Tag: Family

Impotence and It’s Cure


It is a terrifying word to most men, as it leads them to face fears of a loss of their potency. For most, it connotes an end to sexual strength, the power of the male of our species. And it affects many, for many different medical and/or psychological reasons. Thankfully, there are some powerful medical treatments that apparently work well.

But the word “impotent” can also describe other horrifying feelings of powerlessness beyond the sexual. One can be politically impotent, without the ability to make things happen in the public sphere. One can be impotent in one’s career, unable to bring one’s work to a climactic finish. In each case and others, this helplessness strikes fear in the heart of men because what is a man anyway – we sometimes think – if not someone who can “make things happen”?

When Illness Strikes
There is also an all-consuming sense of impotence that men (and women) sometimes feel when facing a loved one with a terrible, potentially incurable disease. We sit there, holding a hand, sharing a story – perhaps calling from a distance away – trying to somehow make it better for him, but realizing yet again our own limitations. We want to do something, and yet, we feel incredibly powerless, helpless. Impotent.

My uncle Skip is dying; and of course his wife, my auntie Rozzy, is suffering too. And here I sit, 3000 miles away, unable to do anything to really make it better. For either of them. I am saddened, and feel powerless. Helpless. Impotent.

Our Precious Presence
Pastoral counselors teach that visiting – or calling, sending a note or the like – offers the most important gift we have to give. Its our “precious presence.”
In fact, responding psychologically to disease, Judaism teaches that “bikur cholim”, visiting the sick, removes 1/60 of the disease. Like those little blue pills, our visits or calls provide uplift, combat hopelessness, and make the future seem all that much more doable.

And so, instead of sitting here feeling helpless… I call, try to tell her stories, try to listen, and do my 1/60 of the holy work.

It doesn’t always feel like enough.

May it be enough.

It will have to be enough.

Blasphemers No More: Parashat Emor Commentary

Published in the Jewish Journal of Greater LA.

My sister just touched down in Israel. I can feel her elation way over here in California. Time stood still; there was silence. The land and the woman were one. She had returned home.

My sister made aliyah 22 years ago, with her then-husband and 1-year-old daughter. After building a life and birthing three more kids, they followed his dream and returned to America.

Fast forward 10 years, and after healing from the divorce and the bittersweet return of her two older children to Israel, my sister has returned to the Holy Land, if only for an extended Pesach pilgrimage.

In moments, my sister felt it again. She e-mailed: “… this so feels like home and I haven’t even arrived in my Israeli hometown of Karmiel. The smells of the bakeries, the sea, the air, the oranges. The taste of the food and coffee. Speaking Hebrew — it’s flowing well already. And soon, hugs of my dearest friends. I’ve made a life for myself on America’s East Coast … but it will never feel like home the way that Israel does.”

What is it about Israel that makes us feel so connected? Might it be a special spice or something in the air? Perhaps walking the stone pathways that our biblical ancestors traversed or witnessing the renewal of a once-lost nation? Or sensing the Holy One in the Holy Land. Or the way that kodesh v’chol (holy and regular), historical and contemporary, coexist everywhere.

This week, my sister enjoys Israel yom-yomi (day-to-day). Next week, Pesach. By the time you read this, she will be back in the States, connecting from afar with the land we love so much. Like the rest of us, she will wrestle with simplistic black-and-white portrayals of Israel in the press and in the Jewish world, and grapple with the urge to both kvell (praise) and kvetch (complain) about our beloved homeland.

Conveniently, America hosts a variety of organizations, each speaking about Israel, its status as an American ally and its place within the Jewish heart. Still, any oheiv Yisrael (lover of Israel) must tread carefully, because American Jews are a vociferous bunch, quick to declare this or that opinion to be kosher or, heaven forbid, to be anti-Zionist or worse, chillul HaShem, a blasphemy before God.

Once, arguments about how to relate to the Land were machloket l’shem shamayim, an argument for the sake of heaven. Today, in America, many have forgotten that eilu v’eilu divray Elohim chayim — this and that opinion are both the words of the living God. The self-appointed arbiters of Jewish truth condemn opinions about Israel that diverge from their own. They implicitly reference this week’s parasha, Emor: “Take the blasphemer outside the camp, and all who heard [his blasphemy] shall lean their hands on his head. And the entire community shall stone him” (Leviticus 24:14). Then they act dumbfounded when a Jew picks up a gun to kill the prime minister, or they remain silent when an Arab picks up a gun and kills a Jewish family just over the Green Line.

