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Rosh HaShana, Day One

The major task for me, on the Jewish Sabbath and on holidays, is to avoid engaging in work.

For me, work is the Achilles' heel of faith. 

Because when I work, I feel invincible. But of course, nobody is.

Facebook showed me a photo of myself five years ago. I looked so much younger and thinner then.

Today I wake up, and I am not the same person.

It takes me a few minutes to get going--maybe it's my platelet count acting up again, maybe it's menopause.

I find that I am grateful just to get vertical without too much trouble.

Yesterday we went out and I saw a lady take about fifteen minutes to get from inside the building to a taxi waiting outside.

The frailty of my body is upon me. And it doesn't get very much better from here.

So we went to synagogue yesterday, after I struggled in the morning not to think about work.

We looked at the seating chart and figured out that we were sitting in the same exact place as last year. 

Of course, some people had taken our seats. But it didn't seem worth arguing for the short amount of time we'd be there.

I find it very difficult to sit in shul, but like my father in law (may he rest in peace) used to say, "you can either go to synagogue or to the hospital."

So I sat there. 

On the way to my seat I'd picked up a couple of chocolate chip cookies they had left outside for the congregants. (Have I mentioned that I've gained two pounds so far and it's only been 24 hours?)

I saw someone in the lobby that I'd become casual friends with, or so I thought, and said hello warmly. 

She seemed not to see me, so I said it again. 

Then she walked right past me and said hello to someone else.

"Did she just purposely ignore me?" I asked my daughter, who nodded. "Wow."

Of course I knew what this was all about--politics--and I chose to let it be Rosh HaShana.

It's a test of faith, I reminded myself.

Not working is a test.

Not getting angry is a test.

Getting to synagogue is a test.

So we went into the synagogue and the Rabbi asked everyone to be quiet.

He asked again and again, and mostly the women listened but there was one man who either didn't hear or didn't care.

I watched the man walk around the shul and hug and kiss his friends.

I tried to decide who was right in this scenario, the Rabbi--who was clearly trying to preserve the holy nature of the service on one of the holiest days of the year--or the congregant who did not seem to have much longer on this earth.

In the end, I went with the congregant.

About two minutes later--after I'd walked in and out a couple of times to deal with that suffocating feeling I get in shul--they opened up the ark.

I looked at the Torahs inside.

The men started praying very loudly, in unison, and I could feel God's presence there.

Involuntarily I started to weep. Involuntarily my head bent forward.

In my mind I went back over all the pain of of the past. 

Thankfully I've blocked out much of it, but somehow there is always more, and it all kind of hovered over me.

I knew we were being judged, and I prayed to God to judge us for the good. I prayed for many things, which I am not going to share with you here.

My daughter gripped my arm when she saw me weeping. "Mom, are you OK?"

I didn't answer her, because I knew she knew the answer.

About 15 feet in front of me there was a child, maybe six or seven years old, maybe eight, wearing a pretty but much too short minidress and frankly it could have been the attire of a twenty-something out on the town.

She was a carbon copy of her mother. 

The child had fancy patent leather shoes on her feet. Her mother was standing to her left.

The next thing I knew the child had clambered up to a railing to watch the services. Her underwear was visible from the back. 

Her mother was patting her on the bottom repeatedly.

The entire display was disturbing, the dress of the child, the dangerousness of her stance on the rail, the way the mother was literally putting her hand on her ass. 

I felt a very strong desire to call Child Protective Services, and then--after a year of reading about corruption and child sex trafficking in the United States and worldwide--shook my head mentally inside as I quickly realized the futility.

After that it was hard to get back into prayer and then it hit me again:

This is another test of faith. Can you stay in the moment and pray to Him.

The rabbi announced that he was about to make the blessing on blowing the Shofar.

I moved leftward to go back to my seat and take a prayerbook. I stared at the page, not really reading.

And then the shofar cried.



Shevarim Teruah.......

Sobbing, broken, shattered and afraid, I stood there naked before God and begged Him to have mercy, just have mercy.

We all have so much to lose. We all need so much help.

May God help us and restore us, and may He bring us peace.


By Dannielle (Dossy) Blumenthal, Ph.D. All opinions are the author's own. This blog is hereby released into the public domain. Photo credit: G. Sankary/Flickr (Creative Commons)

3 Lessons From The Hawkeye Pierce School Of Management

As a child I grew up on a steady diet of a certain kind of sitcom. Their names kind of run together -- All In The Family, One Day At A Time, The Jeffersons, Good Times, The Facts of Life, and M*A*S*H.
In many ways, the producers of these shows shaped my worldview. They put characters out there whose lives were tough, and even dangerous. Relationships provided a temporary respite at best from a largely harsh existence.
In the show M*A*S*H, Hawkeye Pierce (Alan Alda) played a wiseass doctor struggling to get through the Korean War. He's stationed far from home, with too many patients, an unpredictable case load, a life-threatening environment and not enough good staff or supplies. While the overall head of his outpost was decent enough, Hawkeye always had too much on his hands and there were politics galore to be navigated.
But he was also a gifted doctor, and he made the unit work. As a much older person now, I look back on the lessons I got from that show and think frequently that I apply them in my work. As follows:
  • You have to have a sense of humor. Hawkeye could make a joke out of anything. Work is often tense and scary. It's good to help people let down their guard a bit and unfreeze some of the tension.
  • Being technically competent doesn't give you permission to be a jerk. Hawkeye had a special way of taking egotists down from their perch.
  • Everyone is different, but everyone is part of the team. Even though he worked with a lot of different kinds of people, some of them very difficult to get along with, Hawkeye had a way of making everyone fit into a single coalescing whole. The sense of unity didn't come from changing who people were, essentially. It came from understanding the nature of their mission and its urgency.  
Now, you may be thinking that seven year olds shouldn't think about management much, if at all, and I can't say that I disagree with you. The truth is, way back then it was just funny to see Hawkeye give Frank Burns the business.
But ideas have a way of getting into our heads, and the younger we are the more firmly they implant themselves in our subconscious.
Maybe this isn't the biggest deal, but I think I learned a lot from watching Hawkeye Pierce in action.
By Dannielle (Dossy) Blumenthal, Ph.D. All opinions are the author's own. This blog is hereby released into the public domain. Photo via Wikipedia.