personal story

Overcoming Oppressive Guilt

Guilt

The last couple of decades have not always been easy. I’ve got more than my fair share of trauma to speak of. And just when I thought I was starting to get a handle on things, physical pain started to become an all-consuming reality in my life.

But one of the biggest plagues that has harmed me over the years is guilt. The ever-pressing feeling that I’ve done things and made irreversible decisions that have and continue to cause myself and others harm.

Oppressive Guilt

And it isn’t easy to live with yourself when each and every day these oppressive feelings swarm into your mind. It isn’t easy when you cannot let yourself have a moment to breath without negativity creeping its way back to find whatever little crevice it could crawl its way into.

And when moments of happiness are marred by guilty feelings, you know it’s time to make some changes. You know it’s time to look deep into yourself and figure out if there’s anything that can be done to either fix the past, or at the very least move on from it.

Collateral Damage

And it would be so much easier if the past only hurt me.

My decisions along the way were mine. Only mine. If they harmed me or continue to cause me pain, so be it. But when the aftermath spills out and burns others in my life, especially those closest to me, sometimes the guilt is just unbearable.

Forgiving Myself

So I’m setting out with one of the more difficult tasks I’ve ever had to perform: Forgiving myself.

I don’t expect this to be a short and easy road, but it all begins with me putting one foot in front of the other.

The Past Lingers

One roadblock will inevitably be that the elements that caused me grief in the past are still around.

There is a Jewish teaching about someone who goes to a ritual bath to get purified while holding something that inherently causes impurity. They can immerse in the waters all day long, but every time they emerge, they are becoming impure once again.

Their Sisyphean task will never be complete.

And that is how I feel right now. I need to not only work hard to forgive myself for the errors I’ve made, but I need to work tirelessly to not allow things to enter my heart that will set me back. All that accomplishes is increasing the hurt exponentially, and the guilt comes pouring forward once again.

The Challenge of Self-Forgiveness

Why is it so hard for me to just look in the mirror and say, “You got this, Yitzchak. The past is the past. Let’s kick ass from here on out!” Why can’t I just let go and realize the blessings in my life far outweigh the challenges that have beaten me down along the way?

Why?

Because life is complicated. And the human spirit can only take so much before it is weakened to the point of submission.

No Excuses

I make no excuses. My failings are mine and mine alone. And I have by no means given up hope.

But I need to recognize the reality of the situation. No matter what I accomplish, no matter how good things can get, and no matter how much time has passed, there is one thing that still keeps kicking me down every single day of my life. And that is guilt.

Guilt marred my ability to be truly happy in the year before I moved back to Israel. How can I smile knowing full well that my children are an ocean away from me? How can I let myself even have even small moments of joy when I’ve made decisions that continue to cause grief to me and those closest to me?

Guilt Snaps Me Back

I sometimes see folk do a workout at the gym where they tie a resistance band around their waist and anchor it to a pillar or the like. Then they run forward. No matter how hard they push, ultimately the band will snap them back into place.

It looks like a fantastic exercise, but it’s a sad and unfortunate metaphor for the impact I believe guilt has on my life.

There is so much I wish to accomplish. And for certain I am not walking around without which to be proud. However, I don’t think I’ve accomplished a fraction of what I’m capable of. And I believe it’s guilt that’s holding me back.

Do I Deserve It?

Every time I move forward, every time I’m sure I’m going to get to some next stage in life, that exercise band just snaps me back into place. The feeling swarms me again that I’m not supposed to have great things. That somehow or other since people have had rough times because of the decisions I’ve made, there is an inherent limit on how much success and happiness I deserve.

Is any of this true? Is there a basis in reality for anything I’m feeling or experiencing?

Guilt is Poison

You might look at me with pity and tell me thoughts and feelings are silly or baseless. But they’re still there. They’re like a poison that seeps into my blood and crawls throughout my system whenever I feel like progress has been made.

And despite the philosophical knowledge that I can take all my guilt and let it go, when was the last time life were that simple? When was the last time anyone was able to take pervasive emotions and just cast them aside because on paper they don’t make sense.

And the guilt only makes the problems worse. The people who’ve suffered along the way, suffer more because of my guilt.

Fighting the Uphill Battle

I have an uphill battle ahead of me. I have so many years of being pulled in the wrong direction, that moving forward feels simply impossible.

However, the guilt can’t win. It doesn’t deserve to win.

I have all the tools in place to start fighting back. The next step is just to dive in and start learning how to forgive myself.

Today’s the first day of forever. And it’s going to be a good one.

It just has to be.

***

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Posted by jaffeworld in divorce, judaism, opinion, personal story, 0 comments

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

The Day My Daughter Saved My Life

daughter

This past weekend I had a very crazy and unforgettable moment with one of my daughters. She was in a terrible mood, due mostly to the ever-present fighting with her sister. So we split up into separate groups, and I walked holding my precious daughter’s hand.

