Paula R. Stern is CEO and founder of WritePoint Ltd., a leading technical writing company offering documentation services and training seminars. She made aliyah in 1993 when her oldest son was 6 years old. In March 2007, her son Elie entered the Artillery Division of the Israeli army and Paula began writing about her experiences as A Soldier"s Mother. The blog continues as Elie begins Reserve Duty and her son Shmulik is now a soldier. She recently opened a publishing house, helping other authors fulfill their dream to publish. Links to the Author's blogs: * A Soldier"s MotherPaulaSays...
Passover - the holiday and the history - is a time of transition. Physical and spiritual. Like most of the holidays in Judaism, there is an added element of reality and intensity when celebrated in the land of Israel. Only here do you realize how connected the land is to who we are as a people, and what God intended for us. Only here.
In terms of transition, I feel it more this year than most. Amira was about 4.5 years old when Shmulik was born - that means I gave birth to 3 children in 5 years. As they were born, this is how they married. Within five years of each other - three grown and married children. There was a six year break between Shmulik and Davidi; four more until Aliza joined our family. There has always been a huge divide, though smaller now, between the big kids and the little ones.
I would smile when one of the older ones referred to "the kids." It was the three and the two; and now the three are all married and essentially out of the house. With all the plans of the last few months, then Aliza's bat mitzvah and the wedding and seeing them off for a brief trip to the US to spend part of the holiday with Lauren's family, and the mad preparations for the holiday, it is only now really hitting me that we are a family with two children.
Sure, I still have five - even eight (and a grandson) - but on a day-to-day basis, it's us and two. A transition, a change. The holiday of Passover is about transition as well - from the slavery of Egypt to the freedom of being a people. New rules, new practicies, new food in the desert on their way to the Holy and Promised Land. Promised by God...to us.
Passover is about a transition from the rain and the winter to the hot and the summer. Yesterday, it was very hot and sunny in Israel; today, they expect showers in the south and in the north. By Friday, it will be hot again. Summer is coming; transition.
Passover is about cleaning out your home, even obsessing about it and pulling out of the closet those dishes and pots you use only once a year for 7 days (8 days outside of Israel). It's fun (a lot of work, but fun), to pull out those things and remember what goes where. I love the pots I have for Passover and each year struggle to put them back. It is so tempting to keep them out and use them all year long, but then I wouldn't have them for these days - and I have enough pots anyway.
The important thing about transition, I think, is to embrace it, work with it, enjoy it...and let it keep moving on. My family has been in transition for five years now - so many changes. Five years ago, we already had Yaakov in our lives - we have added Chaim as a son, Haim as both a son-in-law and a son. We added Ariella as a daughter (though that was termporary as her parents moved to Israel and we had to somewhat unadopt her - even though we still consider her ours). We added Naama as a daughter-in-law, who became a daughter; and we added Lauren as a daughter, who became a daughter-in-law. We (okay, I didn't have that much to do with it, though I was there when he joined us) added a baby grandson.
That's a lot for five years - three weddings, a bar mitzvah, a bat mitzvah, a grandson - a lot of happiness, a lot of transitions. So we've just completed another one. We're enjoying the holiday and the break from work; sleeping more than I have in months, in between cooking and just reading and resting.
Passover will come and go this year, as it does every year. Winter is over; the rainy season all but behind us. Now comes the summer months; sunshine and heat. The older kids are all married; all building their own families. The important part of transition is to embrace it. I'll keep telling myself that as I enjoy my new children and perhaps focus a bit more on the two younger ones while they are still kids.
Davidi was amazing this year, helping me prepare for the holiday. He's beginning to accept the harder truth of a child - that he is bigger and stronger than I am. He takes things down from the top shelves for me; soars above me. Aliza is the little planner - but not so little. She went on a trip with the neighborhood today and carefully planned what she would take along. I helped at the end, but it was her doing, her planning.
If you love the winter, as I do, you have to remind yourself to enjoy the summer too - otherwise, you spend half your life wishing for tomorrow or next month or next season, rather than living today. One of the beautiful prayers we recite on Passover and other holidays includes the verse:
"This is the day which God has made; we will rejoice in it and be happy with it."
That just about sums it all up. Take today, this moment in your life, this time, this day, and celebrate it. Live it. Today is the transition between yesterday and tomorrow. Neither of those days can you live today. Yesterday, you cannot change; tomorrow will come soon enough. Somewhere in the posts from long ago, towards the beginning of the time Elie was in the army, I began to understand that tomorrow was a very frightening time. Tomorrow, Elie might go to war; Shmulik might go into a very dangerous situation. If I could focus on today, each day, tomorrow would always be a day away.
It's a life philosophy I try to live with - sometimes I succeed, sometimes I don't. Today is the day God has made, the day He has given to me, to us. Celebrate it, rejoice in it. Be grateful for it. Each day, every day. That's the plan; the great secret of life. Passover is one of those times God gives you to remind you of where you are. Not where you were or where you are going. Yesterday, you were slaves; tomorrow you'll be out there in the desert somewhere. Today is what it is all about. Today you have food and sunshine. The dishes and pots will change; the rain will come and go.
Your family will grow - in size, in number, God willing. Accept it, rejoice in it. Be happy with it. I guess, it's the ultimate, original, "Don't worry. Be happy" message.
So don't worry - be happy. Works for me. Chag samayah - happy holidays to you.