It is high time we American Jews take a “chill pill” and, while remaining unwaveringly committed to Israel’s security and safety, become very slow to invoke Torah’s condemnation of “blasphemer.” Israeli newspapers host a robust debate about everything imaginable. Israeli journalists and bloggers — not to mention Yosi Yisraeli on the Midrachov, Jerusalem’s outdoor pedestrian mall — argue vociferously, offering opinions that are quickly reviled here.

Our Israel is beautiful, precious and perfectly imperfect. It exists in a dangerous neighborhood. But we need to remember that most American Jews are cross-addicted to Israel. Some are AIPAC supporters out of a desire to ensure Israel’s close relations with our government even as they donate to the New Israel Fund to help Israel remain true to her Jewish and democratic ideals. Others invest heavily in Israeli technology while supporting J Street, one of the few places that openly and honestly talks about the plight of the Palestinians. Some enjoy Shabbat at the Kotel, davening with the various minyanim, while also finding inspiration in Israel’s 85+ Progressive and Masorti communities. Let us become more like most Israelis, accepting that an oheiv Yisrael can disagree profoundly without being among Emor’s blasphemers.

Remember, the love of Israel easily inflames our hearts and souls. My sister wrote: “We ate at a restaurant right on the beach. Mushroom and green olive pizza for my son; grilled cheese on a bagel for the youngest. I enjoyed the most delicious hummus I’ve had in a long time. That stuff from Whole Foods may be healthy, and Sabra hummus is closer, but nothing compares to the smooth, almost white creaminess of Israeli hummus with whole chickpeas, tehina, olive oil, lemon, and parsley on thick warm pita. That and a café hafuch, and I was one happy woman.”

May our love for Israel entice us to put away our sticks and stones, to kvell more, kvetch with compassion, and to treat both the kvellers and kvetchers with kavod (honor).

When Caring for Elderly Parents Becomes Irritating

The Wooden Bowl

I thank Or Ami congregant Don Weston (check out his blog) for sharing this Internet chain letter with me.

A frail old man went to live with his son, daughter-in-law, and four-year-old grandson. The old man’s hands trembled, his eyesight was blurred, and his step faltered.

The family ate together at the table. But the elderly grandfather’s shaky hands and failing sight made eating difficult. Peas rolled off his spoon onto the floor. When he grasped the glass, milk spilled on the tablecloth.

The son and daughter-in-law became irritated with the mess.  “We must do something about father,” said the son. “I’ve had enough of his spilled milk, noisy eating, and food on the floor.”

So the husband and wife set a small table in the corner. There, Grandfather ate alone while the rest of the family enjoyed dinner. Since Grandfather had broken a dish or two, his food was served in a wooden bowl.

When the family glanced in Grandfather’s direction, sometimes he had a tear in his eye as he sat alone. Still, the only words the couple had for him were sharp admonitions when he dropped a fork or spilled food.

The four-year-old watched it all in silence.

One evening before supper, the father noticed his son playing with wood scraps on the floor. He asked the child sweetly, “What are you making?'” Just as sweetly, the boy responded, “Oh, I am making a little bowl for you and Mama to eat your food in when I grow up.” The four-year-old smiled and went back to work.

The words so struck the parents so that they were speechless. Then tears started to stream down their cheeks. Though no word was spoken, both knew what must be done.

That evening the husband took Grandfather’s hand and gently led him back to the family table. For the remainder of his days he ate every meal with the family. And for some reason, neither husband nor wife seemed to care any longer when a fork was dropped, milk spilled, or the tablecloth soiled.

Life Lessons:

On a positive note, I’ve learned that, no matter what happens, how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.

I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles four things: a rainy day, the elderly, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.

I’ve learned that making a ‘living’ is not the same thing as making a ‘life.’

I’ve learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance.

I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands. You need to be able to throw something back sometimes.

I’ve learned that if you pursue happiness, it will elude you. But, if you focus on your family, your friends, the needs of others, your work and doing the very best you can, happiness will find you.

I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.

I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one.

I’ve learned that every day, you should reach out and touch someone.

People love that human touch — holding hands, a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back.

Lies My Brother Told Me

I happen to know a Jew, who is not a fan of the organized religion part of Judaism. He likes the values, most of them.  He appreciates the commitment to family, usually. But the whole religious part – you know, the organized prayer, the specific stories of Torah, various beliefs about God – just turn him off. He can appreciate the Jewish stuff brings meaning to others, but not for himself.  He will use any excuse to stay out of temple, so that his friends give him specific honors so he is forced to attend the family simchas. 

