Friday, December 24, 2010

967. Update!

Yes, another post not about chanting, and with an exclamation point in the title to boot—update received from my stem cell recipient, and so far all is well! Engraftment was successful, meaning that her body didn't reject my cells and they're starting the process of creating a new immune system. She's home from the hospital, although not yet out of the woods (rejection, infection, and other nasty things could happen at a later date)—but this was the first big hurdle. I'm glad to able to say "congratulations" in my answer to her note.

I am now very proud of my stem cells, if I say so myself, and of God (and many teams of doctors) for knowing what to do with them. This is great news to have at the start of the secular year, just as donating those cells was a fitting way to begin the Jewish new year. Good timing on the part of the universe, which sometimes does get it right.

Monday, December 13, 2010

966. What is the Qur'an?

Here's an excellent video, linked from Islamicate:

"What is the the Qur'an? An Agnostic Jew Speaks. Lesley Hazelton at TEDx."

(TEDxs are "independently organized TED events.") The title says it all, and the speaker is brilliant, straightforward, and funny. And I wish she could have been at my side at a recent gathering when a member of my extended family severely tested my commitment to shalom bayit. I bit my tongue and knew I'd lost the argument before even uttering a word, because he was the kind of guy interested in no opinion but his own (wrong, scary, bigoted one). Lesley Hazelton could have made him a believer, however.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

965. Rain

Not much blogging here lately, I know. But I've been writing, mainly for the wonderful class I'm taking once again where we study a little Torah and then listen to one another's words—I am awed and inspired by both. I wish there were more hours in the day to do that, and work, and sing, and draw (an old hobby newly resurrected—or will be, once I finish clearing some space out in a corner of my bedroom). Oh, and socialize and pray and look at art and relax. I need a 48-hour day.

Meanwhile, in the middle of today's 24-hour one I led a shiva minyan. I arrived to see the rabbi deep in conversation—must be a scheduling mistake, I thought, since they certainly didn't need me if he was present. "No problem," I said to the son of the deceased. "I'm glad to stay." "The more the merrier," he answered, not ironically. A torrent of laughter came from the dining room; you could almost see the love pouring from all these good spirits. But I didn't know a soul, and suddenly felt uncomfortable. I'm not great at being a stranger in the middle of a crowd, even a really nice one. Just as I began to strategize which back wall to melt into, the wife of the deceased came over.

"You can lead now," she said with a smile. And there was the rabbi, putting on his coat and thanking me; he just came by for a visit. (Maybe he was on his way to another minyan. This winter, once again, brought a depressing increase in deaths within the community.) I was relieved to have something to do, and to do this thing in particular. (And also that the rabbi would not actually listen to me lead. Silly! They hear me sing all the time. But not in someone's living room while pretending to be in charge, even though I sort of am. It's less stressful to wear that mantle in a room full of people I don't really know.)

Today was the last day of shiva and everyone prayed wearily, too familiar with the drill. I learned that the deceased was alive and eating dinner at this time just a little more than a week ago, and then died very suddenly. The family cried and smiled and laughed, lovely, gracious people who made sure to thank crowds of friends for their support, and didn't seem numb, but I knew they were. I walked out into the rain very glad to be alive, chilly, and wet in the middle of Broadway.