As you all know, in Israel the army is not voluntary; most young Israeli men and women serve in the IDF, although there are many notable exceptions.  Any soldier in any army faces many challenges. 

I don’t recall exactly how old I was when “the man in the car” showed up on our street, but I was a young child and the incident made a lasting impression.  It was smack in the middle of a New York winter - when the cold is brutal and being outdoors can at times be downright dangerous - when a creepy-looking man pulled up in front of our house, parked his car, and decided to dub that particular spot his new home. At the time, I didn’t understand the incongruity of a homeless man driving a car. He wore a shabby coat and could have used a haircut. 

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.