Stuck in the Big Fish! A Story for Yom Kippur.

 

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Have you ever been stuck in a big fish taxi?

 

Has God ever asked you to do something that you just didn’t want to do? Was there an important message you did not heed? Jonah had that happen to him. Here is his story.

God:

Jonah, here’s your mission. Go to the great city of Nineveh and tell the people who live there that their sins and wickedness have come to my attention.

Jonah:

Me? Go to Nineveh? That lousy neighborhood? It’s a hotbed of violent crime. There’s no industry. Their infrastructure is crumbling. Those thugs own the black market on weapons, Cedar and Tyrian purple. I don’t want to go to Nineveh. Anyway, those people are hopeless.

God:

Jonah, go to Nineveh.

Jonah:

No way. I’ll hop on a cruise ship and sail somewhere else — anywhere but Nineveh. I could use a vacation. Life is exhausting.

Narrator:

Jonah falls into a deep sleep aboard the ship when suddenly . . .

Sailor #1:

Excuse me, sir. Jonah, please wake up!

Jonah:

(Groggy.) I was taking a quick nap. What is it? What’s wrong?

Sailor #1:

A storm, sir. The crew tried everything. We’re afraid the ship will capsize in this wind. The captain sent me to ask you to pray to your God to help us.

(Sounds of storm increasing. The boat tosses to and fro.)

Sailor #2:

Jonah, we think this storm is your fault! What terrible thing have you done to bring all this trouble on us poor seamen? Tell us.

Jonah:

Listen, I am a Hebrew. But right now I am running away from Him and what He wants me to do. I didn’t think he could find me. A small boat on the sea must be outside of the Lord’s GPS.

Sailor #1:

What should we do? We’ve already thrown all the cargo off the ship and it hasn’t helped. We are all going to die.

Jonah:

I ran from my mission. The problem must be ME. I guess the Divine one really does see what I’m doing in secret. Pick me up and throw me into the sea.

Sailor #2:

No, sir, we can’t do that. That would be murder. Let’s try rowing again.

(Sounds of storm increasing.)

Sailor #1:

It’s no use. We are going to have to throw Jonah overboard. Oh God of Jonah, please don’t let us die.

Narrator:

The sailors throw Jonah overboard. While he doggy paddles in the turbulent sea, a large fish appeared and swallowed him up.

Fish:

Gulp!

(The storm fades into quiet.)

Stuck in the dark belly of the fish with no sheep’s milk or Netflix, Jonah prays to God. For three days and three nights, he lay there contemplating his life. That was quite a time out.

Jonah:

I’ve reevaluated this situation. Lord, my God, when I almost drowned, I called for help. And You listened to my cry. I will sing you a song of thanks. I will do what I have promised. Lord, I will not run. You are the one who saves.

God hears the prayer of Jonah and causes the fish to spit Jonah to vomit the reluctant prophet out on the shore. Then Jonah keeps his promise to God and goes to Nineveh.

(Sounds of crowded city)

Jonah:

People of Nineveh, I have a message for you from God. In 40 days, Nineveh will be destroyed because of your wickedness.

People of Nineveh:

Oh, no! We need to repent for our sins. We will wear black clothes and we won’t eat to show God how sorry we are. Please, Lord God, turn away your anger. We will turn our evil ways.

God:

I will have compassion on you, and I will not destroy you.

***

The Jonah story is traditionally read the afternoon of Yom Kippur, the Jewish High Holiday of repentance. Jonah runs from himself, from his people, moral responsibility, and God. But when things seem the most desolate, he turns his life around.

Like Jonah, I have been in the belly of the big fish. I’ve felt forever stuck. Unable to change my character and the direction of my life.

The central theme of the High Holiday season is we can return to our truest selves. Even when we “hit bottom” and descend to the depths of despair, change is possible. The way we are today need not be who we remain tomorrow. We are not condemned to stagnation, but can fashion a new way of being in our own lives.

The story of Jonah’s descent into the bleak netherworld urges us to transcend the impediments that prevent our personal transformation, and the creation of a more hopeful future. Jonah and the Ninevites choose life.

And so can we.

 

 

 

 

 

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New Year’s Hope

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I slammed my prayer book shut.