We had a beautiful and fascinating conversation about bullying. She was as attentive as I’ve ever seen her. Impressively so.

We started walking across a major street in Jerusalem. I began crossing the middle section. When all of a sudden I heard my daughter shriek, “Aaaaaabba!!” And I felt her tugging on my arm as hard as can be.

I looked at her confused, and then turned around to see a huge bus passing the spot where I was standing just a split second earlier. It took me a moment to collect my thoughts, and clear the fog roaming through my head. And when I did, I realized what I had done.

The Jaywalker

I crossed the street on the red. I am a typical New Yorker, at least in that jaywalking is something that I think all human beings should do and do freely. And I’m also typical in that I’m usually extremely careful. I always look both ways, even on a one-way street. I trust no one.

And in 42 years, I’ve done so without a hitch. But this time was slightly different. I was sleepy, first and foremost. And it was Shabbat, so there were hardly a lot of vehicles to begin with. I wasn’t paying great attention, since I was so thoroughly engaged in the conversation with my daughter. But most importantly, I had for a split-second forgotten that this part of the street had two-way traffic.

And there I was, nonchalantly stepping into an empty street… right in front of a bus that was making a turn.

The Forever Hug

When I finally realized what was going on, I grabbed my daughter, and we hugged for what felt like an eternity. I didn’t want to stop. I was bizarrely calm. But she had tears running down her face and was shaking like a leaf.

And thus became the theme of the next 24 hours or so. My gorgeous daughter clung to me like never before. And every time her mind gave her a moment to think, the tears came back.

This was a special moment for me, on so many levels. One I expect to someday reminisce about with my daughter’s children. Here are five takeaways from my brush with danger, and my child’s amazing instinctual reaction:

1) My Daughter Loves Me A LOT

Kids complain. They complain a lot. And it could take years before they develop essential life perspectives, like empathy and priorities. And because of all that, it’s very easy to forget how important you are to them as a parent.

This moment gave me some perspective I would not have otherwise. My girl can be challenging sometimes. And sometimes the way she acts can make me feel like she doesn’t even want me in her life at all, God forbid.

But that shriek and passionate tug on my arm erased years of trying to cope with all the complications. She loves me. She really, really does. And she couldn’t fathom a world without me in it.

2) Laden with Blessings

Listen: I’m not going to say you should wander in front of a bus in order to see how it impacts your relationship with your children.

However, I can’t deny that something was different after the incident, and something undeniably positive.

Throughout the weekend she wanted to hold my hand every free moment she had. And something felt qualitatively different than when she held my hand in the past. It was filled with more love, more admiration and appreciation.

I love my daughter with a passion. But this is the closest we’ve ever felt to one another.

3) How Quickly Roles Can Shift

I am a typical father. I am grossly protective of my children, and would unthinkingly fight to the death to protect any one of them.

It’s just an innate sense. I must be there for them in every way. It is my duty in this world to keep them safe at all times.

And in one quick moment, the tide can turn. My wife and I spent the weekend assuring my precious 9-year-old that even when she wasn’t watching my back, I was safe. She needed to know at all times that even when I was out of sight, I was being careful, and there were others making sure I was out of harms way.

It is beyond humbling when your own child needs to be the one protecting you.

4) Surprises Lurking behind Every Corner

I’ll be honest. My daughter acted with efficiency and speed. Her reaction time was flawless. And I’m not sure I could have predicted things happening the way they did. She rose to the occasion, exceeding expectations.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. This is the same little girl who I recall a whole five years earlier charming every person she met. I’ll never forget our time in the airport on our way to New York. She would sit down next to a perfect stranger and start asking questions. At first, they’d be annoyed, and wished to return to their newspaper. Within 30 seconds the newspaper was set down next to them, and they were fully engaged in conversation. The same scenario happened several times!

To this day, the same daughter makes new best friends everywhere she goes. And instantly.

This little angel is not one to be underestimated. Ever!

5) Something’s Different Now

I can’t quite put my finger on it. Words are failing me to express what’s different today than yesterday. However, it’s clear to me that something has changed. Perhaps I’ll understand at some point, perhaps I’ll never quite grasp it.

This is not my first brush with danger. It’s not the first time where I looked back and said I was inches from death. But it is most certainly the first time that the danger was averted at the hands of my very own daughter.

I am humbled.

I am grateful.

And I am ecstatic to continue using my gift of life.

***

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Posted by jaffeworld in parenting, personal story, 1 comment

Peculiar Travel Suggestions

Peculiar Travel Suggestions

Sometimes being an adult can get quite frustrating. Life can lack the adventure and spontaneity that colored our youth. Or at least the amount of unplanned craziness we all expect to have when we’re younger.

