People keep asking me if I am nervous about shaving my head.
Well, I have to make a confession. I’ve secretly wanted to try on the bald look. My earliest memories of a bald woman were of
Sinead O’Conner. I found her to be so beautiful. I admired her chutzpah and her rebelliousness. As a goody-two-shoes in the 80′s, I just so wanted break out of the what’s-expected-of-me mold and be like her. Except I can’t sing, and I don’t really want to piss off any world leaders…
And then there’s a fellow MOT, Natalie Portman. She can truly rock the bald head.
But lately, as I’ve seen more and more women and children who are bald-not-by-choice, because they are each fighting a very hard fight, it is from them that I am finding even more inspiration. Their strength of being. Their determination. Their honesty and fear. Their groundedness.
Here’s my friend Gail, who had cancer a couple of years ago and is thankfully cured. She proudly shared this picture with me.
And there are two women in my life right now who are each undergoing chemo treatments for breast cancer. One is very nervous about loosing her hair. And that is fine. As women, our hair says so much about who we are. And the other one, well she has jumped in “head first” and is now sporting this amazing mohawk with a “chai” (the Hebrew equivalent of the number 18, which spells the word “life”) on one side of her head and a SF Giants logo on the other.
And of course, I think of Sam.
So, am I nervous? Not really. I have been preparing myself for this since November.
Will I cry as my hair falls to the ground? Of course I will. I’ll cry because I am Laura, and I always cry. I’ll cry for Phyllis and Michael and all the other parents who have lost their children to cancer. I’ll cry because I am so proud of what the #36rabbis campaign has done. I’ll cry in appreciation of all of you who have given – or will give – to our St Baldrick’s Shave for the Brave campaign to find cures to childhood cancers, and of my community who will come out to support me.
My only fear. I just don’t want to look like her:
For several days now my St Baldrick’s campaign has been at $5858.00.
Seems like such a nice round number. And, as Jews are want to do, I thought what does the number 58 signify? Using gematria one can find meaning in numbers. Each Hebrew letter holds a numerical value and when you put those together, sometimes you get interesting words.
50 = nun
8 = chet
58 = nach, or the root for the word comfort.
5858, really comfortable.
What does it mean to be comfortable? To be confident in one’s place and position. To know what to expect and to feel a sense that all is right in the world.
Each night, at almost exactly at 8 PM Cookie comes barking for her rawhide snack. She is so predictable we can tell time by her attention-getting behavior.
Every Thursday at 6 PM our neighbor begins working in his yard. The leaf blower revs up and our dinner – should we be lucky enough to have an opportunity to sit together – is disrupted by the noise.
There is some comfort in the predictability of these occurrences each day and each week.
As I prepare to shave my head in 46 days (that number doesn’t really bring up something interesting), friends have made me really soft, comfortable hats. Rick has helped me select a few for purchase, making sure they won’t be itchy or rough on my bald head. Comfort is something that I have been thinking about.
But, really, this is not about comfort. My friends Rabbis Phyllis and Michael Sommer are surely “being comforted” by friends and family and community on a daily basis. But really, does raising $312,000+ in memory of their son Sam make everything right in the world. No, of course not.
This is not about comfort. Because sometimes comfort leads to complacency.
My commitment to shaving my head is about discomfort – about seeing something that is NOT right in the world and trying to change it.
Today was a day I will not forget. Today we buried Corporal Farrell Gilliam, 25 years too young, a hero amongst his family and his friends. A hero for our country. A fighter. A poet. A son and brother and friend. A survivor. A man who lived up to his name, for Farrell is Celtic for valor.
I still hear the whimpers and unsuccessfully held-back tears of strong Marines in their dress uniforms as they eulogized Farrell.
The echoes of the 21 gun salute still ring in my ears.
The honor guard playing Taps, all the active duty men and women standing at attention, saluting.
…and joining them, the 6 or so men who are devoted members of Temple Beth Israel who too served for our country, also standing at attention, saluting, like they were 25 years old and in uniform once again. These men who served for our country – in Vietnam and in Korea and in WWII.
Surrounding us, the grave stones of other Jewish veterans.
It is so hard for me to understand that there was a time when our veterans were dishonored, spit upon and hated for their service. I am grateful that those times are behind us. I am grateful for the service these men – and women – have given and continue to give to our country. Their sacrifices leave us indebted. Their sacrifices leave mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers grieving.
As one wise friend of Farrell’s said today, “Freedom is not free.”
Note: z”l is an abbreviation of the Hebrew “zichrono livracha” – may his memory be a blessing
Today, as we honor the life and work and legacy of Rev Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. we are asked to make it a day of service.
Today we are out in our communities marching and rallying and riding freedom trains and, as Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel taught us, praying with our feet.
Today we are working in community gardens and food pantries and carrying bags of groceries to donate for those who are hungry.
Today we are writing our elected officials and signing petitions and speaking up and speaking out with calls for justice.
We are praying at the bedsides of those who are ill and without treatments or cures.
We are mourning at the graves of those who have died because they stood up for what they believe in.
Today cannot be the only day.
Dr. King did not envision a country in which we fought for justice on 1 out of every 365 days.
Justice must be part of our daily routine. It must be as natural to us as breathing and blinking.
So the question we must ask ourselves is not what are we going to do today. But what are we going to do tomorrow and the day after tomorrow and the day after that?
We cannot do it all. But we can do our part. We can make a difference. We just have to do the work.
My work…today, and for at least the next 70 days, to help find a cure.
My work …as inspired by not only Dr. King but also by Rabbi Tarfon.
I am pretty proud of my blog stats for this year. Thank you everyone for joining me on this journey. I look forward to blogging with you more in 2014.
Here’s an excerpt:
A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,700 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.
Okay, so we were a day late. But I couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to study parshat Shemot with the Temple Beth Israel Women’s Torah Study Group.
Shemot is one of my favorite Torah portions. Its kind of like having a favorite child, I know. Yet Shemot speaks to me unlike other passages from Torah.
Unlike other sections of Torah, the names (shemot) we learn are those of women. And not just 1 woman, or 2 but 7 women! All together, we interact with 12 women in this one portion:
Shiphrah and Puah, the brave midwivesYocheved, Moses’s motherMiriam, Moses’s sisterBat Pharoah (the daughter of Pharoah) whom the rabbis name BatyaTzipporah, Moses’s wifeTzipporah’s 6 sisters, whom Moses helps save from a dangerous situation
12 women paralleling the 12 tribes of Israel.
12 women who start a revolution.
12 women who, through their civil disobedience, stand up against injustice and evil
12 women who empower and are empowered
12 women who help save and build a nation.
What moves me most about these women is their “just do it” attitude. No asking permission. No strategic planning committee. Just taking action.
As one member of our study group put it, “it didn’t take a committee, but it did take a community.”
As I spent my Shabbat morning preparing for our Sunday Torah study, thinking of these inspirational women in the Torah, my heart turned toward 3 women who inspire me today.
Facing an unspeakable challenge, the imminent death of her son, Sammy, Phyllis turned her thoughts to preventing such pain and sadness for other children and families.
Watching their dear friend struggle, channeling strength & imagination, Rebecca and Liz could not stand idly by. #36rabbis Shave for the Brave was born.
No committee meetings.
Drawing on the power of relationships
Bringing together a vast community.
If you have not already, please consider joining us as well.