First Night of Chanukah: Not What I Planned

#ChanukahBlackLivesMatterI’ve been at my desk all day, ignoring the obvious: my body is especially gimpy today. Staying at my desk was tempting because:

  1. I have a lot of work to do, most of it desk-work.
  2. At my desk, I can pretend I’m not having an arthritis flare, even though sitting for long periods will absolutely make the flare worse.
  3. I had an investment in pretending, because I wanted to go to San Francisco tonight to be part of the #BlackLivesMatter march.

Fortunately for me, I have a wise spouse, who watched me get up from my chair and said, “I wish you were not going to that march tonight. You are in no shape for it.” After some hemming and hawing, I had to admit she was right. Even on the scooter, I was not in shape to be out in the rain, in a big crowd, far from home.

Inside my head, I feel fabulous, energized, full of love and Torah after the past week of retreats and travel. In the rest of my body, I feel about 100 years old. This is just a fact of living in a body with arthritis, old injuries and a bunch of other problems.

Sometimes we have to accept things as they are, and be grateful for what is possible, rather than grumpy about what isn’t. I’m grateful for the people who love me enough to tell me when I’m over-reaching, because I often fail to notice until it’s too late.

I remind myself what Rabbi Tarfon is quoted as saying in Pirkei Avot: “It is not incumbent upon you to finish the task. However you are not free to desist from it.” We have to try, but we do not have to push past the limits of our ability. I can contribute more to #BlackLivesMatter right now by teaching and writing. That’s the fact of it.

Do you have limitations against which you chafe sometimes? How do you cope, and how do you comfort yourself?

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Rabbi Ruth Adar is a teaching rabbi in San Leandro, CA. She has many hats: rabbi, granny, and ham radio operator K6RAV. She blogs at and teaches at Jewish Gateways in Albany, CA.

13 thoughts on “First Night of Chanukah: Not What I Planned”

  1. “I remind myself what Rabbi Tarfon is quoted as saying in Pirkei Avot: “It is not incumbent upon you to finish the task. However you are not free to desist from it.”

    This is an excellent post, and it’s comforting. The focus is on the goal, not the strivings
    of the self in the process of achieving that goal.

    By posting about your commitment to #BlackLivesMatter you have affirmed that it is true.

    I hope you won’t mind if I re-blog this post. Because Black Lives Matter.

    All lives do…

  2. I most certainly do, as you know. I used to fight against all these illnesses until I wore myself down even further. Finally one day acceptance came and I let it in. I will have these illnesses for the rest of my life unless a miracle occurs.

    I was raised with a strong work ethic and it was extremely difficult for me to be forced by doctors to go against that ethic and quit my job and then to seek help and assistance from certain government places in order to live. My daddy had an incredibly strong prejudice against people who used these programs when I was growing up. He had a lot of prejudices, but thank God my mom did not. I couldn’t talk back to him about any of it, but I could think my own thoughts. Even though he died when I was 18, he was still in my head at 36 when I had to seek help. I knew he’d be ashamed of me — not the daddy I love who is in Heaven, but the earthly daddy who I love and who had many foibles. I don’t know what it is about parental guilt, but it extends beyond the grave!! I think it’s because they don’t uninstall it before they die!! 😀

    Eventually over these past (nearly) 22 years of disability and illnesses getting worse and meds that never work and more meds that never work, etc. I also came to accept there are times when I simply cannot. I cannot go or do or be what I used to and/or what others expect. I learned I am not responsible for others’ expectations of me. (Still gets to me a bit because I do care what people think of me since I want no one to hate me or judge and condemn me, but I’m doing the best I am able to do now to not let that control my life.)

    I’ve told you before that I spend my waking hours having an extended conversation with God, so I turn to Him even more during the bad times and the worse times. I also have a close relative who understands totally and I can vent, cry, seek advice, etc. I couldn’t make it without these two in my life.

    Then there’s times when these illnesses have been really bad and I feel like I’m all alone. I remember when David was out with his motley crew avoiding King Saul and slaying the Philistines. When they came back others had raided their camp, stole their women, children, money . . . everything. The loyal men all turned on David and blamed him. The Scripture says (approximately) ” . . . then David encouraged himself in the Lord.” I’m usually the one to give others encouragement because that’s one of my gifts from God. It dawned upon me once that gift is supposed to be used for me, too, after this Scripture came to mind. So I encouraged myself in the Lord. I felt SO much better afterward!! 🙂

    1. Brilliant! I looked up the verse, and it says, וַיִּתְחַזֵּק דָּוִד, בַּיהוָה אֱלֹהָיו – literally, “David strengthened himself in Adonai his Lord.” Vayithazek is an interesting word – it means “and he strengthened himself.” There is a point in Jewish ritual where we say it, when we finish reading a book of Torah: “Hazak, hazak, vayhithasek!” It’s as if we stop at the end of the book and drink in all the strength in it.

      Thank you for this beautiful insight. You not only have a gift, you ARE a gift.

    2. I feel exactly the same way about my health. And yes, once those buttons are installed, they’re staying! 😉 Even Jesus once said “aw, dad, do I HAVE to?”

      But it’s like how they tell you on planes to put on your oxygen mask first and then help your child. Sometimes you have to help yourself before you can help others.

      1. I have (luckily) never been on a plane when the oxygen masks deployed, but they have served me often as a metaphor I can hear even when I’m all wrapped up in foolishness.

        Thanks for commenting, Lurk!

    1. It’s a challenge to stay mindful of some things. I don’t like reminding myself that I’m not always able. And yet, who IS always able, over the course of a whole life?

      Thank you for reading and commenting. The comments encourage me a lot.

  3. I have rheumatoid arthritis. I’m also autistic. I’m also driven.

    These things do not combine well when I’m in flare. (This most often happens these days when the barometer goes nuts – which, right now, it’s doing in Southern California. I love rain, and we need rain, but my joints don’t love rain at all.)

    Yesterday I felt useless and said so, and my best friend pointed out that I was being supportive just by being with her while she made dinner for me, her, and my husband. I don’t deal well with feeling useless. I’ve been trying to learn better, though.

  4. Rabbi Adar, this spoke to me strongly about learning to submit, not to the illness, but to the wisdom of those around us whom HaShem uses to teach us to listen to Him. thank you for sharing.

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