(Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem, 1630, Rembrandt van Rijn)
Five years ago, on July 20, 2010, which coincided with the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av, the saddest day in the Jewish calendar, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. The day of fasting to remember collective tragedy became the anniversary of the day my life changed forever as well. My personal feelings of desolation and destruction mirrored the words of the scroll of Lamentations, read on Tisha B’Av,
“Your ruin is as vast as the sea; who can heal you?” (Jeremiah, 2:13)
At the time, my ruin felt as vast as the sea. And yet…here I am. Five years renders no guarantee, and none of us, not those of us who’ve traversed the fields of illness nor those who’ve been left unscathed, know the future. But five years is five years. Years of raising children to adulthood, of love and of professional and personal fulfillment. Five very full years during which time I’ve healed, and witnessed much growth and happiness. Reconstruction borne out of destruction, for which I am ever grateful.
In another fine twist of fate, I’m privileged to reach my fifth year of health during a Sabbatical, a Shmitta year, here in Israel, also a message of healing. The Sabbatical year is agricultural in practice (land must lie fallow once every seven years, to replenish itself,) but the philosophy is one of social justice. Land is deemed ownerless, debts are forgiven and everyone partakes freely of the bounty of the land. We are all only borrowers of the land, and once every seven years we relinquish control and all stand together, as equals. The medieval scholar, Maimonides, writes that the commandments of the Sabbatical year are ‘meant to lead to pity and promoting the well-being of all men, as the Torah states, “That the poor of your people may eat.” (Shemot 23:11)
One of the highlights of these last five years has been the creation and growth of the Lemonade Fund, www.lemonadefund.org, the Israel Breast Cancer Emergency Relief Fund. In less than four years, the Lemonade Fund has helped many impoverished Israeli breast cancer patients with emergency financial aid during their illness.
The world has rarely seemed so perilous from the outside. This Tisha B’Av, talk of complete destruction (the nuclear kind) is up close and personal here in Israel. Antisemitism is epidemic throughout the world. Yet Talmudic sources claim that the cause of the downfall of Jerusalem, and all subsequent tragedies, came from within. We were not caring, even worse, we were hateful to one another. We followed the letter of the law but we cared not for justice, fairness or kindness.
The joint lessons of Tisha B’Av and the Sabbatical year are that we must be worthy of this national home we are fortunate to have after 2000 years of exile. We must work to maintain a society that is just and kind. To be inclusive rather than rejecting; reaching out to others who are different than us. To listen. To be patient. To be kind. To help those who are more unfortunate in a way that preserves their dignity. To be concerned about the welfare of those living within our borders. To reduce socioeconomic disparity. To avoid humiliating others, to avoid senseless hatred. …There are limitless ways to build a better world.
Just as the body can heal, societies can be repaired. Jeremiah rings hopeful at the end.
“I will bring them back to this place and cause them to live in safety. They will be my people and I will be their God. I will give them one heart and one path, that they may always honor Me, and that all may go well with them and their children after them. I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing them good, and I will inspire them to be in awe of Me, never turning away from Me. I will rejoice in doing good for them; and will assuredly plant them in this land with all My heart and soul.” (Jeremiah, 32:37-41)
Wishing you all an easy fast and many years of health and happiness.
|HOT APPLE CIDER LEMONADE|
|1 gal. apple cider
6 oz. lemonade
6 oz. orange juice
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 tbsp. whole cloves
1 tbsp. whole allspiceCombine cider, lemonade, orange juice and brown sugar in pan. Heat over medium heat. Place spices in cheese cloth and add to cider. Serve warm.
The Lemonade Fund, http://www.lemonadefund.org, was founded as a response to devastating news. After getting over the shock of a breast cancer diagnosis, I was fortunate to be able to concentrate on the all-consuming job of getting well. During that initial year of treatment, I was often struck by how costly it was to be sick and wondered, how do impoverished women do this? Income is often reduced due to time off from work and yet there are a myriad of new illness-related expenses. Having a serious illness teaches you that there are things that you can and things that you can’t control. We couldn’t necessarily cure cancer, but we could alleviate some of the financial pressure in the neediest among us. Thus was born the Lemonade Fund, an official Israeli charity that grants short term financial assistance to needy breast cancer patients (from all segments of the Israeli population, women and men, of all races and religions,) during the first year of treatment.
Now after more than a year of successfully making lemonade out of lemons, we aim to continue this good work. We are receiving grant requests from all over the country. One of the women who received a grant this month is a single mother of three children, who was recently diagnosed with serious disease. One of her children is a 17 year old daughter who survived a terrorist attack and is just getting back on her feet. The mother is now unable to work and the family is having trouble making ends meet. It was a privilege to be able to help her.
If you haven’t already, please consider making a donation to the Israel Breast Cancer Emergency Relief Fund (IBCERF) aka, the Lemonade Fund, in honor of October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
By Telephone: Call the ESRA office and make your donation by credit card (011 972 9-950-8371).
Tax Exempt Donations in Israel: Mail checks to ESRA, POB 3132, Herzliya 46104 (include cover letter designating IBCERF.)
Tax Exempt donations from the United States of America:
P.E.F. Endowment Funds, Inc., Room 607
317 Madison Avenue,
New York, NY 10017
Make check out to PEF but please include a covering letter stating that your donation is earmarked for ESRA, specifying IBCERF.
Tax Exempt donation from the United Kingdom and other countries:
Please contact the ESRA office to find out the best way of making your donation to ESRA from your country.