And ritual, he has a special dislike for the “do’s and don’ts” of ritual. Formulaic, ritualistic, primitive, boring. I thought he just didn’t like ritual.  And then, he began to tell me about his Thanksgiving dinner.  And all of a sudden, I realized we had much more in common than I thought.  Turns out that the ritual-disliker was really a ritual-creator, at least in relation to Thanksgiving.

They invite a 25-30 people for dinner, which he, his wife and friends have labored over for a few days. Appetizers galore, main course, fancy wine and beers, delicious desserts. Upon arriving, people nosh and shmooze. Everyone gathers around the tables, sitting and salivating, awaiting the ritual which allows them to dig in.

Each guest speaks about what they are thankful for this year. Although the participants sometimes laugh and at other times shed tears, the ritual is structured and serious.  There’s no eating in this house until everyone – concluding with the host and his wife – has named their blessings, and all give thanks. 

It turns out, that for these Thanksgiving diners, this ritual is meaningful, inspired and for many, their primary connection to the Holy One.  Let us give praise where praise is due, lest we descend into sin by labeling each other as good Jews or bad Jews. There are many paths to the Holy One!

On Sukkot (Judaism’s Thanksgiving), the rabbis connect the four species of the lulav and etrog to four different kinds of Jews: those with Torah learning, those with good deeds, those with both and those with none. Their lesson is that it takes all kinds of Jews to complete the Jewish community.

May Thanksgiving remind us that we Jews are all brothers (and sisters), each approaching tradition, ritual, and belief in unique ways, from different perspectives.

Ten Lessons I Learned from My Dad, Ken Kipnes

Happy (belated) Father’s Day! My day began like many others.  I woke up before everyone else, and read the paper on the internet. I watched with a chuckle as the kids woke, groggily gave me a kiss, turned on their computers, read on ESPN website that it was father’s day, and then smiled sheepishly to wish me a happy one. Five great cards (one from each child; two from my wife) with heartfelt messages. I read on my new Kindle, the Father’s Day present that – with my wife’s permission – I bought myself last week.  Dinner at a sushi restaurant.

Then waking the day after, realizing I neglected my new Mother’s/Father’s Day ritual: writing the Top Ten List about my parent (See my 10 Lessons I Learned from My Mom, Linda Kipnes). So here goes. By the way, that’s my Dad, Ken Kipnes, on the left, with my mom Linda and our three children.

Ten Lessons I learned from My Dad, Ken Kipnes
(not in order of importance.)

