Spiritual Growth


She sits on the soft colorful cushions and stares at the

White clouds, dotting the baby blue sky.Blue Sky with Sun

Soft yellow light peeps out from the pristine clouds

And streams into the quiet spotless living room.

 

The only sound is the hum of the refrigerator,

And an occasional fire siren on the street below.

She could put on music; she can’t select from the endless possibilities.

Instead, she sits in the quiet.

 

It’s not like this in most of her friends’ homes.

There’s boisterous laughter and rowdy kids

Running through the houses joyously singing.

In her home, she sits in the quiet.

 

“Everyone is alone at some point in their life,” she’s heard.

“How do we use that time?” The speaker described options.

None of the choices fit her.

The Fifth Question* hangs in the air: What should she do with the quiet?

Sunlit View Blue Sky

**

*The Pesach (Passover) Haggadah has four questions. This person has an additional query.

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I just lit the candle to mark the beginning of my Dad’s second yahrzeit (anniversary of his passing). It’s just me and the candle. No distractions.

I feel pain, yet not as intensely as last year. I feel the loss more acutely now.

In the past year, I had several complex decisions to make. And I often thought, Where’s Dad? I need his counsel!

Not able to chat with him in life, I couldn’t figure out what he would have advised. Stuck. Unsure.

And then I remembered this: Take a piece of legal pad paper. Draw a line down the center. Write Pro on one side and Con on the other. Then make your list. As I wrote those words, I could almost hear Dad relaying those instructions.

The classic Pro and Con list helped. Trying to hear his voice comforted me.

**

We had happy times in the family during the past year. Dad wasn’t there. I missed sharing the events with him. Did he come in spirit? I believe he did. Yet I couldn’t see him. I couldn’t see his smile.

I could conjure up memories of him smiling at other milestones.

three-generations

Three Generations: Poppy, Grandson, and Great-Grandson

 

 

dad-and-noey

Poppy and Great-Grandson at School

 

The image of him dancing spiritedly with his grandson—my son—at the wedding came to mind.

Picturing the memory of the wedding dance comforted me.

**

On the yahrzeit, some of the observances of mourning are in effect. I won’t listen to music today or go to joyous events. I’ll draw on what I learned about simcha (joy) during the year of mourning: Feeling joyful comes from the inside. I can feel joy without the outside stimuli like music. Today, I’ll catch up on my spiritual studies and listen to classes, especially those with an upbeat tone.

And learning in Dad’s memory will comfort me.

**

L’ilui nishmas (for the elevation of the soul) Yoel Meir ben (son of) Simcha—Joel Sandleman, 26 Tevet 5777 (solar calendar date is January 17).

Photos ©Sherri Leah Henkin 2004-2017.

 

 

Painting Lesson #1

I wanted to paint without focusing on a specific subject or even color scheme. Glenna Rosansky thought I’d enjoy experimenting. First I learned leaf printing. I painted watercolor on the back of a leaf. Then pressed that side of the leaf on the cold press watercolor paper. I chose soft colors and contrasted with vibrant colors. To add some depth, I used an ink pen. I loved experimenting with the media, combining nature and man-made paint. I relaxed during the process, placing the leaves gently on the page. I enjoy looking at the colors, shapes, lines, and design.

 dec-2016-leaf-printing

Painting Lesson #2

In the following session, I learned two new techniques: Wet-on-wet and crinkled plastic wrap. For wet-on-wet, I sprayed water on the cold press paper and then dropped color on the water. Then waited and watched where the color went. I turned the page, and the water flowed down or sometimes to the side. The water didn’t always go in the direction I thought it would, or wanted it to.

Next I painted thick color on the paper. Of course I chose some of my favorite shades—purple, green, blue—and added some yellow for contrast. I crumpled a piece of plastic wrap and pressed the wrap on swabs of wet color. I discovered that I got different designs if I pressed with my fingers than when I pressed with my knuckles or side of my fist. And then I could use the remaining paint on the plastic wrap to print a light design on the paper. There’s not a right way or a wrong way; there’s not one way to do this technique.

jan-2017-wetonwet-plastic-wrap

What I Learned from Painting

My day sometimes turns out like my paintings. I have a schedule that I plan to follow. But something comes up that I don’t expect and I change direction. The day may not turn out like I expected, with all my action items checked off. Yet I can still look back and see that I was productive and the day was beautiful.

There’s not a right way or wrong way to create the action plan for the day. Try one process to create an action plan. Relax with the process. Be open to opportunities of learning new techniques.

How do you create your action plan or schedule? Share your process in the comments!

**

Paintings (c) Sherri Leah Henkin 2016, 2017

 

 

“May I use your cell phone?” my bus seat mate asked, in perfect Israeli Hebrew.

Huh? She doesn’t have one? I thought everyone had a cell phone!

“I need to call my daughter. May I use your cell phone?” my seat mate persisted.

“Oh, sure! Here.”

