.” I go on to explain briefly about Chasidic dress and how different communities express their Judaism differently. I make the comparison that the same could be said about Christians.

“So they’re like a cult?” she asks.

“No, not at all,” I say. The cult question throws me a bit, but I can see I’m dealing with someone who knows little to nothing about Jews and Judaism. Odd, though, for someone who lives in Highland Park. “It’s not a cult. It’s just a different expression of their beliefs and their cultural standards.”

“Oh,” she says again. “And do you, what do you call it, keep kosher, with separate dishes and everything?”

“Yes,” I say, keeping it simple. We’re having a hard enough time with comparative forms of Judaism. Best not to explore comparative forms of kashrut.

“So you’re in a cult,” she says, as if she’s just figured out the answer to the universe’s greatest question.

“I have to disagree,” my husband says, trying to be respectful and diplomatic, while getting up and gathering our kids’ stuff.

I decide to forego diplomacy. “No. That's absolutely wrong.”

“Well, anything that denies the power of Jesus Christ is a cult,” she declares.

I feel like I’ve just been slapped, and speak in the heat of the moment: “I’m very sorry you think that way. I hope you learn to be more tolerant of others. This conversation is over.” And I usher our kids out of the restaurant, wondering if chasing us out was exactly what this woman wanted.

I’m furious about this for half an hour, and wonder what other responses I could have used. None are particularly useful; they’d just make me feel better. A few of my then-favorites:

  • Look, kids! See the lady sitting next to us? She’s what we call a bigot. She hates Jews for no good reason.
  • Really? (feigning interest) And what church teaches this? Where is it located? I’d really like to know (yeah, right, so I can report them to the JCRC).
  • Hmm… and you believe in the resurrection of a dead Jew. Hey – that’s a cult!

Today, I asked my friend and fellow writer, Amy, what she would have done in this situation, and as usual, she had an inspirational answer:

“I’ve learned to ask people, ‘Before we go any further, are you asking because you want to learn about me and my being Jewish, or are you asking because you want to tell me how you think I should live my life?’”

What can I say? I have cool friends!

I doubt the lady at Taco Bell could say the same.

    What a month (or two)!

    Okay, confession time: I haven’t been overly busy, exactly. I just haven’t been… here. And I should be, because I am stuck in my writing, feeling sort of stuck in my life, and I know for a fact that the only thing that ever gets me unstuck is to write about it. Even writing about not being able to write, which seems silly, but it really works.

    The High Holy Days were quite nice this year, and very meaningful for me. Nothing exemplary to write about, except that I’m getting better at listening to my intuition and the “still small voice inside.” But there have been some events since then that have left me fuming or shaking my head with disbelief, or laughing at the absurdity of it all. And I think, where do I go with this? How do I get the anger or the disbelief or the excitement out of my system so I can move on with other things (and not get stuck in either my life or my writing)? Then it hits me.

    >>HEAD SMACK!<<

    Yeah, that’s part of what a blog is for!

    So I’m back, and do I have some stories to share!

    Tuesday, September 20, 2005

    This is not your =insert male relative='s Oldsmobile

    This is just one of those things that women HAVE to share...

    We recently bought a used minivan to aid in getting the whole family plus stroller plus groceries into the same vehicle. As luck (or some other intervention) would have it, we found a very nice used van - in our price range, no less - at the local Saturn dealership where we took our itty-bitty sedan for routine maintenance.

    There’s a really neat computer in the van that has a digital compass, outside thermometer, and tells you how many miles you can go on the current tank of gas, your average speed, how many gallons you’ve used so far, etc. I’m still convinced there’s a way to use it to contact Mars. Anyway, Oldsmobile refers to it in the owner’s manual as the Driver Information Center.

    Yep, you got it: DIC.

    So when Husby told me he was jealous of all the neat toys and gadgets I’d get to play with in the van, I couldn’t help myself...

    Me: You’re jealous of my DIC?
    Husby: Um...
    Me: You have DIC envy?
    Husby: Uh...
    Me: You want to play with my DIC too?
    Husby: (making strangling sounds)
    Me: You’re sad you don’t have a DIC and I do?
    Husby: (shaking his head)
    Me: You want a DIC like mine?
    Husby: (burying his head in his hands)
    Me: Would you play with your DIC if you had one?