During the Selichot service, I was reciting the penitential poems and prayers leading up to Jewish high holidays. It was the time of contemplation that started a week before Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, through Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. 

Where am I?  My annual report to God revealed a steep crash.

I reflected on the past year. In a fit of misery last January. I quit my “career” as an adjunct professor. The low pay, demanding workload, and lack of respect left me feeling depressed.  I had feelings of worthlessness, as well as a life of impending poverty. It’s academia’s dirty little secret. Teaching is the new Wal-Mart for highly educated professionals cast out of corporate jobs. With the savings on tenured professors salaries, institutions of higher learning can invest in what’s truly important. Football stadiums. Do you know who’s educating your children in the hallowed halls of academia?  It’s most probably, a beleaguered adjunct living out of her car. Yet, upon leaving, I felt a loss of identity. Sadly, I started out wanting to make a difference.

Soon after, I became ill.  First severe bronchitis, and then the flu, the mega strain that’s had been floating around the country (as well as South Korea.) The dreaded Noro disease– known as the poop and puke virus. I caught it, even though hadn’t even been on a Carnival cruise. I experienced a sickness I’d never known. Migraines, stomach flu, coughing and sneezing the wracked my rib cage. Even my mind was foggy. I couldn’t walk a short block to Starbucks. No coffee and muffin for me… Most days, I lay in bed, barely able to move. And even if I could, I was highly contagious. The malaise wouldn’t leave me.

After a week, I mustered the strength to see a doctor. My internist immediately diagnosed the malady.  She instructed me not to tell a soul that I had “ the Norovirus. It would cause a panic.”

“Can’t you kill it?”

“No. Only the warm weather makes it die. But that’s only three months away. March is around the corner.”  She shrugged.

“But here must some drug!“  I pleaded. The prospect of leaving her office without a prescription terrified me.  It would be a first. Even some sugar pills in clinical trials would have allayed my fear.

“An antibiotic would make it worse.”  She grimly added, “My patients are dropping like flies. This is the death of man.”

With that cheery thought, I returned home with no antidote.  For weeks, I lay in bed listening to the drone of MSNBC —the chatter of the daily Trump show wafting by… No one was allowed to visit. I was officially infectious. I was instructed not to touch people or kitchen surfaces. A yellow HAZMAT suit was in order. My friend Dave dropped a bottle of ginger ale in front of my door and then made a run for it. The night I spiked a high fever, I called him to ask if he would take my dog should I go to the hospital. Or expire. But then I texted to say I didn’t mean it…I started sobbing.  I can go either up or down.Which is it?  Awakening isn’t for sissies.

Praying in synagogue, I had an epiphany.  The malaise went beyond a physical malady. My life didn’t feel right anymore.  Like a pair of shoes that no longer fit– attractive stilettos that suddenly cause piercing pain and blisters. My passion had slipped away. I had fallen far from who I was supposed to be.

I must have some purpose I’ve been avoiding.

Soul weariness is never sudden. I refused to heed the shrieking in my gut until it was diagnosed as reflux.

Along with the congregation, I rose and chanted an ancient prayer for forgiveness. The melody was sad and full of longing, expressing the desire to repent and change. The words cried for life’s fleetingness.  And the longing to break the cycle of our lives and change for the better.

O Lord, hear our voice in the morning; in the morning we set them before You with hopeful expectation. Hear our voice…

I pleaded, “If my soul had a GPS, where would I be?

You have fallen into a sinkhole. Shouldn’t you have “transitioned” out of it by now?  The voice inside me taunted.

I wandered into hostile foreign terrain wearing lead army boots. It felt impossible to lift my feet out of the muck.

Who’s in command? What has set me off on this fallen path?”

The answer came from my heart.  It had been ME..

Over the past year, my inner compass jabbered in Polish, or some crazy language I didn’t understand.

Divine One. Couldn’t you give me a little nudge in the right direction? Silence.

I continued standing while the rabbis changed the outfit on the Torah scrolls — from their usual taupe velvet to High Holiday white silk.  

It’s always darkest before the dawn. Next week is a new year!

Dear God,

During this period of repentance,

Help me to forgive.

Myself first.

Please restore my heart.

And return my soul.

I bear grudges.

You don’t.

Jane

P.S. Did you receive the basket of apple and honey I sent you?

