Thursday, September 27, 2012

Yom Kippur, the year is 5773. The place is Manhattan

You'd think that after an intense day of fasting, praying, and standing, that I would just conk out without any medicinal help. Yep. I'm up late at night after fasting and prostrating myself to The Lord all day. I'm presently on the couch in my brother Peter's Manhattan apartment waiting for the sleeping pill, (which I already spent over an hour trying to do without) to take effect. I'm, exhausted but my body hurts and is probably dependent on the sleeping pill.

Yom Kippur is *so intense*. It's not only the fasting. It's the praying. The better my Hebrew gets, the more I understand what we are saying. I mean, I used to read the English side in my prayer book, and pray in English so I could understand it, and keep pace with the congregation (which is usually zooming through the prayers). Recently- Rosh Hashana and this Yom Kippur- I read much more of the Hebrew and kept close to the pace. Reading it in the Hebrew hits home for me more than the English ever did. I really felt a difference- the nuances of the prayers in Hebrew are actually not so subtle comparing with the English. If you really understand what you are saying, it is really, really intense.

And, if one is in chutz l'aretz (outside of Israel) for Yom Kippur, any tool that allows for more spiritual connection while far from home helps the spirit to get involved.

This year I was at a Minyan (prayer group) that my brother decided we'd go to. It's called "Drisha" (pronounced Dreesha) He chose it with me in mind because there is a lot of singing, and even some dancing at times. It was very very spiritual for me, and I even had a smile on my face sometimes feeling the spirit in that huge, cavernous gymnasium with parquet flooring and a high, arched ceiling with old, ornate moulding all around it. It was pretty full, too, and many harmonies floated around with the prayers. My brother picked good. Thanks, Pete. :)

At one point I was just getting dragged down by my body. As much as I tried to transcend, my body was saying "transcend, shmanscend". I was fighting myself; the new nerve pain meds make me feel sleepy and I was desperately trying not to give in, but my eyelids were challenging me every step of the way.. My hips were aching. All day I shifted from one leg to the other. Didn't much help. So, back to that point I started out this paragraph with, I decided to go to the back of the room and sit on this carpeted step/stage thing that was there. I laid down. Then, a lovely woman who I had met the previous night at Kol Nidre davening (the special prayers only said on Yom Kippur, opening up for us the Day of Awe.) came to join me on that stage/step thing. I sat up to talk to her. She asked me how my mother is doing, and told me about her aunt, who got sick with something (I don't remember how it started), and she said from that illness came many more problems for her aunt. It was a cascade of health issues one after another. She said something that I have said a few times in this blog- that once a person gets sick, it is so hard to get back into balance. I told her that I completely know what phenomenon she is talking about because I am in that position as well. I said that I got sick five years ago and haven't gotten back on track yet. The she asked what I got sick with...  I looked her in her compassionate eyes and said "flesh-eating bacteria". I talked a bit about how since then t has been one problem after another. I hardly knew this woman, but because of my nature, I am often willing to give a real answer and see what happens next. What happened next was that it turns out we are drug sisters. :)

She had an awful accident while hiking which broke her back. She was on Fentanyl for the pain from that, and also suffered horrible nerve pain (like I am at this moment... common', Lyrica- kick in any time now,,,)
I haven't known anyone else on Fentanyl, except for my dear friend RivkA, may her memory be blessed and her soul rise ever higher, and she was in stage 3 cancer when she went on it. This woman today, named Tal, also said that she never met anyone on Fentanyl patches. And here also was someone else who understood nerve pain and it's debilitating effects. We compared notes on side effects, nerve pain, and how- as much as we want to see it all get better and go away, we have to also get used to the idea that this may be forever after. We talked up a storm after that! About medicine, chronic pain, not being able to get the body back on track after such a traumatic event.

We also talked about emotional aspects of having these issues and being young. When she said to me that here she was so young, yet her medicine cabinet looks like an 80 year olds cabinet. Truth is, my Dad is almost 82 (bless his soul) and his medicine cabinet is pretty tame in comparison to mine. Thank Gd- for him being fairly healthy, I mean. I SO totally related to that. Haven't I said that here before? She was speaking my thoughts and I was speaking hers.

Her mother is Israeli, so Tal speaks Hebrew quite well, and has spent time in Israel. Yes, we'll be keeping in touch. You just never know when a conversation is going to turn into a spiritual connection, you know?