    I can tell this is going to be a source of laughter (at least on my part) for quite some time...

    Tuesday, September 13, 2005

    Is it safe to come out now?

    I’m finally venturing out after a week of illness (Husby brought the darn virus home, gave it to the kids, who then demonstrated their newfound ability to share by giving it to me), and trying to recover from a screaming migraine. I sincerely hope my chiropractor will help.

    Lots of interesting things have been going on that I plan to write about when the pain subsides and the jackhammer stops pounding in my head:

    • Did the Geek Squad go too far this time?
    • Exclusive behind-the-scenes insight into a 2-year-old’s nightmares
    • Recreational reading books on my nightstand (and end table)
    • Are there really differing theological perspectives to the much-maligned psychological reality of perfectionism? And if so, why does it matter?
    • Update on As in Days of Old – the second book in the Rabbi David Cohen series
    • Preparing for the High Holy Days

    More soon, I hope!

    Tuesday, September 06, 2005

    My problems seem insignificant

    I keep seeing these pictures my head. On the news last week, reporters filmed a young mother panic-stricken and sobbing over her dehydrated baby, who was cradled in her arms, listless and pale.

    Before Katrina even hit, a woman told another reporter that she, her boyfriend, and her three-year-old daughter were going to wait out the storm on their boat. On their boat?

    A third mother was separated from her two children – a toddler and an infant – when they were taken by bus to safety in an unknown location while she had been pushed to the ground by others who desperately wanted to get on the bus and didn’t think about what pain they were causing by tearing a mother from her children.

    I want so badly to know that these three families survived intact. I want a follow-up show on the news to track these three mothers down and show them relieved and safe and together with their fully-recovered children. But I know the reality is that even if these three families made it through safely, hundreds or thousands more did not. For every baby who was given water or formula just in time, many other people never felt relief, never woke to find that the immediate nightmare was over.

    And then I am ashamed that life goes on for the rest of us.

    My husband and children have been sick with a chest cold for the past week, and medicine for them is easy to find. Water is available when we turn on the faucet. Campbell’s Vegetarian Vegetable soup (now certified kosher by the OU!) is at the local well-stocked grocery store.

    Our biggest recent stress was refinancing the house, enabling us to get away from a contender for the Worst Mortgage Company Ever in Existence. And while I was stressed about whether this would happen or not, I was constantly aware that at least I had a house.

    I donated what I could to relief efforts. There isn’t much more I can do, and I hate that feeling of helplessness.

    The truth is that we have an obligation to survive, to continue on. We can – and should – give wherever and whatever possible, but we can’t let our own families, communities, or ourselves come to harm. Bills still must be paid, medicine bought and administered, food cooked, even houses refinanced and Bad Evil Mortgage Companies avoided.

    My heart goes out to the people who lost everything in Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. The pictures I’ve seen tear at my emotions and break my heart. I don’t want to imagine what I would do in their situation. I can’t bear the thought of being separated from my children, or losing family members. I think of the victims and survivors often. I pray.

    And even though I know our lives must go on, it’s hard not to feel conflicted – both grateful and pained – when I give my family medicine and tuck my children safely in their beds.

    Sunday, September 04, 2005

    Nechama responds to Hurricane Katrina with "Operation Miriam"

    From Nechama's web site:

    Nechama launches “Operation Miriam” to help victims of Hurricane Katrina

    Nechama is participating with all Minnesota Jewish Agencies to support the Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund.

    Operation Miriam will purchase and equip several disaster response tool trailers, complete with the equipment required for Storm, Flood and Tornado clean up. These trailers will be indefinitely relocated to the Gulf Coast area.

    Our deployment for the clean up and recovery stage of this disaster will commence as soon as conditions allow. Please let us know if you are able to join Nechama in the physical recovery process along with our deployment of disaster managers.

    Please donate to this essential cause by either clicking the button below or sending your check to Nechama at 4330 South Cedar Lake Road, St. Louis Park, MN 55416

    Sunday, August 28, 2005

    How do you spell S-T-R-E-S-S-R-E-L-I-E-F?

