Tehillim (Psalms) 9:5

Tehillim (Psalms) 9:5

ADONAI is a stronghold for the oppressed,

a tower of strength in times of trouble.

Those who know your name put their trust in you,

for you have not abandoned those who seek you, ADONAI.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Life is Full of Challenges and Hurray It's the Eighth Night of Hanukkah

This is my second year observing Hanukkah since I started attending Sar Shalom, Messianic Jewish Congregation.  It is my first Hanukkah observance since my conversion this past summer.  This Hanukkah season I received a wonderful gift from the woman in our congregation who runs Junior Congregation.  She shared a book that she uses for her family candle lighting.  She put this book together herself referencing her favorite authors on Jewish festivals and Hanukkah.  She sent me the pages, and I compiled my own.  Joy!   History and Torah all in one.  I read from it for seven nights.  More Joy!   (Not tonight though, Hanukkah party at Sar Shalom.)

I'm reflecting on what has changed from last Hanukkah...

Last year I read strictly from the Siddur.  This year I didn't.  Nothing wrong with that.
Last year there was a "little" angst from the kids over my not doing the Christmas tree.  Not this year. Hanukkah decorations went up.  Next year we'll do more.
Last year we sang Hanukkah songs in the house.  This year Hanukkah songs were included in the songs the children sang to our neighbors. My daughter directed.

Last year for Hanukkah my family here in Texas totaled 5.  This year more family moved to Texas making us 13.  I didn't include my sister who is visiting.  And how do the children feel about Hanukkah?  They love Hanukkah!

Last year I didn't know much about the Maccabees or Hanukkah.  This year I know more.  Hopefully, next year I'll remember more. 

The miracle of Hanukkah in brief.  A band of untrained agrarians, led by righteous men of G-d - the Maccabees, defeat the Greek army and rededicate the desecrated temple in Jerusalem.  A jug of undefiled oil is found to light the temple's menorah, enough to last only one day.  It lasts for eight, thereby, giving the priests just the right amount of time to prepare consecrated oil.  
Read more here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maccabees

Now getting to the Life is Full of Challenges part.  We face challenges every day, financial, emotional, psychological, physical, relational, medical.  All of us.  Some challenges last days, some weeks, some months, and some a lifetime.  Some of us can speak very clearly on one type of challenge or another.  It can be very personal, very painful. 

As believers, the challenges we face can help mold us into better people if we accept them as tests designed to equip us with more strength of character, endurance, faith, trust and hope.  Rabbi taught on this today.  Ultimately, all our tests are allowed by HaShem.  What is our response when they come?

Although, my heart was heavy tonight over the personal challenges I am facing, (minutia really in the scheme of things) I was able to rejoice in the miracle of Hanukkah.  I was/am able to identify with the Maccabees in their refusal to compromise their beliefs.  The Hellenistic Jews were okay with pagan practices.  Not so the Maccabees.  Note to self: be more like them. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Is There A Mezuzah In The House?

Oh it took me so long to get the mezuzahs up in my house.  Everytime I would say the Shema I was reminded that I was not meeting this commandment.  It was disturbing to me because it  was something relatively easy to do--buy the mezuzahs and scrolls and hang them on the doorposts of the house. 

I was blessed unexpectedly last week,  Sar Shalom had mezuzahs and scrolls available for purchase.  I purchased as many as I needed.  As I left the building I quietly thanked HaShem for helping me meet this mitzvah. 

The following day, I set myself up with the blessing to recite when affixing a mezuzah in one hand, my trusted hammer and nail in the other.  To the front door I go.  My daughter cheering me on.  Was that trepidation in her voice?  After several failed attempts at driving the nail into the wood, and in the process hitting the ceramic mezuzah case so hard that I break it, and get a piece of ceramic stuck in my finger.  I come back into the house and retrieve the electric drill from under several items that were on the bottom of the pantry closet.  Why the pantry closet?  I store it there so I can get it in a hurry.  Ok, I'm in denial.  My daughter is looking at my bleeding finger and wishes I would let my son-in-law do this.  It's nothing I say and move on.

Back at the front door, I once again realize that the drill is  a wonderful invention.  In minutes the new mezuzah (I purchased more then one) is on the doorpost of the front door and I am feeling quite accomplished.  I proceed to place one in several other rooms of the house.  The drill is my friend and I am feeling confident that I will be able to get to the back door before dinner time.  Not. 

Here it is now several days later and there are still 3 doorposts in need of mezuzahs.  I am promising myself that tomorrow it will get done.  Notwithstanding, I am blessed.

In the meantime, this is what I have learned about this mitzvah:
  • Mezuzah literally means doorpost.
  • Mezuzah also means the parchment paper where Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and Deuteronomy 11:13-21 are written.
  • Mezuzah can also refer to the case holding the scroll.
  • There are guidelines to how the scroll is written.
  • There are guidelines to who can write the scroll.
  • There are guidelines for inspecting the scrolls for damage twice in 7 years.
  • There are many guidelines to affixing a mezuzah.
  • There are guidelines for a mezuzah when you move.
Aside from all that, having a mezuzah up on my front door ia an affirmation for me that I am trying to live a Torah observant life.  Reaching up to touch the mezuzah as I walk into my bedroom is a reminder that I love the living Torah and that His word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.  It is much in the same way that I kiss the scriptures after I finish reading them. 

My beautiful grand daughter smiles from ear to ear as I hold her in my arms and help her reach up to touch the mezuzah by her bedroom doorpost.  She is so young and yet she seems to understand that it is a delight to obey His commandments.

Chabad.org is an excellent reference for learning about the mezuzah.  Just write mezuzah on their search engine.