Archive | September, 2012

Pam’s Perspective: 4

21 Sep

As the holiest day of the Jewish year rolls around again, I find that I have a rocky relationship with God.  On Wednesday, Yom Kippur, we will sit in shul and say that today He decides who will live and who will die – but Penitence, Prayer and Charity avert the severe decree.  And I’ve got a problem with that.

The Jewish religion mandates praying 3 times a day; there is an opportunity each time to offer a prayer for someone’s health. So many people are praying for Martin – they ask for his Hebrew name, and the name of his mother, and they “add him to their list” (as some of them tell us) every day.  We are grateful for this; I think it is another facet of Judaism’s brilliance.  You pray for someone 3 times a day and so you think of him, you think of him so you call, or email, or visit.  Visiting the sick is one of the greatest mitzvot a Jew can perform – and it is tremendously supportive to the patient and his family.  So prayer is wonderful, and gives the supplicant a measure of (assumed) control.

But what of God, who receives the prayers?  Is He sitting there on high with a notebook, or an iPad, calculating whether the threshold of prayer has been passed or not, and He will show mercy?  Enough Shema Yisraels and He’ll add on another year?  People come up with strange and incredible manners in which we should appeal to God’s better nature: a friend’s son, studying in Yeshiva, told Martin to go into a small room and tell God, out loud, what he has done for God’s country.  Hmmm.  Does God not know? Has He forgotten?  Do I want to believe in a God like this?


Some of the more … ummm … ‘provocative’ Rabbis have their own take on tragedy.  When, many many years ago, a train ploughed into a bus full of schoolchildren on their way home from a class trip, killing over 20 kids, a Rabbi proclaimed it was because they didn’t keep Shabbat.  The same statement, from a different Rabbi, followed the disastrous crash of 2 air force helicopters, on their way to Lebanon.  When a bus load of Haredi children was blown up after that, resulting in the death of many innocent religious kids who did keep the Sabbath, the Rabbis said it was God’s will.

So it’s a win-win situation for God, I see: things go well, it’s because He’s answered your prayers, things go badly – well, it’s God’s will.  So many, many well-intentioned people are now telling me to trust in God – it’s all in His hands, it’s all from Above – I should be comforted in that.  Here’s the thing: it’s the opposite of comforting for me – I don’t want to believe that such a fickle God exists, and certainly not that I’m in His hands.  A line from King Lear leaps up each time I hear about praying to God: “As flies to wanton boys so are we to the Gods, / They kill us for their sport.” 

Oh dear.

But, you know what, I am desperate.  This year, as always, I’ll go to shul and beat my breast in penitence for the sins of eating and drinking (not waiting long enough for my Cadbury’s chocolate after my chicken), and for my foolish speech and wanton glance (though, for the life of me I can’t remember being wanton … but it’s best to be on the safe side); and we will give charity as we always do, and we will pray, oh how we will pray, for a better year for all.

And God, if you prove me wrong and show me that You are listening after all – well, I’ll even go into a small room and tell You, out loud, how much I love You.


Chatima tova[1] for to us all – to the House of Israel and all the other houses on God’s earth.



[1] May we be inscribed in the Book of Life

Happy New Year

13 Sep

To all my blog readers – Happy, Happy New Year, filled with hope, health and happiness whenever and wherever you can get it.

To those to whom I’ve been short over the year – and the list is probably too long – this is the time to proffer my apologies.

And finally, to fellow pancreatic cancer sufferers, I wish you the strength and courage to keep fighting.

May we all be inscribed in the Book of Life.

Sportsmen who Make the World Great

11 Sep

For some time I’ve been meaning to blog about the great sportsmen of the world. Today is the day – not necessarily because of Andy Murray. By the way, as a special follower of mine in Scotland would concur, this will certainly make Murray British and leave “the Scot” in the tramlines…

The Brits have had a great sporting summer. Not just Murray’s magnificent triumph at the NY Grand Slam and his Olympic medal, but the myriad of other gold medal winners as well. I thought little could touch the achievement of the diminutive Mo Farah’s 5,000  and 10,000 metre double. And Jessica Ennis who waded in for the sportswomen. This, of course, coming on the heels of one of the toughest sporting events won by Bradley Wiggins, namely the Tour de France.

Nothing can detract from the effort and professionalism of these champions. But thinking of them is actually missing my point.

Last Saturday, by chance, I happened to witness a mind-changing match; the quad tennis final in the Paralympics. The game was contested between David Wagner, an American born with a muscular deformity, and Noam Gershony. He’s a 28 year-young Israeli paralysed from the waist down after surviving a near fatal crash of the helicopter he was flying in 2006. He witnessed the death of his co-pilot and was himself hospitalized for about two years. He took up tennis as part of his rehabilitation.

For those who have never watched the disabled play tennis, they maneuver the wheelchair with one hand at incredible speed all over the court – while holding the racquet in the other. In Wagner’s case, the racquet was strapped to his hand. Gershony won the match – and I shared his tears at the medal ceremony. But did you see the chap who got the bronze? He didn’t seem to have full function of either of his arms! How do they do it? From whence comes their courage, their will to continue?

I have no idea. But having seen them, I can feel the surge of strength and hope they have given me. Nothing is impossible for these guys – they are truly inspirational. I’m sure that their example – together with my brother-in-law Keith’s rigorous diet – are reason for my improvement this week.

I don’t wish to be part of the debate about the difference being born with a physical disability and becoming disabled through an accident in the prime of life.  All I can say to fellow pancreatic cancer sufferers is that we have to see our illness as being surmountable. Let’s take the strength from whatever source.

Up and Down and.. . .

5 Sep

How many times have I said – and even written in the blog – that life is a turning circle. We never know when things are going well, how far we are from the top before life tips us over. Similarly, we never know when we’re approaching the bottom of the cycle, only for it to start going up.

Recently, and in the last week in particular, I’ve certainly been in a downward spin. It’s easy to explain why. I just couldn’t bring myself to post it as a blog. If I was on my blog jury, I would definitely still be “out”. Do my faithful, supportive readers have a “right” to know, should I have shared my thoughts when it mattered most, or simply put: “whose blog is it anyway”? Why am I looking at when I last wrote – why do I care how often I communicate like this?

This is the bottom line: my stomach issues have caused me too much pain. It’s cruel, this cancer. The physical deterioration leads the mind off to meander. And I’m not alone. My family immediately picks up the vibe and the discussions become dramatic. But my brother-in-law Keith, is always there as a medical miracle. “Give your stomach a complete rest”, he advises me. I’ve been on a liquid diet for the last five days; starting with clear chicken broth and water only. I’ve now worked my way up to include some soft pieces of the broth’s chicken and its overcooked vegetables. The Jewish penicillin seems to be waving its wand. And he had one other tip – the juice of sauerkraut!! Apparently, it’s full of pro-biotics.

I’m more than happy to report that today is a much better day. Notwithstanding that Keith also advised that I “take it easy” (my late father-in-law’s mantra), today is my daughter’s birthday. We’ve decided to travel north to celebrate together. “Doing” is part of my mantra. It’s what motivates me and is a reason that I feel driven to keep finding things to do. But my body is telling me through tiredness that I have to tone it down. Golf was the first casualty this week. Lethargy has leapt to the fore.

This is where friends and family come through. My golf buddies continually tell me they’re there for me and waiting. Yesterday, a true friend flew back to Israel from a family wedding and phones to see how I’m doing. And I know there’re others who really care.

I hope they realise how much I appreciate such support. The fight goes on.