  1. Tease, tease and tease some more. My dad can be silly and is a master teaser. There was the time he tried to convince them that he hunted and shot the turkey they ate for thanksgiving.  The time he dyed his goatee red just so he could be a redhead like 2 of my kids (the joyful look on his face when he saw the look on their faces was priceless).  Of course, the only thing that gives him more pleasure than being able to tease his grandchildren is when they become so smart that they won’t fall for his teasing (and tell him so). 
  2. There is a difference between being Aged and being Old. Your age is a chronological number that starts at birth and gets bigger as you live. Old is a state of mind. You can have a high age, but still feel young (or younger). But if you succumb to the number, or to life’s disappointments, you can quickly become angry, bitter, crotchety and “old.” Though he didn’t say that, he surely seems to illustrate it.  My dad has age (born in 1936, he just turned 74).  But he (and my mom) have shown an amazing ability to remain young – traveling, entertaining, rolling with the challenges that life brings them. And even as they slow down a bit, they continue to inspire me with their relative youthfulness.
  3. Ahavat Yisrael – Love Israel. My dad loves Israel. He loves learning about her, studying Hebrew (he learned in an Israeli ulpan once and practiced with his Israeli born grandchildren), supporting her. He worries about her like he worries about his 4 children; he kvells at her successes too!  If he had his druthers, I think, he would live in Israel a few months a year. Though his heart ached all those years that my sister and her family lived there, I know he reveled in the ability to spend extended periods of time there. Dad and Mom took us to Israel after my sister’s Bat Mitzvah service, and though having me away for a year pained them, they allowed me to spend my first year post-High School on a Reform Movement leadership program year in Jerusalem.
  4. When you have an important worthy cause, explain it to people, be brave, and ask them to support it with their tzedakah.  Whether the temple, Israel, or his current favorite – camp/Israel scholarships for kids, my Dad never shied from dreaming big and articulating those big expectations.  He was amazingly successful in encouraging others with the means to fund those dreams. (Perhaps that’s why I am comfortable raising funds for Congregation Or Ami, for the CCAR, for Federation and more.)
  5. Take it as it comes. One of my dad’s stock phrases whenever he is faced (seemingly regularly) with the challenges life brings, these words express an outlook on life that seems healthy. It is also easier to say than to live. Though life may get us down, we have no choice but to take it and live on.
  6. Sometimes have Candy for Breakfast, Ice Cream for lunch, and Cake for dinner (though not all on the same day). When I was young, my folks took us to Kimball’s Farm for Sundae’s for lunch. When my kids were young, my dad kept a drawer filled with candy bars. He would gleefully show it to our kids and, as only a grandparent could, told them them this was theirs until it ran out. Now he makes fudge and bakes delicious strudel and Mandelbrot (my mom makes the most tasty brownies and seven-layer cookies). When he arrives at our home or we at theirs, the sweets come out immediately so we just have a taste (or three). Where did it come from? Perhaps from his mother was a master baker and his dad – who owned a bowling alley – who always had a box of huge chocolate bars on top of the fridge or, when they visited us, in the car.
  7. Youth are our future. My dad was a tireless supporter of our temple youth group and NFTY youth movement. He believes that you put money, time, and effort into sustaining our youth so that they grow up to become the committed Jewish leaders of the future. He still administers the Camp/Israel scholarship funds down on Cape Cod, where they give merit scholarships to young people toward these formative Jewish experiences.  
  8. We can reinvent ourselves. I saw my dad go from the accountant in Duddy Tires Company, to owning his own optical shops, to being an accountant, to owning his own accounting firm, to partnering with my brother in the firm, to working with/for the guy to whom he sold much of his practice.  He has shared successes and disappointments and failures. He showed me that we are more than our work, that our success is in family and community. He showed me that we can always begin again. 
  9. Hearing a loved one’s voice sometimes is all you need. I discovered sometime my college/grad school years that what I told my dad was less important to him than the fact that he got to hear my voice. So I call him now regularly (often daily), just to say hi and so that he can hear my voice. I learned that I too inherited the “I just want to hear your voice” need. These days, I struggle sometimes that intensive texting with my kids sometimes supplants their need to speak by phone. See my Did You Call Your Father (or Mother)?
  10. Distances shrinks when you work hard at creating relationships.  We can create relationships even through the phone. On holidays, birthdays and just whenever, my Dad would call his parents (Grandpa Eddie and Grandma Esther, and great grandparents Bobie and Papa) and then hand us the phone so we could say hi. He created those connections through the phone. I worked hard to do the same with my kids and their grandparents. Moreover, today, my Dad spend inordinate amounts of time calling his grandchildren (all over the world) so that they know he loves them and so that they remain connected to each other.  It also keeps him young…

 Over the years, my dad taught me important lessons about love, perseverance, centrality of family, forgiveness, taking responsibility, balancing finances, finding joy with whatever your kids love (or at least faking it), loving being Jewish, and more.  My dad Ken Kipnes is the best dad of all.

Dad, I know you will read this eventually since Mom subscribes to my blog! So Happy belated Father’s Day!

    Al Tifrosh Min Hatzibur – What Does Separating/Connecting to the Community Mean in a CyberWorld?

    http://www.valerieherskowitz.com/images/photo-online_community.jpgOur world is changing… will our synagogues keep up? 

    My kids’ world is different than mine.  They email, text, ichat (though my son told me this morning that skype has better video), facebook, watch tv, play video games and still seem to get their homework done. My wife tells me that they cannot focus as well or break off easily from the multisensory always wired world in which they exist.  Yes, this concerns me.  Yet I keep wondering if our concerns, while rightly focused on what will become of their lives as they develop these multitasking meta-personalities,  are just further evidence the fact that we just might not “get it.”  (Are we the parents of the 1960’s, decrying long hair and rock and roll music, things once described as the downfall of civilization as we know it?  Or are we pre-Maccabees seeing the downfall of Jewish values?)

    My rabbinic colleagues sometimes argue about what online social networking really means.  They differentiate between “real community” and “virtual world,” claiming that the former creates actual connections while the latter is, well, unreal. I keep wondering if differentiations they make are meaningless, because people increasingly live lives online, so that if we fail to embrace this new reality, we – synagogues, rabbis, non-networking communities – will soon become “virtual/unreal” ourselves. 

