Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Once I was lost...

I never expected to become observant, certainly not when I married my husband.  Shabbat and holidays were not anywhere on the radar.

I can probably back track to any event in my life and think, yes, that is when the seed was planed.  The big move happened though, after we came back from our trip to Venice, Italy in 2008.

My husband and I had travelled to Italy and I wanted to see the Jewish Ghetto in Venice.  Why not, right?  I'm Jewish, it is part of my history.  We made our way to the Ghetto.  You know how on vacation you forget what day of the week it is?  It hadn't occurred to me that it was Friday, and as we walked through the area, people were wishing us Good Shabbos.

I was moved.  I can't explain why.

We were about the leave the Ghetto when a wind had picked up and started to blow around the chairs of this small cafe that was near one of the Venice canals.  One table had already fallen in, with a group of men staring at it with the look of "I ain't going in there" on their faces.  The owner of the cafe was running around trying to save her chairs.  I thought we should help to her.  I grabbed my husband and we picked up chairs.

The woman thanked me and asked what I was doing for Shabbat.  Something happened at that moment that I can't explain.  When we returned to Ottawa, I found myself Googling Jewish Women Classes.

I emailed Jewish Education through Torah and a lovely woman named Lauren Shaps responded.  She told me to call her.  She asked me to tell her about myself.  I told her how I had gone to Jewish day school but I had been disconnected from anything Jewish for quite some time.  I was scared to tell her that my husband isn't Jewish.  I told her that there is something she should know.  I blurted it out expecting her to call me a heretic and hang up the phone.  I had images of her changing her number so that I'd never call again.

Quite obviously, that did not happen.  Lauren said, "you are exactly who we are looking for!".  At that moment, I felt found.

Monday, May 27, 2013

What's in a name?

Four years ago, I went on a very special women's mission to Israel called the Jewish Women's Renaissance Project (JWRP).  During the trip we had a tour of Masada, King Herod's castle in the desert.  In this special place, women who did not have Hebrew names were given the opportunity to pick their names during a special Hebrew naming ceremony.

I was given a Hebrew name, but to my knowledge, my parents never did an official announcement at Shul.  I also didn't have a middle name, for whatever reason used to make me frustrated.  Everyone I know has multiple names.  I just had a first name, last name and no middle initial.

I took the opportunity four years ago to pick my middle name.  I had a really hard time with the decision.  I thought of using my grandmother's name, since she was such a strong woman.

I was drawn to the name Esther.

It was through Esther, in the story of Purim, that the Jewish people were saved, from Haman's evil decree.  Well, it was through G-d, through Esther.  Esther was married to a non-Jew, King Achashverosh.  In the story of Purim, G-d is hidden, in that there aren't any obvious miracles like a sea splitting, more a series of coincidences where everything just happens to work out.

I am married to a non Jew, and I have found that G-d has always been around, in this same kind of hidden way.  Whenever I felt really lost, a path would magically appear and show me the way.  G-d's Hand.

I was drawn to the name Esther, but I still wasn't sure whether it should be my new middle name.  This was a big decision.  I had this constant thought about the words, G-d is Hidden.  I didn't know why, but then it came together just before the naming ceremony.  Translate G-d is Hidden into Hebrew, and that will be my Hebrew middle name.

So I asked one of the Rabbi-guides on our trip.  How would one translate G-d is hidden into Hebrew?  He told me, "Nistar".  Hmm.  That didn't sound very appealing.  So I asked, how would one make a name out of it, his answer, "Oh, Esther of course".  Huh.  How about that?  (No, I was not aware of that until this very moment, in case that wasn't obvious).

(Fascinating that Hebrew naming is actually considered presently one of the last vestiges of prophecy.)

On the top of Masada, almost 4 years ago, I was officially given my full Hebrew name, Chana Esther.  Chana (or rather Hannah) chosen for me at birth, and Esther, chosen by me (or would that be strongly hinted to me), in Israel.

Here is one of the latest participants in the JWRP trip speaking about getting her Hebrew name (recorded my Lori Palatnik.  See other videos from the JWRP trips here).  I find these stories so incredibly powerful.


What is your Hebrew name?  Did your parents pick it or did you get to pick in adulthood?

Sunday, May 26, 2013

How many hats do you wear?

Welcome to my blog!

I have decided to start writing again.  I used to have a blog, I wanted a fresh start, a new blog and as I continue my spiritual growth and life "training".  I will fill you on on my life history as we go.  I hope you will join me for the ride.

Since I have started my spiritual and personal growth, or rather probably the most recent phase of it, I have struggled with identity.

I am a woman.  A Wife. A Mom.

I am Jewish.  A spiritual being. A human doing (or trying to do).

I am Canadian. I am part Egyptian and part polish.

I am a brunette.  I am short (as you can probably guess from the blog name).

I drive. I mountain bike. I do yoga (or try to).

I cook. I clean. I do laundry.

I look at each of my hats, some can be categorized under jobs and activities, and others are more descriptors.  Each can allude to a deeper identity, a set of deeper values that I live for.


My son has a book called, I Want a Hat Like That, where Grover tries on different hats and assumes different roles, different jobs, all in make believe.  Adult life is not make believe.  This is real.  This is for keeps.  We only get one chance at this, and I want to live a life with meaning and purpose.  

How many hats do you wear?  And how do you accessorize?  :)