Shalom Mishpacha v’Chaverim,
L’Chaim! Life is good. It has been a long journey from our home Out West, here to The Frozen North, back Out West to see you all again for a few months, and back here again to continue building our homestead. We are warm and well, and there are pumpkins from a local gm-free farm in the house and wood from dead tree removal by the stove. The children are in bed, asleep. The cats are patrolling. (Yes, we have victory over that allergy!!! All honor to He Who Causes to Exist!!!) We are in a house (solid walls!!!) that we built from the ground up of 3 small grain bins this year. Our family has unity like I’ve rarely seen. Each personality has a unique and vital contribution. What more could we want?
We miss you. We miss alternatives and a culture with a more broadly educated “mainstream,” especially in the medical and religious communities. We miss Hebrew lessons and Hebrew school and services and holidays with community and helping to set up for events. I miss local grocery stores that carry more OG food and natural medicines than I keep stocked in my house for the week. I miss kitchen counters attached to kitchen sinks, and my very own bathtub with a door that locks. Sigh. OG food and other Jews are an hour away. The naturopathic RN is 45 minutes East. The showers are at the Y in the town 15 miles South.
The high today was -5°, and tonight it is supposed to get down to -15°. (Edit: it wound up at -18°). Internet is a luxury item here. Cell service and internet are both blocked by the corrugated steel of the grain bins and the mylar which serves as both a vapor barrier and to reflect infrared heat back into the house.
The local YMCA has been indispensable for showers and a place to be when the weather has been inclement, as well as a more reliable WiFi spot. Tornadoes, ticks and mosquitoes in the summer compete with blizzards in the winter for our time,energy and prep work.
At around 600 square feet of heated living space, we’re far from palatial, but the mylar, accented with poplar battons (harvested from the land), does reflect the menorah lights quite regally. We brought the Chanukah box from storage and decorated the house with snowflakes, doves, and menorot. There are those who would argue that the real miracle of Chanukah is in the survival of the Jewish people (allowing, historically, the development of both Christianity and Islam from the Roots that were not destroyed before their birth) and rededication of the temple. For us, the menorah is a beautiful way to remember this miracle, whether the miracle of the oil ever occurred or not. (There is much debate over this, but we don’t see it as the more consequential question. The question of the survival of Judaism was answered with a resounding and miraculous “YES!”) We bless with “natanlanu” in place of “v’tzivanu,” and thank the One who makes all miracles happen, whether we can prove them from the earliest historical accounts or not. Officially, it’s over now, but we’re relishing the after-glow. The kids made several crocheted gifts and we found some “just right” things in thrift shops.
Proverbs recommends planting the fields before building the house. I don’t know whether that bit of wisdom is truly applicable in this climate, but we are hopeful that planting after getting the temporary house built will bring blessings as well. We’ve walked a beautiful, trying journey to appreciate the value in the Instruction in Tanach. Planting and letting the land rest and the years of release have been major landmarks for us. They are “written in stone” in our hearts and gut-instincts.
I’m not sure on the official timing of when to put the mezuzot on the door posts, but we’re thinking it will be sometime near when the wood siding is nailed up around the slider. A friend Out West went to Israel and brought one back for us with a real, Kosher scroll for it. It will be the first Kosher one for any home we’ve ever had. Up to this point, we’ve made do with paper print-outs from the internet. Please send good thoughts and prayers for our home to honor the Torah it holds, as well as the Torah it brings to mind, and the One Who gave it. Note: there are different opinions on how to fulfill this mitzvah. Some put the little box on the doorpost. Some put an open-faced mezuzah, allowing people to see the words. Some believe that it’s similar to the phylactories, and is a figurative instruction to have it always on our minds and in our hearts and to “build our homes” with “posts” (foundations / structural elements) of Torah Instruction. Our view is that these things are all good. Unity is not uniformity, but the capacity to converse and argue and struggle for truth in a social world that allows others to do the same.
May you all be blessed with concrete experiences, “stones to put in the Jordan,” to mark the places where you have found the life in Torah for your homes as well.