Sunday, September 23, 2007


Last night as the sun set, we Jews finished the last of our High Holy Days, or what is called "The Days of Awe". Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the Jewish year, for it is on this day that we are inscribed in "Book of Life" for the next year. To be Sealed in the Book of Life requires reflection on the past year and making amends for any wrongs one has done in the past year.

We have 10 days to do this..."The Days of Awe", from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur. We are to use this time right any wrongs we have done, make amends to anyone we might have hurt. For we are to come before G-d with a clean slate, as it were. Were we kind? Were we thoughtful? Did we gossip about a neighbor? Perhaps, we did something worse. Perhaps we were unkind to our parents (if we are lucky enough to still have them). The 10 commandments tell us we are to "Honor our Mothers and Fathers".

Were our transgressions worse? Did we cheat or steal? All of these must be made right if we are to be Sealed in the Book of Life for the coming year. On Yom Kippur we fast for 25 hours. No food, no water. Nothing is to pass our lips. This is one of 4 fast days we have a year, but this is the most important one. For doing this helps us to atone for any sins we may have committed in the past year. It also allows us to realize that we can do anything we truly set our mind to, we don't have to give in to temptation.

This New Year is 5768. It is the 1st time in many years that I have joined a Temple and have participated in services. I have always believed in G-d, always considered myself spiritual but have felt for a very long time that something has been missing from my life.

What was missing was an affiliation with a Temple and celebrating all our Sabbaths, all our holidays. Last night when the Shofar (Ram's horn) sounded to close out the "Days of Awe", to end Yom Kippur, my soul was full.

It is extraordinary that we Jews are still here 5,768 years old. Why is it extraordinary? Because it seems that for almost all the years we have been on earth, someone has been trying to kill us. Hitler almost succeeded. After all, he killed 6 million of us and yet we still survive.

The State of Israel is approximately the size of New Jersey and yet it continues to thrive in a very hostile area. Our Torah survives. Every time it is brought out of the ark and we read the stories of the Old Testament, it is a thrill. This great, sacred Torah has survived for all these years. The story of Abraham, Issac and Jacob. The story of the exodus from Egypt or as we read yesterday from Leviticus, what we are supposed to do...the law.

How is it possible that in spite of all the hatred of the Jewish people we survive? Just looking at the continuation of the Jewish Religion, for 5,678 years is a miracle. I was lucky enough to be part of this miracle during this Holy season. Hearing the sound of the Shofar. I was lucky enough to be surrounded by people whom I love and who love me. I was lucky enough to live to see another year and pray for the next one. All the while, wondering and anxiously awaiting the adventures that I will have in this coming year.

5768. That is the year on the Jewish Calendar. We are almost at the end of the reading of the Torah and when we finish the reading of the Torah next month, we will celebrate another year of reading the Torah and roll it up and start at the beginning once more. This sacred document resides in the Ark until it is time to take it out for the reading. How lucky we are to have these amazing stories to help shape us as a people and move us individually.

I go to sleep now and pray as I always have, but now, I really believe G-d is listening. One of my favorite phrases is, "Pray as if everything depended on G-d, Act as if everything depended on you." This is how I pray and now it fills my soul.

Feeling fullfilled,

Living Well

As we get older it isn't always easy to like what we see in the mirror. My girlfriend Renee put it into perspective last week in a way that only she can. "Maybe my 'packaging' isn't as nice as it once was, but that's okay because the inside, where it counts, as far as I'm concerned, is still, and will always be, beautiful."

She is so right. The years fly is almost as if it all were a dream! Where have all the years gone and why didn't we use the time for efficiently. I believe that we used the time as we were supposed to. Of course, I am a "fatalist". My belief is that our lives are basically charted out for us when we are born. This doesn't mean we don't have free will. We do. There are many roads in the chart that is created when we are born...our free will allows us to take the different roads. Not always the right one, but the one that brings us to the place we are supposed to be in our lives.

We wake up one morning and discover that we are just a short trip away from Medicare. How did we get here so fast and where was I while it was all happening? I'll tell you where we were. Right here, living! When you are living, you are not necessarily paying attention as the days flash by. The big events in our life, we plan for months and in a few short hours they are over, whether it is the birth of a baby, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a wedding, an anniversary...whatever it is. We plan and then it's over.

That's the way it is supposed to be. These are what make our memories. These are what we take to old age. These wonderful, and sometimes not so wonderful, memories. How lucky we are to have them. How comfortable they are on a cold, lonely night. How loved we feel by our memories.