    Have you ever had one of those days – or maybe one of those weeks or months – when the thing that comes most naturally to you is suddenly on temporary vacation?

    My life revolves around words. Even in my first career as a counselor, more than a lifetime ago, my life was about spoken words. Now it’s about written words. And the words seem to be on strike, pacing back and forth with signs and chanting motivational rhymes in some space where I can’t get at them. Or maybe they left without me for that long-wanted and much-needed resort vacation.

    Or maybe it’s just stress.

    My first-born, my baby, is starting school for the first time in his life tomorrow morning. I’ve been an at-home mom with him and his younger brother for his entire life. I’m excited, but a little sad, too. Change is necessary but it comes hard.

    I think what I need most is sleep. Yes, sleep would be very good. Uninterrupted sleep. For more than a few hours at a time. Ahh... the very idea!

    Sleep is a good way to fight stress, isn’t it? A husband on week two of a chest cold, work pressures, trying to refi the house, off to school for the first time, writer’s block, insomnia, fits of depression... sleep would help a lot of that, I think. And chocolate. Chocolate would help, too. Maybe a glass of wine, or a beer. A bubble bath! Yes, definitely a bubble bath. With the chocolate and the wine, followed by lots of sleep.

    Then again, maybe I need to go join my words on their resort vacation.

    Friday, August 26, 2005

    Blog on a stick

    Well, we did it. We survived eleven hours at the Minnesota State Fair.

    101,628 people attended yesterday along with us.

    I have successfully upheld our (okay, really my) tradition. See, four years ago, I went with my then only toddler and spent nine hours gawking at all the pretty colors and wild people. Or was that wild colors and pretty people? Anyway, it was the first time I’d been at the State Fair in years, and everything was much more amazing when seen through the eyes of a child.

    Three years ago, I took the same toddler, now a year older (look! I can do math! I went to college for this!), and spent another nine hours there, this time also three months pregnant with kiddo number two.

    Last year and the year before we spent ten hours and nine hours respectively. This year, with no infant in tow, no pregnancy (that I know of), and both children old enough to be sufficiently over-stimulated by the fair, eleven hours seemed insanely appropriate.

    There was the high point yesterday: the daily parade at 2pm, complete with marching bands, fire trucks, and a three-story-high black bull statue advertising the beef industry. Two years ago, there was a three-story-high dairy cow for the dairy industry, but I haven’t seen her since then.

    There was also the low point (not counting over-stimulated children hitting emotional meltdown) of finding food we could eat. Those of us who keep kosher have a hard time finding dairy or pareve food. Vegetarians have an even harder time (at least we can eat walleye on a stick). Vegetarians with lactose intolerance and vegans probably would fare better (no pun intended) by bringing their own food.

    Everywhere we looked, there were hot dogs (pork), ribs (pork), French fries (not always vegetarian), cheese curds, and various deep-fried specialties like deep-fried Snickers bars (at least the Snickers are kosher), deep-fried Oreos (also kosher), deep-fried macaroni and cheese (not kosher), and deep-fried Twinkies on a stick (all the more convenient to walk around while gunking up one’s arteries). One year, the now-defunct Old City CafĂ©, St. Paul’s only kosher restaurant, offered gefilte fish on a stick. Tasty, but apparently it didn’t sell well to the rest of the attendees. I wonder if lutefisk on a stick would do better?

    We managed to find an acceptable falafel stand for lunch, but it was like hunting for... well... a kosher food stand at the Minnesota State Fair. Truly, there should be more eating opportunities for those who can’t or won’t eat regularly (hideously?) slaughtered and (questionably?) cooked cows and pigs, without relegating us to deep-fried junk food.

    All in all, however, it was a fun day. Great for people-watching. Lots of opportunities for kids and adults to overload. An excellent way to procrastinate on the novel-writing front. And, I found out the hard way, also apparently a good way to get sunburned.

    So, with Shabbat approaching and my body sore and exhausted, I’m going to go fix dinner and find comfort in the fact that nothing in the house comes on a stick.

    Shabbat shalom!

    Tuesday, August 23, 2005

    Blogging Through Writer's Block?

    I am supposed to be working on my book.