Many years ago I was introduced to an author who would later become my favorite: Kurt Vonnegut. I was quickly attracted to his unique and entertaining style of writing. And I found concepts and ideas throughout his books becoming a part of who I was.

The Cursed Kurt Vonnegut

A great example is an idea in the book Hocus Pocus. The character spoke about his reason for never cursing. He believed it weakened the strength of his thoughts and opinions.

Now, I grew up a classic potty-mouthed New Yorker. But I also grew up wanting to make sure any point I make gets across as quickly and effectively as possible. So it was imperative I gave this idea some thought. I considered all the most famous quotes and speeches I had heard. And the people I knew who had the most influence on me and others around me.

And not a curse word to be found.

I took this to heart, stripped my vocabulary of the expletives, and watched as over time the words became somewhat repulsive to me. I also watched as the words became more powerful. Their infrequent use made them more intense when they were actually used.

Peculiar Travel Suggestions

Vonnegut’s influence on me had no bounds. There was one phrase from his incredible novel Cat’s Cradle that has had more impact on me than any other: “Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God.”

As you make your way through the twists and turns of life, every once in a while someone will suggest you do something you’ve never done before. You will have an opportunity to wander outside your comfort zone, and see things differently than yesterday.

Those moments aren’t just fun one-time breaks from your normal reality. They are the bread and butter of who you will later become! And so it has been for me, time and again. In my youth I was invited to a youth group meeting. It was something outside my realm. Something that I really did not understand or see the point of. But it was a peculiar travel suggestion, with potential galore for changing my life forever.

And it most certainly did!

That one decision was the starting point for a path I am still trekking down. For sure there have been other peculiar travel suggestions along the way. Many I’ve followed, and many have had their impact. The path hasn’t always been an easy one, but it certainly has always felt like there’s been some type of plan guiding the way.

Dancing Lessons from God

In more recent years I was invited to a friend’s home to hang out and play some games. I didn’t know my host very well, nor did I know any of the other guests. My instincts and inertia could have easily gotten the better of me. After all, it was exceedingly hot outside. I was better off just staying home, reading, and napping.

My host’s peculiar travel suggestion would be a key moment on the path eventually leading to our marriage.

And thus has been the pattern of my existence for as far back as I remember. When my days had too much of a pattern, and I was too rigid and unwilling to follow the ebbs and flow of life, or there were elements holding me back, little noteworthy happened.

And therefore when I told stories about myself, I noticed they were all old. Anything and everything that seemed interesting or noteworthy about me happened a long, long time ago.

In the Comfort Zone

And now here is where I stand. I find comfort in day-to-day routines. I like knowing what my day will look like and what’s coming up in the near future. Any break from my routine, even a small one, upsets my balance. Leaves me somewhat unnerved. That’s why they call it the “comfort zone”…

Yet at the same time there are changes that need to happen. There are improvements to myself as a person I so vehemently wish I could make happen. And if things continue on the same path they’ve been zooming down since I was a teenager, these changes won’t just happen on their own. Change happens when a peculiar travel suggestion enters my world, and I’m brave enough to follow the unknown path.

Shaking Things Up

And it seems this is the only true way meaning occurs in my life. It’s like a snow globe that settles into whatever it is, but the true beauty shines when things are shaken up.

But the shaking can’t happen by force. I can’t just shake my own snow globe or artificially insert my own peculiar travel suggestions. This disingenuous method of finding meaningful change is unlikely to produce any results.

Waiting for Peculiar Travel Suggestions

That’s not to say I have no control, nor that I lack an important role in inevitable and exciting changes that lay ahead. I must lay the foundation, and create the right atmosphere for change to naturally flow from what’s happening in my life.

There is so much I want to happen in the future, so many goals I wish to achieve. I want to see new levels of professional and financial success. I wake up daily yearning to return to levels of religiosity and Zionism I haven’t felt in what seems like ages. And I want joy in my days, the extent of which I could not have imagined.

I’m out there. God, I am wandering through life, each day awaiting Your peculiar travel suggestions. I patiently seek Your dancing lessons.

I can’t wait to see what happens next.

***

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Posted by jaffeworld in opinion, personal story, religion, 0 comments

Leaping for ALYN

ALYN Hospital

Another year… another leap from an airplane.

My son and I are once again jumping from a plane, for an absolutely fantastic cause. We would love it if you could contribute. Every dollar counts.

ALYN Hospital is Incredible

So first, why should you donate to ALYN Hospital?

ALYN is the only rehabilitation hospital for kids and teens in Israel. If children are involved in a car accident, hurt in an act of terror, or suffer some other trauma leaving them with serious injuries that impact their ability to lead independent lives, ALYN is likely their best hope.

ALYN Hospital will create a unique plan for each child depending on what they need, which often involves a variety of therapies and equipment. A child may receive any number of different therapies, including physical therapy, occupational therapy, hydrotherapy, pet therapy, and gardening therapy.

