Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Fight with G-d Almighty and you will for sure lose, but in my heart, I want to start swinging at the sky anyway.

Okay, so re-watching the Al Pacino "G-d is a prankster" scene does not have the same power for me as it once did, but the subtle message within this scene affected what was my young mind (at the time) in a way that it left an indelible mark that has never erased itself.

"G-d has a sense of humor," is what I remember of this scene, and now more than ever, I am feeling the truth of this statement.

We arrived back in the US, and the Customs and Border Patrol held our crate back for additional inspection.  This was an inconvenience at best, but I wondered whether it was a message from G-d that maybe we weren't supposed to be here.  Up front, this thought makes absolutely no sense to me because I am more than thrilled to be back, and I wake up each day excited that there is sunlight outside and I have a minyan to go to.  For the first time in my life, I have structure and organization, where in the past, I had none.  I am davening each day WITH A MINYAN... on time, with tefillin, with kavanah.

I even have my "old stuff" back.  I am back in my old town with my old friends and acquaintances... I have even been able to re-acquire my old office [which still had my old refrigerator that I left in here when I left].  Everything appears to have fallen in place, and then boom.

I am not speaking about the container being held back by the CBP, nor am I speaking about the additional scrutiny which I wonder whether it was random or whether it was because I was using VPNs from Israel to access my bank accounts in the US causing a stir when my accounts were frozen for suspected terrorist activities (I was wiring my US funds to my Israeli account) immediately after I made aliyah.

The "boom" is that while in Israel, my law firm business chugged along.  I was running on "three cylinders," so to speak, but the law firm was getting clients, and I was making US dollars to spend in Israel.  I came back to the US not only because of the deadly night hours, but because I knew that if my business ever "went bust," I would have no means of supporting my family.  I decided that I would return to the US, and I would develop a practice that I could do in Israel, with Israelis as clients, and during Israeli day hours rather than servicing US clients working in the US time zones.

This is always dumb to do, but I got into the position where most if not all of my law firm's clients came from one set of plaintiffs.  I knew that if their company ever went broke that my stream of clients would dry up overnight and I would no longer be able to provide for my family.

Well, we returned to the US exactly one month ago, and as soon as I landed, I got the dreaded call that this company -- the one from whom I am getting all of my clients -- is going out of business.  Apparently, doing what they were doing is no longer profitable, and thus they are closing their doors.

...Overnight, my firm's client list dried up, and for the moment, I am out of business.

This is where G-d has a sense of humor.  Now that I am davening every day with talis and tefillin with a minyan, and now that I am somewhat connected to him as a Jew should be connected to his creator, is he now punishing me for all of the years of disobedience?  Is putting me in the "dog house" his way of saying, "welcome back you mother fucker. now get out!"??

I was telling my wife about this (that our firm is out of business overnight and that I need to find a new area of practice), and I told her that I was relieved that we came back to the US before this happened, because at least now I can sit down for the next couple of months and reinvent myself with a new area of practice.  She retorted, "maybe you lost your business because you came back," as if losing my law firm's clients overnight was a punishment for leaving Israel.  I happily twisted her words into thinking that the only reason this company kept their doors open for as long as they did was to feed us while we were in Israel, and it was G-d's mercy that kept us fed over the past two years.

Now my wife and I have settled on the common Chabad belief that everything G-d does is for a purpose.  Hashkacho pratis.  That there are no coincidences, only divine providence, and me losing my firm's income source is Hashem being merciful to us because although we cannot see the goodness in this painful experience, this is really being done for the best, and there is only goodness that will come from this.

Okay, I am not buying it.  Me losing my job overnight and essentially having to close our firm's doors, reinvent myself, learn a new area of law, and reopen the firm in a new area of practice sound more to me like G-d is a trickster, and that this is all a test or a prank, and I will need to roll with the punches or get attacked even more severely.  Not only do I think G-d is testing me, but I think or I fear that he has determined that the time of me and my family being wealthy has come to an end, and now it is time for us to experience how it feels to be poor once again.

This thought fills me with anger, because 1) we went to Israel for HIM, to serve HIM, to give our kids over to HIM, to bring them up in HIS way, to provide them HIS education where we would not have been able to provide this on our own, and 2) we moved back and strengthened our connection with him by me going to minyan every day, davening with a talis and tefillin, and spending time getting closer with the community.  Why punish us after we took such leaps of faith in G-d's honest truth so that our kids can be brought up with a proper Torah education?  It is not like we decided that we don't care about G-d when we came back to the diaspora.  Rather, we returned because I was not surviving working the overnights, and it was affecting everyone negatively.

So why decide all of a sudden when yeshiva tuition is now due, when shul membership will be paid, when I just sold our Israeli car and all of the furniture and "stuff" we bought in Israel at a horrifying loss (essentially giving EVERYTHING away at a total loss) and now I bought my wife a nice newer car, and now we need to buy the house from our in-laws (we committed that they would buy the house for us, and we would buy it as soon as we landed), and now we have to pay for Obamacare, etc., that Hashem decides that it is time for me to lose my income?!?

This seems like a cruel trick.  It seems like a prank.  It seems like a joke.  Fight with G-d Almighty and you will for sure lose, but in my heart, I want to start swinging at the sky anyway.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

When you think you are so smart, maybe you're an idiot. "Common sense. Don't leave home without it."

I just wanted to take a few moments on the eve of us leaving Israel, coincidentally on the Parsha concerning the Meraglim (the "spies").

I am filled with bitterness and pain from this experience, not because it was Israel, but because of the circumstances in which my life has been lived in the past year or so. 

In short, the idea of "working at night" was stupid.  I don't know who thought I could do it, and I question the motives and good intentions [having my best interests at heart] of those who would allow me to be awake overnight EVERY NIGHT and then have me switch back to the daylight hours for Shabbos.  This is torture, this is unhealthy, and it is a crude thing to do to a human being. 

I cannot believe I was so stupid to even think that such an arrangement would even be possible.  Did I think that my wife and those around me would allow me to sleep late every day without any consequences?  Did I think that I would really be allowed to nap during the day while the kids are playing and screaming down the hallway?  Did I think that my wife wouldn't be passive aggressive and allow the kids to make noise or make comments that belittle my contribution to the family, our life, our experience?

Or would it have been smarter if I realized that people are limited both in their abilities and in their moralities, and no matter how much money or financial abundance a husband brings in the late hours of the night, if he is walking around the house all day (or he is at the beach, or working out, or walking around the city) while you are slaving with the housework, then the kids in a foreign country... when he wants to nap in the afternoon you will no doubt feel a bit of resentment (ignoring the fact that what would be a 45 minute nap would be what he needs to stay up until 6:30am the following morning?)

I don't know, in hindsight, I don't think it was a smart idea to come here, and it was an even dumber idea to think that working at night would work out.

I also don't know why I was so stupid to allow us to only have one car (as every Israeli family typically does), or to think that my wife wouldn't be the one to dominate that car each and every day [shopping, going out, picking up the kids, etc. at the expense of me not being able to use that car to drive to or from work or to move freely around town to run errands with that car], but in doing so, I would inadvertently isolate, jail, and seclude myself to the point where I would be a slave in my own home -- where everything I would do would be under the peering eye of a well meaning, but no doubt resentful wife who would be paying close attention to everything I do to make sure every moment of my life was filled with as much strife as hers would be.

Why was I so stupid to think that I could work from a home office without renting office space out of the home?  Why would I be so stupid as to jail myself in a situation that would only cause me to feel like a slave, a lab rat, a prisoner, a jailed person, a useless slob who mopes around the house all day tiring himself out, only to start work after everyone else's day has ended?  Why did I think this was a good idea?


Anyway, now that we are going back, this is my own personal yetzius mitzraim.  The first thing I am doing when I return is [after getting my family in order and purchasing the necessities for my wife and children, including a car for my wife,] buying myself a car and renting an office so that I can leave the house in the morning, and not return until men return home from work.  I will be once again on my own with my own autonomy, with my own space to breathe, to think, to plan, to work, and to live, where I can provide for my family working more than 10 feet from said family in my face and me in theirs, etc.

I say this without animosity towards my wife (now twenty paragraphs later after implicitly attacking her).  Really, I have every belief that she tried very hard to accommodate my awkward schedule.  She took the brunt of the responsibilities in running the home, she took the brunt of the housework, she took the brunt of the kids' homework, their education, their feeding, their playing, their raising, all of which while I did the best I could to be involved in my wife and kids' day life (but really, my focus the entire time was planning my hours so that I can minimize the jet lag that I would inadvertently live with every day).

