juliespeaks

The unvoiced thoughts and ideas of a septegenarian.

WOMAN OF VALOR

 

WOMAN OF VALOR

One of the rituals of the Jewish Sabbath dinner meal is the recitation by a husband to his wife of Woman of Valor (Eshat Chayil), a 22 verse poem that concludes the Book of Proverbs, wherein such a woman is described as energetic, righteous and capable. It begins, “A woman of valor who can find. Her worth is far above rubies.”  When I hear it I want to respond by saying, “Stop right there.  I can find plenty of women of valor.” To mention only a few, there was:  

Brave Rachel who stole her father’s idols and never begrudged her sister – winner of the wedding wars. Sneaky Rebecca who ensured first born privileges be given to the second: an act that saved the Jewish people. Courageous Miriam, though still a child, saved one who led his people forth from slavery. Deborah, the judge, sent forth words of wisdom from under a palm tree and bravely entered a war of freedom. Esther – a woman of faith, devotion and courage, kept her identity a secret, defied the rules, appeared before her king to beg for the lives of her people – and won.

Emma Lazarus welcomed the oppressed to a land of freedom, argued for a Jewish homeland long before Herzl called it Zionism. Golda, rose through the ranks to become Premier of Israel, secretly crept across borders to make peace with an enemy

Anne Frank, a young girl never to become a woman, courageously exposed the evils of Nazism: one voice who spoke for six million, embodied the triumph of the human spirit in a dehumanizing system. Henrietta Szold – Founder of Hadassah, leader of Youth Aliyah, rehabilitated thousands of children, established a nursing school, opened health care clinics throughout Israel.

Jewish women of valor can be found in medicine, literature, music, science, education and athletics, politics and the entertainment world: women who fight for right, loudly espouse equality and expose the evils that befall humanity. They score their triumphs alone, unaided they venture forth, no crutches or jumper cables for them

Many others of note swept aside, buried in time. What would the world be like absent the paths they walked? Others will come who measure up to these women of guts and glory and talent. Let us remember and continue to tread the roads they traveled for all mankind

See also Two Toasts To the Sabbath

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Julie Rose

editit601@gmail.com

 

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GRATEFUL

GRATEFUL

My thoughts began to drift as I was driving home today and a question popped up. Aside from some family members, to whom, and for what, am I grateful?  Only a few came to mind and I started to feel – I don’t know- cheated, I guess. I trembled to think that at my age there should have been far more   Nonetheless, I’m grateful to these few.

I am grateful for having had the experience of interacting with two learned professors. One had the patience to plough through all of Shakespeare’s sonnets with me and introduced me to Plato, Socrates and a chunk of ancient Greek history. The second, a professor of linguistics as well as an artist, daily provides my brain with the manna it craves and challenges me.

I’m grateful for one friend who, in ten words, once said something to me that resulted in sending my children to an excellent Jewish Day School from which they graduated as knowledgeable, committed Jews.

I’m grateful to Helene Hanff, author of 84 Charing Cross Road, who not only amused me but introduced me to Quiller whose lectures on the Art of Reading and The Art of Writing taught me much.

I’m grateful for people like Mother Teresa who remind me how good man can be and for those like Elie Wiesel who don’t let me forget how evil man can be.

I’m grateful for having had a seventh grade English teacher who provided me with a thorough grounding in the art of writing and instilled in me a love of   books, as well as a teacher who gave me an appreciation for the beauty of the Hebrew language.

I’m grateful to two people who consistently tolerate me at the Bridge table and continually teach me more about the game.

I’m grateful to one man who taught me how to laugh again, gave me a love of gardening, and opened my eyes to the extraordinary ability of very young children to learn.

I’m grateful for having grown up at a time when Ella Fitzgerald and Nat King Cole and ‘Ole Blue Eyes filled my head with lyrics I’ll never forget.

And I’m grateful to all libraries which give me access to the world’s knowledge: books to entertain, teach, challenge me.

This seems a paltry list. Certainly I could mention Martin Luther King and others who stood for equality and human rights; Jonas Salk and his ilk who gave us solutions to medical problems; those who invented a myriad of things that enhance our lives, but I am not here speaking of humanity at large – only of those who  touched me personally.

