Shpilkes is one of those piquant and now quite translatable Yiddish words. Derived from the word siztn, which means to sit, its literal meaning is “I’m sitting on pins,” the cumbersome English phrase “sitting on pins and needles” contracted into one emphatic word.

Shpilkes is where I am today. probably joined by thousands of my fellow Israelis, all of us awaiting a final verdict on whether we’ll be able to fly abroad.
Thankfully, I’m traveling for happy reasons–to greet a new granddaughter and assist my daughter in her kimpator state, (Yiddish to the rescue again), a kimpator being a person (it’s incorrect to say woman these days) recovering from childbirth. The English language has no equivalent word.

I was supposed to be there already. I had booked a ticket, purchased travel insurance, even a taken a PCR test at Ben Gurion airport’s check2fly station (it came out negative) but 48 hours before takeoff, my flight was canceled. My travel agent booked me on another flight two days later. That one was canceled too

Yesterday’s news reports suggest that we are on the verge of a reopening. In a few short days, we vaccinated Israelis may able to do their favorite thing–fly to chutz la’aretz. Or maybe not. COVID Czar Sharon Alroi thinks that we’re not ready. Alroi warns that opening the skies will expose us to new and possibly vaccine-proof virus variants. Ugh.

Alroi and the government are hashing it out and I’m on shpilkes by the anxiety seeping from my kishkes (Yiddish for innards) into my bones.

I need to relax, breathe deeply, calm down. We’ve all been living on shpilkes since last March and before that too. Uncertainty defines human life. We don’t control our arrivals and departures to other counties or worlds. Even suicide, the ultimate attempt to exert control doesn’t come with a guarantee of success.

How many times do people survive lethal ingestions of poison or jumps from office buildings or bridges?

We are powerless, even the most powerful among us–over everything but that’s not bad, so long as you have faith. Faith means that rather than feeling buffeted by random events, one can rely on the knowledge that a Higher Power whom I chose to call Hashem is running all of our lives in the best possible way. I believe that Hashem loves me more than I can even imagine. Just look at the gorgeous new granddaughter Hashem sent my way!

I don’t know where I’ll be next week. Maybe at my daughters and maybe not.
I’ll do a bit of yoga, say some Psalms, fix a cup of herbal tea, and chase those shpilkes away.

Hashem has planned my journey.

I’ll get to my daughters when I need to be there.

About the Author
Carol Ungar is a prize-winning author who writes from the Judean Hills.
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