    I am supposed to be writing.

    Not blogging. Writing. My manuscript. Now.

    I've got a deadline: the sequel to Destined to Choose is supposed to be available to the public late summer/early fall 2006. But that's not going to happen, now, is it, if I don't get the darn thing written.

    Part of the problem is that I'm tackling new ground. Arik Zahav, the Israeli-born Minneapolis cop, demanded a bigger role in the second book. I relented and gave it to him, then told him that the reason he was getting a bigger role was that his wife (Rabbi Batya Zahav) was going to be stalked.

    He wasn't too happy with me after that.

    I've also had to get to know him better, to write his character well. This means interviews and lots of questions for local cops, which has turned out to be one of my more fun research assignments.

    In response to reader requests and my own inclination toward self-challenge, the second book is written from three different perspectives: David's (as the main protagonist and title character, this was a given. It's in his contract), Batya's, and Sara's (David's wife).

    Do you realize how exhausting it is to walk around in three heads other than my own? Thankfully, my children don't think it's all that weird. In fact, this conversation took place today:

    Me: (talking to self, trying out dialogue, walking through a scene)
    Oldest child: What, Eema?
    Me: I'm just doing book work.
    Oldest child: Oh. I thought you were talking to me.
    Me: No, sorry. I'm talking to a couple of the people in my book.
    Oldest child: Oh, okay. Friends [an unnamed imaginary group of playmates] and I talk all the time.
    Me: Really? What do you talk about?
    Oldest child: Um, well, right now we're talking about how I want more milk, please.

    The truth is, I'm a little overwhelmed.

    The aforementioned oldest child starts school for the first time in his young life on Monday.

    He's ready. I'm not.

    I'm layning Torah for the first time ever in October, and I'm a little nervous about that. I'm layning the maftir reading for Parshat Netzavim. Only three pasukim, but meaningful. Two of the three pasukim are quoted in the introductory pages of Destined to Choose, and play a big role in the theme of that book.

    My mom may be coming out for a week-long visit the end of September. I haven't seen her in person since my dad (alav ha-shalom) passed away nearly eighteen months ago.

    I have volunteer commitments with my shul, my block club, my moms' group. There is the never-ending business end of work. And the Yamim Noraim are coming up way too fast. Rosh Hashana is in early October this year, and the holidays (Rosh Hashana/Yom Kippur/Sukkot/Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah) pretty much take up the entire month. G-d willing, it will be a wonderful, insightful, fun, exhausting (in a good way), rejuvenating time with shul, family, and friends.

    But it also means less time, energy, and brain power to direct toward writing.

    Which is why I should be writing tonight.

    Not blogging. Writing. My book. The one I should have done by December.

    Ha!

    You know, I sometimes joke about how a few of my characters take over and occasionally write themselves, especially when they don't like how I've written them. Maybe I can use that to my advantage.

    Hey David! Yoo-hoo! David? Hey, I've got a job for you...

    Wednesday, August 17, 2005

    This game has been played 715 times...

    I admit to being a Mah Jongg Solitaire addict. Well, maybe not an addict. It hasn't taken over my life, I don't feel powerless over it, and I don't play it over and over expecting a different result.

    Okay, that last one might not be quite true.

    I do keep track of my high scores, and I do expect to beat them. But what I really use Mah Jongg Solitaire for is to get to sleep. See, I used to read books at night before falling asleep. A chapter or two, then turn off the light. Too many nights of refusing to turn out the light because I simply had to know what happened next, however, and the book-reading quickly got banned from the bedroom or my daytime sanity would suffer.

    So now it's Mah Jongg Solitaire. A game or two played on my PDA and my eyes simply won't stay open any longer. I'm not sure if it's falling asleep out of boredom or if it's a way to quiet my brain after a day of dealing with small children, husband, house, volunteer jobs, work, writing, and those pesky characters in my head that won't leave me alone until I tell their stories. I'm leaning toward the latter.

    I've come to the conclusion that we fiction writers actually do perform a great service to the world. We provide an escape. We do more than entertain; we give you a chance to spend a few hours with our characters, so that when you return to your real life, you maybe have a different perspective. This can be good, such as gaining insight into a relationship or realizing that a problem previously thought insurmountable is actually quite solvable. Or not so good, like developing irrational fears of psychotic serial killers around every corner, conspiracies among anyone in power, or dogs named Cujo.

