Growing Step By Step

Since blogs appear to be the 21st-century diary, I would like to share with you how my husband and I have grown since I first posted on this website in January.

I started saying Tehillim when my mom went in to the hospital for a routine procedure and ended up staying there for two weeks fighting a nasty hospital-acquired infection. Given her fears and my anxiety of not being with her, I turned to Tehillim as a direct prayer to Hashem. I never said Tehillim before, and I didn’t even understand what I was saying, but reciting the Tehillim – saying something – somehow eased my fears and calmed me. Once my mom was discharged (and I flew to visit with her) I continued reciting Tehillim and I have found the daily practice to be my time with Hashem, a time when I can focus on what I want to accomplish and communicate that.

I started doing negel-vasser after an offhand comment by the Chabad rebbetzin here. Before I started to help make salad for Shabbat lunch, she asked if I did negel-vasser in the morning, because if not, she didn’t want me to touch the food until I did. I hadn’t thought of negel-vasser since I was in school when I remember thinking it was annoying…but something about it appealed to me now. A sort of “washing away the night” ritual…cleansing…I started to practice it regularly. At first I didn’t tell my husband although I knew he noticed the washing cup in the bathroom – but this past weekend I heard him do it for the first time. We bought a new washing cup for the bathroom (instead of using our Shabbat one). It’s nice to be able to share this with him.

Also this past weekend, my husband started to wear tzitzit. I really don’t know where this came from since my husband never discussed this desire with me, but we were in a Judaica shop in Teaneck and he bought two. I was so proud of him but had to laugh when he asked me how to wear it (tucked in, not tucked in, etc)! I wasn’t sure what to say, since I had never worn one but only saw my male classmates wear them, so I told him to ask someone who would actually know! I can tell that he loves wearing them by the way he folds them carefully on the dresser (if only he folded all of his laundry so lovingly!).

In my first post, I wrote how not being in an established community gives my husband and me freedom to discover what is important to us and how we want to grow in our observance without the pressure of community norms and standards. I am actually really excited that we are doing these new mitzvot, and I am happy with our pace. This blog actually gives me the confidence to try new things, not to mention the incredible amount of learning that takes place on the blog. So thank you to all of you – you have all been an inspiration – and I hope to share more milestones with you!

7 comments on “Growing Step By Step

  1. Dear Ilanit!

    So your husband is very much in tune with our sages, who taught that a person who says sh’ma but doesn’t put on tefillin or tzitzit is as if he is giving false testimony. And the verses about tzitzit explicityl say they are a reminder of the commandments. You see how his holy soul shines through…

    BTW, Rav Chaim David Halevi z”l (I think in his responsa) taught that didn’t necessarily mean that a person had to have them on at the time of saying sh’ma. Though that is certainly appropriate and preferable (as I think the Mishnah B’rurah emphasizes), if a person were somehow prevented from having tefillin or tzitzit at the correct time to say sh’ma, they’re okay as long as they normally would have had tefillin and tzitzit on (this has happened to me both in the army, and sometimes during patient transports on my flight job). This was in response to someone who didn’t know if they should pray (on time) without tefillin or tzitzit, and put them on later in the day.

    Take care! When are you moving?

  2. Martin:

    My husband said that the simple reason why he started to wear tzitzit is because it was an easy thing to do (put it on in the morning, not think about it afterwards). The other reason is because he felt like a hypocrite when saying the shema, when it got to the part about wearing tzitzit, since he wasn’t wearing any. So, he decided to wear them. He also said that he may have read in Aryeh Kaplan’s (couldn’t remember if it was in that book or not) book about tzitzit that tzitzit serve as a reminder about the mitzvot; he said that he agrees with that and does feel as though tzitzit are a reminder throughout the day.

    Sorry for the late answer. Hopefully you take the step!

  3. Step-by-step is the way to go, as said above. You should be proud of what you & your husband are doing, and also proud of each other!

    Funny you should mention Tehillim: my daughter won an English/Hebrew Tehillim in December @ a raffle at a Chanukah party; for the 1st time, I read Tehillim daily!

    As for the Tzitzis, what made your husband get them? If you want to know the truth, I am SERIOUSLY thinking of getting them too (and was before I read this). It would just be one more “step” on the ladder of spirituality for me!

  4. What a beautiful story and a great way to start my work week. I became observant when I was 16. Now 35, I have tremendous respect for those like you and your husband, who make the transition in established adulthood. Let you husband know that Tzizit is an awesome mitzvah because it’s a mitzvah he can involve himself with all day long.

  5. That’s really a great attitude to have! Beeing totally new to Judaism, I would read about the daily routine of an observant Jew and my head would start spinning instantly! How on earth can I ever remember to do A-Z?! A year and a half later the fog is clearing, and more things just “make sense”. Two months ago I also started reciting Tehillim. Baruch Hashem, it was no bad occurrence that prompted it, I was just feeling grateful and felt that Tehillim is the best way to express it! Although it’s difficult for me (I find the Hebrew present in Tehillim much harder than the tefillos in the siddur; but this is probably because I have much more practice reciting tefillos), I think that Hashem understands. He understands us all!

  6. Good for you and your husband Ilanit, step by step is the way to go. Keep growing and keep sharing with all of us. It’s special when spouses can share in each others growth and excitement.

    Also, the offhand comment from the Rebbetzin reminded me of an experience I had many years ago when I worked at NYU. I once had a new sheitel that I suppose wasn’t exactly sheitel-looking. I was actually trying to determine my own comfort level about it anyhow, so this experience was the tip of the iceberg. A famous and well-respected elderly Rebbetzin who literally (still does) spent her entire days helping all the Jewish patients at NYU or anyone seeking any kind of medical help through Rivka Laufer Bikur Cholim came to our office on behalf of someone. She came right up to my desk, spoke to me for a minute and then said in Yiddish “that’s a sheitel?”. Well, that was the end of that sheitel, the truth is, she reinforced in me my own apprehension about that appearance, and helped me more than she could ever know. I always wanted to share that with her, but at least I can share it with you.

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