Monday, October 6, 2008

a page from the book of life

god has this book, see? it's a book of life. and in the book he/she writes down all the good things and all the bad things about each and every person.

even though one could make an argument that i "am not very jewish," i think we can all agree that my jewish heritage is important to me in my own way. so even though i was trapped ... ahem, i mean working ... at library-in-the-hood this rosh hashanah i still celebrated it in my own way, thinking about my own book of life.

i decided to have a program with the children and discuss what rosh hashanah is about. when asked the kids knew the following points:

1. rosh hashanah is a day they have off from school
2. rosh hashanah is a jewish holiday
3. people pray on rosh hashanah

well, i'll give it to them. all those things are true. but i decided to elaborate on those things, telling them that rosh hashanah is the beginning of the jewish new year, and explaining how the jewish calendar is different from the regular calendar. then i told them that on rosh hashanah we think about how sweet life is, and about eating apples and honey, and how we remember all the good things we've done in the past year, while also thinking about what good deeds we can do in the future. i told them about mitzvahs, and how mitzvahs are good things you do for others (not for yourself). then i told them about how we also think about what bad things we've done, and we think about how we can make up for these bad things. oh and i talked about the shofar, which is always exciting.

then we did a craft. oh how i love crafts. we each made a book and colored in rosh hashana pictures. then we wrote all the mitzvahs we had done in the past year, and wrote a list of anything bad that we did that we would like to improve on or feel sorry about.

i made a big point of telling them that it is okay to have done something bad. everyone does. no one is perfect. but that we need to realize when we've done something bad and try to apologize for it, or do better next time. i also emphasized the importance of forgiving others when the apologize to us, and also forgiving ourselves. not that i'm trying to convert anyone, but i like for people to understand that judaism isn't one of those burn-in-hell type religions.

we went around and said some of the good things that we've done, and some of the things we feel sorry for. there were a couple of kids who do community service, so they discussed the volunteer work they're involved in. this led to a discussion about the community here, and what type of problems it has. a few kids mentioned domestic violence (and even used the term "domestic violence"). it was a bit disturbing. they went around the room citing examples of domestic violence that they had witnessed. one kid said that he was walking down the street with his friend's mother and a man approached her and began to beat her in the street. someone else confirmed that they had seen this happening from their apartment window. although the kids were clearly upset by these incidents, they also accepted them as a typical part of life.

after my friend rasha died, i had this epiphany that just being alive and well is a pretty amazing feat, and should not be taken lightly. our day-to-day problems, although they seem monumental to us, are not really a big deal. most things will be solved in due time. and if they aren't, then in due time we will learn to live with those problems that cannot be solved. but listening to these kids tell countless stories of domestic violence, i was overwhelmed with both sadness and fear. they have real problems to overcome. problems the rest of us will never know.

be thankful for what you have dear blog readers. be thankful.

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