Everyone is pulled from every direction as to where to donate their hard-earned money. Personally, I prefer to give to a cause that everyone can agree upon. No politics, no biases. Just making the world a better place.

Children’s rehabilitation hospital?

No brainer.

Skydiving to Glory

I love participating in fundraisers. I love seeking new and exciting adventures. And I love any and all excuse to have quality time with my amazing son.

In addition, I’ve been plagued with a slew of injuries lately that have made more traditional fundraisers (like races) difficult if not impossible for me. So when I heard about the possibility of combining all of this together, I jumped at the opportunity (pun very painfully intended).

My son and I participated last year and are ecstatic to do so again. This is the fourth consecutive year for this unique style of fundraiser. And I’m hoping we’ll be diving for many years to come.

Skydiving was nothing like what I was expecting.

My top three observations after jump number one:

Pushed out a Plane

1) You don’t really jump out of a plane. It’s more like getting nudged out of one, or “tumbling out of a plane”, in the words of Julie Zola, a program participant. Or in another participant, Dana Adler’s, words, “listen to the instructor, trust in them and LET GO! You are not in control and sometimes that’s a great thing.”

In fact, there’s something truly liberating about having minimal control over what happens next. If you’re up against your fears, you’re facing them head on. And you will conquer them. Dana says, “Once you’re up in that plane, there’s no going back. This mirrors what the parents of the children in ALYN go through once they enter the doors of [the] hospital and… have no choice but to be strong.”

Learnin’ to Fly

2) Skydiving doesn’t feel like falling. More like floating or soaring. Or in the words of Dana Adler, it’s “the feeling of flying and being weightless, seeing the world from an entirely different perspective.” Julie describes it as “serenity filled with adrenaline… Once the parachute deploys, it is incredibly peaceful.”

However you want to describe it, skydiving does not have the expected terrifying feeling of plummeting to your doom. It’s not actually scary at all. Partcipant Dani Schijveschuurder says, “Any feelings of fear, is your brain playing mind-games. The actual jump is far less scary!”

No, it’s not a terrible fall at all. In many ways, slipping off your chair is far scarier. Skydiving is a serene and peaceful flying through the sky.

Done. What’s Next?

3) Dani says the skydiving experience is followed by “the irrational realization that it’s addictive and you just need to do it again. And again. And again!” I completely understand where she is coming from. However, when it ended for me, for sure I was excited to do it again. But something else interesting happened. All I wanted to do was find the next big thrill.

I don’t even know what to try. Jumping from higher up, bungee jumping, cliff diving. It’s quite a while before the intensity calms down, even just a little. Before that happens, all you want to do is find the next big challenge. You can’t wait to see what life brings you next.

ALYN Skydiving Fundraiser

It’s true, skydiving for me was a dream come true. I’d been wanting to jump literally for decades. The right opportunity just never came around.

For my son it was a right of passage. We’ve done a whole lot of really interesting activities together, from shooting to trying Brazilian Jiu Jitsu together. I was there when he bravely faced his first roller coaster at Dutch Wonderland. And I was there when he first jumped out of an airplane.

He’s come a long way. And we’ve come a long way together.

But some life lessons are more important than others. I need to raise my children to be kind. I need to raise my children to treat the needs of other people as paramount.

So I’m beyond ecstatic that not only are we doing something super special together. But we are doing so for an amazing cause.

The impression is powerful. And I hope the impact stays with him for a long time to come.

As Julie says, “My favorite thing about this fundraiser is that I think we all have a tendency to take for granted that we are able to walk and do things that others do not have the ability to do. This fundraiser raises awareness that there are people who deserve a chance to live a life without disabilities.”

ALYN: What Can I Do?

So… you can’t join us for the jump. What else can you do for ALYN Hospital?

Come visit and learn more about the unique work of ALYN. Join their projects, which are all based on pushing a participant past his or her comfort zone. The children treated at the hospital must do so every single day.

And, of course, you can contribute to our campaign.

***

A warm thank you to Yarden Frankl for helping me with compiling all the necessary information for this post.

***

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Posted by jaffeworld in opinion, personal story, 0 comments

Israel Elections and Why I’m Afraid to Vote

Israel Elections

Israel’s elections are around the corner. I have a mixture of emotions ranging from indifference to sheer terror.

You see, this place can get a bit crazy, and your seemingly insignificant vote can mean so much more than most could imagine.

Growing up in the States, it’s easy to start thinking of elections as a joke. In the majority of States, you can know close to 100% who your State will choose well before election day comes around. It’s very easy to feel like your choice is insignificant.

In addition, even the biggest decisions will rarely land on your doorstep. Certainly not quickly. The closest thing I had in my lifetime was the government’s asinine decision to give fines to those of who choose not to have health insurance.