I ran on three cylinders.  My business (which once flourished) withered and is on its deathbed.  I am not healthier than I was when I left.  My family and I are not closer, but rather, I resent them for expecting me to live two lives -- one during the day and one during the late night, and not having either life diminish or lose out.   Did they think I could live two lives at the same time? 

I am also not more religious than I was when I arrived here.  Rather, I have lost my faith in G-d, and I have lost my faith in humanity.  I have become dark, angry, ...dark pretty much sums it.  I am also jaded, both in the miracles of Hashem, and in the "life of tranquility" I thought I would provide for my children, where the community would provide my children everything they needed spiritually, and my wife and I would be happy as they integrated into Israeli society while we lived the life of flourishing ex-pats, focusing on our parenting skills, our religious experience (and G-d would leap over mountains for us to accommodate our every need because we have taken the leap of faith to move to the land of Israel, the land of milk and honey).

Yeah, right.  I no longer trust people, I don't like people, and I no longer think people are good.  Further, I resent people because I do not think that anyone can fully understand what I have just been through.  I feel isolated, I feel alone.  I feel dead inside.  Oh, G-d!

Hopefully when we return, I could resume the activities that had our family running in good shape.  I was involved in the community, I was involved in my children's upbringing and their education, I knew their teachers, and I was part of their lives.  Sure I was not always productive at work, but at least I had my own space and my own time to iron out any issues that arose in my business.  I had space, I had time, I had room to think, money to breathe, and time to enjoy it.

We were bored.  We thought we could do better for our kids.  We thought life would be more comfortable when we are sitting on a cloud being gently guided by a kind G-d, a G-d who warms us, nourishes us, and protects us from harm.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Holding onto the reins of where fate brings "US" (pun intended).

So... I found a place to work outside our Beitar, Israel apartment while we are waiting for the inevitable day that the shipping company packs our apartment into boxes and puts everything back on a crate.  Quite honestly, I am actually very excited, and I feel as if I am "going home."

As I mentioned before, while I did have another six (6) months in me to work evenings before I burned out once-and-for-all, it made no sense pushing so much only to go home in January rather than July.  Plus, I couldn't do that to the kids again -- my wife and I thought that it would be better to leave after their school year ends, and start the new year fresh with their U.S. classmates.

So a few things have happened recently.  We went to the Kotel and prayed to Hashem that he give my wife and I clarity on what we should do.  I also wrote a number of letters to the Rebbe asking for some kind of "sign" or "signal" on what we should do, and on both accounts, we got no answer [although I learned yesterday that the Rebbe was very much against "signs" when determining what action or direction to take, especially because ANYTHING can be taken as a "sign," and stupid or wrong decisions can be made on those false "signs."].  That being said, for the past few months, we have been looking at housing near our old home to see what was available (because my wife didn't want to move back to a small apartment, and I wasn't willing to spend thousands of dollars in rent when our costs of living are that much less here in Israel).

Out of nowhere, a beautiful house came on the market and appeared on our iPhone app.  It was smaller than our old home, but the yard was... gigantic!  We could play multiple games of football on this yard side-by-side, and then have enough room to install a pool, a trampoline, or a full-sized greenhouse.  NOT THAT WE WOULD DO ANY OF THESE -- THE LAWN WILL LIKELY STAY EMPTY because we're not that much into amenities and glamour, however, because our lives are very family-centric, the backyard lawn was a very nice addition.  The inside was also quaint -- it is larger than our place here, and there is ample storage space and bedrooms to grow our already large family.  Okay, so as-is, there is really no place for me to have a long-term office in the home because my wife wants to put a limit of two-kids-per-room (although I think there should be a "boys" room and a "girls" room with a max of three kids in each room, that way I can take one of the bedrooms as a home office for the law firm), but whatever -- I'll be working outside of the home anyway.

On the topic of "working from home," this is something that EVERY MAN should know:



Anyway, because we were not there to purchase this awesome house ourselves, my wife's family offered to loan us the money to purchase the home (as they did last time, especially since they knew we'd pay them back immediately when we arrived in the US, and since we paid them back the last time they did this for us).  We [really, they] bought the house, and so now we have a house in the U.S., ...again.

Now this obviously complicated the issue because as soon as we got the house, my wife and I went back to the "should we, shouldn't we" conversation of whether we can push ourselves to make the Israel Aliyah work, and whether we should give it another push to stay here for another year (with the hopes that at the end of the second year, we wouldn't want to leave).  But, now we have a house that we have obligated ourselves to buy, and any delay in coming back will only upset my in-laws, especially since they just laid out hundreds of thousands of dollars for us to facilitate our return.  So yeah, that happened.

We took the instant availability of the home as a "sign" from Hashem that we were "meant" to move back home, but we still weren't convinced.  Every day, we would have literally countless conversations of "Aleph [meaning, stay in Israel]" versus "Bet [meaning, going home]."  By the hour, this changed every day, every hour.

It wasn't until we went to the Kotel a week or so ago [after a very terrible thing happened to us that my wife wouldn't let me talk about and she'd feel violated if I shared what happened with the world, but yeah, that happened, and it was clearly the "finger of Hashem" that caused this horrible thing to happen to us, and it coincidentally happened as soon as we decided that we are going to STAY in Israel ("Aleph") (as if "it" was a result of our decision to stay, or as if the conditions for "it"  to happen were set into motion months before we even knew that we would be having the conversations of "Aleph vs. Bet," and then "it" happened to push us to go home in a "fate" kind of way)], that I asked Hashem to help us stop this "Aleph, Bet, Aleph, Bet" confusion because the uncertainty was driving me nuts.  I really wanted to have clarity of thought, and not vacillate based on the swing of a pendulum.  One minute, we were going to push for another year, the next minute, we couldn't wait to go home.

Well, for now, we have our clarity.  I am not sure what has come over us, but since our visit to the Kotel, both my wife and I have come to the conclusion that "yeah, Israel is amazing, it is beautiful, and yes, there are ALL THESE BENEFITS that we were looking for... good schools, good community, amazing culture, safety from race and political turmoil, safety from ISIS, safety from race wars... but with all this said, we still wanted to go home."

We have satisfied ourselves that the "I can't work American hours from Israel and make that work longterm" argument is enough to justify going back, but since then, I have found an office and I have started working during the day.  To be honest, I'm getting nothing done here because this office of many businesses working together under one roof is a bit distracting, but at least I am going to minyanim in the morning, and I am working regular business hours.  My business no doubt WILL suffer as a result of no longer working American hours, as the law office will only be open from 8am-11am each day (especially with the new daylight savings time hours), but I'll be back soon enough to fix whatever I break and resume normal business hours.  In reality, I'll be working from 3am-11am Central Time (working on cases and handling research and other client matters in the morning [regular Israel business hours], but client communications will only appear to take place three hours each day.

So this may end up having the potential to be a longterm solution that would have allowed us to stay indefinitely in Israel, but... because we have already taken so many steps to return to the US (I just made the deposit to register our kids at their private school for when we return) [not to mention that we bought a house, I spent close to $6,000 USD on plane tickets [nonrefundable] to return to the US, and I paid close to $40,000 USD to my in-laws to help them fund the purchase, to do repairs on the new home, etc.], we are set to go and so there is little to look back on now.

Personally, I think it is sad that I didn't find this "shared office space" arrangement earlier.  Things could have been different had I figured the work hours out earlier (e.g., working ISRAEL hours, not US hours), but now I am not about to destabilize all our family plans for a solution that may or may not have ended up being the solution I was looking for.  Actually, between you and me, it's a bit tragic, because I think this may have been a good solution.  But I cannot waiver anymore, and I must hold onto the reins of what decisions we have made, and I must move forward and see where life takes us.  As things stand, we are going home to the US, and this was the final decision.

I am a bit sad that I did not make Israel work.  My wife talks about "returning to Israel in five years" once our oldest child is old enough to go to yeshiva (and then, to enter the military -- something my wife and I consider a huge honor as part of our belief in supporting the Jewish people and contributing to the building of the State of Israel), but when she mentioned coming back in five years, I did not see how life five years from now would be different from the difficulties we experienced when we were here the first time.  I would still have the "US hours vs. Israel hours" issue, and I don't know whether trying again to run the law firm from Israel is a good idea.  I'll adapt the law firm to be able to do this as much as possible, but really, the character of the firm and what I practice in it is shaped by the kind of clientele' we get.  If I keep doing what I am doing, in five years from now, there will be no viable way of switching back to Israel hours.

