Chanukah started off unusually hot this year, but by the end of the holiday, the winter was upon us with lower temperatures and some much-needed rain. But even in the cold weather, there were many touching moments that kept our hearts warm.  One day, as we approached the Old City, the walls were lit up with projections of menorahs and other Chanukah symbols. The Kotel had a celebratory feel with a huge Chanukah sign, a very big menorah, and a significantly larger crowd than on a typical day, which made for a very festive and pleasant atmosphere.  Notwithstanding, finding a seat was not too difficult and one didn’t need to hide in the shade. As I sat and davened next to my daughter-in-law, I was treated to a moving rendition of Hallel sung by a mother and her approximately ten-year-old daughter. Arm in arm, they sang the entire tefilah out loud, audible enough for me to hear the innocent and tender voice of the little girl, but quietly enough so as not to distract those nearby from davening. What a sweet moment!

One of the places where my husband and I most like to daven is Kever Rachel. We go there frequently - sometimes for a particular reason, and sometimes just because.  Sometimes the inner chamber is jam-packed with visitors, and sometimes there’s plenty of room with just a few people coming and going.  But no matter what day or time of year it is, there always seems to be something going on at Kever Rachel. 

Making aliyah entailed many adjustments for our family.  One of the unanticipated adjustments involved buying children’s shoes.  Before we moved, we had only one shoe-wearing child.  Shoe shopping for him in New York was a hobby.  My son’s friendly and outgoing personality endeared him to the workers in every store we ventured into.  We used to pop into the shoe store even when we weren’t shopping for shoes, just to say hello to the shoe lady.   

It’s been a little over two months since Shmitah began, and kitchen life seems to be returning to some semblance of normalcy. Of course, normalcy is a very subjective term, especially when it comes to the kitchen.  But let’s just say that the degree of Shmitah-related anxiety in my kitchen is far lower than it was when Shmitah first began. Things they are a-changing. The animated supermarket discussions and the incessant pings on WhatsApp groups formed to deal exclusively with the issue of Shmitah are finally petering out. We are all getting the hang of this important mitzvah.

In my weekly musar class, Rebbetzin Dina Schoonmaker spoke about the strong desire people have to be up on the latest current events, and the harm that “TMI” (Too Much Information) inflicts upon us. Before all of the advances of technology, people lived in their small villages or towns populated with a few hundred or thousand other people and knew what was happening with those around them. If somebody was sick (and it was public information), they knew. If somebody died, they knew. If somebody in the community lost their job, they knew.  If somebody was hurt in an accident, they knew. The village was a cohesive unit, with everyone sharing in the pain and difficulties of one another. But the villagers were blissfully unaware of what was happening on the other side of the world, or even in not-so-distant cities. News took a very long time to travel - if it traveled at all.  Those were the days.

I apologize.  Profusely.  I was not in control and couldn’t help myself.  But I have to come clean. If any of you decide to head out to Amazing Savings to buy some toys, you won’t be able to.  I bought them all.  I’m really sorry.  My husband and I came for a short visit to New York after a long hiatus due to COVID.  We were only in town for a few days with a very long to-do list.  It wasn’t really possible to do it all so we did activity triage and prioritized the goals we wished to accomplish.  Pretty much every hour was scheduled.  We took into account the locations of our visits, parking availability, as well as traffic trends when mapping out our schedule in order to maximize the short amount of time we had in town.  We spent a lot of time visiting family and friends.  We also went away overnight on a foliage trip, something I haven’t seen in the twenty-three years since I made aliyah, and still miss.  We also threw in a bit of shopping, but not much.  We had a short list of specific items we wanted to buy focused on those things.  We were quite disciplined. But with all of our planning and organizing, there was never a moment of doubt that Amazing Savings would be on our itinerary.