For whom, for what, are you grateful?

Julie Rose

julierose601@gmail.com

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ONE QUESTION

ONE QUESTION

Strange thoughts sometimes occur to me. They  pop up out of nowhere. There’s no connection between the thought and anything else I might be doing or thinking about. It happened again yesterday.  I asked myself, “If ignorance is bliss why aren’t there more happy people?”

That, of course, presumes there are an awful lot of people who aren’t very bright: some of them   running around without leashes.  Well – aren’t there? Before we work on artificial intelligence, maybe we ought to work on doing something about natural stupidity. Instead of  testing for drugs, why don’t we test for ignorance and love of power? Viagra and multi-vitamins enhance the lives of some people but where is the scientist who can develop “smart” pills?

Imagine politics with its dumbbell element removed. There is nothing so easy to enslave as ignorance.   It is the enemy of civilization, the foe of enlightenment. “Get all the fools on your side and you can be elected to anything.”  (Frank Dane) Is that why we have irresponsible leaders who make promises and don’t deliver? Do you  think the fools out number the smarties?

Some folks believe there are things man was not meant to know. I disagree.  He may not understand them but he still wants to know.  Witness the curious child who asks ‘why’ at every opportunity. That child may not understand the principle of natural selection but he still wants to know why  the spider spins  a web. We are bombarded with information, deluged by a media circus, and it’s difficult to know what to let seep in and what to toss in the trash. The dumbest people anywhere, at any time, are those who think they know it all.  They far outnumber the brainiees.

All of which raises this question.  Can we become smarter than we are or are we doomed;  locked into whatever the gene pool dictates?  The best advice I’ve ever read is summarized in one sentence. “The best way to become smarter than you are is to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you are.” (George Steinbenner, owner of the New York Yankees) How do you do that? Even if you  try you will undoubtedly encounter a few who are not aces in the deck of cards called life. Steinbrenner’s comment reminds me of a Yiddish proverb. ‘A table is not blessed if it has not fed a scholar.”

Maybe we could do it if we stopped treating infants and toddlers as though they were pets and instead recognized and nurtured their extraordinary ability to learn. If we did that,  there might well be far fewer idiots and fools among us. That, however, is a subject for another post – maybe more than one.

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Julie Rose

julierose601@gmail.com

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ONENESS

ONENESS

Why did I spend some 40 years rising early each Saturday morning to attend Sabbath services? Why are some Catholics committed to participating in a daily mass? Why do devout Muslims make a hajj?  And why do some people fail to participate in such activities?  I don’t go to praise the Creator. I don’t go to beg forgiveness for my sins.  I don’t go to plead for something.  I go to give my children roots. I go to revel in a spirit of community – of oneness with others.

ONENESS

It isn’t the oneness of Hashem * I treasure.

It’s the oneness of we.

You say there can be no oneness of we.

Yes there can.

 

When I see hundreds, nay thousands, of Jews

Marching on behalf ofIsrael, civil rights,

Blacks, the downtrodden,

I am at one with them:

They are as one with all.

 

It matters not whether I enter

A shul, a yeshiva, a synagogue,

Or a congregation by any other name.

Inside the doors oneness is felt,

Seeps through my pores.

 

I have failed to learn the lyrics to Hatikvah

Yet when hearing it sung in a crowd

I tremble with pride.

I stumble when reading Hebrew;

Warmth flows when I hear it.

 

It pervades my soul.

It is my road to the Baal Shem Tov;**

Josephus, Hillel and Maimonides;

A streetleading to Wiesel and Ozick and Bernstein.

My path up a rocky hill toMasada;

My sword during a crusade;

My portal to Treblinka;

A pass to fly with the IDF;

An invitation to dig in the Sinai;

 

And an admission ticket to a Passover Seder,

Any place, any time.

 

* Hashem – one of many Hebrew words for God. Others are Adonai, Jehovah, Shekhinah, Elohim.

**  Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, literally master of the good name, 18th century founder of the Chassidic movement.

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Julie Rose

julierose601@gmail.com

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A BLESSING ON YOUR HEAD

A BLSSING ON YOUR HEAD

You may be familiar with that song from Fiddler On The Roof. Remember?

