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Jewish Inspiration November 3, 2019


In the flurry of holidays, our 26th anniversary quietly slipped by. It’s no great milestone, but anniversaries always get me pensive: who were those young, dumb kids who tied the knot all those years ago?

What did we know? We didn’t understand life. We didn’t understand each other. We barely understood ourselves. 

We committed to one another based on shared values and mutual goals. Not a bad way to make a big decision like marriage. But I think we had no clue how different we were. 

I love adventure. I love to travel, to try new things. I’ve gone skydiving. My plan for our anniversary trip was trimmed down from Australia to Italy. My husband, however, is a homebody. He thinks Chicago is a nice adventure (crossing state lines and all). He is so freaked by skydiving that he couldn’t even bear to come along and watch. 

You may have noticed that I live life out loud. If you are a regular reader here, you know a lot about me. A lot more than I know about you – which is sometimes weird when strangers tell me they read my column and I frantically calculate which of my secrets they know. I’m vocal on social media and I have lots of friends. My husband is a private guy (but because he’s nice, he okayed me writing about him). He never posts on his social media and is not quite sure what motivates me in this openness. 

I’m loud and flowery. I like colors and scarves and jewelry and hats and fun shoes. He wears a rabbi suit every single day. 

I’m a visual learner; he’s an audio guy. I like dairy; he likes meat. I like independence; he likes conformity. 

I prefer to think, talk, delegate and strategize. He rolls up his sleeves and gets the job done. I’m good with words while he’s good with deeds. I like plans and schedules and he likes to leave his options open. I purge; he saves. I like to handle things right away, but he appreciates thinking things over. 

So while we married based on sameness, we were clueless about the sheer differentness. 

The irony, of course, is that it is often that which we don’t even know is good for us, that’s good for us. The balance that has been achieved in our relationship, with hard work and lots of blessing from Above, is so much better for me than sameness. The humbleness that is a byproduct of melding your life with another human being over 26 years is a prize worth fighting for. The self-awareness that arises from bumping up against Other day after day after day is worth everything. 

Marry for sameness because I promise, there will be enough differentness to fill a book. Hopefully a good book, a yearbook, a happy book, written over five or ten or 25 or 50 years of marriage. 

For now, I am serene. Who was that person 26 years ago? I can’t even remember. But the me of today, her I know. Her I know well. And for that, I have to thank my Chicago-bound rabbi-suited introverted terra-firma husband. 

Jewish Inspiration August 27, 2017

Letter to my Elderly Self

I turned 43 yesterday, which is something I’m very grateful for. My father died when he was 30 and I am painfully aware that each year is a blessing. Each year brings new wisdoms and awareness that I’d never trade for a slightly more youthful self. 

Uncategorized March 28, 2013

My Dad

Hey Readers,

This is a cheap post, because I am posting the question and not the answer.  It’s a super-busy time now, although the seders are over – I’m still celebrating Passover till next Tuesday night, with my kids off from school, lots of family coming and going, and fun times.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.  That said, here’s a Facebook message from a reader.

Dear Ruchi,

I know we’ve never met, but I follow your blog and I get your emails between Passover and Shavuot.

reason I’m writing you is because of my experience with my newly (about the last 7-10 years) Orthodox father. He is an ordained Conservative rabbi but he hasn’t had a congregation in over 40 years. I
grew up in a town where the closest synagogue was an
hour away. As the town grew, more Jews moved in, until there were finally
enough to have our own synagogue. My dad was not the rabbi – he had
returned to school and became a psychologist.

We were brought up
mostly Reform-Conservative. We didn’t keep kosher or even observe
Shabbat. I married a Reform Jew and we aren’t observant at all.

problem is that we drive from my home town to where my dad lives each year for Passover.
My dad has tried unsuccessfully to get us to attend his Orthodox shul.
We would prefer not to. This year he practically begged my husband to
attend and my husband tried as best he could to politely decline. My
father was more than offended. I don’t understand why it’s so important
to him that we go to his shul. He told me that he is uncomfortable at
and I quote “our church” (we belong to a Reform temple) where our daughter is becoming a bat mitzvah in October.

Thoughts?  Advice?

Uncategorized April 5, 2012

49 Days of Inspiration

Hey readers,

There’s a pretty cool thing I did last year, and this year I’d like to offer it to the readers of OOTOB.

There’s a period of time on the Jewish calendar called “sefirat ha-omer.”  It’s the counting of the 49 days from Passover (Pesach) till the holiday of Shavuot, which commemorates the acceptance of the Torah at Sinai.  There are 7 major character traits that we are meant to focus on at this time, and each of the seven gets paired with another for each of the 49 days to produce a very fine-tuned trait to focus on.

I used a book by Rabbi Yacov Haber to convey the trait of the day with a particular action point that I sent out on each of the 49 days (usually the night or afternoon before), either via text or email.  Last year 75 friends were on the list, and I’d like to offer it to you, my readers.  If you wish to receive the message (you can cancel at any time) you may comment below or email me with your preference (text/email) and contact info.

I am at [email protected].

Have a wonderful Passover to my Jewish readers!

Uncategorized August 26, 2011

I’m In a Relationship

If you freak out easily, stop reading now.

Every now and then, missionaries come a-knockin’ on my door.  And I feel like telling them:  Hey.  I’m not looking for new relationships.  I’m already in a relationship.  With God.

It’s a long-term relationship.  It started before my conscious memory began, and will continue after I die.

It’s a mutual relationship.  I talk to Him (via prayer, both formal and spontaneous) and He talks to me (via Torah study).  I make promises to Him, and He makes promises to me.  I believe in Him, and He believes in me.

It’s an unconditional relationship: in good times and bad times, in sickness and in health, for richer and for poorer.  Even in death we will not part.

Quick, take a sheet of paper.  Draw four circles on it – one for Judaism, one for family, one for work, and one for any hobbies that take up time in your life.  Draw the biggest circle for the most important relationship in your life, and subsequently smaller circles as the relationships diminish in importance.

My relationship with God is the biggest.

My next circle is my family.  My next is JFX, the Jewish Family Experience, and smaller circles include hobbies like music and writing.  My long-term relationship with God is the umbrella that shades all of these.  It colors how I spend my time, when I get a babysitter, how I express my feelings.

Why am I telling you this?  It’s not to be hokey or weird or in-your-face, but rather to explain to you what I think ought to characterize an “Orthodox” or certainly a “religious” Jew.  This relationship motivates pretty much everything I do.  It’s not only Baptists who have God in their heart and their mind every day.  It’s OK for Jews to as well.  Yet most do not feel comfortable with being “out” about this relationship.  In my opinion, THIS is what it means to be an observant Jew.  Observant, not only of the mitzvos/mitzvot/mitzvas, but observant of one’s relationship to God.  THIS is what the word “Orthodox” can’t possibly express.

Make the following observation:  When you are in a long-term relationship with a human, you can’t just do the right thing.  You have to feel the relationship.  And if you don’t, you at least have to be working on it.  Else it will die.  This is the spirit of Judaism.  But if you just feel the love, but don’t do the things that must be done in a relationship, you have the spirit only.  That’s where the letter of the law is missing.  This, too, is an incomplete relationship, and one that is unsustainable.  Feelings alone cannot perpetuate a relationship.  And a relationship with a Higher Being is no different.

And if you feel freaked out… well, I warned you.

What do you think, fellow Jews?  Is it weird to think about these things?  Does it feel funny, foreign, uncomfortable?  Is it important to be thinking about these things?  How many Jews, do you think, are even thinking about the relationship?  And if you are in the relationship, are you comfortable with it?  Talking about it?  How much and to whom?