Jewish And What Now?

They Weren’t Kidding… when they said it will be a challenge to keep the fire burning.

I am referring to Mayanot Jewish Institute, the wonderful program where I studied Yiddishkeit in Jerusalem. I was in the middle of the boat, on a perfect day, with the wind at my sails, and stunning sights to behold.

Sitting in the simple little classroom around a plain rectangular table, the experience felt majestic and calming at the same time. We studied Torah commentaries, Prophets, Halacha, Talmud, Hebrew, Kabbalah, Chassidus… I didn’t want to miss even a moment. Why was I feeling so peaceful, happy and alive..? I don’t know…

The closest answer I can estimate is that we were sitting in truth.

There is so much and so little to say. To me truth is Hashem and to elaborate is over my grade level. But in the experience of it, I notice I am kinder and calmer with a deeper self respect. My interactions also become richer.

BTW… 🫤🫢  I am glad you didn’t see me earlier today as I struggled to make international flight changes with Priceline and Italian Airways. I will just say I needed to apologize to my son afterwards.

While in JerusalemI awoke each morning 

with vim and vigor. I went to class early and stayed late. With the one exception of learning American Sign Language years ago, I don’t look forward to academic study. This glee was a wondrous surprise.

Back In The USA

Now home, I have returned to working, walking my dogs, handling the routine tasks of daily life. I feel like a balloon that has lost much of its air.  We were warned about this. That the adjustment might be a challenge when we no longer have a supportive Torah learning environment day and night. “Have a plan“, it was suggested.  

Of course, as someone who finds organization difficult but imagining possibilities easy, I envisioned lots of plans! 
1. Continue learning with Mayanot through Spotify, face-times, WhatsApp…  
2.  Add New Torah Goals
      A.  Learn and say the morning Seder blessings daily (a little at a time)
      B.  Learn/sing Hebrew prayers and music daily (again – just a little at a time) 
      C. Plan and lead a women’s music night monthly 
      D. Begin interpreting Torah teachings into American Sign Language (*one of my favorites)

The Reality

When I arrived back in the U.S. from my four month journey, Passover was upon us. I really wanted to dash forward with these Torah goals but I was feeling more like a tortoise plodding along. I kashered my house for Passover for the first time. This was no small task. 😮  

On a delightful note, my son Yaavi came from Israel to visit and our Rabbi asked him to lead the Passover and Shabbat Services! 

With Yaavi leading the Services and the Rabbi and his family out of town, I set out to prepare the Kiddush buffets. Like I said, organization is not my strong point and back in the day, I was a really bad waitress… I.E. think dropping a large tray with twelve steaks onto the lap of a businessman leading a large luncheon. 😵‍💫

Slow And Steady

As I cut up pickles, made the coleslaw, egg salads and washed dishes, I reluctantly admit that I am not generally the happiest helper. I am willing to help, just not jumping for joy. Shhh… not my finest moment. 🤫  

Yet during the several hours each day of prep/clean up, I noticed a subtle state of bliss. These meals would help people feel welcome and happy and likewise I felt a quiet purpose.

The wondrous joy was a surprise. Not the glee I felt when sitting in the midst of brilliant Torah teachers and my beloved fellow students. This surprise was the quiet joy of doing right actions. For those two special days, the magnificent Torah learning went from my head to my heart. Who’d thought that the tremendous inspiration I experienced in Jerusalem would translate into truly feeling fulfillment doing the simplest tasks.

On fire in Jerusalem… 
Somewhat blah and un-energetic back home…
One foot in front of the other, one mitzvah after another…
Quiet gifts arrive unexpectedly at our door

חֲזַק חֲזַק וְנִתְּחַזֵּק May we go from strength to strength

Love, Vivi רָחֵל 💞  ©

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Resources: Mayanot Institute of Jewish Studies: Spiritual, intellectual and experiential learning center in Jerusalem for young Jewish men and women from all backgrounds.

Photos: From Unsplash: Sailboat Photo by Georgy Trofimov, Muddy Kid Photo by Nathan Dumlao
What now Photo, Tortoise Photo, and Frustrated woman Photo from

2 thoughts on “Jewish And What Now?

  1. Linda Disselkamp says:

    Thrilled to hear how much joy you got out of living in Yisroel! Hope that you can find that joy in your daily living. I’m sure having Yaavi lead the Seder was special.

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