A blessing on  your head,

                       Mazel Tov, Mazel Tov

                        To see a daughter wed               

                       Mazel Tov, Mazel Tov

That’s not the blessing I’m referring to. There’s another for that bride that comes to her much earlier in life.  One of the traditions observed at the Jewish Sabbath dinner meal is the blessing of one’s children.  Parents place their hands on the child’s head and to girls say: “May you be like Sara, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah.”  For boys it’s “May you be like Ephriam and Manassah” (Why it is Ephriam and Manassah and not the equivalent patriarchs is another question.) It makes no difference how old a child is. I have observed eighty and ninety year old parents blessing fifty year-olds.

It’s a lovely tradition but for many years I wondered why we wish our children to be anyone other than who they are. Did I really want my Sara to be like the Biblical Sara or my Joseph to be like Ephriam? My bewilderment was resolved when  I heard the following  Chasidic story.

One day his disciples found Rabbi Zusya weeping and they asked him why. He explained that he trembled when thinking about the end of his life and being asked by the Almighty not “Why were you not like Moses?” but “Why were you not Zusya?”

Indeed.  Why were you not who you are? Once my feeble brain understood  that, I changed the blessing for my kids.   It became, “May you be blessed with the strength and the wisdom to become who you are.”

AND THEY DID!  I’m grateful and proud!

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Julie Rose

Julierose601@gmail.com

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UNREQUESTED ADVICE

UNREQUESTED ADVICE

Generally speaking it’s not a good idea to offer unsolicited advice but when you have lived 70+ you have learned a few things and it’s difficult not to share what you have learned with your loved ones. It’s unfortunate that some of those things are learned too late.

Had I known earlier in life what I know now, there are things I would have done differently. In the hope that my children and grandchildren wouldn’t make the same mistakes I made, I wrote them a letter a while back and told them what some of those things were. Here are about half of them:

  • I would have home schooled my children.
  • My home would have been filled with good music and there would have been firm, restrictive, rules on the use of the TV. I might have thrown it out.
  • I never would have started to smoke.
  • I would have worked harder to develop and maintain friendships.
  • I would have lived abroad for at least a year, explored the world’s great museums, wandered in Tuscany,  attended an opera in Rome, a concert in Vienna.
  • I would have made one more trip to Israel and participated in an archaeological dig.
  • I would have learned to play the piano.
  • I would have studied Latin.
  • I would have adopted a child.
  • I would have become reasonably proficient at some sport,  probably tennis.
  • I would have returned to school and earned my doctorate. I can’t tell you why.
  • I would have taken classes in photography, bought a decent camera, taken long walks in a forest and photographed flora and fauna.
  • I would have spent more personal time with each of my children. I might even have bit the bullet and gone shopping with my daughter.
  • I would have encouraged each of my children to become proficient at some musical instrument.
  • I would have taught my children to play Bridge.
  • I would have taken my kids to the opera and the theatre more often than I did.
  • I would have worked harder to have my books published, completed two unfinished novels and written a cookbook.
  • At least once I would have owned a convertible – car not couch – a red one.

There’s more but those are primary. Whether or not my children and grandchildren will benefit from that letter is open to question. Probably not. Their goals may be far different than mine but at least the letter gave them some insight into the woman who is their mother and grandmother.

What would you include in such a letter?

Julie Rose

julierose601@gmail.com

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SOUL FOOD – AN ODE TO AUNT KITTY

SOUL FOOD – AN ODE TO AUNT KITTY

 

She had a wooden chopping bowl the size of a washtub.

I hadn’t the faintest idea what gefilte fish was.

She said ”I’ll teach you”.

I learned by chopping  – endlessly.

I’ve  now chopped enough fish to stock Lake Erie.

 

At Passover we chopped nuts and apples by the buckets.

In my kitchen I toyed with  the recipe

Mixed a little nutmeg into the cinnamon,

Added some raisins or apricots;

Occasionally won a round of applause.

Tried Persian Charoset – adored by some guests

Too spicy for others.

 

We left off chopping and began to knead

Kitty insisted 100 kneads were essential

I divided the challah dough in thirds to be braided

She cut each piece in half and s said

“We braid six, Prettier.”