“Will you be charged for the call?”

Confused by the question, all I could say is “Huh?” She repeated the question and added, “I’ll pay for the call.”

“Oh! No, need. The calls are free,” I responded in my broken Hebrew.

That settled, my seat mate called her daughter. I didn’t want to eavesdrop, yet couldn’t help overhearing the exchange with her daughter.

“Hi, dear,” my seat mate said in the Queen’s English! Mother and daughter chatted quickly about meeting details or something. After she ended the call, she handed me the phone with a pleasant Toda (thank you).

“No problem,” I responded in American English. “We could have done the initial conversation in English!” We giggled about the conversation and chatted how we were both trying to be Israeli. A lady standing near us joined our laughter and conversation. The three of us heaped blessings on each other for a year of health, joy, blessing from our families, abundant income, and anything else we could we could think of.

Where else would a cell phone loan lead to blessings?

**

The four double-busses, packed with passengers stood on the street.

egged-double-bus-from-egged-website

Nothing moved. Clearly I wasn’t getting on a bus anytime soon, so I took a seat on the low cool stone wall outside Jerusalem’s Old City…me and hundreds of other bus-less passengers.

“Hey! That lady has a cell phone; ask her to use it,” a 10-year-old boy said to his buddy in colloquial Hebrew.

[I don’t know their names, so let’s call them Yishai and Doron.]

Doron turned to me and in rapid-fire Hebrew asked if he could use my cell phone. From my previous experience, I knew that question meant he didn’t have a cell phone. Without questions—my Hebrew is no match for a 10-year-old—I handed Doron the phone. He punched in a number and waited. No answer. Doron closed the call, and sighing returned the phone to me with a quick Toda. Yishai said something to him that I couldn’t understand and we parted ways.

I decided to trek back through the Old City and head home via the Jaffa Gate. That meant hiking up the road inside the Old City in 90 degree heat, without water. (Why had I forgotten to take bottle of water?) As I walked up the hill, I realized I had lots of company! Part way through the Old City, the police redirected us to a different exit route. Unfamiliar with those roads, I asked a friendly-looking woman if she knew the way; she did. I tagged along with she and her family.

I kept my eyes on this woman, intent on not getting lost. The shrill ringing I heard shocked me. I wasn’t sure what rang and looked around expecting some emergency vehicle to show up! Finally I realized that the persistent tone was my cell phone. I looked at the number, didn’t recognize it, and planned to press the Reject button.

Oh! Wait! Maybe it’s the person Doron called from my phone! I answered the call. Sure enough, it was Doron’s mother. She spoke in the same speedy Hebrew as her son. I patiently explained that I’m not fluent in Hebrew and Doron’s Mom slowed down.

“Did you see my son? Is he with you?”

“No, he’s not with me now. We met at the bus stop and he used my phone there.”

“When was that?”

“About 40 minutes ago” I guessed.

“So he got on the bus?”

“I don’t know. None of the busses were moving. I left the area to walk home.”

“But do you think he got on the bus?” she anxiously asked again. I really wanted to help her even though I didn’t know her. If it were me, I’d want as much information as I could get!

Calmly I said, “I’m sorry. I’m not sure what he did. But he was with his buddy and I’m sure they stuck together. There were lots of people; none of us could get on the bus.”

“Ah. Good! He’s with his friend.”

“Yes. I’m close enough to walk home so I decided to leave the bus stop. That was about 40 minutes ago.”

“OK. Thank you so much! Chag Sameach!” (Happy Holiday!)

I’m sure Doron and Yishai made it home safely.

**

Where else in the world would I loan a child my cell phone? Where else in the world would I take a call from an unknown person and try and piece together what happened?

And where else in the world would the person I couldn’t help thank me enthusiastically and bless me?

Only in Israel!

Bus photo from egged.co.il site

Sometimes I don’t know whether or not I can complete a project. At times, I doubt my ability to write a new article. There are times when the mountain of action items just appears plain overwhelming.

And I want to give up. Why even start?

I worked hard to hear my higher voice encourage me: “You CAN do it. Take one small action!”

As I’d start the action, the lower voices (Why are lower voices in the plural? There seem to be so many of them!) clamored for attention: “Oh really? What’s one small action going to do? Just give up! You know you won’t finish.”

Most times I’d plod methodically through the tasks. Eventually, I finish the project. Sometimes, I put the project on hold.

Recently I heard Eli’s* father describe his young son’s attitude. Eli battled cancer valiantly for four years. No matter how hard the treatments were, how he felt, how many times he had to stay in the hospital, Eli never gave up. He implored others to also never give up. When someone many times his age asked for advice, Eli told this to person to have a never-give-up attitude.

I now envision Eli with his bright smile telling me, “NEVER GIVE UP!”

**

*L’ilui nishmas (for the elevation of the soul of) Elimelech ben (son of) Menachem Mendel Malkiel Gradon.

“Welcome to Kiev.”