I suppose more generally, I am kind of going with the flow.  I think deciding to stay would be "rocking the boat" [of fate], and I kind of am at a point in life that I don't want turbulence anymore.  I really want a peaceful and quiet life, and whether or not I would have achieved this had we stayed, we have already set in motion a move back to the US, so let's stick to our plan and see where this goes.

NOTE: Image taken from Pixbay, CC0 Public Domain, Free for commercial use, No attribution required.  Link.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Running on only three cylinders.


Hello Diary!

My wife and I have been going back-and-forth as to whether we are "missing something" in deciding to leave Israel.  Obviously there is SO MUCH to miss, but I am merely mentioning as to our life here versus our life back home before we made Aliyah.  I know this is offensive for me to say, especially since there are so many people who would give anything to make Aliyah and cannot for whatever reason -- family responsibilities, work, financial constraints -- and I fully understand your anger at our "flippant" attitude towards staying here versus going back.  It seems almost silly to have spent so much effort, time, and money to transition our lives here only to move back, but it is what it is.

I don't want to rehash everything -- there are so many reasons to stay -- GOOD REASONS to stay!  But somewhere in my heart, I want to go home.  I miss so many things about home, and I don't know why, but I always feel as if I am running on three cylinders here in Israel.

I could say more, but the jist of the article is this:  "I FEEL AS IF MY LIFE IS RUNNING ON THREE CYLINDERS HERE."  Shopping?  Not so easy.  Currency and banking transactions?  Difficult (I am always having problems with my bank accounts at home in the US locking me out, I feel as if it is because I am in Israel [more likely, my wife is convinced that I am on some terrorist "list" somehow because I yelled at some bank clerk or something while calling from Israel], so everything I do gets red-flagged, delayed, and sometimes cancelled, even though I provide my credentials and prove I am who I claim to be]).

Then there is the language barrier.   Very difficult.  Bank statements? Credit Card statements? Unintelligible.  Half the time I don't even know what the charges are for.  Taxes?  Rental Taxes?  No clue.  Running my law firm? VERY difficult.  I'll get back to this.

The crux of the issue is that I feel as if it is very difficult to live with one foot here in Israel, and the other foot straddled across the globe in the US.

NOTE: Image taken from Pixbay, CC0 Public Domain, Free for commercial use, No attribution required.  Link.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

So happy to go, so sad I couldn't make it work.

I know, I know.  I'm a jerk for being such a critical person, and I feel terrible about it.  I've had a stressful few days, and the prospect of not being able to support my family (by even looking at a home that was way above our means) really hurt my feelings.  In hindsight, I didn't realize that "a girl can dream," and I was smashing her dream with the heel of my boot, and I should have just stayed quiet and not bust a gasket when I heard my wife speaking about wanting beautiful things.  I just take her so seriously, especially since I try to give her everything she wants, and I was feeling like a failure that I wasn't able to give her the dream home that she wanted.  I was also feeling very threatened, since we cannot stay here in Beitar (or anywhere in Israel, as the work hours are not long-term doable for me), and I was feeling that I couldn't afford Denver's more expensive homes either.  So I felt painted into a corner.

Anyway, I have been thinking long and hard, and I cannot have more good things to say about Israel, the land, the beauty, the holiness, and even how wonderful it is for our kids to have friends and for me to have a community in which I am thriving both as a person and as a Jew.  Beitar has been a wonderful solution for us, and I'm actually saddened that I'll be saying goodbye to some really good friends I've made over the past few months.

Now you may shoot back at me telling me to "make it work."  I've tried, really I have.  I've shifted my hours later so that I work from 7pm-7am (and then I go to minyan in the morning).  I've shifted my hours so that I work 3pm-3am, still no dice.  I've also tried 12pm-12am, but then I cannot do my work since my law firm operates in the late afternoons/evenings simply because of the nature of my clientele.  I've pumped myself full of coffee, I've taken naps during the day, but no matter how I cut it, I can't make the hours work for me.  Maybe someone with a better constitution would be able to handle this, but for me, it is too much to handle... especially considering that I cannot "relax" and defuzz in the mornings, and I cannot nap in the afternoons, and while I would never do so openly, I blame my wife for it not working out.  No way in hell have I been able to take a nap while she is stuck with the six screaming kids -- I felt like a loser and that I was slacking on my responsibility every time I tried to close my eyes to prepare for my evenings, while I would hear my wife get frustrated with the kids all hanging on her competing for her attention.  I felt terrible for her having to deal with everything, and on top of that, I was asleep during the mornings as well.  Aside for a few precious hours in the late morning / early afternoons, I really had no time to run any errands, or to do anything except to work.  Life was work and work was life -- there was really no room for anything else.

I tried to help with the dishes, with the laundry, with the chores, with watching the kids whenever I could in order to lessen the burden on my wife, but really, all it did was drain me and I was unable to work that evening.  I lost so many evenings that way rescheduling appointments with potential clients to the point that I lost many of them because I could not muster the energy, the discipline, or the organization to balance both an Israeli day, and then an American work day after that.  My work and the time zone shifting each day (and the lack of sleep or energy that went with it) was consuming my life.

With full respect and love to Israel, I am happy that I am leaving in a few months.  I feel as if I have been in a one-room prison all year without the ability to roam free or to move about freely, and it has been a miserable experience.  I hope my wife, my kids, my friends, and Hashem forgive me and don't judge me because I couldn't make it work.  G-d knows I tried to make it work.  I still can't shake the feeling in the back of my stomach that I am a failure for making this work, and "if only I did X," or "if only I tried harder, or did XYZ differently," we could have made it work.  Really, it was not working, but I don't understand why I have to convince myself of this fact.  I'm so happy to go home, but so sad I couldn't make it work!

 NOTE: Image taken from Pixbay, CC0 Public Domain, Free for commercial use, No attribution required.  Link.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

We decide to move back to the U.S., and old money problems resurface.

My wife and I just had a conversation this morning about the stresses of having upside-down work hours here in Israel, and after last night's fiasco (dealing with Israeli taxes with accountants -- supposedly good ones -- who didn't know what they were talking about), I woke up this morning in a panic that we cannot stay here.
This does not have to do with anything negative about Israel -- NO, it has to do with the DIFFICULTIES of living a double life, with half of my life complying with burdensome US tax and banking rules, getting around geographical restrictions, because for some reason, being an "expat" US Citizen living abroad makes them think that you are a criminal!  I simply don't understand why I need to hide from my bank the fact that I am outside of the US?  I don't understand why being a successful attorney who moved his family out of the US to give his kids a good Israel experience in the midst of threatened economic and social collapse -- why is this criminal behavior?

Anyway, there is more to that story, and it appears that before I left, I upset the wrong person because as soon as I arrived to Israel last year, all of my funds in one of my US bank accounts (where we held most of our money) was frozen because they suspected "terrorist" activities.  Really?  From a frum Chabad Jewish lawyer with a beard, six kids and a kippah?  Anyway, the problem slowly got worse, and the so-called "flag" spread to my other accounts -- so much so that every time I call in to check a balance, or to pay bills or do banking transactions, I get forwarded to the "VIP" department, because I am a "special" customer (my wife has started joking that "VIP" really means "terrorist," and I'm really starting to wonder.)  Anyway, now I need to do a wire transfer to some Israeli Manpower Organization in order to comply with taxes here in Israel, and I'm concerned that this was the same kind of wire transfer that got my main account shut down when we first moved here.  But worse, if it happened, it would be to my law firm's bank account, which is the source of all of our funding, our food, our rent, everything.  This is the holy grail of bank accounts, and the Israeli accountants need for me to do a wire transfer FROM THERE to their organization to create a paper trail, or whatever their reason.  I'm nervous as hell that this will freeze this account too, and I'm not comfortable doing it, but I will in order to comply.

Then there is the prospect of severe increased costs when I return to the US.  There, I made a lot of money.  Here, I am not making a lot of money (likely because of my severely diminished number of work hours).  I calculated with my wife that if we moved back, I would need to make at least another $50,000 just to keep the same level of expenses that we have now because of yeshiva tuition, a mortgage, healthcare, etc.  I was willing to do this, even though it would mean that I would have to work harder just to make ends meet.

But then, as soon as we decided to move back... my wife got the "money bug" back.  We sold our Denver home for roughly $250K (at a net loss), which was good for us because we purchased it for $185K and put roughly $75K into it [these were improvements that we did for OURSELVES to live in this home forever, such as knocking down walls, gutting and redoing the entire kitchen, getting the best kind of granite countertops (well, the kind that my wife liked), purchasing an expensive refrigerator, the best rated appliances, etc., but it all seemed to feel like "fate" when we were presented with buyers who wanted to purchase the home from us just as we were speaking to real estate brokers to rent out the home once we made Aliyah.] 