But I don’t live in the States anymore. And I’ve watched as the Prime Minister’s decisions can literally land in my backyard.

Israel Elections and Getting Kicked Out of my Home

Many years ago, I was living on a wonderful settlement called Karmei Tzur. The Prime Minister at the time, Ehud Barak, was engaged in vigorous peace negotiations with Bill Clinton and Yasser Arafat. On the table was nearly 100% of the disputed territories within the country. And, of course, this included my very own home.

We moped around the settlement, knowing full well that we were literally a signature away from getting dragged from our homes by the military. And we were overjoyed when talks fell through. Not because our brethren decided it was unfair and cruel for us to leave, mind you. But because Arafat rejected the plan. He wanted more land.

But it was our own leader, elected by our fellow citizens, who was trying to cause us irreparable harm.

Israel Elections and a Shaken Conscious

And, frankly, there are limits to what my conscious could bear. Several years ago, I cast my vote and helped to choose the one to run this great nation. And that leader, Ariel Sharon, would later make the decision to aggressively remove thousands of Jewish people from their homes.

None of us thought it would actually happen.

But it did.

Yes, I’m aware that if I hadn’t cast my vote, Ariel Sharon would have been elected anyway. And of course none of us could have known that this would be the results of his reign in office.

But still.

I was a cog in the wheel. I would watch from afar as people–my people–were forcefully ripped away from everything they had built for decades. And then I would watch further as for the next several years everything that could possibly go wrong went worse than anyone could imagine.

The resettlement of the Gush Katif residents was handled abysmally. And Israel would be attacked repeatedly from areas formerly occupied by Israeli families.

Lamenting Gush Katif

Years ago I spent a Shabbat in one of the Gush Katif settlements. It was a lovely and moving experience. One that I know I will never have again. And it’s all because enough people, like me, voted in that election.

Instead of revisiting Kfar Darom, and walking around through its lovely Gan Hamitzvot, I watched the residents fighting with soldiers. I watched teens who were born in the community fighting with teens who were drafted into the military. They were all young and unaware, and probably still wake up in cold sweats thinking about that miserable week in Jewish History.

The Way to the Top: Crappy Predecessors

And Sharon should have never been elected in the first place. He was able to work his way up to the top of the political ladder solely based on the poor performance of his predecessor, Ehud Barak. Ehud Barak was infamous for an empty threat that empowered five years of relentless violence against the Israeli people, known as the Second Intifada. And he was also known for endless bombings of empty homes that seemed to accomplish nothing, except for perhaps emboldening and multiplying Israel’s enemies.

And how did such a skilled politician find his way into office? His predecessor had made decisions that left him without a political friend in the world, opening the door for just about any opposition to hop into his place. Who was Barak’s predecessor? None other than current Head of State, good ole Bibi Netanyahu.

And Netanyahu had set the stage for this clown to bumble his way through leading Israel by actions that would simultaneously alienate all of his constituents, while not garnering a shred of favor from his opponents. Very much not shrewd political maneuvering on Bibi’s part.

Israel Elections and Good Ole Netanyahu

That being said, I think Bibi learned a lot from his first go as Prime Minister. And perhaps that’s why he’s been able to sink his talons into the position for so long his second time around. In all honesty, I sort of like him as Prime Minister, and I think he’s done a better job than all his recent predecessors (including himself).

Why? It feels like under his leadership, things are never too hot or too cold. Israel continues to vigorously defend itself, yet we’re not on the front page of the popular media on a daily basis. Somehow or other, we’re almost boring in the world’s view. This is in stark contrast to years past where it felt to me like Israel was constantly hovering around the front of the paper, and never in a favorable manner. Netanyahu pisses people off, but rarely so much that they call for his immediate ousting from office.

And, of course, we’re still left wondering how to perceive his illegal and/or immoral actions. This is a question that brings shivers up my spine. I watched closely as half a nation forgave an adulterous Bill Clinton. Why? Because they were able to separate his actions in the sack from his actions in the Oval Office.

Should we have a higher standard in the Holy Land? Should we seek in the Israel elections a candidate we can respect in and out of the office?

And should we cling to the leader with whom we are familiar but discontent? Or should we take chances on a new situation with unknown but potentially catastrophic consequences?

Terrified of Israel Elections

These and so many other questions can confuse and hurt to no end.

So you are wondering if I’m voting in the upcoming Israel elections. My answer: I’m really not sure. If I don’t, it’s because I don’t feel like I have enough information to make a decision I can be proud of. And because I’m afraid of waking up the next morning terrified for what legitimate damage I might cause my nation.

I’m just not sure I can handle that again.

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Posted by jaffeworld in Israel, opinion, personal story, 0 comments

The Shameful Marriage Industry

Marriage Industry

The smoke has cleared.