So, it's not so terrible to get old. The alternative is worse. It is better to have lived our lives as fully as possible and wrap ourselves in our memories as well as the love we have felt and hopefully still have. Of course, our memories are not always what they had been.

Sometimes your mind reaches for a word or a phrase and it isn't there. Our we walk to another room to get something and forget what we went for. That's when we start to it Alzheimer's? Of course not, it's simply that we weren't concentrating or that we have so much junk shoved into our brains, we don't always remember. My girlfriend Renee told me a very funny story about being forgetful.

She said,"my very favorite forgetful story is about ten years ago Adrienne and I were talking then about how we forget things and can't remember so much. Then one day I found this really great article on Alzheimer's and I thought, 'ooh, this is really interesting' and so I sent it to my sister. She called me when she got it and said, 'I just sent this to you last week'!"

Adrienne is Renee's younger sister and like the rest of us is growing older. Unfortunately, about a month ago her husband, Bob, to whom she has been married forever was diagnosed with lung cancer. We are all praying and Bob is getting wonderful treatment. So once again, life shows us, don't blink. Because in that blink, life can and often will change. There is a saying, "man plans and G-d laughs".

I've heard it since I was a kid. I believe it, for we never know what is around the next corner. So keep living your life. Kick up your heels, celebrate every day and love deeply and strongly. For we don't know what tomorrow will bring, but whatever it brings we will still be beautiful!

Living well,

Sunday, September 16, 2007


I heard a Kenny Chesney song the other day. The song could have been written from my blog. It's called, "Don't Blink". I'm certain that somewhere in my blog I've written that. I know I say it all the time to young women and men who have small children with them or a baby.

I always say, don't blink. For when you do, life just flashes by. I'm certain that somewhere I wrote about my girlfriend Renee. We have been friends since we were 11 years old. I won't tell you how many years that is, but dinosaurs were walking the earth when we met.

She and I were sitting in my mother's kitchen, both with new babies in our laps...we were all of 20 years old. Renee said, "you know 10 years ago we were 10 and 10 years from now we will be 30...can you believe that". Well, we both blinked and life has flashed by so quickly our babies are in their 40's, while she and I remain in our 20's.

There are moments when one looks back on one's life and it feels like a dream because it has all gone so quickly. Don't blink. I remember another time in my mother's was her 30th birthday and she was so depressed that she was no longer in her 20's. She looked at me and said, "just wait, you will understand when you hit 30". I didn't understand when I was 30 for I have been grateful for every beats the alternative.

My mom is now 82 and beautiful. She is possibly more beautiful than she ever has been. I would like to say she is more serene, but one can't have everything. She is who she is and may she never change. It just doesn't seem fair that when we finally become comfortable with who we are, our bodies are falling apart.

I love to walk around naked. My husband calls me "the naked Contessa" because I frequently am completely naked with jewelry on. Oh, of course, I'm getting ready to go out. The other night he looked at my naked body (believe me, it's not so beautiful) but he thinks so. Love does that,
it allows us to look a the person we love and truly see them with rose colored glasses. We don't see their wrinkles or that they've aged. We only see the person we love.

The only problem with my walking around naked is that my breasts are not where they used to be...high and proud. What's most amazing, is when I had a beautiful body I wouldn't think of walking naked through my home...I just didn't have enough confidence. But today, with age, I have all the confidence one could possibly hope for. I believe I am beautiful even though I don't have the face and figure I had in my 20's, 30's and 40's.

Age does that for seems to boost our self esteem. Such a shame that as young people we are always so worried about other people and how they view us. Then we get to an age where we just don't care what other people's very liberating.

So, living is good. Experience is better and we only acquire it by living. So live every day as if it is your last. When you say "I love you" mean it. Apologize, don't be too proud. Count your blessings and not what you don't have. Most of all, love yourself. Because in the end, we are all we have.

Living every day,

Saturday, September 08, 2007

The Days of Awe

Tonight we began the 10 days known as the "Days of Awe". They start with Selichot, which literally means forgiveness. Then we move on the Rosh Hashanah and end with the holiest day of the year, the day we are inscribed in the "book of life" for another year, Yom Kippur.

These 10 days are time for introspection into our lives. How do we treat people, how do we treat our families, are we givers or takers. It is a time for us to change, to grow, to be better people. I have always felt that G-d plays an important part in my life, for I believe G-d is in all of us and for better or worse, I need to believe.

