On the roof of the Aish center looking down at the Western Wall with Chevra & Davai in 2011

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Sunday, July 6, 2014

Happy or Sad… a Kotel Story

Last week, I arrived at the kotel for the first time in three years.  A few days latter, I came back with a Rabbi/friend of mine and he taught me an interesting Halacha (Jewish law).  He said when one visits the kotel for the first time or after a period of bring away from it, he should tear his clothes as a sign of mourning.  Typically, tearing ones clothes is reserved for the intense mourning period that we go though when we experience the passing of a close relative.

In the same fashion, we should tear our clothes when we arrive at the kotel, because we should mourn the loss of the holy Temple to the same decree that we mourn the loss of a parent, spouse, child, etc.  Even though, I recognize the Halacha as valid and see the point, it just doesn't sit well with me.  At the kotel, G-d's presence can be felt in a more intense way than any other place on earth.  At the Kotel, my learning is better & by prayers are more intense.  Since I feel the heightened sense of G-dliness, it just doesn't feel right to be sad about arriving there.

On the other hand, things clearly aren't right.  The Temple Mount is inhabited by a people that hates us and our temple has yet to be rebuilt.  The fact that the news broke that the bodies if the 3 missing innocent Jewish boys, whose memories should be for a blessing, who had been kidnapped several weeks ago had been discovered is as much proof as one needs to know that things aren't even close to the way they should be.

If we can't be happy, and we can't mourn, what are we supposed to do?

We cry.

Crying is the only human reaction that can represent both extreme joy & sorrow, possibly even at the same time.  At the Kotel, We cry because we love G-d and are happy to return to such a holy place.  We also cry over all the blood that paved he way for our return and continues to pave the way for us to remain there.  We cry for the ones we have lost and we cry for the ones that we still have.

Friday, July 4, 2014

When's the time to stop praying?

There are many times throughout the day and the week that we have opportunities to pray for someone else's recovery from illness.  On Monday mornings, Thursday mornings, Shabbas mornings and afternoons, when the Torah is out, there a special prayer for someone’s recovery from illness.  Also, during the weekday Shemoneh Esrei, 18 times throughout the week, we can insert someone's name and ask G-d to grant them a complete recovery.

A complete recovery... Not just a rafuah, but a rafuah shleimah.

What about a partial recovery?  Someone who has 2 problems will most probably be very happy to recover from 1 of them.

In other situations, a partial recovery just doesn't do the job.  In other situations a partial recovery is worse than no recovery at all.  My father is in one of those situations.

At 78 years old, physically, he's still fairly strong and as tough as nails.  Over the past 25 years, he's beat both cancer & leukemia. Though he shrunk a few inches in size, his. 5'11", 220 pound frame still gives him a strong presence.  Thick & strong, you don't want to be on the wrong side of a heated argument with him.  It can be very intimidating.  I felt a little intimidated this morning.  I thought he was going to take a swing it me.  I’m not mad at him.  I'm not even sure he knew who I was.  Though he's winning his battles of physical health, he's losing his battles of mental health badly.  In just about a year, he went from being a little cloudy mentally to full blown dementia.

Since I started praying 12 years ago, I prayed for my father’s health.  G-d half delivered.  G-d has kept him alive.  G-d has kept him strong.  G-d has let my fathers mind almost disappear.  G-d has let my father's needs & aggressive moods push my mother’s patience to a breaking point.  G-d has answered part of my prayers and for many years I've been grateful for that, but not anymore.

Now, how do I tell G-d that it's all or nothing?  How do I tell G-d that I need either the rafuah shleimah or no rafuah at all?  How do I tell G-d to either cure him or take him?  My father is scared.  My mother is mentally & emotionally drained.  Should I ask G-d to take my father or do I say nothing at all?

The questions are many.  The answers are few.  This morning, one of my brothers & I tried to take him to the hospital as a step towards going to a nursing home.  They refused to admit him ... Too argumentative.  They couldn't handle him.  I debated staying in town, but I had a commitment.  Here I am, on a plane to Israel.  I committed to help a friend run a trip for young professionals to explore Israel and even help a handful of guys experience yeshiva for the first time.

My job is to inspire them to explore their Judaism and talk to G-d and for the first time I'm many years, I don't know what to say myself.

I'm not having a crisis of faith.  Even tough when questioned by my relatives about why the suffering continues, the answers I have learned seemed futile.

Even though I couldn't come up with an answer that made sense, I still believe.  I just don't know what to say.

I once read that by a shiva, we’re rewarded by our silence.... Just sitting is enough.  Maybe I just need to sit in since with G-d.

Maybe I should just pour out my heart to G-d & let him come up with the answers.