    Now comes Brad Stone, whose New York Times’ article The Children of Cyberspace: Old Fogies by their 20’s, suggests that the newest generation thinks and experiences the world differently from previous generations.  He holds up his Kindle experience to illustrate beautifully his point: 

    My 2-year-old daughter surprised me recently with two words: “Daddy’s book.” She was holding my Kindle electronic reader.  Here is a child only beginning to talk, revealing that the seeds of the next generation gap have already been planted. She has identified the Kindle as a substitute for words printed on physical pages. I own the device and am still not completely sold on the idea. My daughter’s worldview and life will be shaped in very deliberate ways by technologies like the Kindle and the new magical high-tech gadgets coming out this year — Google’s Nexus One phone and Apple’s impending tablet among them. She’ll know nothing other than a world with digital books, Skype video chats with faraway relatives, and toddler-friendly video games on the iPhone. She’ll see the world a lot differently from her parents.

    Then he talks about what’s real and what’s not:

    And after my 4-year-old niece received the very hot Zhou-Zhou pet hamster for Christmas, I pointed out that the toy was essentially a robot, with some basic obstacle avoidance skills. She replied matter-of-factly: “It’s not a robot. It’s a pet.”

    What does this mean to our communities?  Listen to Mizuko Ito, a cultural anthropologist and associate researcher at the University of California Humanities Research Institute, who said

    that children who play these games would see less of a distinction between their online friends and real friends; virtually socializing might be just as fulfilling as a Friday night party. And they would be more likely to participate actively in their own entertainment, clicking at the keyboard instead of leaning back on the couch.

    We synagogues, and religious communities, will want to open ourselves to how the cyberworld reframes the rabbinic dictim al tifrosh min hatzibur – do not separate yourself from the community.  If I am not within the synagogue, or even a member of a synagogue, but I read Jewish books, participate in online study sessions, watch/pray with streaming video services, socially-network with other like-minded Jews, email prayers about people who are sick and email prayer to be put in the Jerusalem’s Kotel (Western Wall) … am I one who is tifrosh – separated from the community – or not?  Because my kids, and increasingly more of my congregants, and clearly so many of our 15, 20, and 30 year olds, feel so connected.

    Trifles are not Trivial

    Written by Michelle November and Paul Kipnes on a New Year’s road trip up north.

    Five years ago, at the request of our children’s paternal grandparents Papa and Lala, we took our 20%-off coupons to Bed, Bath and Beyond and purchased seven trifle bowls. At the time, we didn’t even know what a trifle was. But Papa and Lala were insistent that this dessert would be the biggest hit of all at our daughter’s Bat Mitzvah oneg (sweets) table.

    And they were right who could resist the eye-catching dessert, comprised of layers of cake, pudding, brickle (heath bar crunch), and whipped cream or the same with fruit.

    The clear glass bowls which showcased the delectible desserts survived two moves and months being lost in the far corners of the garage. Still, they made their appearance at the Bar/Bat mitzvah celebrations of each of our three children over five years. More significantly, the lasting power of these treats were that they were homemade for these special occasions by grandparents who reside on the other side of the country.

    Along with the trifles, came 850 pieces of home baked pastries. Enough pieces to satisfy the sweet tooths of each of the 245 people who attended the service, and still leaving plenty of leftovers. Each child selected his or her favorites from amongst Lala and Papa’s creations: brownies, seven layer cookies, apple strudle, chocolate or cherry rugelach, chocolate-covers chinese noodle “spiders,” and more.

    The crown jewel of the evening was the homemade challah, schlepped (lugged) through security on board the plane, all the way from Massachusetts.

    Cooking and baking are two of Papa and Lala’s most authentic expressions of love. This baking is all the more appreciated by our children because the baking gene seems to skip our generation on both sides. So our kids get love and sweets regularly from their Cape Cod grandparents.

    A sweater hand knitted by grandma might still look funny to the grandchild and they might not wear it But who can resist a sweet bowl of chocolate trifle and a piece of homemade fudge? And besides, the leftovers are delightful and no one complains when they are “forced” to eat a bowl of ice cream covered with crumpled brownies and pastries?

    Our cantor sings that at each moment we “are standing on the shoulders of the ones who come before me.” For us, we are grateful that the pastries and trifles will remain sweet memories of the intense involvement of this set of grandparents has in the lives of our children. We are grateful too that our children appreciate it. So that even with a mouthful of fudge, they feel the love and warmth of their Lala and Papa.