In hindsight, because we were moving to Israel and we were committed to not leaving anything behind, it was nice to sell the home and not to need to worry about dealing with two homes -- one in the US, and the one we would be renting in Israel.  But then, we had to sell (really, give away) all of our possessions so that our basic necessities would fit in a "crate" to ship across the sea.  We had to sell our new car at an offensive low price, I had to sell my car for a measly $300 just to get rid of it, and when we came to Israel, we had to buy a car for 75,000 NIS because that was the cheapest car we could fit that came close to holding our six kids.  Then my wife crashed the car and wrecked the front of it which cost us another 10,000 NIS to repair, and then another few hundred dollars each month in insurance costs (oh well), then I lost about eight month's of salary to a home theft (yes, that happened), but that was part of what it cost to move to and dwell in the State of Israel.

Now when we move, we will again need to give away a few thousand dollars worth of items we purchased here so that everything will fit back in the "crate."  We will need to practically give away our new 70,000 NIS car (which will be worth almost nothing because my wife wrecked its value by being in an accident), we will pay another $15K just to move our belongings and fly ourselves back, and only then I will need to work extra hard to be able to pay for the increased expenses of healthcare, yeshiva tuition, etc.

On top of that, I was sharing with my wife just yesterday that the larger homes have electricity bills of $600 per month for many months out of the year, while the smaller homes (still large by anyone's measure, but "small" for what we were used to in Denver) have lower electricity costs of sometimes $200-$300 per month.  This pocket of change makes a big difference because with the larger homes, we are either heating or cooling the entire house because the indoor space is that much larger to temperature regulate.

This morning when I told her that I wanted to move back, and we spoke at length and decided to move back in June when the kids are done with their school year, (not January as we were considering beforehand so that we can give Beitar (Israel) a chance,) she got the "money bug" back that she had when we lived in the US.  "I want a big, giant dream house... with a Jaccuzzi and a pool... and a big magnificent kitchen with high ceilings, real wooden floors -- not the "fake" wooden floors we installed in our old home (I spent over $5,000 to install those wooden floors [which was a splurge], and yes, I think they were laminates or something but we researched the quality and decided that those were the best quality for the money we were paying)... Immediately, I almost had a heart attack because I remembered in the US our old fight that she did not respect how hard it was for me to work to make the money I made, and now she is already spending money in her head that we don't have.

I don't get this.  What is going on?!?  How the hell can she switch back to the "I want a big giant house with riches and diamond and beauty and, and, and, and..." when we just spent a year in Israel [I thought] teaching the value of austerity.  We lived a six-figure lifestyle here which was a meager lifestyle here, but it was certainly luxurious compared to the meager $35,000 salary most people in Israel live on.  Hell, some of my friends here can't even afford the weekly bus pass to pay for transportation to work (let alone good food on their table, clothes to wear, or any sort of comfort), and here she is suddenly going back to dreamy "I want everything" mentality that threw us into marriage counseling the first time we were in Denver.

I have nothing wrong with buying a more expensive house than we had the last time we were in Denver.  After seeing the millions of shekels a small measly home goes for here in Israel, even the most expensive home in Denver is cheap, comparatively.  But there is a difference between looking for an above-average lifestyle and going for a lifestyle that would only draw the attention and envy of the community.  Why can't we be like everyone else, and live a regular lifestyle within our means life everyone else?  Why this sudden desire to get the biggest and the best?  Did she not learn anything during our time here in Israel?!?

NOTE: Image taken from Pixbay, CC0 Public Domain, Free for commercial use, No attribution required.  Link.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Balancing Israel versus the USA as far as deciding whether to move back.

This isn't going to be much of a coherent post because it is 1:30am Israel time, and this is the second day in a row that I am unable to work.  I am so deeply distraught about whether to stay in Israel or to throw everything back on a crate and ship it back to the US.  I cannot think straight, I cannot function, I cannot focus.  I think I'm also hitting a bit of a depression as well.

The issues to balance have been hashed out.  We are balancing my own health and mental sanity of being isolated from my family and from society because of my work hours with the benefits being here I provide for my family as far as providing them a good community, friends, good school, and a great and meaningful life experience.  But what kind of experience can a childhood be when the tatty is always somewhere else, whether that be emotionally exhausted, physically stressed, or mentally checked out?

Then I think of the physical security of the family which would be put at risk if we returned, based on the news I am hearing from the various sources I read.  Corruption is rampant, the economy is about to collapse, taxes and healthcare costs are going up, social stability is fragile at best, and people are being lied to by those in power elected to protect them.  And, the candidates either want to morph the United States into socialism (Sanders), provide more of the same (Hillary), or create a post-constitutional police state (Trump).  Then there is the Black Lives Matter crowd (fraud), ISIS (murderers), the Muslim refugees (fakers), N. Korea testing nuclear missiles and launching potentially dangerous satellites (imperialists), and a banking system that is about to collapse (greed).  Why would I want to move back to a place like this unless I am ignorantly ignoring the issues hoping naively that they will not cause my family any issues?

For days, the decision to go back seemed like the good answer.  End of June, we're leaving.  But then, something changed within us, and so we said, "January, maybe never [if we can figure out how to live here happily]."  But without a driver's license, what was an isolating situation has redoubled itself as a very isolating situation, especially since I won't risk renting office space only to get arrested on the drive over to or from work each day.  And it needs not be said, but the bureaucracy to do anything is like ten steps to do whatever you want to do, and it involves going here to this office, getting a stamp at that office, sitting down with this person who shows up to work only on every second Tuesday after a full moon between 9:00am and 9:07am.  Then when you get there, he was out sick that day and you just blew five hours of your life running around for nothing, only to do it all over again.

So in sum, good community, good group of people here, good for kids, good for friends.  Bad for me, bad for my connection with my family, bad for my health, and I just don't know whether I want the easy American life back, or the difficult life here.  I am losing focus of what is important, and I do not know how to weigh my options.  And I can't snap out of if and get back to working my butt off as I have been doing for over a year now being awake EVERY OVERNIGHT here.

Monday, February 08, 2016


So... I asked Hashem for some guidance in deciding whether we should leave Israel back to the U.S. or whether we should stay in Israel, and now this happened.  I can't believe I was almost arrested from just having a bad day?!?  I was pulled over because I was talking on the cell phone (illegal) with no headlights on (illegal) and no seat belt on (illegal), with no Teudat Zehut (Israel National ID) (illegal?), and no car registration paperwork (illegal).  Plus, I accidentally lied to the cop saying that I had been in Israel for a few months (this was an accident, I only meant I had been here in Beitar for a few months), only for him to find out that I've been here more than a year and that I don't have an Israeli Driver's License.  This was after the bank stole a whole wad of cash which was the reason I was on the cell phone really upset in the first place.  After all this, the officer called two other cops over the radio which came via motorcycle, and surrounded my car from both sides.  Then all of a sudden, something changed, everyone backed off, and he gave me a small ticket with a warning.

My wife (a Hebrew speaker) afterwards in shock said, "I don't know what changed, but I heard him talking, and he said he was going to arrest you.  You were going to be arrested."

Here is a letter to the Rebbe that I wrote on the topic (now writing him two days in a row):

