Now that I am living in a homeless shelter in Dallas, Texas; I am having a really tough time obeying the mitzvot and obeying Hashem. I have been blogging about my failures and also my occasional successes. I need to put it out there, in writing, that this is all my fault. I alone am responsible for obeying Hashem’s rules for me. It is my Blessing to be a Hebrew, my Blessing to have Torah to obey – and I’m not doing such a great job.
Perhaps my worst sin is that I don’t feel that badly about it. I hope/plan/believe that I will be home in Israel soon and all this struggling to obey Torah in Dallas will show itself to have been just a temporary setback due to the environment and my newness in the community. By contrast, my David, for example, agonized over his inability to keep kosher during his most recent period of homelessness in Toronto. He cried so much. He went without eating. He tried to starve himself and developed a type of anorexia. This is not gonna happen to me! I like food too much. I am more willing to chase after my eyes and eat the attractive-looking traife. And then I get sick. Brilliant, no?
The point is this: even though some traife is available in Israel, I did not and will not be eating it there. And even though I struggle with Shabbat in Dallas, in Israel I did not and will not be breaking the laws of Shabbat. When Hashem allows me to return home, I will once again be a good girl and be just as obedient as I always was and hopefully even more obedient.
For anyone who is reading this blog, please understand that my sins, short-comings, and acts of disobedience are mine alone. Please do not judge all Hebrews by my example and conclude that they must be hypocrites. It is not true. Only I, Rivka, am momentarily very confused and living a Jewish life in a Baptist home. But even I will figure this out… eventually.
With this in mind, here is my journal post of how I survived my 2nd Shabbat in the homeless shelter. Enjoy and Shavua Tov.
Shabbat starts with a whimper in the homeless shelter. I cannot light candles, so there is no private time with the King. When I was on the outside, I used to sing for an hour at the top of my lungs to welcome the Shabbes Queen. I miss that joyfulness. I went to the library this week and got 3 books to read for Shabbes. Friday night, I stretched out on my bed and devoured a sci-fi book. I had only a few chapters left when they turned the lights off. Bummer. I slept great, so great that I missed my morning chore which should have been completed by 745am. Usually, I have to scrub two of the shower stalls with a giant mop/brush. I didn’t want to do it on Shabbes, not actually for Hashem’s honor, but really just because I was feeling lazy and relaxed. It figured I could do an evening chore after Shabbat ended, but it turns out I could not. I will probably get a warning. Speaking of warnings, I had fearfully projected that once I got outed as a non-Xtian in the Baptist shelter, that they would evict me – but a curious thing happened. Cognitive dissonance. The two lovely women who discovered me reading my Hebrew siddur (prayerbook) have still not completely figured out that that makes me a Hebrew. For now, suspicion of me is sleeping.
During the week at the shelter, they wake us at 5am by turning on the fluorescent lights. Then coffee and carbohydrates are from 6 to 630am. Then I hang out in the dorm for an hour, but I must be in the street by 745am or else it’s mandatory chapel! I join the throng of other homeless people outside the library, waiting for it to open at 10am. If the battery in my tablet is charged, I can start posting by wireless hotspot first thing in the morning. That’s my regular routine, but today was Saturday. On Saturday, they let us hang out or come and go as we please until 4 pm chapel.
Sleeping in Saturday morning was luscious. I slept thru the fluorescent lights. I slept thru breakfast. I slept thru my chore. It was heavenly, such an indulgence. Again, thank you, Israel, for preparing me for prison life. I always had a problem with authority and discipline. My precious Israel has helped me to improve my character while maintaining my individuality.
When I finally awoke due to a need for caffeine, my next-bed neighbor, Alice, offered me some granola bars from WalMart and I was pleased to see they had a hechsher! Cool. I was so excited to start the day with kosher food. She chatted away happily for almost an hour about how God works in our life, until I demanded my coffee. It surprises me how much the religious beliefs of an African-American Pentecostal woman can be the same as mine, a Caucasian Jewish now-Israeli woman. I will write about that after I study it more. I threw clothes over my pj’s and went down to the C-store for a cup o’joe. I broke Shabbes by paying $6 for a cheese omelette, toast, and a coffee. This was only my second Saturday in the shelter and I am still trying to figure out ways to be more obedient and Shabbestik.
Today’s Shabbes was all about relaxing and feeling the peace. I didn’t pray so much. I tried but my concentration is all over the map. I set aside my siddur and just talked to Hashem a little instead. Hisbodidut. David is so much better at that than me. I am starting to get depressed from the homeless shelter. I feel my emotional body going into the fetal position. I have to pay more attention to my needs because inertia gets me thinking about suicide. Often I feel like I am forcibly being held down in place. Not being hurt or anything, just being held still. I don’t like that feeling or any of the triggering images it brings up for me. This too shall pass.
After breakfast, I returned to my bed and finished my book. I have read that book maybe a dozen times since I discovered it 24 years ago, because I love it so much. “Dragonsinger” by Anne McCaffrey. I did my laundry in the machines. $1 to wash and $1 to dry. Then I took a lovely nap for 3 hours. Everyone is required to vacate the dorms by 4pm for announcements and a quick prayer in the chapel. At first, I was alarmed, of course. Every time they make us stand up publicly for you-know-who, I risk being outed and punished; but the 4pm prayer is ‘Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name’. I wonder if the shelter elite have any clue that that prayer was written by Jews! Avinu shebeshamayim. It’s my prayer, okay? hehehe. I think standing with the Xtians and reciting this prayer qualifies as Civil Disobedience. I also think that most people could not walk this slippery slope between obedience and disobedience that I am. I was raised without Torah and I will not return to the life I lived before Israel. I stumble, but I have no fear of turning my back on Torah. I am safe even here, in that respect. Children of Noah and Children of Avraham have different duties by God. They accept 10 commandments on themselves (although Torah gives them 7), and I accept 613+ mitzvot. “These and these are true.”, as my David loves to say. Some mitzvot are for only within the land of Israel. Some are for only outside Israel. Some are for only when the Temple stood. Some are for only the 7th years. Some are for only the 50th years. Some are only for men. Some are only for women. (Children aren’t responsible for any until they come of age. 12 for girls and 13 for boys.) Hashem created order and space for each one of us to serve Him, and it all works beautifully as long as nobody tries to murder the infidels. (Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!)
Back to Shabbes in the homeless shelter… Hashem did a really beautiful and special thing for me today. The local Hindu temple came to serve us dinner. Everything was vegetarian and fresh! Green salad, spaghetti with plain red sauce, corn kernels, and… Oreo cookies with a cup of real milk! OMG. I ate everything until I felt nauseous. I know… Anyhow, I thanked the Indian ladies (who wore beautiful, colorful saris) and asked them to come back every day! But I heard that a lot of residents bought dinner in the C-store with their food stamps because they did not want to eat the Hindus’ food. I don’t understand their attitude. It’s spaghetti and Oreo’s. One could hardly call that ‘Hindu food’. People are crazy, I think. Well, I enjoyed it enough for everyone. I didn’t have to eat any traife mystery meat on Shabbat and I was overjoyed. Thank you, Hashem. Next week, I will be even more prepared for Shabbat. I still can’t light candles, but maybe I can get myself ready some other way. I don’t know yet. The answer hasn’t presented itself to me. I guess I haven’t earned it yet. I have to try harder to concentrate and to purify my mind.
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