Thursday, June 9, 2011

Shavuot 2011: receiving the Torah directly into my house

Erev Shavuot is a very significant day for me.
It's the day, four years ago, that I came home
from the hospital 
after being brought back to life from the brink of the other side.
I could barely walk, and was in constant pain.

Here is another tikun from that day to this:

I am going to try to recreate for you a really beautiful scene that happened in my living room on the night of Shavuot. Picture taking is something we refrain from doing on holy days such as these, so I am grateful for the opportunity to write with words the picture in my mind.

Staying up all night is a very strong tradition on Shavuot night. Hashem directed the people of Israel not to sleep at all. They were at mount Sinai, and were about to receive the most holy gift they will ever receive- the Torah. Sleep could alter their state of purity.

So we carry the wisdom of this directive into our days.
Robert always learns all night on Shavuot night. I love that he does.
I always stayed home and put kids to sleep, and usually myself as well.

This year my children said they wanted to stay up all night and learn. In my younger years, I'd have put my foot down and said they need their sleep; especially Azriel-- he's only 5. This year, with the wisdom I've gathered through hardship and pain, I was proud that they wanted to do this, and supported it wholeheartedly. Even for Azriel, for as long as he wanted to stay up. I had one stipulation: that learning is going on. In my opinion, one night of learning Torah long into the night is worth a thousand nights of going to sleep on time.

I took Shifra with me to a shiur-- a Torah class-- in our shul. She dozed off... :-)
When we got home, I saw the most incredible sight, forever imbedded in my mind. I saw my boys, the three of them, with three other boys who are their close neighborhood friends strewn all over couches and carpet learning Torah. A few were studying BarMitzvah portions, a few studying Mishnayot (a code of writings that compliment the Torah, written from the oral tradition), and someone was also learning megillat Ruth, the story of the famous convert Ruth, which we read every Shavuot.

These boys were all between 10 and 12. It was nothing short of magnificent. Breathtaking, to my eyes. My ears also soaked up the symphony of young boys' voices learning Torah. At the time, Azriel was snuggled up to one of Dov's best friends, listening him learning his BarMitzvah portion. This boy was showing Wazi, in the Tikkun (book of the words of the Torah, written on one side of the page with cantillation (chanting) markings, the other side as it appears in the Torah, without markings) pointing with his finger to all the words he was singing. It was gorgeous.

After a short while, they all asked for cups of coffee... it was the cool thing to drink on such an occasion, of course. So, they lined up with their disposable cups, and I put spoonfuls of instant coffee in each cup. Then I took each one and put in sugar and filled them with hot water. The milk was on the counter. I brought out the cookies, and they grooved on coffee and cookies at 1am.

Then I went to sleep.

They stayed up all night learning. *ALL OF THEM*. Azriel learned megillat Ruth with Robert, sentence-by-sentence, awake and alert the whole time. He only zonked out at 4am. He's such a product of being the youngest kid; he does what the older ones do, without thinking twice. It was natural for him to learn Torah into the night. No way could I have put him to sleep with *that* going on. He's an awesome kid.

When I got up to go to shul the next morning, everyone was asleep except for Shifra, who was quietly playing in the living room. Robert was asleep on the couch and Azriel next to him in the stroller. Apparently Azriel went to the sunrise prayers with Robert & Dov & Ya'akov! There, I am told, he fell asleep in Robert's lap, and came home in the stroller.

Shifra and I went to shul. A profound effort, actually, for me... leg pain, though I was happy I went.
We came home to a few people up, a few still asleep, a board game being played, and only good things everywhere.

Then we made a delicious bar-b-que! You can only cook on a Yom Tov (Holy Day) if it doesn't coincide with Shabbat, and you can light flames from a flame which existed before the chag. We lit one of the long-lasting yahrtzeit candles, and Robert started up the coals with it. Very special, and very delicious!

My family is everything to me. That is where my happiness comes from. This whole poor health thing? This four year (and counting) ordeal fraught with loss and pain? It gave me the power to give myself to my family. It also gave me the power to trust in Hashem. The paradox: loss and pain gave me power. Stunning.

Though often I don't feel powerful; this is the thing.

I had an MRI today for my thigh joint. The sounds that come from that paint quite the contrast to the sounds of a group of young boys learning Torah.
Sounds like jack-hammering... machine gunning.... some sort of alien abduction... my veins shot-up with something....  it made power go hide for the day. Can't blame him.

The whole rest of the day today I spent in bed, feeling powerless. I had wanted very much to go to the beach with Shifra & Azriel. I couldn't manage it.

But they were completely happy, anyway, baruch Hashem.
I am too, mostly... I just wish that power I have in me came out to play more often.


  1. so uplifting to read such a blog right b4 shabbat! continue to receive such nachat from your children. shabbat shalom, rochel.

  2. Dear, dear Sarah,

    Bless you for sharing this with all of us. You are an incredible woman, mother, wife, example for us all. What else can I say? Only that you should complete this difficult tikun and life should become lighter, easier…

    Lots of love and hugs.

    Shabbat Shalom,


  3. So delightful to read! I'm so proud to be an uncle to these children!!!