Friday, December 24, 2010


Torah Portion:  Exodus 1 thru 6:1

This week is all about Moses:  his birth and rescue from the river by Pharoah's daughter.  As a grown man, Moses kills an Egyptian and runs from Pharoah's kingdom, fearing his own life, leaving everything he has ever known behind.

Years later, Moses returns to Egypt with his wife and children, in obedience to God.  Following God's directions, Moses and his brother Aaron approach Pharoah with a request:  let the Israelites go so they can make a sacrifice to God.

Pharoah has a response to that request!  He orders the taskmasters and officers in charge of the Israelites, "Don't give the people any more straw for making bricks.  However, don't reduce their production quotas by a single brick, for they obviously don't have enough to do or else they wouldn't be talking about going out into the wilderness and sacrificing to their God. Load them with work and make them sweat; that will teach them to listen to Moses' and Aaron's lies!"

Given an impossible workload, the people are angry with Moses and Aaron. It is more that they can bear.

 This week we are in a 'camp' up on Mount Carmel and working as part of a Christian community.  My tasks have included housekeeping, washing & drying dishes, and painting.  It reminds me of my first summer job as a waitress.  I was 16. At the end of each shift, it was my job to clean the restrooms.  The work was challenging and pretty gross, really, but I learned!

It struck me as I was mopping with an 'Israeli broom' (a cloth wound round a squeegee) that perhaps I've come full circle.  Yes, the master's degree and 15 years as a school counselor are good resume builders, but in God's kingdom I'm in for tougher training!

One day after washing breakfast dishes, a few hours later, I was assigned lunch dishes as well.  There were perhaps 30 prep containers, including pans and mixing bowls, along with a HUGE pot of 3-day old lentil soup that was burned on the bottom....

The work was discouraging, and there was a moment when I thought it was all tooo much!  The next day, I listened to the story from an Asian woman who worked 12-hour days in the kitchen during a conference here last November.  Previous to coming to Israel to volunteer, she was a university teacher in New Zealand. She has an advanced degree from Boston University.

The work was exhausting (at almost 70 years old!) but she laughed in retrospect realizing God had used the kitchen as a training ground.  She was able to see how the experience had made her stronger and more humble.

The Israelites were unhappy with the increased work heaped on them. God, in His wisdom, was preparing them for the road ahead.  The portion ends with God promising to Moses, "Now you will see what I shall do to Pharoah!"

God is my taskmaster.  Toilets, sinks, pots & pans aside -

Today we had a small celebration for the women and children who live here in the shelter.  Many 'nations' heard the Christmas story and received presents.  Tomorrow is Shabbat and it is Christmas.  Regardless of how He is celebrated, God is King.

Shalom and thank you for reading Saturday Chores.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

carry my bones

Genesis 47:28 to 50:26

At age 147, Israel knew he would soon die.  He made his son Joseph promise to 'carry him out of Egypt' and to bury him with his ancestors in the promised land. 

Years later, when Joseph was 110, he asked his brothers to carry his bones up from Egypt when he died. 

Why would it matter?

During the early weeks of our travels, my husband and I talked about what we would do if either of us died on our trip.  Of course, this was a humorous rather cavalier conversation. Then, in Athens I stepped in front of a bus and as traffic screeched to a halt in front me, we revisited the question.

Last Friday in Tunisia, my husband had fish for lunch.  All of a sudden his eyes were watering and I asked, "Are you ok?" He could barely eek out, in a whisper, "I need water." 

I know the Heimlich, however, the rule I remembered from Red Cross training directs to use the maneuver only IF the person cannot talk or cough.  At least that's what went through my mind at the time.  The choking incident was super scary, and the most traumatic moment of our trip so far.  It crossed my mind that my husband might die right there in the restaurant.  The minutes went by very slowly and it seemed to take forever before he recovered.