And I am now blissfully married to my one true love.

Everything was beautiful and we are working hard every day to have the dream life we’ve both always wanted.

But I can’t walk away from the experience without expressing some deep and painful concerns. The marriage industry is out of control, and there are countless aspects I need to speak out against. In this article I’d like to address just two.

The Rabbanut

For generations, the concept of a rabbinic body’s purpose in this world was to help improve the lives of those around them. Sadly, instead the Rabbanut of Israel has become synonymous with greed and inconvenience.

Everyone in Israel is forced by law to get married through the Rabbanut. The process is basically to “prove” that you are Jewish, single, and that you have fulfilled certain wedding requirements based on Jewish law.

I panicked as I entered the process, knowing full well that my divorce might cause problems. So, I called a handful of friends with similar situations and it seemed one of the recurring themes was people leaving the Rabbanut’s office in tears.

In tears!

Seriously.

The Shameful Rabbanut

Your organization should be ashamed. After generations of service to the Jewish world, selflessly giving to communities in a passionate attempt to make the world a better place, you now have reduced yourselves to aggressive harassment of couples in need of help. You have debased yourselves and the field, all in the name of a pathetic and pushy attempt to hold on to power.

And you charge a crap load of money in the process!

What are some of the “services” the Rabbanut does to earn their paycheck? They look over marriage and divorce documentation to make sure people are Jewish and not currently married. And couples send witnesses to them to testify that they are currently single.

The process is invasive, yet shallow. A five year-old could poke holes in their procedure, yet for whatever reason they’re obnoxious enough to send already stressed couples to the street sobbing uncontrollably.

The Incompetent Rabbanut

A great example of the Rabbanut’s silly incompetence was when I was required to go to the Rabbincal court in order to validate my divorce documentation. The office I needed to go to was in a terribly inconvenient location, with just as inconvenient office hours. My ex-wife had already been married with the same documentation in the same city. So I had to miss a great deal of work in order to be charged a large fee for them to essentially just print out a piece of paper, which I then had to deliver to others myself.

Why? All of these things could have been taken care of in minutes in a world with powerful computers and instant email capability. So why would they need to put me through all that? Why would I need to miss work, waste time, and throw money in the trash during an already busy and stressful time in life?

Greed.

And control.

And probably a hefty amount of incompetence.

Rabbi Revisited

Way back when I wrote about how I don’t like to be called “rabbi” anymore. I didn’t expect to have another reason. These people have turned the role into a joke at best; an embarrassment to the entire Jewish world at worst. I would never wish my name associated with such immorality.

Please, for the love of God, check yourselves. Figure out why you’re doing what you’re doing, and find out whether or not you’re causing more harm than good. And then do everything in your power to give the Rabbanut back its good name.

The Marriage Industry Bubble

I fear the marriage industry is a bubble. Alongside of other unsustainable ridiculousness of our generation, such as universities, I don’t see how the marriage industry could continue like this indefinitely.

The industry preys on the fact that everyone not only feels a religious, cultural, or moral obligation to get married, but they feel there are certain standards that must be met. Women need a certain level of fanciness in their wedding gown (or just need a wedding gown). There must be halls and caterers and photographers and a band and on and on and on.

And the industry responds by charging outrageous prices for every last detail with unimaginable hidden fees. And when the smoke clears, and you think you can’t handle the pressure of everything, what happens? Wedding planners swoop in to save the day! And another fee gets tossed into the pile. (Side note: Our planner was great and I’d recommend him fully and completely.)

The Marriage Industry Aggression

First of all, when those getting married are seeking advice, it is wildly inappropriate to use that as an opportunity to just sell us your services. I felt like every time I posted anything online about my engagement party or wedding, a half dozen people sent me messages aggressively trying to get me to use their band or whatever.

I’m asking for advice. I’m under pressure. And just because I mention a wedding, doesn’t mean you need to swarm like vultures and devour me. My joyous occasion should not be your platform for aggressive marketing.

Marriage Industry Alternatives

Second of all, there are alternatives. Many alternatives. People can elope. Or they can just remain together unmarried indefinitely. And on and on. I fear this is the direction we’re headed if prices keep climbing and the industry keeps everything as fantastically stressful as it has so far.

Do we really want to undermine the institution of marriage for our own greed? Or do we want to do what we can to allow people to become wed in relative peace and harmony, without an additional looming threat of financial ruin?

The wrong choice is bad for everyone.

Choose wisely.

A Quick Shout Out

A quick shout out is in order for those who were shining lights in all this craziness.

The flower shop that gave us petals for our flower girls. When you told me they were free, I didn’t believe you. “Free” was not a word I was used to hearing during this process. It seemed like every time I sneezed, someone handed me a tissue and sent me a bill for $50. People, buy their flowers. They deserve it.

