Month: October 2019

Netanya, Truly a Gift from Above

Netanya

My oldest daughter, Netanya, just celebrated her twelfth birthday, an enormous milestone in Jewish tradition. Sadly, I didn’t have an opportunity to speak at the birthday festivities, so I thought I’d tell the world what I think of her right here.

Unbreakable Bond

My Netanya and I have had an unbreakable bond since she was a small baby. When she just a wee little nothing, there was only one way to get her to sleep at night. I had a cozy little lazy boy in my Baltimore living room. Netanya would settle herself down right across my chest, and before I knew it, she was soundly asleep. More than half the time I would fall asleep right there with her.

And within a short period of time, this became my favorite part of the day. I waited all day long for that fantastic burst of relaxation. And I honestly still miss it all the time.

Netanya

Netanya is a Miracle

Netanya is a walking miracle. Doctors can sometimes be a bit hard to handle when bringing a little bundle of joy into this world. They don’t know everything, although they would certainly like you to think they do.

In fact, my Netanya story is probably the primary source for why child birth is one of the few areas in the world where I put faith a good chunk ahead of science. Throughout Netanya’s time in the womb, the doctors tormented us with tales of horror. She was going to be born with a whole host of problems. Inevitable problems that would follow her throughout the rest of her life.

And before I could blink, little Netanya Temima was born into this world. Her name was chosen for it’s esthetic value; however, it’s inadvertently laden with an abundance of meaning. The name means “God gave something perfect and unblemished.” The doctors predicted the worst. But they were oh so very wrong. The Netanya that came into my life twelve years ago was absolutely flawless, and she is the blessing of the century. I truly couldn’t imagine life without her.

The Bond Between Father and Daughter

The bond between father and eldest daughter is one that words will always fail to explain. It’s an uncanny allegiance, and an overwhelmingly powerful dedication. But one thing is for certain: People say they would die for others all the time. The words often feel meaningless. When a father is blessed with a daughter, the words take on a profoundly new and intense meaning. It’s like day one of the timeline begins when a father is just waiting to say the immortal words from Clueless, “If anything happens to my daughter, I’ve got a .45 and a shovel. I doubt anybody would miss you.”

And I would do anything–ANYTHING–for my Netanya.

So, who is this Netanya of mine? I would like to speak of three character traits that exemplify who my incredible daughter is.

1) Netanya and Next-Level Empathy

Netanya

Netanya doesn’t just have empathy. She has next-level empathy. I recall times when as a small child, she knew what I was thinking and feeling, better than anyone else. She has always wanted her Abba to be so happy, and like no one else around, she could tell when I was not.

Netanya, the eternal diplomat, wants everyone in her life to be happy all the time, and works tirelessly to try and make that happen. This can certainly take its toll on her, but she faces up to the challenge all the time.

And that’s why everyone around just can’t stop adoring her. Human and animal alike!

I remember a time when I was looking after a friend’s pet. Her dog and mine pretty much ignored each other for a week. And the other dog didn’t really have much of an interest in being best friends with the human folk of my household either. That’s why I couldn’t get over it when I found both dogs curled up asleep next to Netanya one night. Everyone and everything senses how her caring nature is unmatched. And who wouldn’t want to be around that!?

Netanya

2) Netanya and Insatiable Curiosity

My precious Netanya wants to learn and know so much. I had such a lovely conversation with her recently as I was trying to figure out things other people and I could get her for the big upcoming birthday. Her intense interests ranged from art to boxing.

I had the pleasure of being there when she opened up a gift from my wonderful new in-laws. They got Netanya a pair of pink boxing gloves. Her mouth went wide as can be and her eyes lit up like nobody’s business.

This young lady wants to learn everything and is dedicated to grabbing a hold of all the knowledge she can. Whether it’s reviewing words with me in first grade or battling her way through Spanish with Duolingo, when she wants to learn something, the dedication and passion are inspiring.

And look out world. She’s known since she was a wee nothing that she wants to be a doctor. I can’t wait to celebrate with her when she finishes (and aces) medical school!

Which leads nicely into number three…

3) Netanya and her Endless Potential

This little angel has no idea how great she is. No clue at all.

Meanwhile, the world is at her fingertips the moment she shoves her shoulders back, lifts her head up high, and realizes how truly amazing she is.

Smart, talented, and beautiful, my little angel has it all. She’s just the right kick in the tush away from achieving whatever she wants in this world.

***

Netanya

Netanya, we were close from the day you were born. We are super close now. And I am honored to watch as you get older and more amazing every day. I’m so happy I get to keep watching you grow.

You are a true blessing in my life. Thank you for being there for me. Thank you for being you.