There is a wonderful saying from our Friday night prayer book, "Pray as if everything depended on G-d, Act as if everything depended on you". I believe that in this frightening time we live in these are incredibly important words.

Tonights service was moving and touching in ways that are almost impossible to describe. My soul is full and I wish everyone could feel this way. It sounds simplistic, even sophomoric, but it is true. For one brief moment in time, everyone in that Temple tonight felt the spirit of G-d.

My wish is for the world to be as one. For people to remember we are all the same race...human. That no matter what we call G-d, no matter if you believe, if we were just more kind to one another every day, life could be better for everyone, even those who hate us.

In awe,

Friday, September 07, 2007

The High Holy Days

Tonight we were in Temple celebrating the Sabbath. I always forget how important Temple is to me. The extraordinary joy in the simple celebration of the Sabbath is almost bewildering, for it fills my soul in a way nothing else can.

It has never mattered where I am or who I am with when I am in Temple. For it is there that I truly feel G-d's presence. It isn't that I don't think about G-d when I am not in Temple, it is just that when I am there, in the house of worship, that I feel G-d's arms around me. I know we can get very existential here and ask if there truly is a G-d.

For each of us it is different and very personal. There are those people who say man created G-d and others, such as me, who believe in evolution and yet believe in a power greater than all of us. Many would argue that if there truly were a G-d we wouldn't have the horrors we have in this world. I would have to disagree and say, "G-d gave us free will and the terrible things that we do to one another are frequently in the name of G-d". Just look at the terrorists.

This Islamic Jihad is the most frightening time I have ever spent on this earth. These people want to see all westerners and non-believers dead. They march through the streets with placards that decry Western civilization and tell us that a "true holocaust" is coming unless we accept their way of life.

They outnumber us, they certainly could cause and have caused terrible tragedies in this world in the name of their G-d...who isn't a G-d but a prophet. How can people have so much hate in their souls. I guess I will have to add them to my prayers. Perhaps G-d can show them the way to peace and not to hate.

These next couple of weeks are called the "days of awe". They must have been for many and hopefully they still are for those of us who believe, for those of us who still feel "awe". All one has to do is look at a newborn to be filled with awe. Biology is which came first, the chicken or the egg?

I know that I shall be very introspective these next few weeks, in between making gefilte fish and challahs and everything that goes with them. It will be a time to count my blessings (many) repent my sins (few) and pray that everyone I love will be well and happy for another year. And so, dear reader, I wish you a happy, healthy and sweet New Year. Let's try and fill it with peace.

Looking inward,

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Old Friends

I received an e-mail tonight from an old friend...or should I say "friend of long duration", because we are anything but old. We were friends in grade school and high school, back when the dinosaurs roamed the earth.

Something wonderful happens when we keep in touch with people we knew when. We go back to when. You know "when we were young" and the biggest responsiblity in our lives was getting up to go to school. There is a joy that I feel when I hear from an old friend. I guess because that voice, even if it is an e-mail, can take me right back to those days.

If we only knew then what we know now, but that is not the nature of living. For it is in the "living" that we grow to become who we are supposed to be. If we don't taste the sour, how will we ever know what sweet tastes like. Life is like that. We have to go through many experiences to become the person we are today. Some experiences are wonderful, many are not. However, all these times mold us and help us grow.

The lucky ones of us get through the fire unscathed and come out the other side better than we could have imagined when, you know, when we were young. I remember my mother saying to me, "if you would only listen to me". "I've been there, my experience can help you."

Would it were, that their experiences, their life lessons could have molded us. As parents we want to make life easier for our children. But the truth is, we all have to feel the pain or the joy ourselves, so when we are not so young, the decisions we make will be right. Perhaps, not right all the time, but most of the time.

For those of us lucky enough to live a full life, we have many battle scars. Thankfully, most of them don't show. However, once in a while something touches one of those scars and we feel the pain again just as we did the 1st time. Tonight I was reminded that we don't all get to live a full life.

Too many people in my life left too early. Too early to see the accomplishments of my siblings as well as mine. Too early to know grandchildren and the joy they bring. Too early to live a "full and rewarding" life. Those are scars that never truly heal. We just bandage them and move on.

So tonight I am grateful to have heard from this dear old friend, for he has allowed me to go back to that innocent time of our lives. To remember all the fun we had as kids at Oketo Park and at each others houses. I am filled with joy tonight because I got something as simple as an e-mail. Thank you Michael.

With love,