Today is World Cancer Day, a day when people worldwide are focused on cancer, to encourage its prevention, detection, and treatment.
But in my life, every day is cancer day.
Care and concern for my mother, Lori Winer (Leah B’rachah bat Hannah v’Reuven) plagues and inspires me daily. My mom is one of the most giving, caring, determined and lovely people in the world. She is truly an educator in every sense of the word and I am lucky to have her as a mom – and as my best friend.
In honor of World Cancer Day and my remarkable mother, I’d like to share with you some lessons I’ve learned during her surgery and treatment.
It’s not a definitive guide, but it’s become my go-to “How To Be the Jewish Daughter (or Son) of a Cancer Patient”:
1) It’s Okay To Feel Both/And. Have you seen those Ford commercials about and being better than or? As in, why choose “good looking” OR “great gas mileage” when you can have both? Both/and is often more realistic than either/or. I feel both/and quite a bit. My emotions are conflicted – contented that she is receiving what she needs AND overwhelmed by sadness and concern; confident in her care team AND fearful of the intangible enemy. I don’t have to feel one or the other. You can feel one, and the other, and feeling both is totally kosher.
2) Shower the People: One of my mother’s favorite singers is James Taylor and one of her favorites of his songs is “Shower the People.” The song says: “Shower the people you love with love. Show them the way that you feel. Things are gonna be much better if you only will.” I have learned to surround myself with people and activities that sustain me. I also see the power of connections. Creating a website to keep our contacts updated has allowed for people to share good wishes with her and our whole family. We shower my mother with love, and let others shower us, too.
3) Make Deposits: My mom is the queen of strong metaphors, and this is one of her best. Here is a quote directly from her blog:
I have come to realize that getting through the surgery, recuperation, chemotherapy, etc. will take a great deal of energy and strength. Therefore, I have decided to take this time to build up my physical and emotional strength and work on my positivity so that there will be enough “deposits” in my “account” to support the “withdrawals” that will be taken out in the next few months.
I, too, have learned to put lots of deposits in the account, figuratively and literally. In the last three months, mom and I have knitted over $700 worth of infinity scarves, blankets and ear warmers for our friends. We accept donations for these snuggly pieces, and all of that goes to help families like us in the present and future. We have donated to the hospital caring for my mother, the Dana Farber Cancer Institute; to an organization that supports families during recovery and remission, Living Beyond Breast Cancer; and to a childhood cancer charity near and dear to our hearts, 36 Rabbis Shave for the Brave.
4) Go Purple. My Facebook profile picture, also included in this post, is of me and my mother in shades of purple. If you change your profile picture today on Facebook or Twitter, Chevrolet will donate $1 per purpled profile (up to $1 million) for World Cancer Day.
5) Take a Moment for Prayer: While the “Mi Sheberakh“ is a universal prayer asking for a refuah shleimah (complete healing), there is a short, beautiful prayer that I say before she receives a dose of chemotherapy. It is derived from Mishnah Torah B’rachot 10:21, and is the prayer for bloodletting, which modern Jews find as a connection to sustained medicines: Yehi ratzon sheyihiyeh li refuah, which can be translated as “May it be God’s will that this will bring healing.”
I cannot wait to celebrate my mother being cancer-free, and together we will keep working and praying for our cancer-free world.
Ken yi’hi ratzon – may this be God’s will, and our own.
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Be it brie, mozzarella or feta, I, like just about everyone, love cheese.
There are so many reasons to love cheese, be it grilled between two buttery pieces of toast, cascaded over a ramekin of onion soup, shredded over a bowl of fresh-made pasta — or enjoying some of the Southern specialty known as Pimento Cheese.
But what if I told you that there was yet another reason to love cheese?
One found in the Torah, no less?
Good news, y’all!
The Hebrew word for cheese is g’vinah, and also happens to be my favorite hapax legomena of all time.
A hapax legomenon is a word that occurs only once within a context. Forgive me a second while I go completely “College Classical Civilization major” on you and explain the Greek. ἅπαξ (hapax) means “once” or “one time” and λεγόμενον (legomenon) – “the place something occurs.”
(Thanks for allowing me to geek out!)
Although the word g’vinah is widespread in Modern Hebrew – we only hear the word once in the entire Tanakh: in the book of Job. Job is pretty much a bummer book. A disgruntled Job, frustrated by the loss of just about everything, rattles off a bunch of questions, asking God why God would oppress the people who are loyal to the Almighty.
In Job 10:10, we read Job’s question: “Have you not poured me out as milk, and curdled me like cheese?”
First of all, I am loving the vivid albeit twisted imagery. But more importantly, although this word only occurs once – that doesn’t mean it is insignificant. After all, nothing in the Bible is there without reason, right? Using this image to address Job’s feelings about God shows how fascinating one’s relationship to divine presence can be. If we can have complicated feelings about this relationship, and be allowed to even question the divine, it teaches that all our relationships benefit from creative questioning.
IT’S ALSO THE ONLY TIME THE BIBLE MENTIONS CHEESE. Which is kind of cool, all on its own.
When I’m preparing to travel the South and share Jewish learning with students in even the smallest of towns, I love finding nuggets like these. It’s these fun moments of learning that keep us all interested and engaged in a tradition that always seems to have some new discovery, just waiting for us to find it.
Thanks for letting me get a little cheesy!