Thankfully we are alive and well!  Now we have been in Tel Aviv/Jaffa for a week.  Tomorrow we'll go to Haifa and up to Mount Carmel. 
Today at a Shabbat service, we met a Norwegian tour guide who lives in Tel Aviv.  She described how she first visited Israel in 1976 and continued to visit until finally moving here permanently, years later.   Apparently this a a common phenonemon.  She predicted we will return home - and not long after being back in the U.S.,we will want to return to Israel.

Israel gets a hold of people.  This week's Torah portion describes two old men who wanted to return to their family's tiny plot of land after death. 

We have experienced this mysterious magnetic attraction to God's Promised land.  My father, a Scandinavian Lutheran, wanted to come here; he visited at age 85.  Who can explain this? 
He doesn't even particularily like to travel! 

Monday begins our 2nd week in Israel.  Mount Carmel has  long been on my 'wish' list - we are heading there tomorrow!

Shalom to you.

Thanks for reading Saturday Chores.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Swedes and Turks

Genesis 44:18 thru 47:27

It's been a sunny week in Hammamet, Tunisia. 

I've been homesick, to copy the word describing lackluster campers who've spent several weeks on a bunk far from home...

Gives me insight into Joseph's and Jacob's great joy in their reunion.

Did you ever attend a family reunion?
Seems to me, apart from the food (of course) the best part is belonging and feeling a part of 'my people'.

My people come from Scandanavia.
Three separate occasions this week I was asked by a Tunisian,
"Are you from Sweden?"

"Yes", I answered them all with a smile, glad my DNA was shining through several generations.

Back in Turkey, my husband was asked by more than one Turk, "Are you from Turkey?"

While he is not from Turkey, as far as we know, it is interesting how people want to fit others into a group-
into a family.

Wherever we go we carry our family with us. 
Joseph leaped enormous emotional baggage to reclaim his.

So this morning I was reading from the book of John and found a connection to the Torah portion.  Jesus is quoted in John 12:24:

"I tell you the truth:  If a seed of grain is not put in the ground to die, it will be only a seed.  But if it dies, it will bear many seeds."

Joseph went into the ground.
He was reborn in his father's arms.

I love the story.  It can be a personal one for each of us.

Thank you for reading Saturday Chores!


Friday, December 3, 2010

betrayed by a sister

Genesis 41 thru 44:17

"What would you do if you saw her on the bus this afternoon?" I asked my husband as we left the U.S. Consulate in Rome.  Wednesday afternoon, he was the victim of a pickpocket (dressed as a nun!) on an overcrowded bus during rush hour.  At the time, our destination was the Great Synogogue along the Tiber River, to watch the first day of Hanukkah candle lighting.   Instead we headed to the carbonari to make a report to the polizia.

Thursday, after replacing the passport, complete with new photos, we counted our blessings and attended the 2nd night of candlelighting.  Seems Rome is the city where Jews have lived continuously for the longest time!  There was a very long period of living in the ghetto, subjection to discriminatory laws, deportation during WWII, and a terrorist attack in the '80's.  Guards watch every corner of the city block surrounding the synogogue.  Tonight we plan to attend a Hanukkah celebration in the Jewish Ghetto area.  

Early in the week when we studied the Torah Portion, we debated the way Joseph reacted to his brothers when they came to bow down and ask for food.  Imagine the grief Joseph experienced losing his entire family and way of life as a young man.  Now married, he has two sons, lives in another country, and his old life suddenly resurfaces!  

Would Joseph need time to process what was happening?  Would he have immediate forgiveness? 

Our experience this week gave an opportunity to practice forgiveness.  I wonder if our betrayer has children or a husband.  Where did she grow up?  How did she get the nun costume?  How did she bocome SOOOO gutsy?  Does she know how much stress she caused and the hours we spent undoing her moment of thievery?

Those questions will never be answered.  We are free to choose our response.   Personally, it seems better to be grateful for a quick resolve at the Embassy and for answered prayer.  Our journey continues as planned, to Tunisia tomorrow morning.  The weather forecast next week in  Tunis  ---- SUNNY!

I hope you are enjoying Saturday Chores!  Thanks for reading.