 

 

 

Unimaginable Tuesday!

Pink Moon-

History was made today. On March 8, 2018, President Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal. And with Neo Conservatives as advisors… It was nice knowing you! Saudi Arabia and Israel are cheering. Well, I’m sure Iran is a bad neighbor. They want the Persians to move. And perhaps the U.S. to do the packing. Is this a struggle over Middle-East astro turf? Our allies wasted trips to the White House, handshakes, tree planting, kisses, and hugs. And more? Ugh!

Oh, and the Russians are giving Trump’s lawyer, Mark Cohen, big bucks. Which explains all of the pandering. You don’t bite the hand that feeds you!

That’s the plan.

Signs of Spring

Jane Ranzman Writer

Walking down Columbus Avenue in NYC, I passed storefronts and restaurants that were once my “old haunts.” But my hangouts were gone. A chain store remained. Or an abandoned space. I felt bittersweet sadness. There was hardly a remnant of my galavanting youth. I crossed the street and got a coffee in Starbucks. When I came out, I spied a small tree with bare branches. Pastel Easter eggs and bunnies were hanging from its tenuous limbs. A sign said “Happy Spring.” It had been right in front of me. I didn’t see it.

In my sadness, I saw there was redemption concealed.

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My Furry Valentine! Brie and Me

 

2012-11-21.jpgYou had me at first “Ruff”

Teaching me about true devotion.

And that love doesn’t have to hurt.

You have loved and accepted me for the human I am.

I’ve learned that fidelity is not meted out, 

But flows from the heart like doves. 

I rescued you and in turn you rescued me.

I will fight for you like a mother dog.

Even if I’m just your accessory!

Can a soulmate have four paws? I didn’t want a pet. I couldn’t keep a plant alive. But she had no place to go, a failed show dog. I was told she needed a “forever” home. Long-term wasn’t something I was good at.. Somehow I avoided getting married. I guess I didn’t want to do the dirty dishes. I wanted to get rid of the friend who kept calling me like a real estate agent. She promised to drive me to Connecticut to see the dog in need. Even buy me a tuna sandwich. I was in for trouble.

The breeder’s house was in a fancy suburban neighborhood, but it was small and crammed with with cages. Dozens of animals for sale. A dog pack was roaming around the living room. There were terriers of all sizes—each one jumped onto my lap flirting and begging to be rescued. Except for you.

Our first date didn’t go well. You hid under the couch and growled, pried out only with a slice roast beef. Afraid to leave. The cage you knew was a familiar misery. Liberation was more frightening. The breeder said, “Those dogs are like dumb blondes. She won’t go with just anyone. You’ve got to earn her love.” It was a line. But it turned out to be the truth.

I said to the breeder, “No thank you. It’s not the right time” as I turned on my heels to leave. But something pulled me to turn around. Perhaps it was those eyes. Those sad brown eyes haunted me. I scooped up the matted terrier as she flailed with all her might.  I had changed my mind.

“It’s for a few days,” I said as we headed out the door, without even a Wee Wee pad. In a flash, she went from rags to my small apartment in New York City. Not exactly riches, but a dramatic improvement. I figured even if I wasn’t the perfect dog mother, she’s be better off. ( The ASPCA had turned me down for a canine ownership because of my inappropriate single lifestyle, but I was approved for senior cat adoption.)

I didn’t know what to feed her that first night. Chinese food! And thus began our partnership in steamed chicken (sauce on the side,) canine couture, and pink bows. It took many adjustments on both our parts, but we traveled our lives together for several years.

And then the illness struck. During a routine checkup, and the doctor found a tumor under her tail. We spent three months in and out of the animal hospital. I navigated her care as if she were a parent or spouse Fighting, negotiating and at times, yelling. Toys were replaced with pills and syringes. With an IV in her paw, my terrier lay in my arms until the sun came up. I bargained with God for one more day with my best friend. The prospect of losing her was imaginable. The profound emptiness. Somehow she battled and came through it.

Each day,  look into those eyes that are filled with love and say, “Thank you. I am grateful.” It’s that grace of one more day. I don’t regret the invitations I declined to visit friends in exotic places. Not at all.

I am loved because I keep loving.

Happy Valentine’s Day my friends!