23 Shvat, 5776 
Ana L'orer Rachamim Rabim ba'avor ... 
Dear Rebbe, 
I do not understand how to interpret the events of today.  This morning, I woke up, and because my wife was feeling ill, I went downstairs, cleaned up the living room and the kitchen, and then when it came time to pick up our youngest daughter from gan, I decided to drive into town to withdraw some funds from our U.S. bank in Shekels, and deposit them into our Israeli bank account. 
When I was on line at the bank to use the ATM, there was a poor person going to people at the bank ATM as they were taking out money.  I find this highly inappropriate as there are shuls and tzedakka institutions set up to give money to people like him (and we often donate to these organizations).   
When it came time to use the ATM, I refused to do so, and I told the man who was standing next to the poor person in Hebrew, "I am not taking out money from the ATM while he is standing there waiting to ask for money."  I guess I shamed him and I did not realize it, and I am sorry for that.  I have already encountered this guy many times and I thought he belonged in a home of some sort, not roaming the streets. 
Minutes later, when I walked to the next block to deposit the funds in our bank's ATM, the same poor person came over and asked people on line for cash.  I told him "slichah, lo," and he walked on.  Again, I was annoyed that he was asking people on line at the bank. 
When it came time to deposit the cash into the bank account, I had an intuition to deposit my stack of 50 NIS bills from my wallet rather than the 200 NIS bills that I just withdrew from the bank.  The ATM machine failed, it took [stole] my money, and I was really upset, especially because I do not speak the Hebrew to fight with the bank tellers (plus the bank was closed even though it was in the middle of the day), and I certainly do not have the time to stand on line only for them to tell me, "sorry, you lost your money," and if I did, who would I call to fight it?!?  I don't even know how much money I put into the ATM -- it was a stack of 50 NIS bills! 
Driving back home, I called my wife to tell her what happened.  In haste, I forgot to put my seat belt on (and, I did not have my lights on, something I realized later on which is now illegal here).  An Israeli police officer standing in the middle of the road flagged me down, pulled over my car, and started asking me questions. 
It has been literally A YEAR AND ONE DAY, and we did not have an Israeli license as was required by law.  My wife was on speaker phone, and she heard that he was going to arrest me for driving without a licence, for talking on the cell phone, AND for not having seat belts on. 
I started saying tehillim, and when saying tehillim, I remembered the poor person I probably embarrassed earlier that hour (right before the bad things started to happen).  I felt bad about it because he was not poor because he was lazy, but because he had mental issues.  I've also seen him before and have reacted the same way when this guy would walk into a restaurant to ask people for tzedakka.  I repented (in whatever small way I could), and my wife told me that immediately after the police officer was about to arrest me, he had a change of heart and decided to give me a ticket.  He didn't give me a ticket for driving without a license.  He didn't give me a ticket for talking on the cell phone while driving (a 1000 NIS fine in Israel).  He gave me a ticket for not having seat belts on, a 100 NIS fine. 
I am very shaken up by this event because I don't even know where or how to obtain a drivers license here in Israel.  My wife and I tried before, but we got confused with the bureaucracy, and never followed-up on it (and a year passed unbeknownst to us, and drivers licenses were the last thing on our minds with all the chaos of living abroad in Israel).  I wouldn't even know how to use the bus system to get to a DMV or do all the steps that are required beforehand without a car. 
But here is the bigger question, and this is the point of the pidyon nefesh.  Was this whole event Hashem violently protecting his poor and the downtrodden?!?  I learned that every action in Israel is directed by Hashem himself, and so was I the violator here?  And, if so, DO I EVEN WANT TO LIVE HERE KNOWING HASHEM IS WATCHING EVERY MOVE I DO SO CLOSELY?!? I am a good person, but obviously I have my fair share of sins which I atone for.  Do I really want to live in a place where I can be recognized by Hashem and punished so readily for something [I thought was] as minute as getting annoyed at a poor mentally ill person for soliciting tzedakka at a bank ATM or in a restaurant?!?  AND if he is hitting me so hard so fast for something as small as this (remember, yesterday I just gave our shul 3,000 NIS as a donation, and we give thousands of dollars in tzedakka and maaser every year!), SHOULD I BE AFRAID OF BEING PUNISHED FOR ALL OF THE OTHER SINS THAT I DO?? AND DO I EVEN WANT TO LIVE IN A LAND WHICH SENDS OUT PUNISHMENTS SO STRONGLY, SO QUICKLY, AND SO HARSHLY??  WAS THIS THE REASON OUR HOME WAS BROKEN INTO IN RECHOVOT AND OVER 100,000 NIS WAS STOLEN FROM US??  We already give so much tzedakka!! 
Further, on my mind is leaving Israel.  I spent most of the afternoon in awe of the beautiful land, and feeling so lucky that we could live in Israel (and survive financially).  I was saddened that we spent most of our year "residing in Israel being busy with our very stressful daily lives" without visiting the historical sites, or the various biblical cities (safety permitting) where various events in Torah happened.  It would be such a shame if we missed all of that because we were too busy with school, kids, the tourist sites, and visiting various cities for non-religious amenities. 
I was also a bit saddened that we might be missing out on a meaningful life, as I do love our shul, our community, and the fact that our children are doing well here in Israel.  And, I do not want to be like Yona who "runs" away from Hashem [to America] thinking that Hashem won't see him there because as you clearly said, "Hashem goes down to galus with you." 
It is a few hours later and I just returned from mincha / maariv (shul).  My heart hurts because I don't think I want to be here anymore.  I don't want to work the night shift, and I don't want to have the responsibility of having Hashem watch so closely over me.  I am not a chossid, and I am by far not a perfect person.  I really don't want Hashem attacking me every time I do something bad (or when I neglect to do the million things I *could* be doing.)  I just want some tranquility, some peace, to raise my children in comfort, and to not be killed by some plague or disease, some government entity, or by fanatical crazies.  Can't I just live a "good" life, do my part in helping the world, and be left alone?!?
 NOTE: Image taken from Pixbay, CC0 Public Domain, Free for commercial use, No attribution required.  Link.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

My Letter to the Rebbe asking for a bracha (or, permission) to leave Israel.

Below is a letter (a "pidyon nefesh") that I wrote to the Lubavicher Rebbe.  I sent it to the Ohel via their website, printed out a copy for myself, and I put it in one of the Rebbe's books.

22 Shvat, 5776 
Ana L'orer Rachamim Rabim ba'avor... 
Dear Rebbe, 
As a follow-up to my letter nine months ago, our family has been living in Israel, and as of a few days ago, we have officially spent one year living in Israel. 
As you know, last year, we made Aliyah and we moved to Rechovot.  I learned Chassidus once a week, but because we were unable to fit in with the community (me, my wife, our children) were isolated from the community, and because of a few potential disasters that happened, after spending Sukkos in Beitar Illit, we decided to move to Beitar, and we have been living here happily for the last three months. 
While in Rechovot, we experienced a theft of a lot of money -- over 100K sheckels was stolen, along with whatever else the thieves took when they ransacked the house.  I suspect that the thieves were individuals who looked at our home to rent it after we decided to move to Beitar.  The reason for this is because I almost never left the house, at it appears as if they were stalking us to see when both of us (my wife and I) would leave the house.  They went through our locked door as if it was butter, and the police did almost nothing to help find them.  This saddened us because the income we lost was many months of work (pushing myself every night to work overnight), and we wondered what we did to have Hashem cause this to happen. 
Shortly before the theft, we "lost" our oldest daughter for a few hours because the bus driver who we hired didn't know she did not get on the bus.  My wife drove over to her school, and called me crying that she couldn't find her.  We couldn't find her, and there was no person to call or to hold accountable to know her whereabouts.  In the end, a friend's parent picked her up and took her home, but this did not negate the terror we experienced not knowing where she was, or who to call for help.  Then when I confronted the bus driver, he apologized, but I wanted to punch him in the face because he didn't seem to care that he lost our daughter. 
Then there was the Rechovot community.  We tried to fit in, but there was really nobody that we could befriend.  Much of the community was Hebrew speaking, and even so, the families kept to themselves and did not interact with the other community members, and thus every Shabbos and every day, the kids were stuck after school from 2pm until bedtime without friends to play with or people to interact with, so it was us they turned to, all the time, every day.  We tried to play with them, to learn with them, to take them out to the park, but it was never enough to give either us or the kids any comfort or tranquility.  And after a long day, only then did I need to spend the overnight working at the law firm, every night. 
We moved to Beitar after the theft and after a very difficult few months over the high holidays, where we realized that with all of the time and efforts we put into developing.. [OMITTED PERSONAL STUFF]. 
So we moved to Beitar, and while there is still no place to call my own (still no makom kavuah), at least I am making friends and my kids have friends at school.  We are still not integrating with the community as we would like to, but this is more our fault than anything, as my wife and I are often overwhelmed with just raising our now six children. 
The difficulty is that even here, I am still working crazy overnight hours to work the law firm, and it is taking a toll on us emotionally and no doubt it is affecting my mental health and my physical health.  I never leave the house except to go to shul or to run an errand, and I am feeling lonely, isolated, as if I am (yet again) a prisoner in my own home.  I have been trying to shift my work hours from what has been 4pm-4am (or 4pm-6am) Israel time [6am-6pm Denver, Colorado time] to starting to work at 12pm, but that has almost never been happening.  The reason I have been trying to do this is so that I can live a normal life and wake up with everyone else and go to sleep with everyone else.  It is a work in progress. 
My wife has gotten ill these past few days (we had a stomach virus move between each one of us), and she has been feeling quite homesick and missing our life in Denver.  She feels as if we have made a mistake by moving to Israel, and that the whole experience has been one disaster after another.  She expressed her desire to move back to Denver, and that has released in me an overflowing desire to also leave -- to throw everything into a crate, and to move back to Denver. 
We have had deep and detailed discussions comparing our life in Israel to the life we had in Colorado, and we feel that we made a mistake for coming here.  We would like to go back as soon as possible, and we ask for a beracha for guidance on how to make the correct move both spiritually, physically, as well as how to choose the best time to move. 
Since my wife brought up the topic, I have felt a deep overflowing of remorse and sadness that I have been holding back from the difficulties I have experienced over the past year.  I finally see an end to the sadness, and an end to the constant and daily struggles I have experienced since moving to Israel.  My wife hedges and wants to visit Denver over Pesach to test whether we actually want to go back (or, whether we would be happier staying here), but my heart actually aches from thinking about staying here. 
It really hurts me to be in a room all day and all night with almost no motivation or desire to socialize with the community because I cannot get myself together to shower, to get out of the house, and to socialize with the community.  Rather, I wake up, have a coffee with my wife, sit in my office (upstairs bedroom of our duplex apartment) with no sunlight, and play with the computer, the news, and the kids by day, and work by night, stressing my body to the point of illness.  I miss seeing people, I miss being able to handle problems that come up (now I am an illiterate immigrant who doesn't speak Hebrew well, and this causes such embarassment for me since most of the community now speaks Hebrew [the Anglos are not Chabad and they live somewhere else]), and thus I rely on my wife to handle all of the school issues, all of the electricity, gas, government, taxes, and everything that has to do with speaking Hebrew.  Rather, I sit at home and bring money in to the family while my wife takes care of everything I am incompetent to take care of.  Then on Shabbos, seeing sunlight for the first time all week, I walk to shul disoriented, jetlagged, and a bit "hung over", and then I need to face the community who wonders where I have been all week.  And I have such a difficult time being friendly because I feel disoriented. 
Since my wife started talking to me about leaving back to Denver, I have had a difficult time thinking of anything else, and I cannot wait to leave.  I ask for a beracha that moving back is the healthy option, and that we are able to move as fast as possible to return to Colorado, and to resume the semi-tranquil life that we were living before we left.  I ask that our parnossa be restored to the levels of income we were making in Colorado, and that we "do something" to reconnect with our Jewish roots so that our descent should only be for an ascent.  I ask for a beracha for a smooth and comfortable transition, and I ask for a bracha for the safety of myself and my family both in physical safety, health, tranquility, in their learning, and in living a healthy and meaningful lifestyle. I also ask for a beracha that my children learn well in their school, that they work well with their teachers, and that each of our children develop strong friendships with their classmates, and that us as parents also develop close friendships and integrate with the Denver community, and that we all remain a cohesive family.  Amen.
NOTE: Image taken from Pixbay, CC0 Public Domain, Free for commercial use, No attribution required.  Link.