She never let me forget I failed the proofing yeast test

 

I  learned brisket doesn’t have to taste like shoe leather

Meatballs demand sweet jam and chili sauce,

Those cubes of beef the butcher calls beef stew

Are delectable braised in red wine and onions

After they’ve marinated for two or three days.

 

I learned to make chicken soup without a whole hen,

Used only a bag of bones, a few wings

And never forgot the thyme

I learned guests expect matzo balls in their soup.

After some practice mine were light as a cotton ball.

 

“Forget the matzo balls next shabbas,” he said.

“Make some knishes instead.”

Knishes?  Quick – call Aunt Kitty.

He once asked for borsch.

Bought beets, dug out a grater:

My knuckles bled for three hours.

Alas, he wanted cabbage borsch.

 

Mandelbrot, Sponge and Honey Cake?

Boring I concluded – leave those to the bakery.

Bourbon  Pound Cake and Cinnamon Tea Rolls

French Apple Tart and Lemon Bars are better.

Forget chopped liver.

The odor of broiled liver nauseated me.

That’s what delis are for.

 

Aunt Kitty’s wooden chopping bowl

Is now a cherished part of my kitchen.

It’s an octogenarian,

A stranger to planned obsolescence.

It holds fond memories of a motherly woman

Who knew her way through the maze of Jewish soul food.

 

Horrors – I’ve lost the chopper!

 

Simcha

 

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Julie Rose

Julierose601@gmail.com

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TWO TOASTS TO THE SABBATH

TWO TOASTS TO THE SABBATH

 

A CHASIDIC STORY

 

One of the traditions observed at the Jewish Sabbath is blessing one’s children.  Parents place their hands on the child’s head and to girls say “May you be like Sara, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah.”  For boys it’s “May you be like Ephraim and Manasseh”

 

It’s a lovely custom but I’ve always wondered why we wish our children to be anyone other than who they are.

 

My question is answered in a Chasidic story. One day his disciples found Rabbi Zusya weeping and they asked him why. He explained that he trembled when thinking about the end of his life and being asked by the Almighty not “Why were you not like Moses?” but “Why were you not Zusya?”

 

Indeed! It didn’t take very long for me to change the blessing for my kids.   It became, “May you be blessed with the strength and the wisdom to become who you are.”

 

 

A WOMAN OF VALOUR

 

            Traditionally, as the Sabbath meal commences, husbands recite A Woman of Valor in honor of their wives. (Proverbs 31-10)  There’s much to be said about the value of maintaining traditions but I often had to surprises a giggle. It wasn’t me my husband was speaking of when he said, “She seeketh wool and flax and works willingly with her hands,,” or “She considers a field and buys it,” Right. I should be so lucky as to have enough resources to buy a few acres of land. And I seeketh wash-and-wear – not wool and flax. “She maketh linen garments and selleth them.”   Who? Me?  I search for those linen garments in resale shops.  Find me a woman who “Rises while it is yet night and giveth food to her handmaidens.“. Instead, how about “She willingly driveth the children to soccer practice, and tolerateth her husband’s idiosyncrasies  with patience?”  Handmaiden?  Are  you kidding? An occasional foot rub by my husband is the closest I’ll ever come to a handmaiden.

 

For many years I was so blessed but accepted that blessing with a sense of unfairness..  Why should the children and the wife be blessed and not the husband? Finally, I took it upon myself to rectify what I considered to be a thoughtless omission. Here it is. I leave rephrasing of Woman of Valor to you.

 

Ode To A Husband

 

I am fortunate for I have found a man to treasure.

His worth is immeasurable.

He is committed to the welfare of his family,

Works diligently to provide for them

And cares for his friends and community as well.

His concerns are those of a king beholden to his kingdom

And the toils of his labor are in their behalf.

He is neither selfish nor idle and conducts himself with dignity and compassion.

He walks with a straight back and a raised head

And the touch of his hand is my delight

Blessed is the man who honors his wife and

Directs his children in paths of righteousness.

May his love be appreciated by those whom he cherishes.

How would you bless your children or your spouse? Post a comment.

Julie Rose

Julierose601@gmail.com

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