    So how do the designers of escape find their own escape? I find that when I'm reading others' books, I'm still "on." I'm enjoying the story, but I'm also analyzing pacing, noting effective description, mapping the narrative, and exploring character motivations and interactions. To truly turn that part of my brain off, to quiet the constant rush of ideas and what-ifs and fixes for that problematic scene, I have to do something completely unrelated to books and words. I have to keep my brain busy, but not in a create something out of nothing way. I have to do something routine yet not repetetive.

    Enter Mah Jongg Solitaire. And now I'm off to play my 716th game.

    Thursday, August 11, 2005

    Tefillin: the ties that bind

    I laid tefillin for the first time on Sunday. It’s taken me this long to find the words to write about it.

    Now, before anyone starts with the “Women can’t lay tefillin!” argument, others have addressed this issue far better than I, most notably Danya in her blog about time-bound mitzvot. I’ve talked to my rabbi about this, and he has remained steadfast that since I have assumed the obligation of time-bound mitzvot, I should begin to lay tefillin as soon as I resolved my other issues around it.

    I’m not going to bore you with all my other issues around it. They were obstacles and they were overcome. My current obstacles have more to do with finding time to lay tefillin and daven in the morning while also getting my children ready to start the day, getting everyone stuffed into our only car, and taking my husband to work. The easy answer is simply to get up earlier. But I have a love-hate relationship with morning. I feel better when I get up earlier, but I dread it when I’m going to sleep the night before.

    I guess I’m a morning person masquerading as a night owl.

    Only two weeks ago, I was writing a scene in my upcoming novel about my protagonist, David, laying tefillin. I had to imagine what it would be like in order to describe it. How would he feel? What would he think? Would it be just a habit or would it be meaningful to him, even after years of daily practice?

    Fortunately, my characters – and David in particular – have a way of taking over and writing themselves, and by the time I was finished with the scene, I had a good idea of how he felt. But how would I feel?

    I was delighted to discover that in this case, life imitated art.

    Tefillin always seemed a little strange to me. Like practicing some sort of ancient bondage ritual with religious overtones. But then I realized that we do this sort of physical act to represent something greater all the time. My wedding ring binds me to my husband, as his does to me. A piece of jewelry or some item of clothing might be worn to help us remember a person, time, or event.

    In this way, I was able to look at laying tefillin as a way of binding myself to G-d. Physically. Emotionally. Spiritually. Intentionally. There was a timelessness about it. The physical feeling forced me to focus my thoughts both inward and outward at the same time, as if my entire being traveled the length of the bond between my body and my Creator.

    And the tingling! I thought at first it was an interesting reaction to all of my lofty ponderings, but as it gradually turned to numbness, it became clear that I was simply losing feeling in my fingers because I’d wrapped the strap around my arm too tight!

    I know some women who have laid tefillin once and were glad they did, but didn’t care to repeat the experience. I will not be counting myself among these women. The experience I had laying tefillin was intriguing and powerful. I didn’t break down and have a spiritual experience the way I did when I hung a mezuzah on my first apartment doorpost. But it was meaningful on a far deeper level.

    Will I lay tefillin again? Absolutely. As soon as I can convince myself that I really am a morning person.

    Tuesday, August 02, 2005

    Tisha b'Av: Where Sadness Meets Sport

    Saint Paul, Minnesota is one of the locations hosting the 2005 JCC Maccabi Games, a kind of “Jewish Olympics” for Jewish teenagers. It’s a wonderful opportunity to engage in athletics and competitive sport, within a supportive Jewish atmosphere. It eliminates the Friday night practices and Saturday games that so many other sports opportunities require. Kashrut is observed, so those who keep kosher don’t have to worry about a post-game pepperoni pizza.

    So long as the emphasis is on Jewish community and not solely on physical achievement and competition for its own sake (thanks to Marc J. for this reminder), it’s an event I would find much easier to support.

    But there's one major thing.

