A friend of ours is getting ready to light Chanukah candles for the first time this year (two friends, actually, but only one is local). Since I’m in the business of guiding people through their Jewish journeys, it’s an extra privilege to help someone a friend to find the tools and learn the skills to lead a Jewish life. So, the very first thing I did was look to my calendar for when I could invite our Charlotte friend over to join us in lighting the Chanukah candles.
Alas, it seems that my family of four will only be together in our home for one night of all eight nights of Chanukah! And that one night is the SEVENTH night, which is not a great night to help someone kick off the holiday for the first time. While we negotiate our complicated schedules, I thought it would be best to…
Bipolar Disorder is a physical illness: this blog post from “Bipolar for Life” will lead you to an article in Psychiatric Times that documents it. Bipolar is as “real” as Type 1 Diabetes, and those who suffer from it don’t deserve jokes or shunning, they deserve compassion and decent treatment.
Holy mackerel, Bullwinkle, there’s actually physical evidence that our brains are different from the neurotypicals! Yes indeedy, bloggie friends, the picture is not a pretty one, but hey, we knew that already.
The link to the article in Psychiatric Times is below. If you have trouble with it, let me know in the comments and I’ll copy-paste it in its entirety.
Unfortunately the only way to qualify for this test is to have a post-mortem. So there’s plenty of time to kick up our heels and enjoy being Bipolar, Schizophrenic, Schizoaffective, or any or all of the above!
Feel free to print this out, and if anybody gives you any shit about “Just snap out of it,” shove it up their, uh, nose. We have a Real Physical Disease.
It’s October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The world is pink. We race for the cure. We stand up to cancer. We support our loved ones battling or surviving the disease, but there is one population we never mention: women with breast cancer behind bars.
Imagine the feel of shackles on your ankles. Hard, cold steel does just what it’s supposed to do. It cuts into your ankles and restricts your movements to baby steps. Even when you are very careful, you wind up with blisters or ankles rubbed raw. The weight alone drags you down.
Now imagine handcuffs. They too are designed to restrict and they can chaff and cut, especially if the guard who cuffs you is having a bad day. His bad day becomes yours.
It’s two o’clock in the morning and the halls of the jail are…
A sukkah (soo-KAH or SUK-kah) is a small temporary structure Jews build to celebrate the week-long holiday of Sukkot. It is often translated “booth” but might better be translated as “shelter.” In the ancient Near East (and in some places, even today) farmworkers built these little shelters for the hurried end of the harvest, when it would take too much valuable daylight to travel home from the field every day. For Jews, the sukkah also is a reminder of the time when we were wanderers on the road from Egypt to Israel.
A proper sukkah is a temporary structure. Its roof is partially covered with greenery (ideally tree branches) but open enough that one can still see the stars on a clear night. The sukkah should be large enough for at least one person to sit in it at a table, and it may not be more than 10m tall. The walls should be constructed in such a way that they will not blow over in a wind. It is important that you acquire all the materials in a legal manner: “borrowing” greenery from a neighbor without asking (aka stealing) invalidates the mitzvah.
A sukkah can be as expensive or as inexpensive as you wish. The sukkah pictured above was built by a man named Yonassan Gershom, and on his blog he writes that it was built mostly of found materials; the bill came to $5. You can also purchase sukkah “kits” on the internet, which is one way to get a proper sukkah without too much worry. If you are skilled with tools, then you’ve got a head start!
Many people decorate their sukkah with carpets and wall hangings, and furnish it with a table, chairs, and even a bed! Since the mitzvah (commandment) is to “dwell” in the sukkah, it is good to eat meals and even sleep in the sukkah, weather permitting. It is especially nice to practice the mitzvah of hakhnasat orchim [hospitality] by inviting others to eat in your sukkah.
What if you don’t have a yard in which to put a sukkah? In cities, people sometimes build them on balconies, fire escapes or rooftops. (Be careful not to run afoul of local ordinances, however!) Synagogues and Jewish organizations often have a sukkah. If you sit in the sukkah of a friend or neighbor often, it is nice to offer to help them take it down at the end of the holiday; this is usually not a small job.
Sukkot is an opportunity to appreciate and enjoy nature while we share meals and conversation with family and friends. Whatever is available to you this Sukkot, be sure to get outside and enjoy the season!
[Rabbi Jonathan Freirich delivered this on Friday, August 29 with the wonderful people of the Transfaith Conference here in Charlotte, NC]
אֱלֹהַי, נְשָׁמָה שֶׁנָּתַתָּ בִּי טְהוֹרָה הִיא
My God, the soul you have given me is pure.
As we look out upon this day, among these beautiful people around us, let us acknowledge the shining purity and beauty of the spirits we find around us this morning.
Let us revel in the light that we bring to each other and share with one another.
In Jewish traditions we begin our mornings in gratitude – first for our bodies, may they work well enough so that we can offer praise and thanks. Then we notice that our spirits still reside within us, and that that essence is pure, and we celebrate the return of our souls into our bodies after that absent time during our slumbers.