Monday, February 01, 2016

I've had it with this upside-down work schedule. I simply cannot work the overnight shift or eventually it will kill me.

So I don't know how to phrase this, but we and the kids just got over a stomach flu which circulated from one kid to the next, then to me, then to another kid, and now to my wife.  This happened on our one-year anniversary from making Aliyah celebration, where we went to a hotel which cost us roughly $350USD even though it was off season.  Can you believe hotels are so expensive here?!?

Anyway, in my wife's illness from the stomach flu, she started sharing with me how home sick she was.  She talked about how easy it was in Denver (even when we were living in California), how easy life was.  We had one school where all the kids went to, the school was great, the kids had friends, and ...we had AMAZON PRIME!  Oh Amazon Prime how I miss you from Betar Israel!

While she was merely sharing her feelings of being homesick these past few months, as soon as she did, I myself felt an outpouring of homesickness of the way life used to be in the US.  I woke up in the morning, had breakfast and a coffee, prepared the kids' lunches, saw them off to school, then I went to work in my giant office space where I would work like a normal human being during normal business hours.  I would sometimes call my wife and we would go out to lunch together, or I would stop at home and pick something up, and then go back to work.

At 7pm, I would come home, I would put the kids to bed, say shema, sit down and exchange a few words with my wife over tea, and then we would either watch a show together, or I would play video games into the night.  Whatever the recreation, it was also a way to "de-fuzz" from the tough day at work.  This allowed me to go to sleep at midnight (or sometimes at 1am), and I would wake up refreshed and ready to start my day all over again.

Here in Israel, my schedule is ass backwards.  I wake up at 11am after having been awake until 4am, and I wake up feeling like a zombie.  I stumble out from my office couch (because I rarely sleep in my own bed because the noise in the morning wakes me up), and I greet my wife who is already five hours into her day.  She has already woken up with the kids, gotten them fed, dressed, made lunch, sent them off to school, and then by the time I am waking up, she is either cleaning up the house or relaxing on Facebook.  I fight the inclination to feel like a lazy loser for waking up so late, so I drag myself as if hung over to the kitchen to make myself some coffee.

I come downstairs and I try to have a conversation with my wife (which is where the daily mini-fight comes from, because she is simply not interested in talking and I am intruding on what she calls her "private time").  This is the conversation which often ends up with a "no, you're wrong, it is not like that, it is like this," leading to some huffy puffy hurt feelings, followed by a quiet walk of shame back up to my office to waste away the next few hours.

In Israel, I don't start work until 4pm which is 6am CST when most of my US clients for the law firm wake up.  During these next few hours, while I try to make good use of my time, more often than not, I end up reading about the terrible politicians in the US and what big "O" has done this time, I watch a televised presidential debate on YouTube, or if I am productive, I will listen to a few classes online.  Either way, I burn myself out because there is nothing to do except fry my brain (an activity that should be happening AFTER my work day, not before it).  Then the kids come home, I play with them some until I get overwhelmed, and then 4pm comes along and I need to get to my meetings.  I take a few calls, sit in on a few meetings, and I work my client's cases.  Around 6pm, I get called down for dinner (or sometimes to cook dinner), and I am downstairs until 7pm when it is bedtime.

Then at 7pm after saying shema with the kids and fighting with them to get to bed, I get back to work.  Well, sometimes it is that I only then get to work.  The problem is that by this time, I am WIPED OUT and I really don't want to start my work day, because I am already exhausted from the day I just finished, especially if my wife had me running errands during the day (while I myself agree to do so because otherwise I will be clawing at the walls from cabin fever), or if we went out for a late breakfast together in some cute kosher restaurant on some kibbutz or in Jerusalem.

So I force a few cups of coffee down my throat to get caffeinated, I get on the phone, I force myself to work, and because I'm so tired, I am not so productive.  Not to mention the fact that because I am in an "office" at home (I am working as of this week on getting an office outside the home), I cannot make noise or argue loudly with the opponent attorneys which messes with my ability to work effectively.  Then around 4am, I finish off my day, and crash in bed from a really really unbearably long day.  Oh, and sometimes my 4am's end up being at 6am, after my wife's cell phone alarm wakes her up.

So I've pretty much had it with this "upside-down time" lifestyle, and I want out.  I want to go back to the US when I woke up with society, and when I slept with society.  Here, I feel that my work hours will be the death of me within the next ten years, tops.  I give myself five more years of this before I'm dead of a heart attack or just the unhealthy lifestyle of being awake all night every night (and then having to jetlag myself every shabbos so that I can be awake for shul).

But then I go back and forth about the merits of Israel versus the desire to go back.

NOTE: Image taken from Pixbay, CC0 Public Domain, Free for commercial use, No attribution required.  Link.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Not Driven Into Another Woman's Arms

While I would not do anything that would ever endanger our marriage, or the relationship we have (not to say anything about our family and the children), I completely understand how some men are driven towards extramarital affairs.

I work most of the day and most of the nights too now, and I am working from our little apartment in Beitar, Israel.  I still work Colorado hours, so my days begin late, and they end late.  I would say that I am experiencing "cabin fever," as I rarely get the chance to leave the house.  With all this, however, my only daily source of companionship are the guys from my community, and at home, my wife.

I come down to greet my wife late in the morning after the kids are in school.  My work day ended at 3am or 4am Israel time, and so I am waking up just as my wife is getting off of her "morning shift" of dressing the kids and getting them on the bus.  I come down the stairs to say hello, make us a brewed cup of coffee, and hopefully exchange a few meaningful words.

However, being a husband of almost TEN YEARS, she takes much of what I do for granted.  If I bring in a client that pays the bills for two or three months of our living expenses, and that client pays up front, she is not excited about this.  If I close a major case that I am working on, and the firm gets a large pay day, she is similarly not excited.  If I talk to her about the news, she is not excited and doesn't want to hear about it.  If I talk about a hobby that I am interested in, she is not interested in talking about it.  If I speak about something relating to our home, or what someone in the community was speaking about in shul (synagogue), she is not interested.  If I speak to her about something that we have similar interests in, she criticizes every one of my thoughts.

