empty Slice of Life


In celebration of our recent anniversary, my husband and I spent a week in Norway. Norway has been in...

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Growing up, Tashlich wasn’t just about finding a body of water and saying a short tefilah. Far from it.  It was tashlich!  It was an event, possibly the biggest one of the year. We would set out on Rosh Hashanah afternoon knowing that our estimated time of returning back home was many hours away. This was not because we were going to be davening any long tefilah.  It was because we were going to tashlich.  Throngs of people of all ages and stages from all the surrounding neighborhoods would flock to the lake in Flushing Meadow Park in their Yom Tov finest, eagerly anticipating meeting all the people they hadn’t seen since the previous year. It was an aliyah l’regel of sorts. Between the roundtrip walk to and from the park, plus a good one to two hours spent milling about the lake, it was an all-afternoon affair. Staying awake all Rosh Hashanah afternoon was no problem at all.

Question: How many social workers does it take to change a lightbulb? Answer: one - as long as it is willing to change. As a social worker, I’ve heard this joke many times. Only I don’t really think it’s funny. Especially now. Many of us go into the field of social work with a strong sense of idealism. There is no shortage of problems in this big world of ours, and we take it on as our mission to fix them. In social work training, they actually spend a significant amount of time trying to instill within us a healthy dose of reality and prepare us for the fact that, as much as we want and as hard as we try, we will not be able to fix everything. But we are young and committed and we know better. We really are going to make the world a much better place. 

Our names are caught up in our identity. Or maybe our identity is caught up in our names. My Hebrew name was not a very popular one when I was going to school.  On the first day of school, when my teacher would ask me my Hebrew name, I would sheepishly and quietly answer, “Tziviya.” It’s one of those names that is pronounced differently in Israel so even when I went to seminary, I stuck with my English name. Tzviya, the Israeli pronunciation, just didn’t feel right. Many years later, I became involved in researching my family. With the treasure trove of family photos that I stumbled upon, I was able to piece together some sort of picture of my paternal great-grandmother, the very special woman for whom I was named. Tragically, she died in Auschwitz al kiddush Hashem. My grandmother was her only child who managed to leave Europe before the war and survive.  Privy to this knowledge, I forged a connection to my great-grandmother, and as a consequence, to the name Tzivia. I still don’t use the name, but when I am asked what my Hebrew name is, I sit up straight and answer with pride.

It’s a boy! Chasdei Hashem! My husband and I were blessed with our very first grandchild. Our daughter-in-law gave birth to a beautiful and precious baby boy, baruch Hashem. Hodu laShem ki tov, ki l’olam chasdo! I am not going to write about the significance of such an awe-inspiring milestone. Sometimes there just are no words that can capture the depth of emotion, joy, and gratitude that one feels. But I would like to share with you the experience of his bris milah.

Time flies. And fast. My family just celebrated the 22nd anniversary of our aliyah.  On one hand, it’s hard to believe we are here for over two decades. On the other hand, it does feel like we’ve been here for quite some time since the country which we call home is vastly different in so many ways from the country we moved to.  In what seems to be mutually exclusive achievements, Israel has become much more westernized and progressive while simultaneously hanging on to the small and intimate family feel. It’s the advancement of many small changes which in combination have substantially improved the quality of life here.

I am so happy to be living in Israel, but to be perfectly honest, it isn’t something I think about 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I don’t wake up on a high every morning and jump out of bed enthusiastically running to do all that I do with high level of awareness and consciousness that I am dwelling in this Holy Land. Of course, there are special moments when I soak up the truly special atmosphere that surrounds me when I take the time to focus. Nefesh B’Nefesh welcome ceremonies give a highly concentrated dose of “Israel is our home as well as the best place on earth to live,” which lasts for a good long while. “Only in Israel” stories and experiences also give that warm and pleasant feeling. On a recent tiyul with my family, we met up with someone who showered us with his overflowing love for the land, and I’m still feeling the lingering effects.

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