    The games this year just happen to take place on the week preceding Tisha b’Av, a day of mourning commemorating multiple tragedies. The three weeks prior to Tisha b’Av, known in Hebrew as bein ha-metzarim (between the straits) are considered the saddest time in the Jewish calendar, with increasing practices of mourning during the nine days just before Tisha b’Av.

    An excerpt from my book, Destined to Choose (p. 181-2):

    “During these three weeks preceding Tisha b’Av, we highlight its importance by refraining from activities that bring us great happiness. We don’t schedule weddings or dances, or even camping trips. We postpone haircuts and manicures. We give to charity, and try to think about others who are less fortunate more often than we think of ourselves.

    “So the next time any of us are at the lake, or planning a picnic, or enjoying a warm summer’s night, we can think about the freedom we have and the blessings in our lives. What would it mean to be in exile from our homes, our families, everything that was familiar and meaningful? What would it mean to have the center of our religious world destroyed by people who would not only burn it down but desecrate it first? We can allow ourselves to feel sad, even angry, for those to whom these events were a reality.”

    What does it mean, what does it say about us, that such a positive event is scheduled during a time that Jews are traditionally supposed to have more somber thoughts?

    One thing it says to me is that the commemoration of Tisha b’Av in America – or at least in the Twin Cities – has been reduced to the day itself, if even that.

    Are American Jews finding Tisha b’Av less and less relevant to today’s world? I could draw some interesting parallels between Tisha b’Av and 9/11. Would that make it any more relevant?

    Another thing it says to me is that inclusion is subjective. Supposedly, the JCC Maccabi games are open to all Jewish teenagers, age 13-16. Over 1,000 Jewish athletes are expected to participate. But those athletes who observe not only Tisha b’Av but also bein ha-metzarim – The Three Weeks – will be prohibited by their own religious observance from participating. At a Jewish event!

    I don’t want to make this a statement about Orthodox versus Conservative versus Reform. I know plenty of Conservative and Reform Jews who take Tisha b’Av seriously. I know plenty of serious Jews who otherwise take Tisha b’Av seriously but this year are fully in support – and participating in the fun – of the games.

    I do want to make this a statement about how decisions get made, how events are planned, and whether or not those making the decisions and planning the events know who they’re excluding and why.

    I’ve requested an official statement from the JCC hosting the games. Hopefully, I’ll get a response. Stay posted!

    Monday, August 01, 2005

    How do you learn?

    Apparently, I learn by the sink-or-swim method.

    I was talking with two other women in shul last Shabbat about the fact that I’d be layning (chanting) Torah for the first time this coming October. The prospect left me excited but very nervous. I’ve chanted Haftarah before, but you get the trope notes and vowels and everything with Haftara. With Torah, there are no vowels, no notes, and all the text is hand-scribed in fancy calligraphy. It seemed daunting at first.

    One woman suggested that I start small. Pick a very short reading, read on a Monday or Thursday during morning minyan when there’s only a couple dozen friendly faces. Wait until I’m more comfortable before tackling a longer reading in front of some 300 people. We joked about this being the test-the-waters approach to learning. Dip your toe in the pool, then immerse a foot, and gradually get in.

    I said that my history of taking on tasks has typically been to jump in with everything I’ve got. If I jump in the deep end, I will learn to swim! My life will depend on it! Of course, sometimes I stand at the edge, telling myself, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can...” And sometimes I need that helpful hand to push me in.

    The other woman in our conversation offered another alternative: she said she doesn’t even stand at the edge, thinking about it. She just runs full speed at the deep end, jumps in, and as her body sinks to the bottom, wonders, “What have I done?!"

    Monday, July 25, 2005

    The Three Children: A Multi-Covenantal Story

    Copyright © 1997 by Sheyna Galyan


    This is a story about a Mother with many Children. The Mother, like all mothers that came after, had difficulty getting Her Children to behave. Sometimes they would disobey and get hurt; other times they would hurt each other. Distraught by the pain, which they so unnecessarily endured, the Mother decided to make a contract with Her Children.