It is hard not to feel invisible or unloved in our family, but I am really feeling unloved.  I've reached out and have tried to make friends -- and I have been successful in doing so -- but this does not fill the deep void and the distance I feel between myself and my wife.

I don't know about you, but I need to feel wanted.  I feel loved when I am appreciated for the hard work that I do.  I feel connected to someone when I can have a coherent conversation with them -- about anything!  But each of our conversation devolves into a "you're wrong, you don't know what you're talking about" comment from her, and I politely end the conversation and retire into my own space, and I feel hurt and disconnected from her.  I could speak about the pigeons in Brooklyn, and she'll disagree that they are annoying.  I could speak about how the sky is blue, and she'll disagree that I don't know what I am talking about.  You know, this hurts.

For these reasons, I could totally see how a man could make the mistake of getting seduced by another woman and how an affair could happen.  Meet a woman in the bagel shop, and she laughs at your offhand joke, she finds you to be incredibly smart and sensitive, she finds you physically attractive, and any level-headed man could say, "Hey, I imagine that life could be better with this person.  My wife doesn't love me, doesn't respect me, doesn't care about me anyway.  How much could it hurt to start up a conversation with this woman who seems to be interested in me -- I know my boundaries and I would never let it turn into an affair" and then the man would tempt a platonic relationship or a friendship.  One conversation would turn into two, two would turn into attending an event, a movie, a dinner, or a wedding together (while the wife thinks you are "going out with the guys,") and then seclusion or a moment would inevitably occur as luck has it which would catch both off guard with a spark of chemistry or passion which would lead to an accidental touch, a kiss, an embrace, and then an affair which would end up destroying his family and all those around him, and then it would be his fault for doing so.

Anyway, I do have a head on my shoulders, and I am happy that Judaism provides a man with halachas of Yichud (Jewish laws of seclusion with women), and that a religious man knows his limitations, and knows that by spicing up relationships with the opposite sex, and getting into secluded scenarios with women, he, she, or they together might make the drastic mistake of cheating on their spouses with the other, a move which would destroy their lives, the lives of their spouses, and the lives of their children (not to mention their bank accounts after fighting a divorce, not to mention their freedom because all of a sudden they need to stay chained to their family's location, their time because now the father needs to allocate days, weekends, or large blocks of time for "focused attention" with his children, namely, visitation, whereas when he was married, being present generally and spending a few meaningful minutes here or there playing with one or more of his kids, or learning with his kids, sitting at the dinner table, or just sitting with them with a coffee in his hands would have been more than sufficient).  So no, it makes no sense to seek satisfaction in a mate elsewhere.  Even more so, it makes sense to keep conversations with the opposite sex limited to friendly and simple.  Some orthodox Jewish men avoid conversations altogether with women who are not their wives, and while I think this is a bit extreme, they are probably smarter for doing so.

But then what to do about the home life which is lacking meaning?  What to do about the wife who chastises and criticizes, and who neglects to pay attention or give value to her husband?  I don't have an answer to this, and while the answer of "go take steps to form a connection and make the marriage better" *is* the answer, it is easier said than done.

In our relationship, there are good days, and there are bad days.  Unfortunately, more days than not, we are just living our lives, and my wife finds more interesting things than "dealing with me."  I know in my brain that I am important to her, and I know that in her heart she loves me, but in my heart, I very often don't feel love from her.

I sometimes think that it is *me* that is broken -- that I have a proclivity towards feeling inadequate, or being more needy than the average husband would be.  I often wonder whether it is me who is bent towards feeling sadness and being unable to receive love from another.  But I am very, *very* easy to satisfy.  Give me one hug, say one positive comment towards me, compliment me once, and I am flying high for days.

Now let's be real.  I am never "flying high."  You know what I mean.  Compliment me once, or be kind to me, or ask me about my day, and I am happy.  I am very easy to satisfy.  But when many days or weeks go by without a spark or even an attempt to connect, and when my own many attempts are scolded day after day, week after week, it hurts.

NOTE: It just so happens that my wife came over to me just now with a smile and said a few cheerful words.  So while I am content, I am still affected by the conversation earlier today when my feelings were hurt.  So now I'm sad, but I really don't have a reason to be, or do I?  Who knows.

NOTE: Image taken from Pixbay, CC0 Public Domain, Free for commercial use, No attribution required.  Link.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Calmer seas... Marriage-level fight averted, but do we want more children?!?

It is not much fun to blog when things are going well, but for those of you who were concerned that the shalom bayis between my wife and myself was shattered, fear not -- we talked it out.  Well, we fought it out peacefully.

Her issue with me is simply that my best effort is not good enough for her to satisfy her need for me to support her emotionally and otherwise after she gives birth.  I do work really hard and she acknowledged that she knows that I try really hard to help her after she gives birth, but time and time again, I have failed her by becoming overwhelmed myself by the extra burden which I am unable to handle.

That is a sad reality, but for some reason, she gained a new understanding from our "fight," namely, that I know my best isn't good enough and I feel terrible about it.  I guess she didn't understand before this fight that I really do care and am troubled by my failings with the past births of our other children (each one having a different story where I somehow dropped the ball because I got overwhelmed by the circumstances).  However, I am not punishing myself about it nor am I denying that I get overwhelmed easily when taking over household responsibilities which deals with handling, bathing, feeding, or playing with kids.  As much as I absolutely LOVE my children, I simply have a lower tolerance for stress than she would like me to have, and so I get overwhelmed easily.

I don't know if this is because I am coming from a broken family where there was trauma and a divorce, or whether I am simply the type of guy that shouldn't have children.  Who knows, it is too late to breach that topic after already having created and raised a large and amazing family.  Plus, I am happy with the meaningful life decisions I have made, and I am grateful to my wife for picking up the slack where I lacked, and for allowing me to have such a family.

Whatever the cause of my inadequacies, I am still a proud father, a good husband, and I work my butt off trying to be the best I can be, even to the point of pushing myself into overwhelm, and then continuing in the state of overwhelm for as long as I can tolerate the uncomfortable feelings before I shut down and must step away from the fun experience of parenting (usually to retreat into my office or some dark place metaphorically where I can "de-fuzz").  I am also very helpful, to the best of my abilities.  Obviously my wife would chuckle at the "to the best of my abilities" part, but as she says, "[T]here are many things that you are really good at, and there are some things that you are absolutely terrible at.  Handling stress with children playing, being wild, crying, or screaming is not your strong point."

Anyway, in hindsight she says it is because of my inability to do what she needs me to do that she is unwilling to have more children, and she is saddened by this and she blames me for this reality in our life.  While I am hurt by such a hurtful statement, I am not denying that she is wrong for feeling sad; I am also sad for us because I feel as if she is jumping to a false conclusion.

Where I differ with her on this topic is that I believe that if we were to have more children, for the week or so after my wife gives birth, I would once again do everything in my power to be there for her, to take over her responsibilities in the home, and to go FAR outside my comfort zone to take over both her responsibilities and maintain my own (or simply to shut down and/or minimize work with the law firm for a few weeks), and she'll just deal with my shortcomings as they likely will show up yet again.  But then this time will pass, she will get angry at me again, we'll have another major set of marital-level fights, and things will once again go back to normal.  I am okay with this, but she is not okay with this, and I don't necessarily disagree with her because our current lifestyle of me ending work at 6am when she wakes up does not lend itself to growing our family further than we already have.

I don't think the issue is that we don't want children, because in theory, I *too* want a large family (I actually think that we already have a large family, and I am happy with the children we have been given thus far).  I also don't think the main issue is that I wouldn't be there for her immediately after the birth.  Being realistic, I think the real issue is that I don't think it is healthy to add more family members to an already stressed situation where I am simply not home or around each morning and afternoon to help my wife with the kids, and I don't think that my wife should have the burden of raising the kids, cooking, cleaning, and doing homework all on her own.  And, this is not a "get a maid" issue -- my wife is well aware that I encourage and even would support her getting as much help as she needs to manage our large family.  The reality is that I do run a busy U.S. law firm alone now crazy hours (because I am running it from Israel), and I am not a regular father than leaves at 8am and comes home at 5pm to relax with the kids, do homework, eat dinner, and put them to bed. Yes, I do help with the household chores, and I do dishes, wash and fold laundry, I put the kids to bed, I love them, and I handle all the family's financial matters, but between myself and G-d, I am not present enough for my kids in the mornings before school and the afternoons after school to support them in their Torah learning, nor am I there to provide them help with their homework, and I don't feel present as a father to be able to say to my wife, "yeah, everything is great!  Let's add to our family since we already have everything so well under control." For this reason, namely, that I cannot support my wife with the daily tasks of running the family and raising the kids, I don't think we should be adding more children to the mix of our already active family.