I go back to my parent's house tomorrow by taking the Long Island Railroad. Until yesterday, I hadn't stepped foot in Penn station in close to 20 years. Yes, that was another nostalgia trip. My Juilliard days, my many, many jaunts into the city to meet up with friends. Again, sensory feelings & memories were pulling me to pay attention to them. And again, I was enjoying it all. I wanted to linger and explore and take pictures, but I had to make good time to get to Peter's apartment and have a meal before the fast started. Maybe tomorrow when I return.

I still ache. Near the end of the day of praying, the last supplication to Gd is prayed completely standing. Two hours of standing. The reason for that is that we cannot relax with this last opportunity to ask for forgiveness for our [very human] downfalls. To beg for a year of health and sustenance, for me, brought me to tears. Not only for myself, but for my mother, and father.

I have had some truly amazing experiences on this trip. I thank the good Lord for that.
Tomorrow I go back to my parents place until Saturday night when I fly back home. I thought about staying longer, and even had an invitation from Tal to stay at her place because she will be away for Succot, the next holiday coming up on Sunday night. I decided though that my place is home for that holiday (holy-day). I miss my kids and Robert tremendously, and Succot is a beautiful holiday to experience in Israel. Just about everyone- religious and secular alike- build a succah at their home. The one we build at our home (actually it's two- the downstairs one for eating, and the upstairs terrace succah is for sleeping all the family) is very special to me. Basically, it's time for me to go home. Staying would make my mother happy, for sure, but they don't need me. They are living with a helper, like in Israel is often a Philippine, and she is doing a very good job. I am good moral and emotional support, and that makes me feel great to be able to support them in that way, but the reality is that I have four kids and a husband in Israel, and a very special holiday is around the corner.

I'll be home on Sunday, pretty close to sundown... a bit risky, but I have a feeling in my gut that it will be fine. Plane lands at 3:00, and candle-lighting (when we refrain from all the Torah prohibitions, similar to Shabbat) is at 5:30. It's good that Robert enjoys cooking. I'm sure, though, that anyone who feels like doubling some recipe as they are doing their holiday cooking, and bringing some over for us would be welcome. :)

I am starting to feel drowsy. My eyes are tired, but I am still in pain. My poor hips. Will this be forever? Please Gd, no. Please restore to me a pain-free life. Tal, the woman I spoke to at length today, is *out* of chronic pain now. She got off the Fentanyl after four years. She does Yoga four times a week, and says that skipping it makes her pain return.

I have decided to try yoga-- formally. I know, though, that I have to be careful- lots of those stretches are going to be near impossible because of the way my hips are wired up.

I am going to try it, though. That, together with some body energy work. Let's see how that all goes.
Good way to start the new year, right?


  1. Sarah, you outdid yourself - a beautiful piece! Shabbat Shalom. Hugs, hugs and prayers for you, and your beautiful family, that you find and take the correct path - for your health, for your family and your home. May this be a wonderful year of continued growth for you.

    1. thank you, dear Bracha. Getting a "haskama" from you is such a compliment!
      May your family also have *health* and sustenance in this new year. And naches.... lots of naches. :)

  2. I often get the feeling that kids aren't taught that prayer is talking with Hashem, they just do it and are sometimes encouraged to do it quickly. How can you rush a conversation? Many of them don't know that there's a point in the tefilla to add your own personal prayer. For me it was the opposite. I was encouraged to talk to Hashem before I learned to read. I'd talk to Him every night before going to sleep. Talking to Him is important. He is the One Constant, always available to listen. We don't always like His answers, but we know He cares, we know He loves, and we trust that He knows more than we do. Once I did an experiment with my pupils. I showed them a picture. It was a white page with a dot on it. I asked them what they saw. Most said they saw a white dot. A couple had terrific imaginations saying something like toe dot being (I cant' remember what) in a field of snow.
    It was the very few who said, "A black dot on a white background." Most of us are focused on the little black dot (or perhaps a big black dot) and we don't pay attention that there's a huge white background around it. So is life, Hashem sees the full picture, always. We often, or perhaps even usually don't. That's where faith comes in.
    A conversation with Hashem? That's really good stuff. And when it's heavy-duty, even better. A reminder to me, to have a good talk with Him. I think I also might start writing a list of things I'm appreciative of every night, like I did a few months after I lost my granddaughter and her mother z"l in a car accident. Long before "The Secret" recommended doing this, rabbis did. Some say to right atleast 5 things. Some say 10. The first time I did it I had read a suggestion to write out a list of 100 things (not on a daily basis, a one-timer beginning). I thought, 100?! Impossible! So I sat down to right 10 but as I wrote the 10 turned into 20 and that turned into 50 and then 75 and the next thing I knew, I had indeed written 100! Who can't be on a high after that? May this year be filled with wonderful things to appreciate! And may you indeed be able to enjoy life without pain!