It’s my birthday. And some say we have an ability to bless others on our birthdays. But more than this, it is the time of year when G-d’s warehouse of “free gifts,” is open to our prayers and I have always seen the most beautiful of my heart’s desires fulfilled via the pleas I make on Purim.
I have so many people I want to bless (because I truly have an “ayin tova,” for all of B’nei Yisrael and I want each of us to be showered with health, wealth, love and Torah), but I cannot stop and find each of you. I cannot sit with you and hold your hands and gaze into your eyes, but I can share an outpouring of love for my sister (who chose to move to Israel soon after I did and whose husband is an amazing ben kollel for the fifteen years they are married). I can share this outpouring with you. I ask you to lend a small bit of imagination to the possibility that I want these blessings for YOU too and try to imagine sharing them with others.
There is enough in creation for each of us to have all we need and more, without need to lessen anyone else’s belongings, wealth or health. Love is G-dly, it has no limits and no need to be understood or explained or justified: it is.
To my dear, dear, dear sister on the 13th day of the 13th month, my birthday,
Thank you for being my sister and thank you for moving half-way around the world to join me in the Eretz Yisrael.
The idea that two young women who grew up in a barely Reform home, with a non-Jewish father; the thought that we two could and would and did move here and settle in deeply religious neighborhoods; how alien our upbringing from our lives today. I am simply and truly grateful we are both here. And I want to give you a million blessings for health, wealth, happiness and more Torah; I want to give these in specific detail but I must unburden myself first, I must clear air that you don’t know was muddied.
Last week, on my Gregorian Calendar birthday, I was awoken by a phone call from both of our parents. This phone call is akin to the miracles which brought two mongrels from “Goy-ville,” California all the way to Eretz Yisrael. The only bitter residue in this conversation arises from the fact that you were the “perfect,” child in our home; you were favored and praised for being quiet, sweet, well behaved, non-confrontational, studious, hardworking and more. It was from this position that you were forced to witness the horrific events that regularly occurred between our parents and me.
On one hand I was vilified, while on the other I was the one who sat up with you when you were throwing up and unwell; the two of us terrified of disturbing our parents lest they abuse me, not you.
From years of therapy, I learned: being the witness is worse than being the abused. I can go on about the whys; about how very much my heart breaks for the pain you suffer because you were forced into this role; about how being the victim freed me to push away and find a path to Torah Judaism but that’s a story, for a different day.
Right this second I want to bless you, to fully bless you, without a smidge of guilt interfering with the pure love and joy I feel for you and for being your sister. I am blessed by simply having you for a sister. I only want to bless you in return; yet there is this taste in my mouth.
When our parents, together, called to say, “Happy birthday,” it was amazing and wonderful, and those two words fail to describe 1% of the pleasure and healing which happened.
I don’t know if you, rather I don’t know if I ever told you, are aware: our parents forgot my birthday several times when we were children. Yes, there were years when they hosted birthday parties for both of us but as we left the birthday-party-stage-of-life there were 3 or 4 years they simply forgot my birthday; they never (to my knowledge) forgot yours and we know: your birthday is two days after mine.
I never blamed you for being the perfect child, but it was extremely painful to watch my day quietly pass without a word and then to be met with a Baskin Robbin’s ice-cream cake, colorfully declaring, “Happy Birthday Christy,” two days later.
This is the unpleasant taste in my mouth, the sense that I’ve usurped your place.
Not that I think our parents think I’m “perfect,” but they do currently seem less angry with me, less worried about my happiness and moderately satisfied with the efforts I’ve made to prepare my children for university (we just learned: the IDF wants to send both of them to university before they are drafted; our parents are ecstatic).
Each of these topics came up during this memorable phone call.
It started with a sense of excitement over my birthday; blessings for health and materialism. A query into which gift I’d prefer. What were my goals for the new year. How proud of me they are for beginning the process of getting myself back to university. How much they support my desire to become a trauma therapist and how they positively KNOW I will be the very best trauma therapist in the world.
At some point, they tried expressing their concerns and frustrations for/with you. I did my best to listen but I would not allow them to vilify your choices and actions. I would not allow them to think less of you. In exasperation Mom finally threw her hands up in surrender and said, “I can’t be negative with you, your are just too positive.”
And I can hear the pleasure in her voice.
She is very proud of me, my attitudes and my love for you.
This is the taste which bothers me.