Three words I never thought I’d hear in my life. The KLM plane had just touched down at Borispol Airport.

I had flown with a group of women from the US. In Kiev, we met a group from Israel and Europe. Our spiritual journey to the birthplace of Chassidus was about to begin. For me, the trip was a family reunion of sorts, since I met up with my Israeli cousins and friends.

**

Kiev, Berditchev, Mezhibuzh, Breslov, and Uman had not been on my list of places to visit. I’d studied about the former USSR and learned about the roles these cities played in Jewish history. Over the last few decades, I’d heard the first-hand stories of visitors to this part of the world. While the experiences interested me, I never expected to travel to Ukraine.

So what changed?

A suggestion here: “I’m going to Uman in July; why don’t you come with our group?” Debbie had asked. A hint there: “It’s a healing, life-changing trip!” The emotional video on the Holy Journeys website drew me. And Hashem [G-d] created life circumstances that made the trip possible.

I traveled through time and physical space to a mystical—but very real—place. Learning, praying, laughing, crying, dancing, and singing—all the raw emotions rattled my core and catapulted me into a positive direction. With immense gratitude to Hashem [G-d], I share with you some of the photos from this trip.

Tomb of Rav Levi Yitzchok from Berditchev

Tomb of Rav Levi Yitzchok from Berditchev [For historical description, see: http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1007604/jewish/A-Brief-Biography.htm.]

Berditchev Cemetery from Sara

Berditchev Cemetery (Photo Credit: Sara Melman)

 

 Baal Shem Tov

Tomb of the Baal Shem Tov and others (Mezhibuzh) [For historical description, see: http://www.chabad.org/generic_cdo/aid/388609/jewish/The-Baal-Shem-Tov.htm.]

Hotel in Mezhibuzh on Left

Hotel building in Mezhibuzh

Night Sky En Route to Mezhibuzh

Painting of Night Sky en route to Mezhibuzh

In Uman, we prayed and learned at the tomb of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov. I was drawn to the exquisite beauty of Gan Sofia (Sofia Park).

Fountain near entrance                        Lily Pad                                        Waterfall

**

Photos (except Berditchev Cemetery) and painting (c) Sherri Leah Henkin 2016

From the title you might think this post will describe physical exercise. Or perhaps the body mechanics of lifting heavy equipment.

Nope. Mechanics here refers to those talented individuals who service our cars at auto repair shops. I have new esteem for these folks since I spent this past Monday morning with several of them!

My morning plan was to drive to the local Pep Boys and replace two front headlight lamps. I chose that type of store since they have a large stock and could repair the lights early in the morning. Great, I thought, I’ll be done by 9 and on my way home!

On the way to the repair, this bright orange light in the speedometer area went on. Hmmm…I know that means something, but what? I knew the light wasn’t for the battery—I learned about that light two months ago—and knew the orange outline didn’t resemble an oil can. By process of elimination, I figured out I was looking at the engine light.

Working hard not to panic, I moved into Action Mode, planning the calls I’d make once I reached the repair shop. I transitioned to Philosophy Mode—it’s the car, it’s not me or a member of my family. That thought process brought me to Prayer Mode—Please G-d, make this something really simple and inexpensive! Thank You!

When I got to the Boys (as Pep Boys employees call themselves), they told me they couldn’t do the repair. While the Boys worked on the headlights, I worked on calling my mechanic. We arranged that I’d bring my car to his shop by 9:30. The headlight bulb replacement took a bit longer, which turned out to work in my favor. I had time to make some calls, and decided to call my friend in Israel. I stood in a lot in Los Angeles speaking with her in her home in central Israel—from my cell phone! The wonders of technology!

Once the Boys finished, I headed to my mechanic’s shop. Thankfully, no more dashboard lights lit up! The mechanic discovered that there was an evaporation problem, a leak somewhere. Consequently, he had to give the car a complete physical.

I left the mechanic-doctor to his work and headed over to the local coffee shop. I got some exercise as a result. Since I had notebooks, pens, pencils, and digital devices with me, I kept myself productively busy. And bonus—I had a gift card for the coffee shop—so I could treat myself to free refreshments!

The mechanic-doctor called to report his final diagnosis. The leak was…drum roll…from the broken seal on the gas cap! All other engine-related items were fine. A simple and inexpensive repair.

My prayers aren’t always answered so clearly and quickly. I hope I didn’t cash in all my chips this time, as I whispered a prayer of gratitude.

Spending Monday morning at the mechanics’ shops was a minor inconvenience that taught me to look at the big picture.

Gratitude—it was daytime, repair places were close to home, able mechanics, friends, and the light went on while I was already on the way to a repair shop.

Perspective—I’m fine, my family is fine, it’s only a car. A car is a machine whose parts wear out. Some parts need repair and some need to be replaced.

♦Be prepared—I had my cell phone, notebooks, pens, money for the repair, and even a gift card!

 

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