To all the friends and family who helped out or offered to help out, it is beyond appreciated. And to anyone who understood that a bride and groom need a lot of space and as little as possible to add to their stress, you are beautiful. Keep up the good work!

As for the rest of the industry, marriage is not an institution meant to be exploited or undermined. Shame on you.

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Posted by jaffeworld in Israel, judaism, opinion, personal story, religion, 0 comments

The Devorah-Yitzchak Story: Part 5-The Proposal

Proposal

I’ve had a dream for quite some time. If I ever found myself ready to get married again, I wanted a highlight reel kind of proposal. I wanted to do something special and outlandish. Something people would talk about for months and months to come, and that my bride of choice would never forget.

Crazy Proposal Ideas

Of course, I had some crazy ideas. There are classic thriller types involving skydiving or bungee jumping. And at one point along the way I pondered whether or not we could take a trip to Vienna to visit a butterfly enclosure, and if there were some way to get the butterflies to spell out “Marry me”. Still love that idea. Feel free to steal it!

But once I had the notion of proposing to Devorah at the end of her play, I couldn’t shake the idea. I loved it. And I knew she would too.

Lot of Love in My Heart

So, in a sense, there were a combination of many elements that dictated when I would propose. I’ve had a lot of love in my heart for quite some time. In the past four years it’s manifested itself in all sorts of ways. But no matter how many times I told myself that I didn’t want to get married again, the moment I found someone I cared about this deeply, it’s all I wanted in this world. And I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

I don’t believe in proposing too quickly. I think it’s vitally important to truly know the person you wish to spend the rest of your life with. But how quick is too quick? In Western culture, less than a year may be considered too quick. In Jerusalem, it’s borderline unheard of.

But I knew what I wanted. And I knew how I wanted it. So my question was answered by circumstance.

The Outlandish Proposal

And that’s how I found myself searching clandestinely for the director’s email address, in order to begin arranging a giant, outlandish public proposal. I would go down on my knee and pop the question shortly after the actors took their bows at the end of one of Devorah’s shows. Not only was she the lead actress, but she hysterically rejects someone’s proposal in the last five minutes of the play. All the stars were aligning!

I wanted everything perfect. New outfit, clean shaven, every detail worked out in advance. And I did everything I could to preserve the surprise. As far as I knew, she wasn’t even expecting me to stop by at the end of the performance. After all, I was attending as a guest the very next day. Certainly Devorah knew a proposal was in the air, but I was well aware she wanted to choose her own engagement ring. I made it abundantly clear that the trip to the jewelry store would be later on.

Proposal without a Ring?

But how do you propose without a ring? Alas, we were in a jewelry store several weeks earlier. Devorah fell in love with a necklace there and I managed to snag a photograph. The necklace would be the perfect “placeholder” before we could buy the ring.

The day before my planned proposal, we went on a date. From start to finish I felt this intense discomfort. Generally our conversations flow like water and could go on for hours without either of us even noticing. But here I was with an inherent flaw. I couldn’t talk about the item I was thinking about the most. I had to ignore the objectively biggest thing happening in my life at that moment. It felt awful. For certain I was holding back with extremely positive intentions, but it felt dishonest and uncomfortable nevertheless. And I squirmed under the pressure.

But that day ended, and we were back on track. My following day was a day like any other… with a hyper focus on the upcoming proposal, and deflecting anything that might hint something was up.

She Said Yes (*Spoiler*)

And boy I boy was I nervous. These nerves were not at all characteristic. But I was shaking like a leaf, and pacing around my home endlessly.

And when the big moment finally came around, I walked on stage from behind, I fell to my knee, and I asked Devorah to make me the happiest person alive.

And she said yes.

The raw emotion of the moment was unforgettable.

Surprise Proposal?

Now, facts are facts. Devorah had guessed almost every detail of the proposal. She not only figured out how I was proposing, but she knew at which performance. She even knew I would be giving her that specific necklace. Think I’m exaggerating? She brought matching earrings to put on in case she was correct!

Did her ability to figure me out so easily detract at all from the moment? Not in the slightest. If anything, it just reflects how connected we truly are. I did whatever I could to conceal my plans, and that was my biggest undoing. Devorah asked me to come by at the end of the show to meet one of her mentors, and I said I wasn’t sure I would be able to. I thought I was safe… but I gave her all the evidence she needed to figure out what was happening.

She knows me. I love that she knows me. And even though I’ll try to surprise her for the rest of my life, I’ll be content knowing that she knows me well enough to make it challenging. And she loves me nonetheless.

Just the Beginning

So, I’ve brought you from the beginning to the end of our dating saga. From complete unawareness to realizing I’m dating my soulmate. From hysterically failed attempts to be together, to dropping to my knee with complete clarity.