    2010 – New Year, Time to Count Blessings

    As 2010 is underway, we have a 5 hour drive remaining from Palo Alto to home, so we tale this time to enumerate the blessings and joys of 2009:We Still have 4 grandparents who have very close relationships with our kids.
    We still in love and enjoy being married to each other.
    We still have 3 wonderful hildren who are growing and maturing in positive ways and who still love being Jewish.
    We all have our health.
    We both work in vibrant Jewish communities that we are proud to be part of and to be representing.
    We have long friendships spanning two to four decades with people whom we don’t always see regularly but when we do they energize and sustain us.
    We have made new close friendships in the past decade.
    Our home is comfortable, dry and filled with our kids and their friends who like to sleep over.
    We had an opportunity to travel extensively through the country – 20 states in 31 days in one minivan. We were hosted by good friends. We saw beautiful and intersting parts of our nation which inspired us.
    Our baby became a Bar Mitzvah, making us very proud and bringing so many family and friends together
    Our eldest applied to colleges and while we await answers, she made us proud by her perseverence and improved essay writing.
    Our middle one became president of the temple youth group, evidenced significant leadership and growth.We look forward to the start of a secular new year and a new decade.
    May this one bring more truth, promise and honesty than the last.What are the blessings you count from 2009?

    Our Redhead Looks at Colleges: Tears, Smiles and a Blessing

    It all started with Consecration.  In celebration of the beginning of their formal Jewish education, these cute kindergartners ascend to the bimah to stand before the aron kodesh (holy ark) to receive a mini-Torah from the hands of their parents.  Nervousness surrounds us as children wonder where to stand, as parents step forward unsure of how to guide them.  Still, smiles mingle with tears as we watch our babies continue to grow up.  And we bless, shehecheyanu, thanking God for getting us to this special day. 

    Then we stand again on the bimah as the child, now thirteen, becomes a Bat or Bar Mitzvah.  Having spent years learning about Judaism and practicing Hebrew, she now leads the service, chant from Torah, and gets to stand before parents, relatives and friends who sit quietly and attentively as she expounds eloquently on some lesson derived from Torah.  Nervousness surrounds us as the teens, so worried about what others will think, now are anxious about whether they will mess up the words or the tune.  Some will now call them “men” or “women” but we know better.  They are just taking the first steps on the road toward being an adult.  Still we pass down Torah midor lador, from generation to generation, hoping that their shoulders are now broad enough to carry on the burden (and joy) of our tradition and values.   Smiles mingle with tears as we realize our children are no longer babies.  And we bless, shehecheyanu, thanking God for getting us to this special day. 

    Then we stand again, on the bimah leading up to the airplane, as we accompany our babies on their journeys to visit potential colleges.  Having spent years learning about everything and nothing, they now travel up and down the coast, and sometimes across the country, seeking out the right match – a college to propel them forward toward chochma (wisdom) and talmud Torah (learning).  Nervousness surrounds us as they spend months struggling to capture in college essays the essence of their lives, souls and dreams, worried that if they do not put their best face forward they will be rejected by the schools of their choice.  Some will call them “adults,” as they soon can vote, make their own decisions, and, in time, drink legally.  But we know that they are still just older kids, merely taking the next set of steps on the path toward adulthood (and besides, a vast majority will come back home after graduation for the free room and board).  Smiles mingle with tears as we realize our babies are simultaneously our children in need of guidance and not. 

    Yes, consecration is a liminal moment, a time of transition into study.

    Yes, Bar/Bat Mitzvah is a liminal moment, a transition onto the path toward adulthood.

    And choosing a college, now that is really a liminal moment, a transition, heartwrenchingly wonderful, which propels our children forward. 

    Philosophical?  Yes.  But deeply personal.  Because the little redheaded girl who moments ago could not stand still on the bimah during her consecration, who seconds ago could not make me prouder as she chanted her Torah and gave her d’var Torah (speech) is now looking at colleges. 

    So, as I reflect upon these few days of our father-daughter college visiting trip – tours, interviews and visits to Hillel houses – I quietly intone, with a smile mingled with tears, the bracha (blessing) we Jews say whenever we arrive at one of these firsts:

    …shehecheyanu v’kee’manu v’higee-anu lazman hazeh.

    Holy One of Blessing, who has guided me on my journey through this universe, thank you for giving us life, for sustaining us, and for bringing us – with smiles and tears – to this incredible moment.