    Like all mothers that came after, She began by explaining, "I love you, and I don't want to see you get hurt; besides, we are running out of Band-Aids. You are old enough now to take on some responsibility around the House, so..." and She outlined the contract. The Mother would protect them against harm, make sure that their needs were met, and provide a special dessert after supper every Friday. In return, the Children would respect one another, treat new kids on the block with kindness, keep themselves clean, and wash their hands before supper without being reminded.


    All the Children protested and wanted to know why things must change. But the Mother knew the Children were not yet old enough to understand why, and so, like all mothers that came after, explained with "Because I'm your Mother."


    A few of the oldest Children, led by Her First-born, accepted the terms of the contract. They had experienced enough of the Mother's punishments and stern lectures that they knew when to stop arguing and do as they were told. Not that this was easy for these Children, for to this day one can hear the occasional "But Mo-om!" echoing throughout the House.


    The younger Children, however, had a harder time with this contract, and the Mother realized that She had not made this contract accessible to all Her Children. After thinking about it for a while, the Mother came up with another idea. And so She gathered her younger Children around Her and said, "I love you and I don't want to see you get hurt. I know that the contract I made with my oldest Children doesn't allow for some of your needs and the differences in how you learn. So I am going to create a second contract just for you and ask one of my oldest Children to teach you by example."


    The Mother then went to Her oldest Children, where a handful of them were in the middle of a game of Monopoly. A few of those Children were arguing over the payment of a Community Chest card when another knocked the board over and said "Come on, you guys, this isn't about money; we're supposed to be having fun and playing by the rules. Mom wouldn't like it if she saw us fighting." The rest of the oldest Children were reading books to each other in a corner. They looked up briefly at the interchange and cautioned the outspoken one, "Shhh! You'll get us in trouble."


    The Mother watched all this with a mixture of concern and amusement. Then She pretended to have just arrived and said, "I need a volunteer to teach the younger Children how to behave and what I expect from them."


    The Oldest Children looked at each other and back at the Mother. "Can't we teach them as a group?" some asked. But the Mother knew the younger Children would learn best from an individual, and explained that. "Well, how about him?" the Children who were reading books in the corner said, indicating the outspoken one at the Monopoly game. "He likes talking to us about the rules."


    The Mother looked at the outspoken one, who said, "Okay, I'll do it." And so, the Mother explained that there would be a second contract and She would use the input of this one Child to write new terms specific to the needs of the younger Children. She also cautioned him to be careful, because his new status could bring about both great praise and great pain from those around him. The outspoken one nodded and said, "Whatever it takes."


    The younger Children learned well from him, and the contract was adapted to their specific needs. But the youngest Children still had a hard time, and the Mother realized that their needs had not been met by either contract. And so She thought for a while and came up with another idea. She gathered her youngest Children around Her and said, "I love you and I don't want to see you get hurt. I know that the other two contracts I made don't allow for all of your needs, and while you have learned some from the outspoken one who taught some of my other Children, I think you need a contract just for you. I will find someone else to teach you, to whom you can relate better."


    The Mother then went to one of several of her oldest Children who had never accepted the first contract. They were busy playing around the sand box, building elaborate castles and then enacting a variation of Capture the Flag. She called the one Child aside, and said, "I want you to teach my youngest Children how to behave and what I expect from them. I have watched you playing with your Brothers and Sisters, writing your stories, dreaming your dreams. I believe my youngest Children will relate best to you. I will teach you anything you don't already know, particular to my youngest Children's needs."


    And so, the one Child taught the youngest Children, and they learned well from him.


    Are there Children who accepted none of the three contracts? Of course. Some insist on being rebellious, some have only recently been born and are too young to be accepting such responsibility, and many others – like the Children who were often seen camping and taking nature walks – have made other contracts. But that is for another story, another day.


    ***

    Sunday, July 24, 2005

    Hi all,
    I hope you'll join me in an exploration of writing and Judaism, and how each affects the larger communities in which we live. It is my plan to post here some of my essays, short stories, and other musings that I've chosen not to publish in book form.

    For those who want more, or who do want a book, you can preview or buy my debut novel, Destined to Choose, at http://www.yaldahpublishing.com.

    Don't worry folks - the second book is on its way, too. Estimated public release date is late summer/early fall 2006.

    b'shalom,
    Sheyna Galyan