But our story is hardly over. In fact, it is just beginning. We have a lifetime to get to know one another. We have a lifetime to grow, and have adventures, and pour our hearts out to each other.

Here’s to the future.

Posted by jaffeworld in personal story, 1 comment

The Devorah-Yitzchak Story: Part 4–The Mighty 253

Devorah

And there we were. Somehow in a relationship.

Against all odds.

I didn’t want to date. I made that abundantly (and now embarrassingly) clear. But I was extremely happy.

The real question at this point would be:

What happens now?

Break on Through to the Other Side

We broke through that odd first chunk of time where we liked one another, but didn’t know what the other one was thinking or feeling. Clearly what was “just a date” would develop into a full-fledged relationship, and very quickly.

Obviously we each had our own world of feelings and emotions we needed to work through. I cannot speak on behalf of Devorah, and it is not my place to tell anyone’s thoughts or feelings but my own.

But I certainly had a complicated road ahead of me.

On one hand, I really liked this wonderful new woman in my life. She made me laugh and smile. She was thoughtful, kind, sweet, and caring. Honestly, more than I could ever hope for.

But I was sailing down a river with massive amounts of baggage weighing down my sailboat. And I couldn’t for a moment presume to know how to deal with the craziness that was about to come.

How it was “Supposed” to Go

I declared quite a few times that if I were to ever get married again, it would go like this:

We would start off as friends. We would spend a great deal of time together, hanging out, having lots of fun, enjoying each other’s company and discourse. And at some point, quite a while later, we would look at each other and realize that we couldn’t imagine living apart from one another.

There is a phrase in Hebrew that roughly translates to “beloved friends”, and this strikes me as the ideal concept of a relationship. We are absolutely through and through the best friends imaginable.

We also happen to have fallen madly in love with one another.

But this ultimately was not my destiny. Thank goodness I’m open enough to welcome surprises into my life!

The Proposal

A matter of months after our first date I found myself on one knee asking this amazing angel of a person to be my wife.

Some people have asked me along the way, “Why so soon? Didn’t you think it would be a good idea to wait longer?”

Wait longer? Wait longer!? I had to fight against the urge to propose way earlier than I actually did!

Sometimes in life there are things that are just so clear. No, there was no year-long friendship preceding an inevitable romance. Not even close! What was there? Clarity. Absolute clarity.

Sometimes you just know.

And sometimes it feels like God is shoving you in a certain direction, and any amount of resistance is completely and totally pointless.

It’s like we have always been one soul. We drifted apart for a few decades. But the reunion was remarkable!

253

A fun story:

This past Yom Kippur I was walking along, just enjoying my own thoughts. I decided to check something on a whim.

In Hebrew, every letter of the alphabet is assigned a number. And there is a mystical practice known as gematria that attributes a great deal of significance to these numbers. My full Hebrew name is “Yitzchak Adam” and I did the math in my head: 253. OK, fine. A nice solid number there.

Then I tried out Devorah’s name (Devorah Leah) and stood there in confused awe when the number 253 popped up again.

I checked. And rechecked. And then rechecked some more.

I don’t know what it means. And it certainly wouldn’t have been enough on its own to propel our relationship forward. But it’s definitely fascinating. And it’s nice to feel like we’re being watched over and coaxed into something so great, so special.

Married in a Year

Another fun story:

Devorah and I were chatting on the phone, already engaged at this point. For whatever reason she had taken a peak at her Amazon Wish List. Something caught her eye, at first confusing her.

One of the books on her list was called ‘How to Get Married in a Year or Less‘.

The date seemed odd, since it was very recent but she did not remember placing the book on the list. Then she realized the date was from a previous year… and she placed the book on her wish list precisely one year before our first date.

In the words of my very intelligent, very intuitive son:

Can the world have made things any more clear? I mean, between the dress story, the name gematria, and the book story, isn’t it just so obvious you were meant to be together?

These are the words of a 15-year old!

Sometimes you have to look to the words of a child to see the truths of the world.

Confusion and Clarity

So there we were. In a relationship.

I was confused as anything, since I had made a giant 180 in my approach to life. But at the same time, something was just so abundantly clear. I started deleting any dating apps or profiles I had. And I started looking toward the future.

Devorah and I had many a hill to climb. But we put on our climbing shoes and started shoving our way past any of the obstacles in the road.

It was quite clear this was no ordinary relationship. And important steps were imminent.

My poor children have been through a lot. They watched their parents divorce. They went off to live in another country and were separate from their father for an entire year.

I knew how traumatic it could be to bring another person into their lives, and I wouldn’t even consider doing so unless the person had an exceptional character.

And there I was, without an ounce of hesitation. Devorah was the perfect person to have in my life, and someone I was ecstatic to introduce to my children.

And as predicted, they love her.

What’s not to love?

 

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Posted by jaffeworld in personal story, 1 comment