***

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Posted by jaffeworld in judaism, parenting, personal story, 1 comment

From Nothing to Confusion: My Religious Odyssey

From Nothing To Confusion

It’s that time again. I worked really hard. I edited like a beast. Did everything I needed to do to make this happen, and now my latest book (#3) is ready for the masses. If you haven’t checked out Teach Like a Ninja and You’re Doing Everything Wrong, please have a look. From Nothing to Confusion is my latest attempt to make sense of all the crazy thoughts swimming around in my head. I hope you enjoy!

From Nothing to Confusion is about my religious journey. It’s about how I grew up, all the religious developments that occurred along the last forty years, and where I am holding now. Sometimes it’s painful. Other times it’s filled with joy. And the whole time it’s a thoughtful journey. And I want to welcome you along for the ride.

Here are some tastes of what you’ll find within:

From Nothing to Confusion: Born to Believe

“It’s always a curious thing, being born into a faith. It doesn’t make all that much sense, with just a bit of thought. You can’t be born into a belief system. Hell, you are born believing nothing.” -Intro

In the introduction to my book I talk about the quite confusing ways we attempt to educate our children to follow in our religious paths. It’s very odd (with admittedly no obvious better choice).

Logic would dictate that religious beliefs would be something people would choose rather than something they are told to believe. Yet, outside of people with stories like my own, this almost never happens. And much of my introduction laments the fact that facilitating an experience like mine is borderline impossible.

From Nothing to Confusion: Raising the Little Ones

“We do what we can. There is no right answer. Probably not even close. In the meantime, we try to model actions and behaviors we’d love to see in our children. Then we keep our fingers crossed, and sit back and watch as their lives and belief systems unfold before our eyes.” -Intro

Some of my children are struggling with Judaism. It’s not terribly surprising. There are many aspects I’m struggling with myself, and I’ve been doing this a heck of a lot longer.

But the best path in how to raise children to love what you love is a mystery to so many of us. And you can do everything “right” and get unfavorable results. You can always “luck out”. But ultimately we’re all trying to unlock this mysterious code. We’re trying to find out how to create the right balance of rules and freedom, of forced education and space for self-growth.

But no matter what we do, so much remains out of our control. And hope fills the void.

From Nothing to Confusion: The Need for More

“Feeling good about efforts that are accomplishing little to nothing was not my goal…. I wanted and needed something bigger.” -Ch. 6

In this chapter I speak about some of my experiences in college in which I was trying to grow past some of what I had experienced in high school. There are many out there who will shout out to children about how to be a responsible adult, who works hard to make the world a better place. But, sadly, they’re often teaching you how to create an appearance of doing good things… and how to pat yourself on the back for all that you’ve supposedly accomplished.

But once you recognize what’s happened, it’s hard not to see it in so much of what we do. It’s hard not to recognize that we’re not really making that much of a difference at all. And if we wish to leave the world a better place than the one we came to, this is unacceptable. And we are prompted to seek something bigger and better.

From Nothing to Confusion: Human Interaction

“No human being can be fully fulfilled without human interaction. Love is connected to touch. To say otherwise is naive at best. Manipulative and controlling at worst.” -Ch. 18

This chapter discusses an element about Orthodox Jewish culture that I think is taught with a definite agenda, and one that ultimately can and does hurt a lot of people.

Sexuality is taught in a way that gears people toward marrying, and marrying as soon as humanly possible. Every element is strategically designed to accomplish that goal. But teaching about healthy relationships and building a strong foundation based on confidence and self-respect are not part of the agenda. They don’t accomplish the goal, and many are left lacking severely vital components of a healthy adult personality.

I believe this is the single greatest flaw in the modern Jewish world. And whereas on paper it appears to be effective and effective immediately, the long term results are hurting people. Many people, myself included, are victims of a dangerous and backwards perspective. One that is prone to hurt people and is entirely unsustainable.

From Nothing to Confusion: When You Fall into Dark Places

“When things are falling apart all around you, it’s hard to trust in the system. It’s borderline impossible not to fall into a dark place and assume that a flaw exists.” -Ch. 20

From Nothing to Confusion takes you through many complicated parts of my story. I join the Reform Movement, start tinkering with Orthodox Judaism, move to Israel, get married, have lots of kids. Everything appears to go as planned. Everything looks great, like the system had another tremendous success story. The entire Jewish world can pat itself on the back for producing, yet again, another picture-perfect Jewish family.

But picture-perfect we were not. And despite decades of assumptions, despite years of trust and elated participation, I fell. I lost my balance. I was no longer what I once was.

I started from nowhere. I traversed my way across a system quite unfamiliar to me. I climbed mountains, and fell into a few swamps along the way. But I came out unscathed… until I was hurt, and hurt bad.

And it threw me into a dark space I have not yet fully crawled out from. And here I am: Confused.

I went from nothing to confusion. And I hope you join me in learning about how it all happened.

***

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Posted by jaffeworld in book announcement, judaism, personal story, religion, 0 comments