We *are* both overwhelmed and stressed with the new move to Israel, and growing our already large family further is not an active goal of ours.  However, we will always welcome a new member to the Strickman family with open arms whenever he or she decides to join us, and/or when Hashem blesses us with another child.

...On an unrelated note, as far as shalom bayis is concerned, I *do* need to get an office outside the home, if not so that my wife appreciates and feels that I am actually working every day to make us the money that we are making, then for my own sanity of getting out of the home and feeling like I am accomplishing something in life.  I am very self-critical and I do not compliment myself or my achievements, and so it is very easy for me to get depressed in life feeling like I am a failure, or that I am not accomplishing something in my business life.  Working in my pajamas with the kids yelling outside my door while I am on a conference call is not only unprofessional, it is also destructive to my own confidence and my sanity.  I need to feel like someone who is actually working a business, and although I *am* running a successful law firm from an office in my home in the middle of Israel, I don't feel the "official'ness" of my law practice where I eat, sleep, play, and say Shema with the kids in the same place where I run my grueling law practice with its long hours, its stresses, and its harsh mental requirements.

NOTE: Image taken from Pixbay, CC0 Public Domain, Free for commercial use, No attribution required.  Link.

Monday, January 04, 2016

Disparity in work responsibilities - Living in Israel, Working in the US.

Okay, so only four views on the last article, probably all were me reading my own blog.  I logged in this morning looking for some kind of feedback about the marital issues, as they are my life, and without a marriage, the life I have built for myself crumbles.

I woke up this afternoon upset.  Why?  Because yesterday, my wife stormed into my office upstairs in a rage accusing me of being a bad father and not supporting her during our last child's birth.  Mind you, if I did anything that she claimed I did, it was in April of 2014 (almost two years ago!).  When she stormed in, not remembering ANYTHING about what I allegedly did or did not do, I smiled, supported her, agreed that what I must have done was terrible, and moved on.  But then it didn't stop.

Later that night, she continued on about how angry she was at me, and how I was not supportive, and how she cannot have any more children with me because she knows that it would be the same here too in Israel, and that I would be just as unsupportive.  Again, now slightly annoyed that she's harping on something that I really didn't think happened, I continued to be nice without arguing with her.

Then later in the evening when I gave her a kiss on the head, she shrugged.  Now this was late in the evening, and she was still angry with me?!?

Okay, at this point, I got mad...

I concede with full apology that literally a day or so after our second daughter was born (child #3), that I left for a week to study for the bar exam.  This needed to happen, and I passed the bar exam, and from this effort alone, I supported our family for many years (and I would not have passed without doing this).  However, because her parents were unwilling to assist my wife, she had to take care of three children on her own, for which she never forgave me.  But then, totally sensitized to her need for support, on child #4, and on child #5, I was certainly there, taking on extra duties and going to the extreme to support her in her recovery.
 Then I remembered the circumstances surrounding this last child.  She just had the baby, and Passover was right around the corner.  We discussed and agreed that we would NOT be hosting her family as we had done in past years, and that we would be going "out" to the communal Passover seders provided at the shul.  That way, she wouldn't have to go through all the terrible burdens women go through when preparing for the seders, and we could "take it easy" and let her recover.
But then she went against our decision and invited her entire family over.  She thought she could deal with it, and I warned her many times that it was a bad idea and that she should cancel.  As a result of her decision, I don't remember the details, but I do remember going nuts trying to take care of everything to assist her while at the same time, working the law firm, she stressed herself out and it ended up being a very negative experience.  As usual, nobody in her family helped her with the seder (I don't remember if we even flew my mom in to help, but I think we did, but she did not stay for the seder because she had to get back home), and the seder was a very negative experience because yet again, everything fell on my wife's shoulders.

So last night after communicating to her my dissent to her accusation that "I even made her drive the kids to school and bathe the kids when she got back from the hospital," I thought to myself, "yeah, this was one of the things she did as part of her responsibilities."
I remembered now our fight about asking her to bathe the kids when she got back -- it was a few days of absolute exhausting hell running around all day and night back and forth from home (taking care of the four kids) to the hospital (bringing her kosher breakfast and meals) to let her recover (then running home, picking up kids, spending the day with them, putting them to bed, also running the law firm, then running to pick up and drop off dinner with my wife at the hospital, staying with my wife until midnight), etc., etc.  It was an exhausting marathon.
Finally when I brought her and the new baby home from the hospital, she was totally normal and rested, walking around and talking as if she were fully back on her feet.  I, on the other hand, was ready to collapse from exhaustion.  So I asked her to bathe the kids because this was something that she always did.  Yes, I should have done this too, but I had my limits, and at that moment, I did not understand that this would be a big deal for her.  Apparently, it was a big deal, and I did not hear the end of the insults, calling me "subhuman" among many other hateful names for weeks afterwards.

Okay, I screwed up, but what does it have to do with NOW, almost two years later?  

So she was triggered by something her friend said, and she was upset that if we had kids, she again would have the same problem with me, and that I'm such a piece of shit father that she wouldn't be able to recover in the hospital because I wouldn't be there for her.  I cried inside because that statement really hurt.

This is not the right time to mention it to the blog, but in Israel, my work schedule is 4pm-4am (or, 7am-7pm CST), or more realistically, it is 6pm-6am Israel time because of the time I need to "get to work," and because I take off Fridays and Sundays altogether, so I only work four days each week.  Us needing to do this (running the U.S. law firm from Israel) was a CONDITION that we discussed at length before we decided to leave to Israel.  As a result, I wake up most mornings between 11:30am - 12:30pm.  I have coffee, I sit down to say hello to my wife, and then I "hang around the home" sometimes with the kids, sometimes in my office until it is time to get to work again.  This is a killer schedule for me, especially because I find myself to be a slave to my home since I work in our apartment (yes, I am looking for a place to work outside the home), and because my work day only starts after I am totally exhausted and wiped out from a few hours of activities with the kids running and screaming.  It is also a punishing schedule for my body, because I force it to stay awake when it wants to sleep at night.  So when its bedtime for the kids (~7pm'ish), my real work day begins.  In short, with this lifestyle, I feel like a zombie most of the time.

So she's right -- if we have another child, it will be very difficult for me to support her because yet again, I will need to alter my SLEEP habits (as I do over and over, and this takes a large toll on my health), [and it would be a difficult few WEEKS, not days, since my wife is insisting next time on going to a "new baby hotel" that she says women apparently go to in order to recover while the men take over all housework and continue their jobs (a feminist, anti-male, and sexist idea which I think is horrific because it negates all the work we men already do even when they come home after a day or so from being in the hospital giving birth)].

But that brings me to the greater point that if she is feeling this way and bringing up these old arguments and accusations, then we cannot stay in Israel.  Back in the U.S., I had the ability to take over my wife's responsibilities if needed, and to maneuver around town to pick up food, arrange for things to happen, and handle anything that came our way.  Now in Israel, I do not speak the language, and I do not know my way around town.  But even more relevant, I am sensing that she does not see or appreciate the work that I do, and this is a problem.  Why?  Because it seems to me as if she gets into the habit of thinking that because Hashem provides the parnossa for our family, I am just a vessel that receives the blessings (and thus she negates ALL THE OVERNIGHT HOURS EVERY NIGHT AND THE HARD WORK that I do to earn the income we make).

She simply doesn't see me working, and all she sees is me waking up late (after she has made lunches for the kids, woken up early, gotten them breakfast, dressed, and then off to school), then she sees hanging around doing nothing during the day (after she just cleaned for an hour or so), and then she sees me isolating myself in my office when her day gets hard (just when the kids come home from school and the tough part of her day begins)

And, because she does not see, she does not comprehend the harsh circumstances of staying up ALL NIGHT EVERY NIGHT trying to focus and run the law practice (while she watches videos at night, relaxes after a hard day's work, and sleeps a full night's rest).  No fair, this is not okay.

Now if we were working together as I thought we were, meaning, she understands that we are both sacrificing to make this work, then yes, living in Israel can continue.  But if she starts the "you're selfish, I do everything" game again, totally negating all the months of work and sacrifice I have done thus far (and that I continue to do each night), no, I cannot handle this, and we'll have to leave.  And if we left, I cannot promise that I wouldn't blame her for not making our Aliyah to Israel work.  I do feel that if we left, our shalom bayis would suffer from such a blow that I am not sure we could ever fully recover.

NOTE: Image taken from Pixbay, CC0 Public Domain, Free for commercial use, No attribution required.  Link.