I am incredibly proud of you and your attitudes and the love which freely flows between us but I am bothered by the sense that they no longer consider you perfect.
It bothers me even more that despite their rage over my choice to live here, their rage over the perception that I persuaded you to join me, their rage over the dietary restrictions we embrace, over the giving over of our “free will,” to the will of The Torah — despite all of this palpable rage they love me and celebrate who I am and where I’m going with my life.
This love is more believable and acceptable and healthy than the love they gave you when we were children. As children they didn’t really see either of us therefore the adoration and praise they showered upon you wasn’t real, wasn’t true.
This is where I want to begin to bless you.
May G-d bless you with the gift of our parents seeing who you truly are and embracing you with all of the fullness and joy and excitement the real you deserves. May you be blessed to be accepted as you are and may your Torah based choices be accepted too.
At the end of the conversation I went into “imago” mode and summarized what I heard them say. I said, “Thank you Mom and Dad. This is the most wonderful birthday gift ever. I feel so very loved and showered with warmth and blessings.”
Which is when Mom interjected, “And adoration. We adore you. That’s just how it is. We adore you.”
All of this from the people who repeatedly put my life in danger?!? I don’t need to wonder how we got here. It wasn’t easy.
Did I ever tell you about the time Dad came close to acknowledging how dangerous my childhood experiences were? It was erev Rosh Hashana and I was asking him to forgive me for something I’d done. He said, “I hope I can one day ask the same of you.” And he paused and added, “You just don’t appreciate that you survived.”
Forty-three years later I can add: more than surviving, G-d helped me turn the whole story up-side-down.
Today I am blessed with a loving, warm, supportive, encouraging, validating, open, honest, accepting and true relationship with our parents.
May G-d bless you with an equally amazing and loving relationship and all of the healing which accompanies the experience.
May G-d bless us to continue our own loving, warm, supportive, encouraging, validating, open, honest, trusting, accepting and reality based friendship and sisterhood.
May G-d bless you to be fully alive and well, able to take care of yourself and your needs; may G-d bless you to physically feel like you can leap the tallest buildings and fly to the moon for afternoon tea.
May G-d bless your husband and children to be fully alive, well and able to celebrate their health.
May G-d bless your mother-in-law and father-in-law and all of your extended family; may they all be blessed with life and health and happiness and joy and Torah.
May G-d bless you with enjoyable and satisfying work and the ability to support your husband, in kollel, in comfort.
May G-d bless your children to learn well in school, to excel in every subject and to be seen by their teachers as beautiful and lovable people.
May G-d bless you and your children to see yourselves as worthy of being loved and easily being loved exactly the way you are today.
May G-d bless you, may G-d bless us all, with all you need: a new french-press, plenty of delicious coffee, a rec-room, healthy food, clothing which makes you feel fantastic and every other material item that will add to your pleasure in life, your pleasure in marriage and your pleasure as an “eved Hashe-m.”
May G-d bless you, may G-d bless us all, with neighbors and a neighborhood who/which overflow/s with patience, compassion, understanding, acceptance and support.
May G-d bless you, may G-d bless us all, to be aware of the love, warmth, adoration and blessings G-d continuously surrounds us with; we are submersed in the greatest of kindnesses.
May G-d bless you, may G-d bless us all, to consciously choose to see the GOOD, especially when it’s so much easier to be sucked up by anger and frustration and fear.
May G-d bless you, may G-d bless us all, with the tools (and desire to use them) needed to stay happily married; May G-d bless us to see an end to divorce.
May G-d bless you, may G-d bless us all, to see our children happily married to the right people at the right time and in a Torah manner.
May G-d bless you, may G-d bless us all, to see our children as they are; with the ability to appreciate them for being unique and different from ourselves.
May G-d bless you, may G-d bless us all, to see our children grow into adults with their own intimate relationship with The Creator of the Universe; may G-d bless us all to see the beauty of connecting to G-d.
May G-d bless you and all of us to see and trust that G-d is running the world with absolute kindness and love for each one of us.
And in the merit of forgiving my parents for repeatedly endangering my life, in the merit of creating or rather opening myself up to give and receive love, may we be blessed to see the coming of Moshiach, right this second. In the merit of all who have learned to see, love and accept their parents as imperfect human beings who never consciously chose to abuse them (may G-d heal all of us) may G-d free us from the insanity of this pre-Moshiach world by bringing about The Final Redemption of Israel and the world.
Please, simply say, “Amen.”